Chuck Hostetler, a 40-year-old rookie who made a costly blunder for the Tigers in Game 6 of the 1945 World Series

Chuck Hostetler, the epitome of a war-time major-league baseball player, was a 40-year-old rookie for the Tigers in 1944. He had not played professional baseball since 1937.

Hostetler, who mainly played right field and pinch-hit for the Tigers in 1944-45, spent 10 years in the minor leagues from 1928-37. He was with the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators, but none of them called him up.

During Hostetler’s 10 years in the minors, he hit .300 or better five times with his best season in 1931 when he hit .358 in 119 games for the Class A Topeka Senators. He hit .338 for the Wichita Aviators of the same league the following year and finished with 1,466 base-hits for a .307 average with 30 home runs in the minors.

After the 1937 season, Hostetler quit baseball. He was 34 and married and took a job on a mooring boat and played semi-pro baseball in Bayton, Texas. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, and worked at Boeing at the start of World War II.

“I gave up the idea of playing in the majors a few years ago,” Hostetler said in The Associated Press in the summer of 1944.

Hostetler continued to play for the Boeing team, and former Tigers pitcher Red Phillips, who umpired some of those games, saw him and recommended him to the Tigers, who were searching for big-league talent like the rest of the league with the rosters ravaged by World War II.

Hostetler was 40, but he was listed as 38 when he reported to spring training in 1944, and he made the team. He became the oldest player to make his major-league debut in history, and since then he has been surpassed by two pitchers. He remained the oldest position player to make his major-league debut as of 2019.

A hot start kept Hostetler in the Tigers’ plans. He had a pinch-hit single in his major-league debut. He was hitting .429 (9-for-21) at the end of April, and his average never dropped below .300 until August 21. He finished at .298 with 42 runs scored, no home runs, 20 RBIs and four stolen bases, and earned a return trip to the Tigers.

Hostetler did not duplicate his rookie season, and his playing time suffered. He went from 265 at-bats to 44 and hit just .159 with three runs scored and two RBIs

 However, the Tigers won the American League pennant, and Hostetler was on the roster. He appeared in three World Series games and was 0-for-3 as a pinch-hitter.

With his lack of playing time and many players returning to baseball after the end of World War II, Hostetler was not offered a contract by the Tigers, and he left baseball. He worked as a sports announcer at KHOX in Arkansas and became a farmer, but those did not last long. He went back to work for Boeing, and he went back to baseball as he was one of four managers for the Chanute Giants in the Class D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League in 1950.

Hostetler became ill with mesothelioma in 1970 and died the following year at age 67.

“D” TALES:” Chuck Hostetler had just turned 42 years old a month before the start of the 1945 World Series. Although he was on the Tigers’ roster, he didn’t expect to see much game action, and he didn’t.

However, Hostetler could not have expected or hoped to commit a blunder on baseball’s biggest stage.

It was Game 6 of the World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and the Tigers had won three of the first five games. One more victory would secure the second World Series title in franchise history, but they trailed the Chicago Cubs 5-1 going into the top of the seventh inning.

Hostetler led off the inning as a pinch-hitter for Skeeter Webb. Hostetler reached first on an error by Cubs third baseman Stan Hack. Hostetler took second on an infield out, and Doc Cramer followed with a single to left field. As Hostetler charged around third base and had made it about two-third of the way to home when he sprawled face first onto the ground. He scrambled to his feet, but by then Cubs catcher Mickey Livingston had the ball. Hostetler tried to get back to third, but Livingston threw to third baseman Hack, who tagged Hostetler.

Tigers manager Steve O’Neill, in the third-base box, did not give Hostetler the signal to keep running.

“We would have won if Chuck Hostetler had only caught my signal to hold up when he was rounding third after Eddie Mayo had singled,” O’Neill said in the Detroit Free Press, “but Chuck didn’t see it until he was past third. I shouted at him and Chuck, trying to pull up short, fell down and was tagged out. Later in that inning, we scored two runs, and for Chuck’s faux pas, we would now have been headed home.”

O’Neill also reasoned that because Hostetler was a fast base runner, he understood why Hostetler might not have been expecting to be held up at third base and did not see the sign.

Detroit trailed 5-3 with runners on first and second when the third out was made in the inning, so Hostetler’s flop – it became known as “Hostetler’s Flop” – might have cost the Tigers more runs. The Tigers did finally tie the game, but they lost 8-7 in 12 innings.

It was Hostetler’s final moment on the field during a major-league game, but two days later, it didn’t matter. The Tigers won Game 7 to secure the World Series, and Hostetler was a world champion. On June 15, 1946, the Tigers welcomed back Hostetler and the other members of the 1945 team to witness the raising of the World Series and American League banners. They also were presented with gold rings.

