Second baseman Charlie Gehringer leads mythical all-time Tigers team made up of players born in Michigan

In the 120-year history of the Detroit Tigers in the major leagues, 104 of the 1,701 players were born in Michigan. So, what would an all-time Tigers team made up of players born in Michigan look like?

It was a strange task. Some positions, like outfield, were rich in talent, and others, like shortstop, had less competition. Everyone was judged only on what each player did with for the Tigers, and when it was finished, it looked like a competitive team that is a little short on the infield (except second base).

Here’s the team:

Catcher-Bill Freehan (Detroit): A no-brainer. Freehan played 15 seasons with the Tigers and had 200 career home runs – 100 at home and 100 on the road. He won five Gold Glove Awards and was an 11-time all-star and, of course, the catcher on the 1968 World Series team.

First base-Rick Leach (Ann Arbor): First base was a surprisingly thin position, although there were many players who could fit there even though they were primarily outfielders. In fact, the only Michigan-born players to start at first base for the Tigers on Opening Day were outfielders Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley. So, Leach gets the call. He played 159 of his 235 games for Detroit at first base but hit just .236 with seven home runs and 49 RBIs.

Second base-Charlie Gehringer (Fowlerville): No debate here. The player known as The Mechanical Man is in the Hall of Fame after a 19-year career. He won the American League MVP Award in 1937 and finished with 2,839 hits, a .320 batting average and an .884 OPS. Defensively, he led all American League second basemen in assists and fielding percentage seven times. Gehringer is a slam dunk and should be considered the best Michigan-born player for the Tigers.

Third base-Steve Boros (Flint): Another thin position, although Boros did start on the 1961 team that won 101 games, and he hit 16 home runs in 1962. Infield is the thinnest position for major-leaguers born in Michigan.

Shortstop-Neil Berry (Kalamazoo): Berry spent five seasons with the Tigers and started at shortstop on Opening Day twice (1948, 1952). He wasn’t much of a hitter – he hit .242 for the Tigers and did not have a home run in 971 at-bats). If Mayo Smith was putting this team together, he’d likely have Mickey Stanley at shortstop.

Left field-Charlie Maxwell (Lawton): In a five-year period from 1956-60, Maxwell hit 120 home runs for Detroit. He became known for hitting home runs in Sunday games, and he totaled 133 home runs, 455 RBIs and an OPS of .828.

Center field-Mickey Stanley (Grand Rapids): Stanley’s versatility and outstanding defense earns him the nod over Ron LeFlore. In his prime, Stanley was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, and he won four Gold Glove Awards. He also hit .248 with 117 home runs and 500 RBIs for the Tigers, and, of course, he moved to shortstop in the 1968 World Series to make room in the outfield for Al Kaline.

Right field-Jim Northrup (Breckenridge): Northrup was a fixture in the Tigers’ outfield for 11 years in the 1960s and 1970s and is known for hitting two grand slams in the same game and belting the key hit of the 1968 World Series: a triple off Bob Gibson in Game 7 to break the game open.

Designated hitter field-Kirk Gibson (Pontiac): Gibson is perfect at the designated hitter. He wasn’t there for his defense. It was his bat, his base running and overall positive influence with a give-it-your-all attitude that made Gibson a force in the majors. He hit 195 home runs for the Tigers in 12 seasons and had an OPS of .834. He will always be remembered for his two home runs in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres.

Starting pitcher-Hal Newhouser (Detroit): When your ace pitcher is a Hall of Famer, you’re in a good spot. While Newhouser sometimes gets overlooked because some of his best seasons were during the war years when the talent was thinner, he won back-to-back American League MVP Awards in 1945-46 and was a four-time 20-game winner. He also was the winning pitcher in two games for the Tigers in the 1945 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, and he finished with a record of 200-148 for Detroit.

Starting pitcher-Frank Tanana (Detroit): It was in the middle of  his career when Tanana was acquired by the Tigers, but he delivered 96 wins in eight seasons and pitched a 1-0 shutout over the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League East Division title in 1987.

Starting pitcher-Dave Rozema (Grand Rapids): He burst on the scene in 1977 – one season after Mark Fidrych’s sensational rookie season – and was 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA and 15 complete games. While he never was able to duplicate that season, he finished 57-46 with the Tigers with a 3.38 ERA and 10 saves. He made 16 starts for the 1984 Tigers and finished the season 7-6 with a 3.74 ERA.

