Recommended to scout Cy Williams by Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Prentice, John Hiller inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers in 1962. After serving primarily as a starting pitcher in the minors, the Canadian southpaw established himself as a reliable reliever with the Tigers from 1967 to 1970, posting a 3.00 ERA over that four-season span and contributing the club’s 1968 World Championship.
In January 1971, Hiller, just 27 at the time, would suffer a massive heart attack. Doctors told him he would never pitch again, but the stubborn Canuck was determined to return. His hard work would finally pay off when he was cleared to return to the mound in June 1972. Any lingering questions about his stamina were laid to rest in 1973 when he pitched in 65 games, notched 10 wins, posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA and recorded 38 saves (a major league record at the time). For what is still recognized as one of the greatest seasons ever by a relief pitcher, Hiller was named American League Fireman of the Year and finished fourth in both the Cy Young and MVP voting.
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