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NFL needs another Tony Dungy to serve as pipeline and mentor for potential black head coaches and coordinators

The NFL misses Tony Dungy.

Or maybe it is more fair to say that minority coaches miss Dungy.

Five head coaches were fired after the season, and four of the five positions have been filled with white coaches. The fifth was Ron Rivera, an Hispanic fired by the Carolina Panthers and hired by the Washington Redskins. The Rooney Rule? It’s nothing but a formality. NFL owners are going to hire who they want to hire, and for some reason the black candidates are not landing jobs.

Many years ago, before Dungy was a head coach, he tried to explain how it happened that there were no head coaches at that time. He said that when an owner prepareed to hire a head coach, he had a certain type of person in mind. He sees Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll or Bill Walsh. Those were the stereotype head coaches.

That was 20-30 years ago. Now, the owners don’t necessarily visualize the old, white veteran head coaches. They like the young, white assistant coaches who have trendy offensives minds. A year ago, the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, who had been fired the previous November by Texas Tech and had accepted a position as offensive coordinator at USC.

Instead, he became a head coach in the NFL, and in its press release, the Cardinals listed one of the key things about Kingsbury was that he was friends with Rams head coach Todd McVay, then the stereotype for head coaches of the present. It doesn’t seem like a qualification to be a head coach.

So how does all this relate to Dungy? Well, probably more than anyone else, Dungy hired and developed black coaches into NFL coaches. He was a pipeline for them, and he brought them in from college and mentored them. And not just black coaches, either, he developed plenty of white coaches, too.

Six of Dungy’s assistant coaches became head coaches in the NFL, and five of them were black:

Herm Edwards: He was on Dungy’s first coaching staff at Tampa Bay in 1996, and five years later became head coach of the New York Jets. He currently is the head coach at Arizona State University.

Lovie Smith: Smith was Dungy’s linebackers coach at Tampa Bay in 1996, and he became head coach of the Chicago Bears. In Super Bowl XLI, Dungy’s Colts defeated Smith’s Bears.

Jim Caldwell: He actually started with Dungy as quarterbacks coach at Tampa Bay in 2001. He was on Dungy’s staff at Indianapolis, and when Dungy retired, Caldwell became the head coach. Caldwell also spent two seasons as head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Mike Tomlin: Tomlin’s first NFL job was as a defensive back coach for Dungy’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001. Tomlin became head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 and remains the Steelers head coach.

Leslie Frazier: In 2005, Dungy hired Frazier as a defensive assistant with the Indianapolis Colts. Frazier became interim head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 and became the full-time head coach from 2011-13. He spent the season as the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, who made the playoffs and lost in the wild-card round.

Rod Marinelli: The lone white assistant coach who became a head coach, Marinelli received his first NFL job from Dungy on the Tampa Bay staff in 1996. He was head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2006-08 and spent last season as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.

Today, there are three minority head coaches in the NFL: Tomlin, Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Rivera, the new coach of the Redskins.

Obviously, there are qualified candidates, black, white and Hispanic, just waiting for the call. At the top of the list is Eric Bieniemy, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in college and offensive coordinator for the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs. If Todd McVay was seen as an offensive mind, Bieniemy should be in the same classification.

Two of Dungy’s former assistants-turned-head coaches also are strong candidates. When last we saw Caldwell, he had back-to-back 9-7 seasons with the Lions. That alone should get him a job. Since then, the Lions have fallen on hard times despite hiring two former New England Patriots in Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. Caldwell deserved better.

The other is Frazier, who has helped transform the Buffalo defense into a strong unit.

Both Caldwell and Frazier have experience as a head coach, and neither sniffed a job.

If Dungy were still coaching, he would be adding to his coaching tree. He wants to win as much as anyone, but he wants to do more than win. When he took over the Indianapolis Colts, he told the team that if it won the Super Bowl and that was all it did, it would not be a total success. He wanted his players to become involved in the community and become positive role models. He achieved both goals.

Dungy also feels strongly about minority coaches. Back in his days growing up in Jackson, he idolized Michigan State quarterback Jimmy Raye, who was black. For the first time, it seemed real to him that maybe he could be a quarterback, and it happened in high school and at the University of Minnesota.

He knew the roadblocks then, too. He felt he could have been an NFL quarterback. Instead, he was slotted into the defensive secondary. He felt he could become an NFL head coach, but he was passed over more than once before he finally landed the job and probably should have been hired earlier.

Dungy made it part of his mission to give opportunities to deserving coaches. Note the word deserving. Dungy wasn’t going to give out any gift jobs, and if he felt a white coach was more deserving of a job than a black applicant, he would hire the white coach.