Starting pitcher-Steve Gromek (Hamtramck): Gromek spent the last five years of a 17-year career in Detroit and had a team-high 18 wins in 1954. He finished 45-41 for Detroit with a 3.77 ERA, and he also was used out of the bullpen on occasion and picked up seven saves.

Starting pitcher-Phil Regan (Otsego): Regan spent the first six seasons of a 13-year career in the majors with the Tigers in the early 1960s. Over a three-year stretch from 1961-63, Regan was 36-25, and his ERA decreased each season from 5.25 to 4.04 and 3.86. He finished his time in Detroit 42-44 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.378 WHIP.

Relief pitcher-Fred Gladding (Flat Rock): He was known as The Bear, and in seven seasons with the Tigers he appeared in 217 games, and only one of those came as a starter. He was at his best in the early 1960s, before gaudy save totals became the norm, and in his seven years with Detroit, Gladding was 26-11 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1,231 WHIP in 337 innings.

Posted in Chip's Shots, Detroit Tigers, MLB | Tagged | 2 Comments

Curtis Granderson might have been a better player than Lou Brock, but Granderson doesn’t deserve the Hall of Fame

A few months ago, a baseball fan on Facebook complained that the stat, WAR, was flawed because it could not tell the difference between Lou Brock and Curtis Granderson.

I believe that supports WAR as a legitimate statistic.

Granderson, who started his career with the Tigers and was their center fielder on the 2006 American League championship team, retired today. And he might have been the better all-round player than Brock, the more historic player.

Granderson retired after 16 seasons and 2,057 games. His WAR was 47.3. Brock spent 19 seasons in the majors and played in 2,616 games, roughly 20 percent more than Granderson. Brock’s WAR was 45.3. So, yes, it’s far to say that WAR can’t tell the difference between Granderson and Brock.

That is where we, as humans, come in. No stats tell it all. They are tools to use to make a decision, and like it or not, WAR is one of those tools. It includes batting, base running and fielding, it adjusts for position and adjusts for the league. That is a solid stat – but not a perfect stat.

First, why the argument for Brock? That is easy, Brock did one thing better than any of his contemporaries. He stole bases at a record-breaking level. He led the National League in stolen bases eight times, topped by a major-league record 118 in 1974 when he was the runner-up in the voting for the National League MVP Award. He also led the league in caught stealing seven times.

Brock could hit, too. He finished with a .293 career batting average, and he had some pop in his bat with 149 home runs, although that wasn’t a difference-making ability. His career OPS of .753 was decent and above average, as his career OPS+ was 109 (100 is considered average), but it certainly is not an eye-popping number.

Defensively, despite his speed, Brock was not a solid outfielder. He led all National League left fielders in errors nine times and all NL outfielders in errors seven times. His career defensive WAR, which I believe has more flaws than regular WAR, was -16.0, but it is hard to overlook that damaging number for an outfielder.

To summarize Brock, he was a good hitter – better than a slap hitter but not a power guy – who did the most damage when he was on base, and he was not an asset in the field. That isn’t a Hall-of-Fame player … except for the impact he had on the game on the bases. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot by the Baseball Writers of America in 1985.

Granderson, on the other hand, likely will never make the Hall of Fame. And he shouldn’t. So, it’s a fair question: Why might he be considered the equal to or better than Brock? It goes back to Brock’s historical impact, which Granderson did not accomplish. Brock was a legendary base-stealer, Granderson was a very good player.

The most glaring difference between Granderson and Brock comes in the power category and batting average. Granderson hit 344 home runs – more than twice as many as Brock, who had many more at-bats – but hit just .249 (Brock hit .293). Granderson had the edge in OPS (.803 to Brock’s .753 and 114 OPS+ to Brock’s 109). Granderson topped 40 home runs and 100 RBIs in a season twice.

Why place more emphasis on OPS than batting average? I can’t take a stat seriously that gives the same weight to a single as it does a home run.

Granderson could run, too, but not to the level Brock did. Granderson had 153 career stolen bases, far short of the 938 by Brock, but we already have determined that Brock was the better base runner. However, it seems clear that Granderson was the more dangerous player with the bat in his hand.

Defensively, Granderson was never a contender to win a Gold Glove, but he was better than Brock. Granderson’s defensive WAR was 3.8 – far ahead of Brock’s -16.0 – and he was mainly a center fielder, a more challenging position than left field, which Brock played.

Maybe you still cling to Brock and the stolen bases. That’s fine, the impact Brock made in late 1960s and early 1970s was huge. It landed him in the Hall of Fame, and I think it’s a deserving honor.

