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Willie Horton Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: October 18, 1942 in Arno, Virginia
Biography | show moreshow less
Willie Horton
This article was written by Dan Holmes and is presented in part, courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research

A standout on the sandlots of Detroit, Willie Horton became the first black superstar for his hometown Tigers and spent parts of 15 seasons with the team. A tremendously powerful right-handed slugger, Horton was one of the strongest men in the game and launched 325 homers in his career. Extremely popular in Detroit, Horton worked in the Tigers front office after his playing career, where he helped bridge relations between the club and the African American community.

Born in Arno, Virginia, on October 18, 1942, William Wattison Horton was the youngest of 14 children—eight of them boys—of Clinton and Lillian Horton. His father moved the family to Detroit when Willie was five years old. Raised in the shadows of Briggs Stadium in the Jefferson Projects in downtown Detroit, Horton was a talented athlete despite his short, stocky frame that carried extra baby fat. Horton was a left-handed batter until age 10, when his father changed him to right-handed in Little League.

As a 17-year-old in 1960, he played outfield for the Detroit Lundquist team that won the national sandlot championship in a tournament in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Horton batted third on that team, directly in front of Bill Freehan, who would later be a teammate of Willie’s on the Tigers. As a star slugger at Northwestern High School in Detroit, Horton hit a home run at Tiger Stadium in the city championship game, and earned the nickname “Willie the Wonder.” After his senior year, the Tigers signed Horton to a $50,000 bonus.

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