However, he always left the door open for the minorities, and he recruited and groomed them when he could.

Now, Dungy is on TV doing the NBC network show prior to Sunday Night Football. His influence still reaches far, but he can’t do as much in that role as he can as a hands-on head coach.

So, yes, the door is still open for black head coaches in the NFL. It just isn’t wide open, and the NFL does not have a Tony Dungy to serve as a mentor to those trying to still break the barrier and beef up the numbers of minority head coaches in the NFL.

Dungy’s legacy is as the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl. It was a big reason why he made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I’d bet he doesn’t feel it’s his greatest contribution. That would be men like Herm Edwards, Jim Caldwell, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier, and many others.

Just like Dungy wanted his Colts to do, he didn’t just win a Super Bowl. He made a difference in the sport. And the void of black head coaches in the NFL shows that he is missed.

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Herm Merritt has record nobody would want: Only former Tigers player to die before he reached 27 years old

There is one record that no member of the Detroit Tigers would ever want to own, and it belongs to Herm Merritt. He is the only person to play for the Detroit Tigers and die before his 27th birthday.

Merritt was playing in an amateur league in Grey Bull, Montana, when the Tigers discovered him. He joined the Tigers in late August of 1921. He was 1-for-4 in his first six games – all as a defensive replacement at shortstop or as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.

Finally, on September 5, the Merritt got his chance in a doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox at Navin Field in Detroit. Merritt got a hit in the first game after entering as a defensive replacement, and he was 1-for-3 in the second game as he made his first major-league start. He made two errors, but they did not keep the Tigers from winning the game 4-3.

Merritt began to get more playing time, and he had a five-game hitting streak in the middle of September. It included three consecutive two-hit games and a four-game streak with one RBI in each game.

Merritt opened some eyes as he hit .370 (17-for-46) with a double, two triples and six RBIs. The Tigers sent Merritt to the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League in 1922. Tigers player/manager Ty Cobb held stock in the August team and hoped Merrite would develop into a player who could help the Tigers in the future. But he never got the chance to put in another season of baseball.

On April 23, 1922, Merritt and four teammates were involved in an automobile accident outside of Greenville, South Carolina. The car Merritt was driving flipped, and everyone inside was injured. The Detroit Free Press reported that Merritt said he was driving at a safe speed but the steering gear failed.

Merritt was thrown from the car and ended up pinned under the vehicle. He suffered a fractured spine at the base and was temporarily paralyzed. His baseball career was likely over, and doctors feared his life was in danger.

Surgeons operated on Merritt and saved his life. A touchy surgery that The Sporting News reported, “The operation is said to have been one of the most difficult and unprecedented in the history of surgery at Greenville.”

Merritt lived another five years, but on April 26, 1927, he died of acute nephritis, a result of the fracture.

“D” TALES: The fine late-season run by Herm Merritt in 1921 left him near the top of one list of Tigers achievements. His .370 batting average in 46 at-bats is the fourth-best in franchise history for players with at least 40 at-bats.

Phil Clark, who played in 1992, holds the record with a .407 batting average in 54 at-bats. Timo Perez, who hit .389 in 90 at-bats in 2007, is second, and Tom Hughes, who had a .373 mark in 59 at-bats in 1930, is third, Merritt, who was 20 at the time of his appearance in the majors, was the youngest of those four players.

 

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Believe it! Hank Greenberg was a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera, and it isn’t as close as you might think

While it is generally concluded that Ty Cobb was the greatest hitter in Tigers history, and Al Kaline might have been the most complete player, there is a lot of debate about the greatest slugger.

All Tigers fans have seen Miguel Cabrera, and very few saw Hank Greenberg. As great as Cabrera was in his prime, it seems impossible that Greenberg could have been better. But he was.

Statistics are nice, but they often don’t tell the whole story. When one points out the great home-run and RBI totals put up by Greenberg, Cabrera backers scream that it was easier to put up those stats back in those days.

Really? Well, during Cabrera’s 12 years with the Tigers, he hit a home run once per every 18.45 at-bats. The major-league average during those 12 years was once in every 32.71 at-bats. Greenberg hit a home run once every 15.66 at-bats with a peak of 9.59 in 1938. During his time with Detroit, the major-league average was 65.66. Obviously, it was much easier to hit a home run during Cabrera’s time than Greenberg’s, and it isn’t even close.

One of the recent stats, WAR, is a controversial stat. But it is a nice stat that tries to put a player’s career into one single number. In 1,269 games for the Tigers, Greenberg has a 54.2 WAR. In 1,680 games for the Tigers, Cabrera is at 51.3 – a lesser total in more than 400 games than Greenberg.

