A New Year's Resolution for "At the Corner"

It's been fun chatting with ya'll about baseball and the Tigers in '08, but I think there are some things we can do to spread the fun.

Frankly, it's less than exciting to see that only four or five of us are reading or participating. (Kind of puts a crimp in our style when Chuck goes to Vegas or Bill goes home to Detroit.)

My wife says I need to find a job, and my brother says I need to get a life. (Wow, and these people are on my side!)

So let's make a resolution to get more people involved this year. I think there's a few simple things we can do to increase participation, but I always welcome your thoughts.

1. Keep the content fresh and interesting. (Chuck, you can't force your brother in-law to post. You can only entice him - but keep your clothes on, buddy.) When you see stuff about the Tigers that you find interesting, no matter how small or obscure, post it. We'd probably all like to see it. Your opinions are welcome.

1.a. Tom, keep the photos coming as spring training ensues. I love your work, and you are a totally unique and talented source.

1.b. Artwork and photos make the site sing. Everybody dig out your "Baseball Box" (c'mon, you know we all got 'em) and show us some of your treasures. Tom has been especially helpful here, and Chuck gave us a really cool look at his treasured Al Kaline collection. Keep it up guys.

2. Invite friends you think might be interested to join us. Jeff, you mentioned you had a friend who might want in. What was his reaction? Tell them that anyone can comment, and if they ask me, I'll likely make them an authorized "poster." (Big Wow, there.)

3. I saw an article in Wired (like reading the Bible, I don't understand everything I read in there, but I feel better for doing it) "Linkbait Your Blog to Popularity."(pg. 36, Jan. 2009). I don't agree with some of the tactics, which are close to deceptive, but they suggest linking and contributing to bigger bloggers. I haven't looked for Tiger blogs, or even baseball blogs, have you? What's out there? I'll see what I can find.

4. We started this as a blog for Sacred Heart Alumni, and realizing the limits of that proposition, quickly opened the door to anybody who behaved (Chuck, what happend to Fedor?) This was wise, given our valuable addition of Jeff. Let's go back to the beginning though: do you guys have old SHS buddy's e-mails? Send them to me. I will contact them at the beginning of spring training just when hope starts to blossom for the new season, (along with folks who started with us, but fell off the wagon as our Tigers died their painful death last year.)

Happy New Year to all!


Any Comments about Da Lions

They go 0-16 .. Then the first move they make is to promote Mayhew who has been employed by them for the last 8 years. If he couldn't accomplish anything as an asst. in 8 years what will he accomplish now as the boss. It makes sense that he fired Marinelli. I thought Rod was a good guy, but he did not get the job done. It scares me to think of who Mayhew will hire. The only move that wasn't made and should have been was that young Ford should have forced his dad in to a retirement home. I think they went from bad to worse.

Who's Right for Right?




You all thought the election for the greatest Tiger ever to set foot in right field would be a shoe-in didn’t you? Who came close to Al Kaline, great hitter, fantastic fielder and darn nice guy?

I’ll tell you who, and it will force you to think about your choice: unfortunately, you never saw him play unless you are a hundred years old. “Wahoo” Sam Crawford was such an awesome hitter, he hit clean up behind Cobb.

It’s truly hard for us to get to know players from the deadball era, but Wahoo posted some incredible numbers, with 2,961 hits, and a .306 lifetime average over 13 years, mostly with the Tigers.

Ed Barrow, who managed Crawford for his first few years as a Tiger (and later went to the Yankees front office, and move a pitcher named Ruth to the outfield) said there was never a better hitter. (Remember, this guy saw Cobb, Ruth, and many other legends.)

One indication of his hitting prowess in the deadball era is that Crawford still has career records for triples (312) and inside the park homers (12) (Granderson might take a few years to catch him.)

When Ty Cobb first hit the big leagues, he looked up to Crawford as something of a mentor, but in following years friction between the two stars eroded their friendship. (Are we liking Sam more all of a sudden?)

Late in life, Sam retired to a very quiet, almost reclusive life in California, citing Balzac and Santayana to the rare interviewer.

The Tigers retired his number in 2000.



Harry Heilmann, who we nominated at first base, was almost as good. he played with Cobb and Crawford early in his career, and continued for 17 years, 15 with the Tigers. What makes him a tough call is that he played some at first, and early last century, scorers did not always record what outfield position he played. I can count 1,127 out of his more than 2,000 game career in right with the Tigers. His awesome stats are recounted below under his firstbase nomination, but let's just note he hit .342 lifetime with a .520 slugging percentage. Imagine being a pitcher facing him, Cobb and Crawford in the same lineup!

But our Man, Mr. Tiger, Number 6, Al Kaline, was a pretty fine ballplayer too. Straight out of high school he came to the Tigers, and was the youngest man to win a batting title (one day younger than Cobb.)

The list of his accomplishments is going to read like a phone book, but let’s try: 15 All Star teams, 10 Gold Gloves, (including 242 consecutive games without an error,) 399 home runs, 3,007 base hits, was only the second man to homer twice in the same innning, (DiMaggio did it first) and once threw out two runners in one inning.

Foolish was the base runner who tried to tag up and take second on the Kaline Cannon, and he was almost as deadly to third.

In a sports-to-real-life analogy, our Dads all told us to emulate Kaline’s work ethic – in 22 years he played in 2,771 games. Reflective of the times, he didn’t post Cobb-like averages, but as an all-around player, few excelled him.

And perhaps what we love about him most is his approachability. "Fans? All you have to do is smile at 'em and say, 'hi' and shake their hands. They're satisfied." He might have been born in Baltimore, but he’s Detroit working class through and through.

(Autographed Al Kaline jersey and a complete collection of his baseball cards, as shown from the "private stock" of Chuck Piotrowski.)



Too bad that while Kirk Gibson played most of 11 years in Detroit and only one in L.A., he’s generally remembered outside of Michigan for the home run he hit in the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers. (ALERT ! _ link to “home run” to see our first video on “At the Corner.”) Gibson was only a Tiger from 1979 to 1987, and then again from ’93 to 95, but his gamer atitude endeared him to fans forever. (Let's remember Kirk as one of our potential nominees for DH.)

Merry Christmas

Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas to my fellow bloggers. It has been 40 years since I have seen Shields, Bouie, or Marty Budner. It has been fun reconnecting on these pages, talking about our common passion - baseball, specifically the Tigers. I hope that all of you and your families have a wonderful holiday season and a great year in 2009.

Take a Peek at my Hall of Fame ballot

OK, gentlemen. I’m ready to mark my Hall of Fame ballot, and I promised that you’d hear my reasoning for each vote, so here goes. While the Baseball Writers Association of America allows 10 votes per ballot, only five players are getting mine (in alphabetical order): Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. Of those five, Henderson is on the ballot for the first time and the other four are holdovers.

Let’s address Henderson first because there is absolutely NO argument for leaving his name unchecked. He stole more bases, scored more runs and hit more lead-off home runs than any player in Major League Baseball history. He also collected over 3,000 hits, a “Go Directly to the Hall of Fame” card for every other player except Pete Rose – and that’s another story. Henderson had the perfect mix of speed and power. He was also a complete jerk, but since when did that keep anyone out of the Hall of Fame? With that said, Henderson will not be a unanimous selection because there are certain fossils out there who believe there is a distinction between “first ballot Hall of Famer” and “Hall of Famer.” That’s crap. Either a guy deserves to be in or he doesn’t. Period. Henderson’s numbers aren’t going to change. If you plan to vote for him next year, then he deserves your vote this year.

Blyleven is fifth on the all-time strikeouts list with 3,701 – behind only Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton and ahead of Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, Phil Neikro, Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson, all Hall of Famers. I think Blyleven deserves to be in based on that stat alone. Strikeouts are the only out in baseball that a pitcher is solely responsible for, and only four guys ever did it better than the Dutchman did.

In addition, Blyleven is ninth in career shutouts with 60. Every pitcher with 50 or more is in the Hall of Fame – except Blyleven, of course.