But if I’m starting a baseball team today and have the option of Brock or Granderson, I would be tempted to take Granderson. I would be getting a guy who was more dangerous at the plate and was not somewhat of a defensive liability in the field, although I would be forfeiting a game-changing force on the base paths..

And if I had been voting for the Hall of Fame, I likely would have voted for Brock, and I would never vote for Granderson.

Confused? I can’t blame you.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cesar Gutierrez and his .218 batting average went 7-for-7 on a Sunday afternoon in Cleveland to become a part of Tigers lore

There were many home-run heroes for the Tigers in their 9-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the second game of a doubleheader on June 21, 1970, at Cleveland Stadium.

Jim Northrup hit two home runs and had five RBIs. Mickey Stanley broke a tie with a home run in the top of the 12th inning to give the Tigers a 9-8 lead. Al Kaline homered. And John Hiller combined with Tom Timmermann to shut out the Indians over the final five innings of the game.

But this is how Jim Hawkins began his game story in the Detroit Free Press: “Call Cooperstown. Rip up the record books. Retire No. 7. Cesar Gutierrez is now an immortal. Well, almost an immortal.”

The first time a major-league player went 7-for-7 was on June 10, 1892, when Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles did in in a 25-4 win in nine innings. Gutierrez was the first to go 7-for-7 in an extra-inning game, and five years later, Rennie Stennett of the Pirates went 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game.

The Tigers had one other seven-hit game. Rocky Colavito went 7-for-10 in a 22-inning game against the New York Yankees in 1962.

Gutierrez came into his big game hitting .218, and he had only played in two of the Tigers’ previous five games, including the first game of the doubleheader. He was hitting .249 after the game.

‘I was mad, I not playing,” Gutierrez said in the Detroit Free Press. “I mad because I don’t play the first game just because Cleveland pitch a right-hander. I don’t even eat after the first game because I afraid I get sick. I nervous, you know, I want to get some hits and do good so (manager Mayo Smith) play me some more.”

One move made by Smith helped Gutierrez get the seven hits. In his previous eight starts, Gutierrez had hit eighth in the batting order. For this game, Gutierrez hit second. The eighth spot in the order finished with six plate appearances in the game.

The rest of the Tigers celebrated the event. Catcher Bill Freehan, Gutierrez’s roommate on the road, promised to buy Gutierrez a steak dinner for every time he gets three hits in a game.

“I get two and a half steak dinners,” Gutierrez said in a loud enough voice that Freehan would hear it.

The Tigers also made up a song for their new Sultan of Swing. The melody is borrowed from “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

“John E. Fetzer had a team, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.

“And on his team he had Little Cesar, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.

“With a base hit here, and a base hit there, here a hit, there a hit, everywhere a base hit.”

And then in the next game, Gutierrez went 0-for-5 against the Washington Senators.

Wait! What? They called him “Little Cesar” in the song? Future Tigers owner Mike Ilitch would have embraced that title.


First inning: Single to right off Rick Austin

Third inning: Single to left off Rick Austin

Fifth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dennis Higgins

Seventh inning: Double to left field off Dennis Higgins

Eighth inning: RBI single to right off Fred Lasher

Tenth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dick Ellsworth

Twelfth inning: Single to center off Phil Hennigan


Prior to the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 48 at-bats to get seven hits.

After the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 37 at-bats to get seven hits.


Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tale of the Tigers | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beiker Graterol remains the only Tigers pitcher to appear in just one game for Detroit and give up more than two home runs

Beiker Graterol might have drawn the toughest assignment for a major-league debut in Tigers history.

After Bryce Florie went on the disabled list, the Tigers turned to Graterol, a 24-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, to start against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in the home opener at Yankee Stadium in New York.

It was April 9, 1999, and history filled the stadium. They raised the banner to commemorate the 1998 World Series title. Hall-of-Fame catcher Yogi Berra threw out the first ball, and there was a pre-game moment of silence for one of the greatest Yankees of them all – Joe DiMaggio, who died a month earlier. Basketball great Michael Jordan was there, as was former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, And, of course, Mayor Rudy Guiliani was on hand.

And then, to make matters worse, star pitcher David Cone was on the mound for the Yankees, and the weather was terrible. The game began in a steady rain, and it was chilly. Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch had his throwing hand inside his uniform to keep it dry and warm in the first inning.