However, there is a number where Cabrera compares favorably with Greenberg, and it is another metric stat: OPS+. This one is easy as an average OPS+ is 100. Cabrera has a career OPS+ of 150 with the Tigers, while Greenberg is 161. However, Greenberg’s best season of OPS+ was 172, which Cabrera topped three times with a peak of 190.

Finally, the core stats. For his Tigers career, Greenberg had 306 home runs, 1,200 RBIs, a .319 batting average and an OPS of 1.028. Cabrera checks in with 339 home runs, 1,171 RBIs, a .315 batting average and an OPS of .937. The MLB average OPS during Cabrera’s time was .732. During Greenberg’s time it was .727. Cabrera only wins home runs, and he had just 33 more in 400 more games.

And here’s the kicker: Greenberg lost nearly four full seasons and half of another because of his time in World War II. He was coming off a 41-home run season with 150 RBIs when he went into the service, and in his first full season after he returned to the Tigers, he hit 44 home runs with 127 RBIs.

If you want peak stats, well, Greenberg’s top five home-run seasons total 219, while Cabrera’s is 201. When it comes to RBIs in the five best seasons, Greenberg has the edge 788-648.

It is not out of the question that Greenberg would have hit 150 or more more home runs without time in the service, and that would have given him pushing 500 career home runs for the Tigers. Nobody has hit 400 in franchise history.

So, next time the debate comes up over who should be the first baseman on the all-time Tigers team, give Greenberg serious consideration. He deserves it.He is the greatest slugger in franchise history. And, yes, Miggy still should be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

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When White Sox didn’t want to get the Tigers out in 1901, umpire Tommy Connolly forfeited game to Detroit

When the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox had their memorable “Disco Demolition Night” in 1978, it was not the first time a Tigers-White Sox game resulted in a forfeit in the Windy City.

It happened on May 2, 1901, and it was just the eighth game of the Tigers’ charter season i the major leagues and the final game of a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox at South Side Park in Chicago. Tigers pitcher Emil Frisk was matched up with White Sox pitcher/manager Clark Griffith, who had won more than 20 games in six of his previous seven seasons and would go 24-7 in 1901.

Griffith, a right-hander, was sharp and held the Tigers to just three hits through eight innings. He gave up a lead-off single to Pop Dillon in the top of the ninth but retired the next two batters. Tigers catcher Fritz Buelow grounded to third baseman Fred Hartman, who fielded the ball but overthrew first baseman Frank Isbell. Frisk followed with a run-scoring double, and Doc Casey walked to load the bases before Jimmy Barrett drilled a triple to make it 6-5.

Darkness was moving in at South Side Park, and it was raining. Griffith began to stall, hoping umpire Tommy Connolly would call the game. If that happened, the score would revert to the last complete inning, and Chicago would have a 5-2 victory. Connolly ordered Griffith to play ball, and Griffith, not wanting the inning to end, walked Kid Gleason. Griffith then attempted to walk Ducky Holmes, but Holmes reached out and drove the ball to center field, where Dummy Hoy let the ball drop. Holmes, wanting the inning to end, kept running and intentionally was caught between second and third base. When the White Sox refused to tag Holmes, Connolly called the game a forfeit and awarded the Tigers a 9-0 victory.

The crowd rushed the field in the rain, and Connolly had to seek cover in the batting cage. One fan threw a punch but missed. Charlie Comiskey, president of the White Sox, went into the crowd and convinced the irate fans to disperse. Two White Sox players, Pat Dillard and Dave Brain, were released the following day.

The following day, The Chicago Tribune put more blame on Hartman for his throwing error, which would have ended the game if he had executed the play: “If  the crowd had gone onto the field with the intention of lynching Hartman, there would have been some method to its madness. Connolly was in no way responsible for the defeat, but it was altogether Hartman’s fault.”

It was the first forfeit in the history of the American League.

 

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Marc Hall: A Tigers record in 1914 that has stood for more than 100 years, and a tragic death a year later

Marc Hall’s story with the Tigers is marked by a record and a tragedy.

On July 5, 1914, Hall established a team record that likely will never be broken. He pitched 13 innings in relief against the St. Louis Browns in Navin Field in Detroit. It is a record that has been approached but not broken in more than 100 years.

Tragically, he was dead less than eight months later.

Hall appeared in just six games after his 13-inning relief effort before his season was ended when he was diagnosed with diabetes. It was determined his season was over with a 2.69 ERA.

The Tigers released him that summer, but Hall was determined to make it back to the game. He reported to the Tigers’ spring camp in Gulfport, Miss., even though he was no longer with the team. Hall knew he wasn’t in shape to make a major-league roster, but he hoped to show enough to land in the minors, according to The Sporting News.