Andre Dawson was the complete package – a five-tool player – before the artificial surface in Montreal took their toll on his knees. He was an excellent defensive outfielder with a strong arm, could hit for power and average (2,774 hits, .299 or better six times, 438 homers,1,591 RBIs) and swiped 314 bases (including 21 or more in seven straight seasons – 39 in 1982). Unfortunately, many of the voters remember the decrepit Dawson that hobbled around the Wrigley Field outfield later in his career. This guy is a Hall of Famer.

Finally, we come to two former Detroit Tigers. I’m going to pull out an old argument here, not because I’m whining but because it’s true (OK, I’m whining, too). If Jack Morris and Alan Trammell had worn pinstripes for as long as they wore Tiger stripes, they’d be in the Hall of Fame already. Anyone who watched the Tigers closely in the 1980s knows they both belong in Cooperstown.

Morris won 254 games, more than Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning, Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon, among others, and played for three World Series champions (Tigers, Twins, Jays). He was known as a pressure pitcher who was such a bulldog that he hurled 235+ innings 11 times. Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, called Morris the “best of his time, especially when it counted.”

Morris was baseball’s winningest pitcher during a 14-year span from 1979-92, and the race wasn’t even close. Morris racked up 233 wins during that time, 41 better than Bob Welch, who was second-highest with 192. (That qualifies as “dominant.”) Morris also made 14 Opening Day starts. Only one pitcher made more than that – Tom Seaver, with 16. Much like Henderson, Morris was known for being cold and uncooperative with the media during his career, and he’s paying the price. If he had 300 wins it wouldn’t matter; but with 254, it does.

The exclusion of Trammell from the Hall – and the weak support he has received from the clueless BBWAA – drives me nuts me because I think he compares favorably with Ozzie Smith, who made it into the Hall on his first try. Trammell was the better hitter, Smith the better fielder – but the defensive gap is nowhere near the size of the offensive gap. Trammell had a better career average, more hits, more home runs and more RBIs – and those are supposedly the “glamour stats” when it comes to catching a voter's eye. But Tram didn’t do flips on the field or have a catchy nickname like “The Wizard of Oz.” So the voters have left him there – in Oz, that is. Put him in New York and he’d be spoken of with the same reverent tones as Derek Jeter. It’s a joke.

Among those that I didn’t vote for, I simply don’t think that Jim Rice and Lee Smith quite measure up – Rice wasn’t even the best outfielder in the Boston on many days (Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans stole the show many times) and Smith never struck me as one of the top relief pitchers in baseball. He blew a lot of saves, but he did manage to get the job done most of the time. Honestly, couldn’t we say the same thing about Todd Jones? And no one is claiming Jones belongs in the Hall.

Mark McGwire? That’s an entirely different can of worms. The stats are there, but because of the steroids cloud that hangs over his head, I’m hesitant. That may not be fair because nothing has ever been proven, but a friend of mine once reminded me that I’m voting for the Hall of Fame. So “maybe” means “no.” I agree.

What say you?

Happy Valentine's Day

The first pitchers and catchers workout for the Tigers in Lakeland is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009. The club’s first full squad workout in Lakeland is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009.

Who Excels in Center?

He was a reprobate, a racist, a misogynistic nut case, but he was the first man in the Hall of Fame and might have been the best ballplayer of all time. Ty Cobb had an incredible 4,189 base hits, a similarly incredible .367 lifetime batting average, and hit over .400 in different three years!

His 54 steals of home still stands as a record, and in one World Series game he got to first, and proceeded to steal second, third and then home.

In 1909 he won the triple crown with just nine home runs, none of them going out of the park, in what might have been the high water mark for the deadball era.

For Cobb, baseball was war, according to Charlie Gehringer. Cobb was ruthless, even with friends, like Shoeless Joe Jackson. In 1911 Jackson and Cobb fighting it out for the batting title. Although Cobb played in Detroit and Jackson in Cleveland, they were first of all Southerners, and friends. But when the Tigers played a long, late season series against Cleveland, Cobb was outrightly rude to his old buddy. Cobb claimed that these "mind games" put Joe off his game, going into a "slump" with a season-ending .408 average, while Cobb finished at .420.

One of the most famous incidents took place in New York in 1912 when Cobb went into the stands to beat up a heckler, who reportedly had no hands. "I don't care if he's got no feet," Cobb reportedly said.

The league suspended Cobb, his teammates went on impromptu strike, leading to one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball history. A team of college boys replaced the Tigers, setting scads of negative records. One interesting side to the story: a collegian named Travers played in the outfield, and was later ordained a Catholic priest! But I digress.

He knifed an elevator operator, fought constant fights, and swore that blacks, women and most of the world was out to get him.

Cobb & Jackson

Later in his career, Cobb became jealous of the young Babe Ruth. He told a reporter in 1925 that swinging for the fences was easy, it took art and style to steal bases, play strategy and create runs. Ty went 6 for 6 that day with two singles, a double and three home runs.

The Free Press described him as "daring to the point of dementia." Would have been fun to see him play. Interestingly, he died an extremely wealthy man, worth an estimated $86 million. When he came into the hospital he carried a paper bag with $1 million in cash and a Lugar pistol.

Mickey Stanley is about as different from Cobb as you can get, with one exception. While Cobb was a good centerfielder, Stanley was a miracle worker in the "Death Valley" centerfield of old Tiger Stadium. He could go back on a ball like none other, and reel it in, making a perfect relay to second or short. He caught four gold Gloves in the process.

He labored out there for 15 years, and although his lifetime batting average was only .265, his fielding average was a phenomenal .995, 35 points better than Cobb.

Of course, us oldsters will never forget him coming from center to play shortstop for the 1968 World Series. Thinking back, Mayo Smith only picked up about 60 points in batting average by taking out Oyler for the unknown of Stanley at short. Fortunately it all worked out.

Sadly, Mick was just a little too old to make the big bucks; in 1977, the year before he retired, he earned $65,000

"I feel very fortunate I was able to stay in the same organization so long. The Detroit fans have been super. I was never a superstar. I went through some slumps and never heard any boos."

Enough of the past, and on to the future. Curtis Granderson seems to have a lot of Mickey Stanley's charm and glove talent, and Cobb's bat ability without the acid.

For the 2007 All Star Game, Granderson got the most write-in votes of any player. He, along with Charlie Gehringer, are the only Tigers to get 30 doubles, 15 triples, 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases in a season.

Granderson is just the sixth member of the 20-20-20 Club (doubles, triples and home runs, in case your wondered). In 2007 he did that, plus stole more than 20 bases, only the third to do it, the last one being Willie Mays in 1957.

We've only had Curtis for four full seasons, but let's hope he's around for a long, productive run with the Tigers, and stays away from the strikeout pitch.

Speaking of Willie Horton...



From the Detroit Tigers 1968 Official Scorebook (25 cents).

It's Willie in Leftfield


Marty Budner, award-winning sports writer for the Observer-Eccentric has made his choice. I'll share with you his thoughts.


Gregorio:
Nice talking to ya last night…the familiar voice at the other end of the phone brought back some nice memories…like our many ventures to Tiger Stadium, especially the wonderfully exciting and memorable ‘68 season. The game I remember most that we attended was Denny McLain’s 30th victory…what a great atmosphere…they won in their last at-bat, and, if I recall correctly, the game-winning hit in that historic contest was delivered by none other than Willie Horton…thus, I vote for him a Detroit’s All-Time Leftfielder…now only did he enjoy a grand career as one of the Bengals’ most feared and respected power hitters, he’s left his legacy as a native Detroiter. He still calls the Motor City his home and he continues to wear the old English D proudly...Indeed, the best left fielder in Detroit Tigers history..
Keep in touch, my friend…

Marty b.

We're "Left" with a Tie!

I'm stumped as to what to do. We all love Willie. We all recognize the incredible numbers Goose Goslin posted, though none of us ever saw him play.

By the powers vested in me by...well, nobody, (this is what Bud Selig did, right?) I'm going to go to a tie breaker, and ask Marty Budner, Sacred Heart Seminary Class of 1970, and award-winning sports reporter for the Observer Eccentric, to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Granted, Marty hasn't been participating with us (yet) but I'll send him a note, and see if we can get him to break the deadlock!

