JANUARY 11, 1971 | DULUTH, MINNESOTA – Detroit Tiger pitcher John Hiller suffered a heart attack at his home in Duluth, Minnesota on this date in 1971. The Tiger was just 27-years old when he was stricken. According to Bruce Markusen of Detroit Sports History, Hiller was not out of shape or overweight, but he was a heavy smoker.
Hiller recovered, and amazingly, despite missing the entire 1971 season, had better years after the heart attack than before.
The Canadian native broke in with the Tigers in 1965. The most games he won before his heart attack was nine, the most saves he had (Hiller was mostly a reliever) was four. After returning to baseball Hiller won ten games and had thirty-eight saves in 1973. He won seventeen games in ’74 – all in relief, an American League record – and had twelve wins in ’76.
Hiller’s entire 15-year career was with Detroit. He finished with 87 wins and 76 losses and a sparkling earned run average of 2.83.