Welcome to the major leagues, Beiker Graterol. In the Tigers’ pregame telecast, analyst and former Tigers great Kirk Gibson called it “a reverse lock.”

“You wouldn’t think Beiker Graterol would line up too well against David Cone,” Gibson said. “The good thing is the Yankees haven’t seen him, either, so maybe Beiker Graterol will have an Opening Day in Yankee Stadium that he will never forget.”

Play-by-play man Josh Lewin said, “The mismatch really does sort of jump out at you. It’s kind of a Julia Roberts-Lyle Lovitt thing.”

After all the festivities and the Tigers failing to score in the top of the first inning, Graterol, who threw a four-seam fastball, a splitter and a slider, came out throwing strikes with catcher Brad Ausmus behind the plate. Knoblauch, the lead-off man, took two called strikes before he flied out to center. Graterol then retired future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter on a grounder to first. After walking Paul O’Neill, Graterol struck out Bernie Williams, the American League batting champion in 1998.

That was as good as it got. Tino Martinez hit a solo homer and Scott Brosius belted a two-run shot in the second inning, and Chili Davis hit a grand slam in the third. Graterol retired the Yankees in order in the fourth, but his day was done. The last batter he faced was Jeter, who flied out to right in that at-bat and was 0-for-2 with a walk against Graterol, who was left with a 15.75 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP in four innings.

Through the 2019 season, Graterol remained the only Tigers pitcher to appear in just one game for the franchise and allow three home runs. Two other pitchers, Gene Host in 1956 and Kevin Whalen in 2014, each gave up two home runs in their only game for the Tigers.

Graterol returned to the Toledo Mud Hens of the Class AAA International League and went 3-9 with a 5.83 ERA. The following season, Graterol pitched in the Mexican League. Fittingly, he played for the Mexico City Tigres.

“D” Tales: Beiker Graterol was the first pitcher to make his major-league debut as a starting pitcher against the Yankees in the home opener at Yankee Stadium since 1967. That was a lot different than the one in 1999.

That pitcher was Billy Rohr of the Boston Red Sox, and he took a no-hit bid into the ninth inning. After he retired Tom Tresh and Joe Pepitone, Elston Howard ruined the no-hit bid with a single to right. Rohr finished with a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory. It was the first of three career wins for Rohr, who finished his major-league career with a 3-3 record and a 5.64 ERA. It also was the only shutout of his career.

Howard, the American League MVP in 1963, was traded to the Red Sox four months later.


Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tale of the Tigers | Tagged | Leave a comment

Alan Trammell’s ‘ultimate grand slam’ against the Yankees in 1988 was still unforgettable to him 26 years later

There has never been an “ultimate grand slam” that wasn’t thrilling.

What’s an “ultimate grand slam.” It is a grand slam hit with a team behind by three runs and in a walk-off situation. And for the first time in Tigers history, Alan Trammell did it on June 21, 1988.

In 2014, I was interviewing Trammell for another story. When we finished that topic, I felt I needed to bring up the “ultimate grand slam.” I wondered what he remembered about it. It turned out he remembered everything.

Here is the story:

On June 21, 1988, Alan Trammell did something that had never been done in franchise history.

He hit a walk-off grand slam with his team trailing by three runs. It has happened just nine other times in major-league history.

“Those are things you don’t forget,” Trammell said, nearly 26 years after the game, and he immediately rattled off the pitcher he victimized (Cecilio Guante) and the count (3-and-2).

It was a Tuesday night against the New York Yankees at Tiger Stadium with an announced crowd of 26,535. It is anyone’s guess as to how many left with the Yankees leading 6-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Those who left early probably did so in hopes of watching the Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

The Pistons lost that one. The Tigers made a memory.

Dave Bergman pinch-hit for Larry Herndon and singled to left to lead off the ninth, and Darrell Evans followed with a walk. Yankees manager Billy Martin then replaced right-hander Neil Allen with his closer, left-hander Dave Righetti, who gave up a single to Matt Nokes to load the bases with none out.

Righetti then retired Pat Sheridan on a liner to center and struck out Tom Brookens. However, Righetti issued back-to-back walks to Lou Whitaker and Luis Salazar as the Tigers cut the lead to 6-3 and still had the bases loaded. At that point, Martin brought in Guante, a right-hander who the night before had given up a walk-off home run to Brookens in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“I don’t know how many at-bats I had against (Guante), but he was tough on right-handers,” Trammell said. “He dropped down to the side, and he was more of an uncomfortable at-bat for a right-handed hitter. I’m sure the odds were that was the way to go, but unfortunately in this game, the odds don’t always work out.