Action Jackson


Yesterday the Tigers traded promising left-handed hitting OF Matt Joyce (who played here in Lakeland for Florida Southern College) to the Rays for 25-year-old right-hander hurler Edwin Jackson. He went 14-11 w/ a 4.42 ERA for the AL champs last year and won't be a free agent until after the 2011 season.
I'm not sure what to make of this deal. I like Joyce a lot and it seems like we need more help in the bullpen than the starting rotation. Still, Jackson offers to solidify the rotation should some of last year's question marks continue their downward spiral.
What say you?

Tigers Dealing Again

Tigers fill needs by acquiring catcher Gerald Laird, shortstop Adam Everett
BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • December 9, 2008

Editor's note: Story updated at 3:36 a.m.
LAS VEGAS -- When the Tigers acquired two players on the same day of last year's winter meetings, they sent shockwaves through the baseball industry. Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, two former All-Stars, were sent from Florida to Detroit in a move that was proposed and agreed upon in less than 24 hours.

Dave Dombrowski was at work again Monday. The two names he added -- catcher Gerald Laird and shortstop Adam Everett -- were not as flashy, but they may be able to do in 2009 what Cabrera and Willis could not in 2008: help the Tigers contend from start to finish.
Dombrowski, the Tigers' president and general manager, identified Laird as one of the top catchers available when the off-season began and maintained a consistent dialogue with Texas GM Jon Daniels ever since. They finalized the deal Saturday but waited until Monday to make the official announcement.
Texas received a pair of intriguing, hard-throwing right-handers who have yet to pitch in the majors: Guillermo Moscoso, 25, and Carlos Melo, 17.
Almost concurrent to the announcement of Laird's arrival, news broke that the Tigers and Everett had reached a one-year agreement. The tentative deal, worth $1 million plus incentives, will become official if Everett passes a physical Wednesday.
Dombrowski said Monday that team officials “liked what we saw” during Everett’s workout last Thursday in Lakeland, Fla. The club appears confident that Everett’s shoulder is sound after an injury limited him to 48 games this year with the Minnesota Twins.
“He threw the ball well, with good arm strength,” Dombrowski said of the session.
Laird seems likely to earn roughly $3 million next year through salary arbitration. So assuming Everett's physical does not generate new concerns about a shoulder injury that limited him to 48 games this past year, Dombrowski has filled the biggest needs in his everyday lineup for about $4 million. That should enable the team to make more meaningful bullpen upgrades.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland made clear that Laird will be the team's No. 1 catcher, after being a part-time player for most of his tenure with Texas. Laird has played more than 100 games in only one of his six big-league seasons, but the Tigers will count on him to do that in 2009.
"It was frustrating for me in Texas: I was the guy, then I wasn't the guy," Laird said in a teleconference with reporters. "Knowing that I'm not going to look over my shoulder, it's relaxing now. I'm just going to play baseball. I'm not going to worry about the small things I did over the last couple years.
"I'm glad to be a Detroit Tiger."
Leyland praised Laird's gap-to-gap hitting and skills behind the plate. Leyland noted that Laird "runs very well" compared with other catchers and envisions him as a good fit in the lower part of the Tigers' batting order.
Laird batted .276 this season with six home runs and 41 RBIs. In 13 career games at Comerica Park, he has a .271 batting average, according to STATS LLC.
"He is going to be a perfect fit for our ballpark," Leyland said. "We are not a club that has a lot of speed, and we think we have added a guy that can help us in that area, too. And he can catch. We've seen him for the last few years and have been very high on him. I think we are very fortunate.
"I'm thrilled to death to get this behind us. A month or so ago we were pretty nervous about a couple of our situations, and all of a sudden we have one of them out of the way, basically prior to the meetings even starting."
Dombrowski said he will continue looking for a backup catcher, although upgrading the bullpen is a far greater priority. The team has three internal candidates to play behind Laird: Dane Sardinha and Max St. Pierre, who have returned to the club on minor-league contracts, and prospect Dusty Ryan, whom Dombrowski said would ideally be the everyday catcher at Triple-A Toledo.
Asked about his options for the backup catcher's job, Leyland said: "Do you feel like you have a safety valve? Yes. But do you still go out and (try) to improve it just a little bit? Sure. Whether that guy's out there for us or not, we don't know."
Everett, a career .246 hitter, and Laird are considered very good defenders, and their acquisitions fit with a theme of the Tigers’ off-season. Team officials have consistently said that they want to improve their defense and pitching before Opening Day.
So far, they have accomplished half of that goal.
“I think it’s got the potential to end up a much better defensive team than we were,” Leyland said.



Tigers, Mariners actively discussing Putz trade
By JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • December 9, 2008
LAS VEGAS – This morning, the Tigers and Seattle Mariners have discussed a trade that would bring closer J.J. Putz back to his home state.

It’s not clear if the clubs are close to a deal, but the talks appear to be ongoing. Putz, 31, is one of Detroit’s top targets on the closer market, along with free agent Kerry Wood.
Seattle officials believe they will be able to obtain a three-player package for Putz. The Mariners might ask the Tigers to include infielder Jeff Larish and outfielder Matt Joyce in the deal.
Putz is scheduled to make $5.5 million next year, followed by a team option worth $9.1 million (or a $1 million buyout) in 2010.
A Trenton native and former University of Michigan right-hander, Putz was arguably the best closer in baseball during the 2007 season. But he spent 49 games on the disabled list this year, first because of inflammation on his right side (at a point where cartilage attaches to a rib) and later because of a hyperextended throwing elbow.
He returned from the elbow injury in late July. From that point until the end of the season, he converted 8 of 13 save opportunities, maintained a 2.96 ERA and held opponents to a .240 batting average, according to STATS LLC.

Michiganders

Hey guys, how about an all star team of Michigan natives?

Possible players include Willie Horton, Derek Jeter, John Smoltz, Mickey Stanley, Steve Howe, Dave Rozema, Derek Lowe, Bill Freehan, Ted Sizemore, Ted Simmons, Steve Paciorek, John Mayberry, Alex Johnson, Ron LeFlore , Frank Tanana.

Who else?

Leftfield!

By Jeff Peek

As we continue to select our All-Time Detroit Tigers team – which so far includes Bill Freehan, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Alan Trammell and George Kell – we head to the outfield, where Hall of Fame candidates abound. Oh, sure, we could take the easy way out and select the top three outfielders. But what’s the fun in that? We’re going position by position, which means some pretty solid players might not even receive a vote.

Let’s start in left, with two Hall of Famers (Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush) and two who played key roles on the Tigers’ last two championship teams (Willie Horton and Larry Herndon).

Leon Goslin, who gained the nickname “Goose” because of his large beak, played 18 major league seasons, including four with the Tigers (1934-37). Before he ever arrived in Detroit, the left-handed slugger led the Washington Senators to three World Series and won a batting title in 1928 (.379). His arrival in Detroit coincided with the hiring of Mickey Cochrane as player/manager, and the Tigers clicked instantly, winning the American League pennant in 1934 and then claiming the team’s first World Series championship in 1935.

Goslin delivered the game-winning single – scoring Cochrane – with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 to clinch the title. Goslin drove in 100 or more runs on 11 occasions and hit .300 or better 11 times, compiling a .316 lifetime average and 2,735 hits. He finished his career with 4,325 total bases, 1,609 RBIs, 500 doubles and 173 triples, which all rank him among the top 50 players of all-time. He also had a career slugging percentage of .500. Goslin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1968.

Henry Manush, better known as Heinie, began his 17-year major league career with the Tigers in 1923 and remained in Detroit through 1927. He went on to play for five other clubs. During his rookie season with the Tigers, Manush batted .334 (in 308 at-bats) while sharing time in the outfield with the likes of Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Bobby Veach and Bob Fothergill. In 1926, Manush won the A.L. batting title (.378) and finished second behind Babe Ruth in slugging percentage (.564).