Hall became ill again in the spring and returned to his home in Joplin, Mo., where he died on February 24, 1915, at the age of 27.

Hall came to the Tigers in 1913 with much promise after two fine seasons with the Omaha Rourkes of the Class A Western League. His short major-league resume wasn’t as promising. He began his professional career in 1909 at age 21. The following season, he joined his hometown ballclub, the Joplin Miners of the Class C Western Association, and posted a 21-9 record for a combined 41-21 mark in two seasons in that league. It earned him a spot with the St. Louis Browns that season.

Hall’s debut season was less than stellar. He was 1-7 with a 4.27 ERA. He walked 31 batter in 46 and one-third innings, leading to an unsightly 1.748 WHIP, and he returned to the minors for the 1911 season. He spent two seasons with the Rourkes. After going 17-17 in 1911, Hall broke through with a 25-9 mark in 1912, setting the stage for him to join Detroit in 1913.

Hall made his Tigers debut in the second game of the season. He allowed one hit in two scoreless relief innings against the Browns, his former team, earning a start six days later at home, again against the Browns. Hall went the distance, allowing three runs (two earned) as Detroit edged St. Louis 4-3.

It was the beginning of a fine year for Hall, who rotated between the rotation and the bullpen but made more starts than relief appearances. He finished 10-12 with a 3.27 ERA in 30 games (21 starts). His control was somewhat improved as he walked 79 in 165 innings – not great but much better than in 1910.

Hall’s 1913 highlight came on June 1, when he tossed a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park in Chicago. He also collected a hit in the game. The following month, Hall struck out 10 batters in a game against the Washington Senators at Navin Field in Detroit.

Hall’s season came to an end when he broke a foot fielding a bunt in the middle of August and missed the rest of the season. With a decent rookie season under his belt, Hall came to camp in 1914 with a lot of promise. The Tigers kept him in the bullpen for the most part as he made just eight starts in 25 games. He improved his control for the second year in a row, walking just 27 in 90 and one-third innings.

He entered the franchise record book on July 5, 1914, when he pitched 13 innings in relief against the Cleveland Indians at Navin Field in Detroit.

“He is proving to be the right man for Manager Jennings to send in to finish games and to use when he hasn’t one of his other regular men available,” The Sporting News reported in its July 23, 1914, edition. “Hall is likely to stick with the club for a long time as just that sort of pitcher. He hasn’t enough stuff to become a star, but he is a steady plugger.”

Unfortunately, Hall never got the chance.

“D” TALES: In early July of 1914, the Tigers had back-to-back doubleheaders and were forced to use Marc Hall for a total of 17 and two-third innings in two days.

In the first game of a Fourth of July doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians at Navin Field, Hall relieved starter Jean Dubuc in the fourth inning and tossed four and two-third innings in Detroit’s 10-8 loss. Hall allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits with three walks and no strikeouts.

The next day, the St. Louis Browns were in Detroit for a doubleheader. Starter George Boehler lasted one inning before Hall entered the game with Detroit trailing 3-2. Hall pitched 13 innings and gave up three earned runs on 13 hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The Browns scored in the top of the 14th inning and won 6-5. Hall was tagged with the loss.

Just eight pitchers have thrown more than 13 relief innings since 1913, and the record belongs to Cubs pitcher Zip Zabel, who pitched 18 and one-third innings on June 17, 1915, at West Side Grounds in Chicago.

 

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Former Tigers pitcher John Glaiser had his career ERA improve by more than a run 48 years after his death

In 2007, nearly 50 years after his death, John Glaiser’s career ERA dropped from 6.35 to 4.91.

Glaiser was with the Tigers from April until the end of May in 1920 and pitched in eight games before being returned to the minors for the rest of the season. Although he pitched professionally until 1925, he never made it back to the majors.

In September of 1920, Norman Glaser appeared in one game for the Tigers. It was his only major-league appearance, and likely because the names were nearly identical, Glaiser inherited Glaser’s one-game stats, leaving Glaiser with nine games played and a 6.35 ERA.

In 2007, Bob Hole, a member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) discovered the discrepancy. Glaser was added as a member of the 1920 Tigers along with his four earned runs allowed in two and one-third innings, and Glaiser had those stats taken away from his career log, leaving him with a 4.91 ERA.

Glaiser, just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, pitched well in seven relief games for the Tigers, but he was hit hard in his only start. It came on May 14, 1920, against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Glaiser gave up three runs in the first and three in the sixth (he was credited with just five innings as he did not retire a batter in the sixth) and did not factor in the decision as the Senators won 9-8.