“I’m sure it was the right matchup. I faced Righetti over the years, and I don’t know what my numbers were against him, but I’m sure it was a matchup thing – righty against righty.”

On Guante’s 3-and-2 pitch, Trammell homered off the facing of the upper deck in left field to win the game 7-6.

“The runners were moving, and I got a pitch that was in the middle of the plate,” Trammell said. “I’m sure (Guante) was just throwing a strike, and I happened to hit it out of the ballpark.”

While the walk-off grand slam has only happened 10 times, Trammell not only did it, he had it done against him two years earlier in Anaheim. Angels shortstop Dick Schofield hit one off Willie Hernandez to cap an eight-run rally in the ninth inning for a 13-12 victory.

Trammell’s memory of that day was as spot-on as it was for his walk-off grand slam.

“That wasn’t a good day,” he said. “We had a huge lead going into the ninth inning – we were up 12-5 – and we lost that game. If I’m not mistaken, that was 1986, and that was the year the Angels had a tremendous year and things were going well for them. The next night, Doug DeCinces hit a walk-off home run for them against us, so they had a good year and a good series.”

In fact, the walk-off home run by DeCinces was a two-run shot off Bill Campbell for a 5-4 victory.

But back to 1988 and the homer against the Yankees.

“We won three games in a row against the Yankees – all come from behind late wins,” Trammell said, “and after that three-game series, (owner) George (Steinbrenner) let Billy Martin go for the fifth time – and the last time.

“That was it. He never managed again after that.”

Once again, Trammell’s memory was spot-on. The night after his grand slam, the Tigers beat the Yankees in 10 innings to complete the sweep. Salazar delivered a game-winning single to score Brookens and end the managerial career of Martin, who was fired the next day and replaced by Lou Pinella.

Trammell, meanwhile, played eight more seasons with the Tigers and retired with 20 years in the big leagues – all with Detroit. That is something that is very special to Trammell.

“It got to a point where it meant a whole lot,” Trammell said of playing his entire career in Detroit. “When people say my name, I think that’s one of the first things that comes to mind is that I’m a guy who played with one team his whole career.”

Trammell played 2,293 games for the Tigers and hit .285 with 185 home runs and 1,003 RBIs. He finished second in the voting for the 1987 American League MVP Award, won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and three Silver Slugger Awards and was the MVP of the 1984 World Series.

He hit just 19 home runs in his first four seasons but had at least 13 in each season from 1983-88.

“As I matured and learned hitting, my strength was that I could use the whole field,” he said. “As I hit for power, I would hit the double down the line – I hit quite a few of them.

“I had a short stroke, and I wasn’t the strongest guy in the world, but as I matured I got a little bigger and learned the pitchers and their tendencies and how they were going to pitch me.

“Things worked out.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wanna know the best-kept secret on the Michigan sports scene this winter? It’s the Michigan State Spartans hockey team


At a time when sports fans in Michigan are searching for anything positive, there has been one pleasant surprise. The Michigan State University hockey team.

There is no need to point out the depths of losing fans of the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons have endured recently. Michigan and Michigan State football have been OK but inconstant, and the Wolverines haven’t even been to a Big Ten Conference championship game yet.

Michigan State basketball? Yea, the Spartans are good, but they have failed to live up to the hype of being the pre-season No. 1. There is still hope, however. Michigan basketball? The honeymoon period with new coach Juwan Howard is over, and the rigors of Big Ten basketball – without Isaiah Livers – have been a rough road.

At the beginning of the season, nobody could have expected much or anything out of Michigan or Michigan State in hockey. The Wolverines were picked to finish sixth and the Spartans seventh in the seven-team Big Ten.

Guess who has spent the past four months going from worst to first? Yup, head coach Danton Cole’s Spartans, who upset No. 9 Penn State 4-2 on Friday night at a packed Munn Ice Arena. The word packed has not been used much with Munn Ice Arena of late, but Spartans fans are jumping on the bandwagon.

So, just how did this happen? The Spartans started 2-4 in nonconference games, and for the most part did not look very good doing it. Just twice in those six games did they score more than two goals in a game, and as the Big Ten season was about to begin, there was no reason to believe the pre-season prognosticators were wrong about the Spartans.

Fast forward to today. Michigan State is alone in first place in the Big Ten with 28 points, followed by Ohio State (26), Penn State (25) and Notre Dame (20).