In 2,008 career games, the left-handed Manush batted .330 with 2,524 hits and 1,183 RBIs. He ranks among the top 50 all-time in batting average, triples (160) and doubles (491). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Baseball fans in Detroit knew about Willie Wattison Horton – “Willie the Wonder” – long before the rest of the country did. The right-handed power hitter starred at Northwestern High School in the late 1950s before signing with the Tigers in 1961. Just two years later, on Sept. 10, 1963, Horton made his Detroit Tigers debut and rapped a single as a pinch hitter. In Horton’s second at-bat, at Baltimore, he gave fans a glimpse of what was to come when he slugged a pinch-hit home run off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

In 1965, Horton’s official rookie season, he belted 29 home runs and drove in 104, then followed with another 100 RBI season in ’66.

During the Detroit riots in 1967, Horton tried to use his influence to calm the crowd, venturing into the street with his Tigers uniform still on. The city’s real healing took place in 1968, however, when Horton and the Tigers gave Detroit something to celebrate: a magical baseball season that transformed the players into heroes. The Tigers’ rallies were legendary, and they capped the year perfectly by charging back from a three-games-to-one deficit to beat the Cardinals in the World Series. Horton had his best season that year, finishing second in the A.L. with 36 homers, a .543 slugging percentage and 278 total bases.

Horton and many of the core players from the ’68 squad came together again to help the Tigers win the A.L. East Division in 1972, but the aging heroes never achieved that success again. Slowly, the old stars began to leave through retirement and trades, and midway through the 1977 season it was Horton’s turn. He was dealt to the Texas Rangers for a portly relief pitcher named Steve Foucault, breaking the hearts of Tigers fans everywhere.

Horton, a four-time all-star, hit 20 or more home runs seven times and finished his career with 325 homers, 1,163 RBIs and 1,993 hits. He was twice named the A.L. top designated hitter. Detroit’s love affair with Horton continues. Now an executive with the Tigers, he is one of only six players who are honored with a statue beyond the left field wall at Comerica Park. His number 23 is also retired.

Larry Herndon, who played in Detroit from 1982-88, is perhaps best-known for catching Tony Gwynn’s fly ball for the final out of the 1984 World Series. But Herndon was a skilled player whose steady defense and timely hitting quietly made a big impact on the successful Detroit clubs of the mid-1980s. In May of 1982, Herndon hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats. And in 1987, his solo home run on the final day of the season – coupled with a Frank Tanana shutout – beat the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 and gave the Tigers the A.L. East crown.
The right-handed hitting Herndon played 14 seasons in the majors and later became the Tigers’ hitting coach.

So, who's it going to be? Goslin, Manush, Horton or Herndon? It's time to vote.
(Note - thanks to Jeff for writing this. I'm just helping him with his blogging growing pains by posting it.)

Adios, Edgar

December 5, 2008

Ex-Tiger Renteria gets 2-year, $18.5M deal from Giants

FREE PRESS NEWS SERVICES

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Tiger Edgar Renteria signed an $18.5-million, two-year contract Thursday with the Giants to replace 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel.

Renteria gets a $2-million signing bonus, $7 million next year and $9 million in 2010. The Giants have a $10.5-million option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout.

The Tigers declined to offer Renteria salary arbitration on Monday.

Renteria, a 13-year big league veteran, will be looking to have a better year in 2009. He batted .270 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs this past season for the Tigers, who then declined their $11-million option for Renteria and gave him a $3-million buyout.

"I played good in the National League. I feel real comfortable," Renteria said on a conference call. "Maybe I know more of the game in the National League. It's my type of league. I like to play the game. The American League is different -- you have to go for the home run and wait for hitting. That's no excuse for what happened in the American League, but it might be why I'm so excited to get back to the National League."

Remembering!

Well, after having been chastised by my brother in law, Chuck Pio, at Thanksgiving with, "Where have you been!! You haven't been At the Corner for awhile.", I thought I'd better offer some insights. First, I've been trying to recover from the Wolverines football struggles---- yuck! I hope things get on the upswing next year. Lordy if we end up like Nebraska and Notre Dame!!! Who knows when those programs will return to their glory days.
Do any of you remember Ron Nischwitz? He hailed from Dayton, Ohio and played for the Tigers in the early-mid 1960s. He ended up the baseball coach at Wright State University in Dayton. I believe he's still associated with the University in some capacity as he was a successful coach.
Also, how about Don Lund? Back in the 1940s he starred at Michigan and played not only for the Tigers but also the Chicago Bears. He then went back to U of M and coached baseball and eventually was an assistant athletic director. We have some connection to him ---- he married a gal who was a cousin to my father. When my son, and later my daughter attended Michigan I had an uncle here in Minster who said the Lunds were just so tickled that a Bernhold finally came to the U of M. Ha. My sons freshman year we'd get their tickets to football games and sat on the 50 yard line because the Lunds sat up with Bo in the press box.

OK Pio, is this satisfactory? Ha! Also, do any of you bloggers get to AZ during spring training? My son lives in Phoenix and the last few years I go out for 4 0r 5 days in early March and we hang out at the ballparks. Next year my Cincy Reds will be there too. They will share a facility with the Indians and I thing this year the Dodgers move out there! What might be the chance the Tigers move west?

Left field: The story is coming!

Sorry, guys. I finished the Left Field story days ago, but I'm having difficulty including photos. I keep getting an error message when I try to download the pics, and I've tried it several times on two different computers. I'm almost to the point of posting the story without any pics. So if that happens, I apologize in advance for being a computer illiterate. Thanks for the grace!

Tigers announce 2009 Spring Training schedule

Hot off the presses! I just received this press release from the Tigers:

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers today announced the club’s exhibition game schedule for 2009 Spring Training in Lakeland, FL. Additionally, the club today announced ticket prices for all exhibition games in 2009 will remain the same as 2008.

Next spring will mark the Tigers 73rd season at “TigerTown” in Lakeland, extending the longest-standing relationship between a major league team and a current Spring Training host city. The 2009 spring season marks the club’s 44th consecutive season of exhibition play at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers will begin the exhibition schedule on Wednesday, February 25 as the club welcomes the Atlanta Braves to Joker Marchant Stadium, the first of 19 exhibition games played in Lakeland during the upcoming spring. Detroit will host two exhibition games in advance of the World Baseball Classic with Venezuela and Panama on Tuesday, March 3 and Wednesday, March 4, respectively.

Tickets for the 2009 spring exhibition season will be priced at two separate levels, with all prices remaining the same as 2008. The first set is for premium games, which include all games against the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, New York Yankees and all Friday, Saturday and Sunday games. The second price level is for the remainder of the schedule. Premium game ticket prices range from $10-21, while the ticket prices for the remainder of games range from $8-19.

Season ticket packages for the 2009 Tigers Spring Training exhibition season are on sale now at the Joker Marchant Stadium ticket office or can be ordered by mail at: Detroit Tigers, Attn.: Ticket Office, 2125 N. Lake Ave., Lakeland, FL 33805. Fans may also purchase season tickets at www.tigers.com beginning on Friday, December 12. Individual game tickets go on sale beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 10th, and can be ordered by visiting the ticket office at Joker Marchant Stadium, calling 866-66-TIGER or visiting www.tigers.com. For additional ticket information and special group pricing, call the Lakeland office at 863-686-8075.