However, Glaiser shined in a relief role with a 1.86 ERA and a 1.241 WHIP in nine and two-third innings. He picked up his only career save three days before his only start when he threw a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the Tigers’ 5-3 victory over the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium.

It wasn’t good enough to stick around, and he was sold to Portland of the Class AA Pacific Coast League in early June. He pitched until 1925 but did not play in 1923-24.

Glasier, who served in the Army during World War I, worked for the Gulf Brewing Company for 20 years. He died on March 7, 1959, at age 64.

NORMAN GLASER: Glaser had pitched in just 27 professional games when he was called up by the Tigers and put into a game. Glaser pitched for Rocky Mount in the Class B Virginia League in 1920, and even though he was just 8-15, he had a 2.83 ERA, a 1.193 WHIP and 219 hits allowed in 223 innings.

On September 21, 1920, the 26-year-old right-hander from Cleveland relieved Tigers starter Allen Conkwright in the third inning against the Washington Senators at Navin Field in Detroit. The Senators already had scored two in the inning and had the bases loaded with one out and a 5-3 lead. Catcher Patsy Gharrity greeted Glaser with a run-scoring single to left, and pitcher Eric Erickson scored another with a sacrifice fly. Glaser got out of the inning with no more trouble.

However, Washington added another run in the fourth and three in the fifth off Glaser, including a two-run homer by Erickson, who pitched for the Tigers in 1916, 1918 and 1919. Glaser left with two out in the fourth inning.

It was Glaser’s only game in the majors, and he returned to the minors and remained there through the end of the decade. He totaled 10 years in the minors and was 100-96 in 298 games.

On May 27, 1979, Glaser died at age 84 in Parma, Ohio, not far from his birthplace of Cleveland.

 

 

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Oscar Stanage played more games at catcher for the Tigers than anyone besides Bill Freehan

Only Bill Freehan played in more games at catcher for the Detroit Tigers than Oscar Stanage, but Stanage was far from a star player.

Stanage’s career OPS of .579 is better than only Fritz Buelow and Boss Schmidt among Tigers catchers with at least 200 games played at that position. However, Stanage did provide the Tigers with durability. In an age where catchers were more prone to injuries, Stanage played in at least 77 games in each of his first nine years of his Tigers career, with six of those being at least 94 games. He was in the top five in games played at catcher in the American League in eight of those nine seasons.

After appearing in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1906, he returned to the minor leagues before the Tigers purchased him in August of 1908 from Newark of the Eastern League. Stanage joined the Tigers in 1909 for the third of three consecutive American League championships, and he appeared in two of the seven games in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had a two-run single in the second inning to break a scoreless tie in the Tigers’ 5-0 victory in Game 4 as George Mullin pitched a shutout with Stanage behind the plate. Stanage played again in Game 5 but went 0-for-2, and he did not see action in the remaining two games of the World Series.

Stanage and Schmidt shared duties in 1910, with Stanage getting slightly more playing time, and by 1912 he was firmly entrenched as the No. 1 catcher. That season, Stanage set the AL record for most assists in a season with 211. It is a record that still stood more than 100 years later, and it is a record not likely to be broken because the game is played much differently than it was during that time.

He showed promise with the bat, hitting in the .260s in three of his first four seasons with the Tigers, but he never reached that plateau again with Detroit and finished with a career batting average of .234 with just eight home runs in 3,502 at-bats.

Ironically, Stanage hit the first two home runs of his career on back-to-back days, and in 1911 all three of his home runs came in May. He never had a home run in two different months during the same season during his major-league career, and six of his eight homers came at home.

Stanage’s defense did not measure up statistically. His fielding percentage of .961 was far off the AL average of .969 for catchers, although his rate of passed balls was slightly better than the norm. And strangely, even though he held the record for assists in a season, it must have been as much for his durability as base runners were rather successful stealing on him. He threw out 41.2 percent of the runners trying to steal, while the average for AL catchers was 44.6 percent. He led the AL in stolen bases allowed three times, errors twice and passed balls once, but he also led the league in assists three times.

“Most of those errors were charged to me on throws to catch guys trying to steal bases,” he said in the May 1962 issue of Baseball Digest. “Everybody ran like mad in those days. That’s what makes the game so different now. A catcher doesn’t have to do much of anything anymore. But we were the busiest players on the field back then. Every base runner was out to beat you. Once he got on first base … zoom … off he went.

“If my infielders hadn’t dropped so many of my throws, I’d have had a lot more assists and a lot less errors.”

It seems Stanage had a larger workload than most catchers, and his body began to break down in 1918 when he suffered two broken fingers. The Tigers traded him to the Pacific Coast League after the 1920 season to make room for Johnny Bassler. H.G. Salsinger wrote about Stanage in the Detroit News when the catcher left the team.