How did it happen? Great goaltending, senior leadership and getting more comfortable in the system run by third-year head Danton Cole. But really, it all starts – and ends – with senior goalie John Lethemon of Northville. Last year, he had a 3.24 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. This year: How about a 1.88 GAA and a .944 save percentage, which is second in the nation.

There have been season-turning moments as well:

Michigan State opened Big Ten play with a stunner: a 2-0 shutout victory for Lethemon over then No. 6 Penn State on the road. Penn State has been generally considered the most talented team in the Big Ten, so that had to be a huge confidence builder.

Next was a home-and-home with rival Michigan. The first came on a Thursday night at a raucous Yost Ice Arena, Michigan led 3-1 late in the second period, but Patrick Khodorenko scored with less than a minute to go to make it 3-2, and he tied it with an unassisted goal early in the third. The Spartans won it 4-3 on Logan Lambdin’s power-play goal. Two nights later, it was a rematch at Munn, and Lethemon was fantastic in a 3-0 victory for the Spartans, who suddenly were 3-1 in the conference. However, other than bragging rights, two victories of Michigan, picked for sixth place, was little to get excited about in terms of contending for the conference title.

A week later, Notre Dame, ranked No. 3, came into Munn for two games, and on Friday night the Spartans picked up a 1-1 tie and got the extra point in the shootout. Michigan State led 1-0 late in the game before Notre Dame pulled its goalie and scored the game-tying goal. The rematch one night later seemed like it would be Notre Dame’s turn, and the same scenario took place. Notre Dame led 2-1 midway through the third period before Lambdin tied it. With 70 seconds left, senior Sam Saliba gave the Spartans a 3-2 lead, and the Irish pulled their goalie. This time, Notre Dame couldn’t score, and the Spartans celebrated in a circle, did the traditional handshake with the opposition and skated over to the glass in front of the student section. The players banged their sticks on the glass as the students cheered on the Spartans.

And finally, Friday night. The fans packed had packed Munn two weeks earlier against Minnesota, and they were back for this big one against Penn State. The Spartans had a 1-0 lead after the first period, and Penn State came out and outshot Michigan State 17-2 in the second period, but Lethemon was strong and gave up just one goal. The final was 4-2 as Lethemon faced 42 shots and gave up just two goals, and one was a meaningless one in the final minutes after Notre Dame had pulled its goalie. Khodorenko, a senior, had a hat trick to “cap” the evening.

Maybe this team was different. Maybe the prognosticators were wrong. And, at least, seventh place didn’t seem like a logical destination, and that was a good start.

So what’s ahead? First is a rematch with Penn State tonight, two at Minnesota, one with Michigan at Munn Arena and another at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Then it ends in a tough fashion with two at home against Ohio State and two on the road at Notre Dame.

It’s likely the Spartans will be in a position to win the conference if they can do well  the last two weekends, but either way, Michigan State is likely to either finish first and get a bye in the first-round of the conference tournament or host a three-game series in the first round.

Posted in Michigan State Spartans hockey | Tagged | Leave a comment

For one game in 1960, shortstop Casey Wise actually was The Mighty Casey, but he eventually struck out with the Tigers

The day after Casey Wise had his career game on April 24, 1960, the Detroit Free Press ran a six-column headline at the top of the front page of the sports page: “Who Is This Mighty Casey Wise?”

It was a fair question, and the Free Press said he was “a curly-haired blond fellow,” but the newspaper failed to point out that he was the son of Hughie Wise, who appeared in two games as a catcher for the Tigers in 1930 with one start.

At the time, Kendall Cole Wise (they called him Casey for his first two initials) was early in his fourth major-league season. He had a career batting average of .182 (46-for-253) with one home run and 12 RBIs when the Tigers acquired him, Mike Roarke and Don Kaiser for Charlie Lau and Don Lee shortly after the end of the 1959 season.

Wise started the 1960 season 2-for-15, but on that Sunday afternoon at Briggs Stadium, he really was The Mighty Casey, and he did not strike out. The Tigers were playing the Chicago White Sox, with Paul Foytack on the mound for Detroit and future Hall-of-Famer Early Wynn pitching for Chicago.

Wise, who had spent one season with the Chicago Cubs and two with the Milwaukee Braves, started the game in place of regular shortstop Frank Bolling, who went home after the death of his newborn son. Wise hit second in the order, and he began a six-run rally in the first inning with a triple. It was just the second triple of his career. He was just getting started, although in the second inning he flied out to left field against reliever Frank Baumann.