DETROIT TIGERS 2009 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE
Wed. Feb. 25 Atlanta Lakeland 1:05 PM
Thur. Feb. 26 Washington Viera 1:05 PM
Fri. Feb. 27 Toronto Dunedin 1:05 PM
Sat. Feb. 28 NY Mets Lakeland 1:05 PM
Sun. March 1 Pittsburgh Bradenton 1:05 PM
Mon. March 2 FL Southern College Lakeland 1:05 PM
Tues. March 3 Venezuela WBC Lakeland 1:05 PM
Wed. March 4 Panama WBC Lakeland 1:05 PM
Thur. March 5 Washington Lakeland 1:05 PM
Fri. March 6 NY Yankees Tampa 7:15 PM
Sat. March 7 Philadelphia Clearwater 1:05 PM
Sun. March 8 NY Yankees Lakeland 1:05 PM*
Mon. March 9 Florida Jupiter 1:05 PM
Tues. March 10 St. Louis Jupiter 1:05 PM
Wed. March 11 NY Yankees Lakeland 1:05 PM
Thur. March 12 - - - - - - - - - - - - O p e n D a t e - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fri. March 13 NY Mets Lakeland 1:05 PM
Sat. March 14 Toronto Lakeland 1:05 PM
Sun. March 15 Washington Viera 1:05 PM
Mon. March 16 St. Louis Lakeland 1:05 PM
Tues. March 17 Houston Lakeland 1:05 PM
Wed. March 18 - - - - - - - - - - - - O p e n D a t e - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thur. March 19 Atlanta Disney World 7:05 PM
Fri. March 20 Washington Lakeland 1:05 PM
Sat. March 21 NY Yankees Tampa 1:15 PM
Sun. March 22 Florida Lakeland 1:05 PM
Mon. March 23 Boston Fort Myers 1:05 PM
Tues. March 24 - - - - - - - - - - - - O p e n D a t e - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wed. March 25 NY Mets Port St. Lucie 1:10 PM
Thur. March 26 Tampa Bay Lakeland 6:05 PM
Fri. March 27 Atlanta Disney World 1:05 PM
Sat. March 28 Toronto Dunedin 1:05 PM
Sun. March 29 Atlanta Lakeland 1:05 PM
Mon. March 30 Washington Viera 1:05 PM
Tues. March 31 Washington Lakeland 1:05 PM
Wed. April 1 Atlanta Lakeland 1:05 PM
Thur. April 2 Toronto Lakeland 1:05 PM
Fri. April 3 Atlanta Turner Field 7:05 PM
Sat. April 4 Atlanta Turner Field 1:05 PM
All time is Eastern (Detroit) Time * Daylight Savings Time begins March 8
Schedule as of December 2, 2008 (subject to change)

Hall of Fame?

So do Morris and Trammell belong in the HOF? What say you?


Jack Morris, Alan Trammell remain on Hall of Fame ballot

NEW YORK — Career steals leader Rickey Henderson heads 10 first-time candidates on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, joining holdovers Mark McGwire and Jim Rice — eligible for the final time.
Other newcomers are Jay Bell, David Cone, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Jesse Orosco, Dan Plesac, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn and Matt Williams.
Just 23 players are on the ballot, the smallest group ever. Holdovers include Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson. Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.

The Final Season


I'm reading an excellent book about Detroit, the Tigers and the last season at Michigan and Trumbull.
"The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark" by Tom Stanton won the Casey Award for best baseball book of the year when it was punlished in 2002.
A journalist and former journalism professor at University of Detroit Mercy (from which four of my family members graduated back when it was just U of D), Stanton received a Michigan Journalism Fellowship.
He grew up on the east side of Detroit, near City Airport, but I don't hold that against him.

Renteria "could be tempted to stay in Detroit"


Please, Edgar, say it ain't so.


Just go away. Take the money and run.


I can almost smell the hot dogs and freshly cut grass....

That's right baseball fans, spring training is just a few months away. So why don't we day dream just a bit about doing it up right in '09?

Our pal Bill has been doing this pilgrimage for years, and Tom lives nearby. I went for the first time in decades last year, and had a blast.


If I recall correctly, the schedule isn't released until mid January, but the Tigers seem to play someplace in central Florida just about every day. so it's just as much fun to do a "road trip." For example, last year I went to Bradenton, and caught a Tiger game with the Pirates with my brother, who winters in the area.


With Disney and Orlando nearby, there's plenty to entertain your wife, kids and grandkids. So, what do you think guys, ready to get together? (If we get enough guys, maybe we could bring our gloves and a ball, find a vacant field and hit it around a bit after the game. Wouldn't that be a blast?)

So let the discussion begin! (Oh yeah, a say a prayer that I might get a job soon, or I might need a divorce lawyer to negotiate my trip instead of a travel agent.)



Shields, Bouie, and Haggerty pictured at Joker Marchant Stadium during a Tiger loss to some crummy team named the Phillies, March 27, 2008.

Hot Corner



OK boys, time for today’s topic: Who was the greatest Tiger third baseman?
I nominate the following candidates: George Kell, Ozzie Virgil Sr., Steve Boros, Don Wert, Aurelio Rodrigues, Darrell Evans, Travis Fryman and Brandon Inge. I’ve probably overlooked some deserving candidates from the pre-World War II years so please let me know if we should consider anyone else.
The only Hall of Famer in this field, Kell appears to be the favorite. He played 3B for the Tigers from 1946 to 1952, hitting over .300 each year (except for 1952, when he hit .296 in 39 games before a trade to Boston). His fielding percentage was .959 or better each year with Detroit. And of course he went on to fame in the broadcast booth.

I never saw a better defensive third baseman than Aurelio Rodriguez, but he had a weak bat, as did Don Wert, another excellent defensive player. Wert earned everlasting fame for singling to score Kaline in the game where the Tigers clinched the 1968 pennant. (Remember Ernie Harwell's thrilling words? "...and the windup, and the pitch. He swings, a line shot, base hit, right field, the Tigers win it! Here comes Kaline to score and it's all over! Don Wert singles, the Tigers mob Don, Kaline has scored, the fans are streaming on the field, and the Tigers have won their first pennant since nineteen hundred and forty-five! Let's listen to the bedlam here at Tiger Stadium!")

Virgil has the distinction of being the first Dominican to play in MLB and on June 6, 1958, he became the first nonwhite player for the Tigers. Eleven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line! (Only the Red Sox took longer to sign a nonwhite player – Pumpsie Green.)

From Flint, Mich. , Boros earned a BA in literature from Michigan. He later managed the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres, replacing Billy Martin and Dick Williams, respectively.

Darrell Evans had a good bat but saw limited playing time at 3B in his years with Detroit.

Travis Fryman combined good glove work with good hitting but he played half his career with Cleveland.

Inge, of course, is still active.

What say you?

"Can't forget the Motor City"

Interesting article in today's Free Press:

November 16, 2008
Wish Lions would vanish? Stay tuned - Detroit's at risk of losing a pro teamBy DREW SHARPFREE PRESS COLUMNIST
It's not a birthright that Detroit has professional sports teams in each of the four major sports. It's the result of strong corporate support and a loyal fan base willing to pay high prices for tickets.
But those days are over.
The automotive industry as we once knew it is dead. It will reinvent itself with a leaner identity and a more responsible spending philosophy. And that will likely translate into a more conservative approach as it pertains to cutting checks for luxury suites and unlimited entertainment expenses.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Detroit loses at least one of its four professional sports teams within the next 10 years because ownership sells to an outside interest and the franchise moves to an area with a stronger economic base.
If you don't think that's possible, then you're not looking at the current local economic situation with a realistic eye.
Detroit and Phoenix are the only two cities that support four professional sports teams in four separate facilities. That requires four teams capable of finding enough corporate backing for those all-important luxury suites in four different stadiums/arenas to keep the coffers filled without sharing the facility operational costs with another tenant.
That task becomes much tougher for teams in the aftermath of this economic crisis -- especially in Detroit.
The idea of the NFL waiving television blackouts in Detroit has been nationally perceived as the equivalent of a government bailout. But the difference between Congress stepping in to assist the automotive industry and the Lions getting a break from the NFL is that there's no competition for the NFL. It's a monopoly. It possesses full marketing control and can dictate, without competitive challenge, the market price for its product.
That's why it cannot turn a blind eye to what's occurring in Detroit.
There's an obvious reason why the NFL hasn't gotten a new franchise in Los Angeles: It cannot guarantee sellouts in the country's second-largest media market. The NFL's primary business objective remains establishing a premium local value for tickets of home games.
Los Angeles residents have long understood that there's more available to them on a sunny, warm fall Sunday than paying top dollar for an NFL football ticket.
Detroit residents may soon discover there's more available to them on a cold, cloudy fall Sunday, too. That's precisely why the NFL cannot afford to lose a Midwestern stalwart like Detroit.
Detroit's economic base is changing, and the professional sports teams must adapt or else their leagues may soon exist without Detroit.

News from the Mud-e-Times

(Unabashedly ripped off from the Toldeo Mudhens e-newsletter, the Mud-e-Times , but I don't think they would mind me helping their marketing.)

