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


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.