Matt Kinzer was the only Detroit 'Liger': He was a punter for the Lions and a pitcher for the Tigers

On October 11, 1987, the NFL players were on strike, and the leage was using replacement players. The Lions used a punter named Matt Kinzer for their game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Kinzer, who punted at Purdue, had seven punts for an average of 34.0 yards, and never appeared in another NFL game. But he wasn’t through with professional sports.

Kinzer had been selected in the second round of the June 1984 amateur baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. His only big-league start for St. Louis came on May 23, 1989, against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. He lasted just two innings and allowed six runs on seven hits.

He pitched in eight major-league games with one start for St. Louis before he was dealt to the Tigers at the 1989 winter meetings. Detroit gave three minor-league players (Pat Austin, Marcos Betances and Bill Henderson) for Kinzer and outfielder Jim Lindeman.

Kinzer started the season in the minors and had eight saves and a 2.50 ERA in the May of 1990 when he was promoted to the Tigers to replace Urbano Lugo, who had not pitched for two weeks.

The Chicago White Sox were playing the Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Detroit on May 26, 1990. Kinzer came into the game with one out, a runner on first and the Tigers trailing 6-4. Ivan Calderon smacked a two-out double to score one run and Ron Kittle added a two-run single to make it 9-4. Steve Lyons added a run-scoring single to make it 10-4, and Keller retired Carlos Martinez on a liner to left to end the inning.

It was the end of the inning and the end of Keller’s major-league career. The Tigers released him in the middle of July, and he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles, who released him after just three games in the minor leagues. He finished with a 16.20 ERA and a 3.600 WHIP for the Tigers, and his career numbers show a 13.20 ERA with a 2.333 WHIP. He also was 0-2 with the Cardinals.

After his playing career, Kinzer became an agent, coach for the Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne baseball team and a major-league scout. In 2020, he was one of 15 major-league scouts who was picked to help select the players for Team USA in the Olympics.

He remains the answer to a great trivia question involving Detroit professional sports: Who was the only person to appear in a regular-season game for the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers?

This entry was posted in Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, MLB, NFL and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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