Will the Mud Hens Shine in 2009?
Now that the 2008 World Series has officially closed the book on the baseball season, it's time to start looking ahead to next year! The Mud Hens stand to retain a core of power hitters and top-tier pitching in 2009. We're taking a peek into our crystal ball to see who might be suiting up for the Hens in 2009.Pitching Staff: Mud Hens fans saw many good, young pitchers in Toledo last season - and a few of those arms should return in 2009. Right-handers Eddie Bonine (12-4, 4.15) and Chris Lambert (12-8, 3.50) are expected to be the anchors in the Hens’ 2009 rotation. The bullpen could have lefty Clay Rapada in the set-up role if he doesn't start the year with Detroit. Casey Fien is also on the radar, especially since he’s dominating the Arizona Fall League. Through November 8 Fien had only surrendered one run and had struck out 12 in 11.2 innings. Former first round draft pick Rick Porcello, who enjoyed a successful rookie campaign with Single-A Lakeland (2.66 ERA) could be in the mix, too.Catcher: The catching position could develop to one of the most interesting stories going in to the ’09 season. Catcher Dusty Ryan earned a promotion to the Hens in 2008 after belting 15 home runs at Double-A Erie and continued to produce in Toledo, batting .315 with two more homers and 13 RBI in 20 Triple-A games. Ryan impressed Tigers' skipper Jim Leyland as a September call-up and could land a spot on the big club with a solid spring.Infield: Around the infield, Toledo could potentially see sluggers Michael Hollimon and Jeff Larish. Hollimon is injured (torn labrum) and is not expected back on the diamond until at least June, however. Hollimon hit 15 home runs for Toledo last season - Jeff Larish notched 21. If Larish, (who's playing well in fall ball) starts the year in Detroit it would open the door for infielders Danny Worth and William Rhymes. Both players impressed in Erie. Worth had an on-base percentage of .331 while Rhymes carried a .309 average with the Sea Wolves. A big question mark for 2009 will be what happens with Mud Hens all-time home run king Mike Hessman, who remains on the Tigers' 40-man roster.Outfield: Brent Clevlen may return to the Toledo outfield on 2009, though his tremendous 2008 season with the Hens should earn him serious consideration with Detroit. He hit 22 home runs and drove in a team high 82 runs with a .279 average. Another big contributor from last season, Clete Thomas, could also be back. Thomas started the year with the Tigers, but came to Toledo and made an impact with his 45 RBI and 29 stolen bases. After a breakout season with Erie, Wilkin Ramirez might be poised to take center stage in Toledo; he hit .303 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI as a Hen in 2008. Another Erie standout looking to make the next step is Jeff Frazier. Frazier hit .303 with 55 RBI with the Sea Wolves in 2008.

Phil Leverenz

Tigers raise ticket prices

Hard to believe that the Tigers have raised their ticket prices. I realize that of the four major sports it is still the most affordable ticket, but it still stinks. The Tigers just finished last place in their division - not much of a reason to raise their prices. One of the writers in the Free Press talked about the size of their payroll and called this the "Dontrelle tax". Between Willis, Robertson, and Sheffield they are paying lots of money to a few players. The other part of this mystery is the state of Michigan"s economy. Given the above statements - I still think the Tigers will sell lots of tickets. Of course, in the off season everybody is optimistic. They are even going to have premium pricing this year - higher prices vs. Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs -- also for Friday and Saturday games in warmer months. I guess if you own the team you set the prices. Look at the Lions - as miserable as they are they still sell out, at least until the last two home games. It is snowing in Ann Arbor during the MIchigan game.

Shields Boots One at Short!




Of course, anyone who has played softball with me knows that's not an unlikely circumstance, but I missed out on mentioning a very good Tiger shortstop.



Harvey Kueen was Rookie of the Year when he came up with the Tigers in '53, and led the league in base hits three more times. He was a singles and doubles hitter, who only once hit double-digit home runs. He played for the Tigers for eight years, mostly at short before shifting to the outfield and a little third in 1956, and then winning a batting title in 1959 at .353. ( I think he actually gripped the bat with a little space between the hands, perfect for a slap- bunt over second.)


The Tigers traded him after that season a a very controversial deal to bring Rocky Colovito to town.


He was a very good shortstop who deserved a nomination.

Hot Stove League Discussion

Boyz,

We are at the beginning of the Hot Stove League and if anyone in interested, we could set up a conference bridge to talk baseball or a chat room and discuss where the game, and our Tigers are headed. Let me know your thoughts. My bridge can hold up to 96 people, but 4 or 5 would be great.

Tigers Shorts - Just the Best




Beyond Hall of Famer Billy Rogell’s outstanding baseball accomplishments (which Tom notes very well in his post below) Rogell was known for a quick wit. (And who can’t appreciate that?) In the 1934 World Series, Dizzy Dean was pinch running off first. When Gehringer took a ground ball and flipped it to Rogell at second, Billy fired the ball squarely into Dean’s forehead on the relay throw to first. The ball ricocheted off Dean’s head and landed over a hundred feet away in the outfield. Dean remarked after a visit to the hospital, “The doctors X-rayed my head and found nothing.” Rogell would say of the play later, “If I’d have known his head was there, I would have thrown the ball harder.”


Some of Rogell’s greatest days may have been as a public servant, in helping bring Metro Airport to Detroit, and helping down-on-their luck teammates find employment. He died at 98 in Sterling Heights.


Already nominated at second, Dick McAulliffe replaced Chico Fernandez at short in 1962, where he played the majority of games until Mayo Smith moved him to second to make room for the smooth fielding Ray Olyer in 1967. (A somewhat questionable move in hindsight for the extremely close ’67 season, since Mac led the league in errors at second that season. But he climed the learning curve quickly, and improved in 1968.) But let’s focus on his accomplishments: a three time All-Star, twice playing at short. With his power, ability to get on base, and ability to play at short, second and even third on occasion, Mac was a versatile ballplayer valuable to any real-world team. But Does he make our list of “All-Time Tigers?”

Eddie Brinkman was voted the 1972 “Tiger of the Year” by Detroit sportswriters, even though he seemed to have left his bat in the dugout, hitting only .203. He was smooth in the field, earning a Gold Glove in ’73, and an All Star berth in 1972.

But my choice in this group is Alan Trammel. Forget his days as a manager guys, this was that rare shortstop who could hit and field, and make it all look beautiful. With a .285 average, Tram earned four Gold Gloves, and six All Star berths. Tram is still up for election to the Hall of Fame: let’s hope he makes it.


Some of you mentioned Tom Veryzer, Ray Oyler, Edgar Renteria: are you kidding? Rogell or Trammell got more hits during a homestand that Oyler did all summer. They're on the ballot, make a case for them if you want!

Is there Softball in Heaven?

Two 90-year-old women, Rose and Barb, had been friends all of their lives. When it was clear that Rose was dying, Barb visited her everyday.
One day Barb said, 'Rose, we both loved playing women'ssoftball all our lives, and we played all through High School. Please do me one favor: when you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's women's softball there.'
Rose looked up at Barb from her death bed and said, 'Barb, you've been my best friend for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favor for you.' Shortly after that, Rose passed on.
At midnight the following Friday, Barb was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to her, 'Barb, Barb.'
'Who is it?' asked Barb, sitting up suddenly. 'Who is it?
'Barb -- it's me, Rose.'
'You're not Rose.. Rose just died.'
'I'm telling you, it's me, Rose,' insisted the voice.
'Rose! Where are you?'
'In Heaven,' replied Rose. 'I have some really good newsand a little bad news.'
'Tell me the good news first,' said Barb.
The good news,' Rose said, 'is that there's Softball inHeaven. Better yet, all of our old buddies who died before us are here, too. Better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always springtime, and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play softball all we want, and we never get tired.'
'That's fantastic,' said Barb. 'It's beyond mywildest dreams! So what's the bad news?'
'You're pitching Tuesday.'

Life is short...So Remember to Live Well & Laugh Often!

