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Former AL MVP, Tigers great Willie Hernández dies at 69

Mark Cunningham / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Willie Hernández, who won the 1984 AL MVP and Cy Young Award while leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Series title, died at age 69, the Tigers confirmed Tuesday.

The team did not provide any details about his death.

"The Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Willie Hernández. ... Our thoughts are with the Hernández family, his friends, and teammates," the team said in a statement.

Detroit acquired Hernández from the Philadelphia Phillies barely two weeks before Opening Day in 1984, and the trade turned his career around almost overnight. Armed with a devastating screwball, his '84 campaign was one of the greatest seasons ever for a reliever: He went 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 112 strikeouts, 32 saves, and six homers allowed across a league-leading 80 appearances for the 104-58 Tigers. He remains the only left-handed reliever to win both the MVP and Cy Young in the same season.

His dominance in 1984 extended to the playoffs, where he tallied another three saves with a 1.93 ERA. In Game 5 of the World Series at Tiger Stadium, Hernández tallied a two-inning save to clinch the title for Detroit.

Though he never reached the heights of 1984 again, Hernández remained a reliable reliever over his final five seasons. He made three All-Star appearances with the Tigers, and his 120 saves with the franchise rank fourth in team history.

"Willie Hernández was a great teammate, and I'm terribly sorry to hear the news of his passing," Hall of Fame Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell said in a statement, per ESPN. "I will never forget our team's celebration together on the mound after he recorded the final out of the 1984 World Series. He will always be remembered as a World Series champion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Born Guillermo Hernández in Aguada, Puerto Rico, he originally signed with the Phillies in 1973 and made his debut with the Chicago Cubs four years later as a Rule 5 Draft pick. Over 744 big-league appearances across 13 seasons, Hernández collected a 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 788 strikeouts, and 147 saves. He retired with the most saves by a Puerto Rican-born pitcher.

Hernández also helped the Phillies win the 1983 NL pennant the year before his magical season in Detroit.

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