“No backstop ever had the ability to outguess the opposition on the hit and run and squeeze play that Stanage had,” Salsinger wrote. “He threw fast and accurate but always a light ball. He never moved faster than he had to but he always got there. His lack of wasted motion made him a favorite with pitchers, for he was an easy man to pitch to and he had the ability to steady the twirlers.”

Stanage bounced around the minors until Tigers manager Ty Cobb hired him as a coach for 1925. During the season, Stanage was pressed into duty, and he appeared in three games in June, going 1-for-5 at the plate.

Stanage remained in the Detroit area after his playing days and was a night watchman and worked the game near the ticket-exchange window at Briggs Stadium. On November 11, 1964, Stanage died at age 81 after a long illness. After his death, there were just three remaining living members of the three consecutive Tigers pennant-winning teams of the late 1900s: Donie Bush, Sam Crawford and Davy Jones.

“D” TALES

The first no-hitter in Tigers history was thrown by George Mullin on July 4, 1912, and Stanage was the catcher. There was not another no-hitter thrown for nearly 40 years, and Stanage “caught” that one, too. In 1950, Stanage took a job as a night watchman at Briggs Stadium. He worked at the gate that led to the ticket-exchange window behind home plate in the upper deck, and he was there and watched as Virgil Trucks threw a no-hitter against the Washington Senators on May 15, 1952.

“I would have been fined if I hadn’t seen Mullin’s game,” Stanage said in the August 1952 issue of Baseball Digest. “I would have been fired if I hadn’t been in the park when Trucks threw his. So I saw them both.”

Trucks threw another no-hitter during the 1952 season, but it was at Yankee Stadium, so it’s not likely that Stanage was in attendance. Still, he might be the only person to be in the ballpark for the first two no-hitters in Tigers history.

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Ten former players for the Detroit Tigers lost their lives in 2019

The list of men who played for the Detroit Tigers decreased in 2019 as 10 former players passed away, with Will Brunson being the youngest at age 49 and Milt Welch the oldest at 94.

Here, in chronological order, are the 10 former Tigers who lost their lives in 2019:

Lenny Green, January 6, 1933-January 6, 2019: Green, who died on his 86th birthday, spent 12 seasons in the majors, including the last two with the Tigers in 1967-68. He made 30 starts in left field and two in center field for the Tigers in 1967 and hit .278 with one home run and 13 RBIs in 151 at-bats. In the Tigers’ championship season of 1968, Green played in six games and was 1-for-4 during a 12-day stretch in June. He was most known for his days with the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox.

Joe Presko, October 7, 1928-February 5, 2019: Presko spent the final two seasons of his six-year career with the Tigers in 1957-58. He appeared as a relief pitcher seven times in both seasons and was 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA. His lone win came in September of 1957 when he pitched two scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Presko spent four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (1951-54) prior to playing for the Tigers. He died at age 90.

Milt Welch, July 26, 1924-February 9, 2019: Welch, a catcher, appeared in one game for the Tigers in 1945, and that was his only appearance in the major leagues. On June 5, he was a defensive replacement behind the plate for Paul Richards and was 0-for-2 in the only at-bats of his career in Detroit’s 9-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland Stadium. He died at age 94.

Jerry Casale, September 27, 1933-February 9, 2019: After three seasons with the Boston Red Sox and part of one with the Los Angeles Angels, Casale spent the final one-plus seasons of his major-league career with Detroit. He mostly pitched in relief but made one start out of his 21 appearances for the Tigers. He was 1-2 with a 4.81 ERA, and his only win came in 1962 when he pitched five and one-third innings of a relief against the Indians in Cleveland. He died at age 85.

Jack Crimian, February 17, 1926-February 11, 2019: Crimian, who died six days shy of his 93rd birthday, pitched in four games for Detroit in 1957 – his last in the major leagues. He was 0-1 with a 12.761 ERA and did not make a start for the Tigers. He previously pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1951-52 and the Kansas City Athletics in 1956.

Joe Grzenda, June 8, 1937-July 12, 2019: Grzenda made his major-league debut for the Tigers in 1961 but appeared in just four games as a relief pitcher. He was 1-0 with a 7.94 ERA. His lone win for the Tigers came when he threw one scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park and Detroit rallied for an 8-6 victory. He died at age 82.

Don Mossi, January 11, 1929-July 19, 2019: Mossi is the most well-known former Tigers player who died in 2019. He spent five seasons with Detroit (1959-63) and peaked in 1961 when he was 15-7 with a 2.96 ERA. He had 47 complete games and five shutouts for the Tigers and finished his time in Detroit with a 59-44 record and a 3.49 ERA. He was 90 at the time of his death.