Thanks for the invitation

Hello, everyone! Thanks to Gregg (and Tom) for the invitation to become a contributor to At The Corner. I am a marketing writer for Hagerty Collector Car Insurance -- joined the company in April after writing sports for the Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle for more than 25 years. I have been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America for 15 years and still hold honorary membership, as well as a Hall of Fame vote. I've covered the All-Star Game, World Series and have attended 22 consecutive Tigers home openers, but it's been a breath of fresh air not having to work the late nights and long hours of a sports writer. I stumbled across your blog shortly after starting at Hagerty (Google alerts me every time Tom Hagerty contributes to the site), so I've been reading from afar for months and I've really enjoyed it. Thanks again for asking me to contribute. Like all of you, I love talkin' baseball.

"I read the news today, oh boy...."


I found this clipping in a box of photos that belonged to my grandparents. You'll probably have to click on it and enlarge. It appears to be from the Detroit Times in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Top photo shows "great catching prospect" Frank House, who signed w/ Detroit in 1948 for a $75,000 bonus. Big money in those days. (Still big money for me.) As far as I can tell from searching the web, House first played in the majors w/ the Tigers in the 1950 season. Also in the photo are Matt Batts and Cliff Mapes, who both joined the Tigers before the 1952 season. If so I wonder why the photo caption still refers to House's signing bonus. House's nickname, by the way, was Pig. The story on the Wings mentions Marcel Pronovost, who played for them from 49/50-64/65. And finally, methinks my grandparents saved the paper not for the sports articles but for what was on the other side of the page -- a map of Ireland.

Hometown Heroes


Saw in today's Free Press that the San Diego Padres named Ted Simmons bench coach. Simmons, a Highland Park native, played at Southfield High and was an eight-time All Star catcher.
So what other Detroiters have played in the majors?
Willie Horton, of course. Also Ted Sizemore (who batted second behind Lou Brock on the Cardinals) and Alex Johnson (who won a batting title w/ the Angels and later played a season w/ the Tigers).
Who else can we add to the list?

Billy Ball


On election day, let's pause to remember Tiger shortstop Billy Rogell, who teamed w/ HOF 2B Charlie Gehringer on the double play, played on two pennant-winning (and one WS winning)Tiger teams and served on the Detroit City Council for 38 years. He also threw out the first pitch at the last game at Tiger Stadium. He even has a golf course in Detroit named after him.

The Greatest Second Sacker?



Our list of nominees is shorter at second base, but the choice is no easier: one Hall of Famer and a guy who probably should be in the hall but isn’t because he quietly, professionally, went about his work, and delivered big time.

In many ways Charlie Gehringer and Lou Whitaker were similar. Extremely soft-spoken, maybe even shy or a bit inarticulate. But nonetheless, role models we would like to see our sons emulate.

Gehringer was a hit machine. Mickey Cochrane said "Charlie says `hello' on Opening Day, `goodbye' on closing day, and in between hits .350." He wasn’t joking, as they guy closed his career with a .320 average, one batting title, an MVP, and a bust in the Hall of Fame.

He was a true throw-back to another day, who worked at Hudson’s in the menswear department in the off-season, and lived with his mother until she passed away.

“Sweet Lou” was also a man of his time. Rookie of the Year, he had a lower average (.276 lifetime), but far more power than Gehringer. He hit 244 home runs. He poked one over the roof in rightfield, an accomplishment you might expect from Cash or Howard, but not a slightly built man like Whitaker.

He was a vacuum on the right side of the infield earning three Gold Gloves, and a great double play partner with Trammell.

Incredibly, he got only 2.9% of the votes for the Hall of Fame on Election day. This is clearly an outrage, and peers like Ryne Sandburg are there. Sad.

Now Dick McAullife was a steady hand for 13 years for our boys, and we all love him for that goofy, aggressive, foot in the bucket open stance, and charging the mound when Tommy John threw at him (and behind him.)

Mac was known to get on base one way or the other, being one of the league leaders in walks. In 1968 he led the league in scoring runs. His lifetime average was .247, and never higher than .274, but didn’t he put a punch in the ball, with 197 homers?

Did you know he made the 1965 and 1966 All Star games as a shortstop?

He might not be my first choice for the Tigers’ all-time best second sacker, but he deserves a mention.

So what does a bullpen coach do anyway?


From today's Free Press:


October 31, 2008
Tigers rehire fired coach; decline Edgar Renteria's $12-million optionBY JON PAUL MOROSI FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Tigers on Thursday announced Jeff Jones' replacement as bullpen coach.
His name: Jeff Jones.
Roughly one month after firing him, the team rehired Jones for the job he held the past two seasons.
So what changed between Sept. 28 and Oct. 30? The Tigers hired Rick Knapp as their new pitching coach.
Manager Jim Leyland, who hires the coaches, wanted input from Knapp, and Knapp preferred that the bullpen coach have a pitching background. That revived the candidacy of Jones, who pitched for Oakland in the 1980s.
"Some people are going to say, 'They don't know what they're doing,' " Leyland said Thursday of the unusual transaction. "But the worst thing to do would have been to not talk to Jeff Jones. We got a very talented guy -- someone who's been a loyal Tiger for a number of years, a guy our new pitching coach felt comfortable with.
"I don't care what things look like. I'm interested in getting things right."

Suspended Game

Just wondering what everyone thinks of the current suspended game. The rules I grew up with, the score would have reverted back to the end of the 5th inning, which was the last completed inning. When is the rule change? or are they making it up as they go? That being said, I do agree with the decision, it would be a heck of a way for the Rays to lose a game and the series due to the rain. The game should have never been started to begin with. Rollins looked ridiculous on that wind-blown pop up. Whacha thinking?

The Giants Win The Pennant!!!!!


The Giants won the No Bats World Championship defeating the Dodgers 8-4. I had another good day going 4 for 7 on the day, with a ball off the wall, I missed by 2 feet, of taking Gregg Olson yard. He did piss me off in the first game, by throwing me a cutter on the hands and breaking my favorite bat. The memorial bat will now become a hat rack and a beer spicket.


It was a special night at the No Bats Banquet last evening as we handed over a check for $52,000 to the Tony Gwynn Foundation, and I was humbled by being named the MVP and inducted into the No Bats Hall of Fame. What an honor!!!!


Oh well, 2008 is over and it is time to get ready for next year. We had a ball and I can't wait to get started. Headed home from San Diego.


Go Lions!!!! They have no chance.

Fun In San Diego


Having fun in San Diego playing baseball at San Diego State with Tony Gwynn, and Gregg Olson. Cal Ripken was a no post this year. We played a doubleheader yesterday and we split. I had a pretty good day going 1 for 3 in the first game. I hit a two hopper off of the 410 mark in center for a bases clearing double. Unike most of the guys, I have not lost a step. I never had a step to lose!!!


In the second game I went 2-4, with a double down the left field line off of Olson. He threw me a fastball on the inside corner and I got the fat part of the bat on it and ripped it down the line. We are having a riot.


The No Bats World Championship and Hall of Fame ceremony is tonight. I will keep you posted.


Here is a picture from dinner last night with former Tiger Gregg Olson and yours truly.




GO BLUE today!!!!!

Frank Howard

Hey Guys -- What about big Frank Howard? I am not suggesting that he was a great trade or anything, but I was thinking about him. He was mamoth, the bat looked like a toothpick in his hands. I think we got him from the Washington Senators. I remember he got thrown out of a playoff game before the game even started, must have said somethig nasty to the ump. Anybody shed any light on this?

The Greatest Tiger Deal?

Look these over, and make you pick on the right. (Due to space constrictions, I'll just list the guys we acquired.)
  • Tigers acquire Norm Cash for Steve Demeter. Demeter goes on to play in only four more games for the Indians, Cash smashes 377 homers.
  • We dump the washed up Denny McClain, Elliot Maddox, and Norm McRae (norm who?) for Joe Coleman, Eddie Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez, two of the steadiest gloves in the AL. Coleman won 20 games twice.
  • We pick up Doyle Alexander a proven, experienced pitcher, in a successful stretch drive to the ALCS. Oh yeah, they give up some kid with a funny name -- Smoltz.
  • "Trade of the Century" (well, maybe the 1950's) when the Tigers send batting title holder Harvey Kueen to Cleveland for Rocky Colavito. Kueen had a few good years left, but "The Rock" (along with Cash) provided some serious punch, and no doubt protected Kaline from being pitched around in the order. (Makes you wonder why between '61 and '66 they never placed higher than third. Pitching wasn't that bad, was it?)