Chicago had cut the lead to 6-3 by the bottom of the fourth, and Wise hit a two-run homer to deep left field off Baumann for his second career home run and first for the Tigers. He led off the bottom of the sixth with another home run to deep left field off Jake Striker to build Detroit’s lead to 9-3.

Wise had one more at-bat. In the bottom of the seventh inning, he singled home Foytack and Eddie Yost as the Tigers built a 12-3 lead, and they won 12-4. Wise finished 4-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs, and he was a double shy of the cycle with a single, triple and two home runs.

Wise, a switch-hitter, had his triple batting left-handed off the right-handed Wynn, but both of his home runs and his single came as a right-handed hitter against a pair of left-handed pitchers.

“I don’t know when I became a switch-hitter,” he said in the Free Press. ‘I guess I always was. … as long as I can remember I’ve been batting both ways. But if anything, I think I’m a more natural right-handed hitter. I seem to have more power that way.”

Wise seemed to know that what he had accomplished was unlikely to happen again.

“Man, don’t get too excited about me,” Wise said in the Detroit Free Press. “I’ve never had a day like this in my life, and I don’t know if I’ll have another.”

He was right. After that game, he went 0-for-24 before getting a hit and 4-for-48 the rest of the season.

RECAP: In Casey Wise’s standout game of April 24, 1960, he had:

The only four-hit game of his career (he had one other three-hit game)

The only two-homer game of his career (he had three total)

The only five-RBI game of his career (his second-best was two)

The only time he scored three runs in a game


Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tale of the Tigers | Tagged | Leave a comment

There was a day in 1903 when the Detroit Tigers played a regular-season game at Ramona Park in Grand Rapids

Today, the football field
at East Grand Rapids High School
sits on the site of Ramona Park.

On May 24, 1903, the Detroit Tigers played a regular-season game in Grand Rapids, and their victory moved them into a tie for first place in the American League.

In the early 1900s, Detroit did not allow the sale of alcohol at public places inside the city limits on Sundays. That presented a problem for the Tigers, whose home ballpark was Bennett Park, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and inside the city limits. Detroit used Burns Park, located in Springwells Township, just outside the city limits, for Sunday games but occasionally moved the games out of town.

The Grand Rapids game was held at Ramona Park, an amusement park that opened in East Grand Rapids in 1897 and featured a figure-eight double track wooden roller coaster. It was located on Lakeside Drive near the boat landing for Reeds Lake.

The game itself was a novelty for Grand Rapids, and ticket prices were high, and everybody wanted to be in on the action. It cost 50 cents just to enter Ramona Park, and it cost another 50 cents for a seat in the grandstands and another dollar for a seat in the stands behind the screen at home plate.

The Detroit Free Press reported that game officials combed through the clothing of the players while they were on the field. The clothes were shaken in a search for loose change, and any money left in the dressing room was taken.

An estimated crowd between 3,500 and 4,000 crowded into the field, which was smaller than the one at Bennett Park. The outfield was elevated on a sloping plane, and a tree was in right field. The batters took target on the tree, knowing that if they hit the branches, they would be awarded a double, but nobody was able to hit the tree.

Detroit’s opponent was the Washington Senators, who entered the game with a 9-18 record and had lost 13 of their past 17 games. The Senators had several veteran major-leaguers but no real stars, except Ed Delahanty, who was in the final season of his 16-year career. Delahanty, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Old Timers Committee, did not play, and it is not known if he made the trip to Grand Rapids.

Perhaps the Washington player most interesting to the Grand Rapids fans was right fielder Ducky Holmes, who started the first game in Tigers major-league history in 1901 and spent two seasons in Detroit. The Senators purchased his contract in February of 1903.

Happy Townsend, a 24-year-old right-hander in his third season, started on the mound for Washington. He would be just 2-11 in 20 games for the Senators in 1903, and the following season he was 5-26 and led the American League in losses.

Holmes batted lead-off for Washington and was followed in the order by left fielder Kip Selbach, center fielder Jimmy Ryan, third baseman Bill Coughlin, first baseman Scoops Carey, shortstop Al Orth, second baseman Joe Martin, catcher Lew Drill and Townsend.

The starting pitcher for Detroit was 25-year-old John Deering, who was making just his second start of the season. The Detroit lineup had Jimmy Barrett leading off and playing in center field, followed by Billy Lush in right field, Sam Crawford in left field, Kid Elberfeld at shortstop, Charlie Carr at first base, Heinie Smith at second base, Joe Yeager at third base, Sport McAllister catcher and Deering on the mound.