Rocky Colavito

Do you remember Rocky Colavito when he was with the Tigers? I used to listen to WJR when George Kell was broadcasting and Rocky was a Tiger. He was a piece of work. I think he once ran the bases from third to second to first and to home when he hit a home run.

PS Gregg, I went back to square one with your invitation and somehow it now worked. I can post!!! Jim Bernhold

Best Tiger Deal Ever?

Let's take a break from our All Time Tiger Team Selection, and give some thought to the weighty question of, "What was the best horse-tradin' the Tigers ever did?" (assuming players don't mind being likened to horses.) I know it's not the same world it used to be with draft picks, long-term high-dollar contracts, etc., but let's have some fun.



Some thoughts:
  • Tigers acquire Norm Cash for Steve Demeter. Demeter goes on to play in only four more games for the Indians, Cash smashes 377 homers.

  • We dump the washed up Denny McClain, Elliot Maddox, and Norm McRae (norm who?) for Joe Coleman, Eddie Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez, two of the steadiest gloves in the AL. Coleman won 20 games twice.

  • We pick up Doyle Alexander and Woody Fryman, two proven, experienced pitchers, in a successful stretch drive to the ALCS. Oh yeah, they give up some kid with a funny name -- Smoltz.

What are your nominations? I'll put them all in a poll later this week.

Philadephia vs. Tampa Bay

Well guys who do you think is going to win the World Series? Last night's game was thrilling. Joe Madden's bullpen by committee reminded me of the way bullpens used to be used. I always love the underdogs - it would be great to see Tampa Bay go from the worst to World Champs (hmm is there hope for the Tigers next year?). Realistically, I think I have to go with the Phillies. Utley, Howard, Rollins. I am thirlled for Chad Durbin - always like to see an ex-Tiger land on his feet. I hope Jamie MOyer pitches well. I looked at Stub HUb and they have seats available for $575 each - I couldn't pay that much for the Tigers. I did see a game in Philly this summer, as the Phillies are my youngest son (matt) favorite team. I enjoyed the stadium. Greg Luzinski has a stand where he signs autographs -- not real personable though. So her's to the Phillies. What does everyone else thinnk?

Greatest Tiger Trades?

Fascinating discussion, guys. What was the best deal the Tigers ever made?

I think we'll take a break from electing the Greatest Tiger Team, and poll on this subject.

My nomination: 1959, the Tigers send Steve Demeter to Cleveland for a kid named Norm Cash, one of our current nominees for the greatest Tiger firstbasemen. (Demeter went on to play four more games for Cleveland, and never again got a hit in the bigs.)

Tiger Trades


Photo: Aurelio Rodriguez
Sept. 30, 1979
Hey guys, what are some of the best trades the Tigers ever made? One would have to be Jim Campbell's 1971 deal with the Senators, when he unloaded Denny McClain, Don Wert, Elliott Maddox and Norm McRae in exchange for Joe Coleman, Eddie Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez (who at the time was the only MLB player to have all five vowels in his first name).
Coleman would win 20 games twice for Detroit (and 19 another time) while Brinkman and Rodriguez anchored the left side of the infield for years. Rodriguez remains the best defensive third baseman I ever saw.

Another Great Clutch Pitcher

Everyone always talks bout the deal that sent John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander that won the pennant for the Tigers. However, there was another significant pitcher that was acquired by the Tigers in the 70's that meant just as much. Do you remember who it was?


The answer:

Woody went 10-3 down the stretch for the 1972 Tigers as they beat out the Red Sox by a half game to win the pennant, only to be defeated by the Oakland A's in the infamous Reggie Jackson hamgstring tear.

What was the other big incident in this series?

Greatest Tiger Phenoms
















First of all, Tom Tresh died yesterday. A flash in the pan with the Yankees, and he ended his career with the Tigers. His Dad was a great catcher and they lived in Trenton. RIP Tom, you got your chance as the Yankees began to stink up the American League.
















Who are some of your favorite Tiger phenoms? Here today and gone tomorrow. The Phil Collins song title says it best, "Do You Remember". Here some are in no particular order:

Purnal Goldy
Tom Veryzer
Justin Thompson
Jason Thompson
Jon Warden
Rich Monteleone
Ron Cash
Glenn Wilson
Gabe Kapler
Nook Logan
Bubba Morton
Tom Timmerman
Robert Fick (The Last Man To Go Deep at Tiger Stadium)
Rick Leach
Chris Shelton


Who Do You Remember?

Leyland in Lakeland


Jim Leyland, about to enter the witness protection program after the 2008 season.

Fall Ball


Well boys, we're still playing baseball in Florida -- and not only at Tropicana Field.
Here at Tiger Town, the Fall Instructional League goes through Friday. I took this photo yesterday as the Tigers hosted the Astros. I saw Al Kaline, Dave Dombrowski and dozens of scouts. Stopped by today and saw Jim Leyland, out of uniform, a pack of Marlboros always within reach.
I know...it's tough living where the play baseball from February through October, but someone has to do it.
"Bless you boys."

Who was the Greatest Tiger First Sacker?

This one is going to be another tough choice fellas, a guy we knew and loved, versus two Hall of Fame Greats that our Dads and grandpas told us about. I’ll present them to you chronologically; you fill out the lineup card. (Kooch looked up Freehan on Wikipedia, a great idea. I’ll hyperlink the ballpayers’ names to Wiki for easy reference.)
Harry Heilmann must have been a monster in his day (the teens and 1920’s.) At 6’1” and on a lineup with Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, the pitchers must have been forced to pitch to him. Fifteen years a Tiger, with a lifetime .342 average, you could say his numbers were evidence of the era, but he took the batting crown four times, so no matter the numbers, he was often the best of his peers. In 1923 he hit .403. A little younger than Cobb, Heilmann saw the dawn of the live ball, and was the first player to homer in every major league park after he was traded to the national league. To this day he is among the all-time hitting leaders in most categories, and besides, there’s a playfield on the east side of Detroit named after him. (At least there was when we were growing up.) Heilmann was extremely popular with our Dads, as he was the Tiger broadcaster in the late ‘30s and ‘40’s, told a great story and had a quick wit. They remembered him as we remember Ernie and George.
The only problem is where he is going to fit in our lineup? He could be considered a rightfielder, playing 1587 games there, only 448 at first, but we all know of a pretty good rightfielder who will give him stiff competition later in our poll.

Fellow Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg might give Heilmann a run for the money in our poll. He was “only” a Tiger for eleven years of his 12-year career, but what an impact he made. He led the league in homers four times, including almost breaking Ruth’s record, with 58 dingers in 1938. To this day he ranks as having one of the highest slugging percentages in baseball, and retired with a .313 average.
Greenberg was known to be a classy fellow who rose above the anti-Semitism of the day. He made a controversial decision (later repeated by Sandy Koufax) to sit out Yom Kippur. Free Press columnist Edgar Guest wrote a poem (yes, newspapers had poetry in those days.) “We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat / But he's true to his religion--and I honor him for that." Although the draft board classified him as being “flat-footed” he enlisted after Pearl Harbor, sacrificing about four and a half years of his career.

Then there was “Stormin’ Norman,” Norm Cash We remember him for his power, popping the ball over the third deck in Tiger Stadium four times, and getting 377 home runs in his career. But he debuted with the Tigers in 1961, winning the batting title with a .361 average. When teammate Lolich asked him why he didn’t hit for average instead of power, Norm said “Jim Campbell pays me to hit home runs. I can get hits if I want to, just watch tomorrow.” The next game he went three for four.
"I owe my success to expansion pitching, a short right-field fence, and my hollow bats." (He admitted to corking his bats.)
In addition, he was one of the finest fielding first basemen, and was with the Tigers 15 years, second only to Kaline, who happened to be his roomate.
We remember him for his hitting but we loved him for his sense of humor. Who can forget him finishing the ninth in a Nolan Ryan no-hitter, coming to bat with a table leg and wearing over sized sun-glasses? Or the time he tried to call “time-out” when caught in a run-down?

If you had to make out your lineup card, who would you pick?