The Tigers were 15-12 and one game out of first place. They had won eight of their previous 10 games.

Carr gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. He singled and moved up on an infield ground out and scored on an error. Washington scored three in the top of the third on doubles by Drill, Selbach and Ryan to take a 3-1 lead. The Tigers answered with three in the bottom of the third as Townsend walked Lush and hit Elberfeld before Carr, Smith and Yeager each singled to get the three runs and a 4-3 lead.

It probably looked like it was going to be a slugfest, but it wasn’t. After Washington tied it in the top of the fifth, Carr doubled and scored on a double by Yeager to make it 6-5, and that is how the game ended. Townsend, the Washington pitcher, settled down, while Tigers manager Ed Barrow removed Deering after five innings and replaced him with George Mullin.

Mullin, a 22-year-old right-hander in his second season. allowed only one hit over four shutout innings to preserve the one-run lead. It was only the beginning for Mullin, who went on to a 12-year career with the Tigers that included 209 wins, the first no-hitter in franchise history and five 20-win seasons, including a 29-8 record in 1909.

Carr finished with three hits for the Tigers, and Yeager had two.

The Tigers went on to finish fifth in the American League with a 65-71 record, while the Senators finished last at 43-94. Barrow, the Detroit manager, was unhappy with the bumpy grounds and long grass at the field and said the Tigers would not return to play at Ramona Park. Detroit played two other Sunday games in 1903, both at Armory Park in Toledo, Ohio, on June 28 and August 16. Two years later, they played two games at Neil Park II in Columbus, Ohio, on July 23-24.

Ramona Park had more baseball games, and on July 7, 1909, it became the first stadium to host a professional baseball game under the lights. Portable lighting was used for a game between the minor-league teams of Grand Rapids and Zanesville, Ohio.

Babe Ruth also made an appearance at Ramona Park in 1923 when the Yankees played the Grand Rapids Billbobs in an exhibition game Ruth hit two home runs, and in the stands that day was a 10-year-old boy who would one day become President of the United States. His name was Gerald Ford.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tale of the Tigers | Tagged | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, MLB, NFL | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tigers yielded first grand slam in American League history on May 1, 1901, to White Sox batter who could not hear or speak

On May 1, 1901, Detroit Tigers pitcher Ed Siever gave up the first grand slam in American League history. It happened at South Side Park in Chicago, and it was the third road game in Tigers history.

The man who hit the grand slam was William Ellsworth Hoy, and he didn’t hear any of the cheers from the reported 2,400 fans. He couldn’t. He was unable to hear or speak. In fact, he wasn’t known as William or even Bill. He was known as Dummy Hoy, an incredibly insensitive name to put on someone who had been hit with such a devastating situation. However, he actually referred to himself as Dummy and would correct people when they called him something else.

Hoy, who lost his hearing due to an illness in his childhood, hit his grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning as the White Sox pinned a 19-9 thumping on the Tigers, who arrived in Chicago with a 4-0 record after sweeping four home games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Detroit split two games in Chicago before the game on May 1.

Hoy, a graduate of the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, Ohio, was no gimmick. At the time of his grand slam, he had played in the major leagues since 1888, and he led the National League in walks with 117 in 1891. In his only season with the White Sox in 1901, he led the American League with 86 walks and hit .294 with two home runs, 60 RBIs and 112 runs scored.

Hoy was three weeks shy of his 39th birthday when he hit the grand slam, and he played one more season in the majors. Amazingly, he finished his major-league career with 2,048 hits and a .288 career batting average.

He is credited with the use of hand signals that are still in the game today. When he began playing, umpires shouted out the calls, but when Hoy would bat, he requested that umpires raise their right arm to signal a strike and raise their left hand to signal a ball.

Hoy lived to be 99 years old and died on December 15, 1961, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Siever, meanwhile, spent his first two major-league seasons with the Tigers in 1901-02 and the final three of his time in Detroit in 1906-08. He led the American League with a 1.91 ERA in 1902 despite an 8-11 record, and he was 18-11 in 1907 for the first pennant-winning team in Tigers history.

Siever started Game 3 of the 1907 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at West Side Gronds in Chicago and was the losing pitcher in a 5-1 game. He died in Detroit at age 44 on February 4, 1920.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tale of the Tigers | Tagged | Leave a comment