Mike Roarke, November 8, 1930-July 27, 2019: Roarke spent four seasons as a backup catcher, mostly to a young Bill Freehan. Roarke saw most of his action in his first two seasons in Detroit and played in a total of 52 games in is final two major-league seasons. The Tigers were his only major-league team, and he finished with a .230 average, six home runs, 44 RBIs and an OPS of .594. He was 88 when he died.

 Will Brunson, March 20, 1970-November 23, 2019: Brunson, a left-handed pitcher, is the youngest of this group. After splitting the 1998 season between the Dodgers and the Tigers, Brunson finished his major-league career with Detroit in 1999. He was strictly a relief pitcher and pitched in 25 games for Detroit with a 1-0 record and a 4.80 ERA. Brunson died on November 23, 2019, when he suffered a heart attack while hiking with friends at Big Bend National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert in west Texas near the Mexico border. He was 49.

Ted Lepcio, July 28, 1929-December 11, 2019: Lepcio, a 10-year veteran of the major leagues, spent part of the 1959 season with the Tigers. Lepcio, a versatile infielder, hit .279 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs and hit a grand small in his first game for Detroit. He spent the first seven-plus seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He was 90 years old at the time of his death.

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World Series hero Don Larsen, who died Wednesday at age 90, had his ups and downs against the Detroit Tigers

With the death of Don Larsen on Wednesday, there are plenty of stories out there about his perfect game in the World Series. So, here is something a little bit different for Tigers fans. Here is the story of Larsen’s times pitching – and hitting – against the Detroit Tigers.

To start, Larsen was 7-13 against the Tigers with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.481 WHIP. He struck out 81 batters and walked 92 in 181 innings. He made 23 starts and 17 relief appearances with seven complete games, two shutouts and two saves.

Here are some of his highlights – and lowlights – in his time against the Tigers.

Major-league debut: Larsen made his major-league debut in Briggs Stadium on April 18, 1953, in the first game of a doubleheader. He started for the St. Louis Browns and lasted five and one-third innings, giving up three runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and one walk. The first batter he faced was Harvey Kuenn, who beat out an infield single, and his first strikeout was his pitching opponent, Billy Hoeft. Larsen did not get the decision in the Browns’ 8-7 victory in 11 innings. However, Larsen was 2-for-2 at the plate and singled in his first major-league at-bat.

At Briggs Stadium: Although Larsen was just 3-7 with a 4.44 ERA against the Tigers in Detroit. He threw his only shutout in Detroit on June 22, 1958, when he tossed a two-hitter for the Yankees in a 15-0 victory. He struck out three and walked three. Billy Martin singled in the second inning, and Gail Harris had a single in the seventh for the Tigers’ lone hits off Larsen, who broke a personal four-game losing streak against Detroit. He kept the Tigers scoreless with off-speed pitches and retired 16 batters in a row before Harris singled in the seventh.

Opening Day: Larsen was the opposing starting pitcher one time on Opening Day in Detroit. It came on April 13, 1954, and it was the first game for the Baltimore Orioles after the St. Louis Browns relocated the franchise to Baltimore. Steve Gromek started for Detroit, and Gromek got the best of Larsen in a 3-0 victory in front of 46,994 fans at Briggs Stadium. Larsen pitched an eight-inning complete game, and all three runs came on solo home runs by Ray Boone, Walt Dropo and Frank Bolling. The home run by Bolling in the seventh inning marked the first time in Tigers history that a player making his major-league debut hit a home run on Opening Day.

Home runs: Larsen allowed more home runs to Detroit (18) than any other team except the Boston Red Sox (22). Charlie Maxwell hit three to lead all Tigers hitters in home runs off Larsen, with Frank Bolling, Ray Boone, Al Kaline and Don Lund each hitting two. Those who finished with one home run off Larsen were Lou Berberet, Walt Dropo, Paul Foytack, Frank House, Harvey Kuenn, Jay Porter and Eddie Yost.

As a batter: Larsen hit three home runs off Tigers pitching, but none of them came in Detroit. He hit the first two home runs of his major-league career off Detroit pitchers Dick Weik and Al Aber in 1953, and he hit the 13th of his career 14 home runs off Phil Regan in 1961.

Against Al Kaline: Mr, Tiger did not fare too well against Larsen. Kaline hit just ,213 against Larsen with 13 hits in 61 at-bats, including two home runs and seven RBIs. He walked nine times with six strikeouts.

Toughest pitcher to hit against: Larsen had more at-bats without a hit against Jim Bunning than any other pitcher. Larsen was 0-for-14 against Bunning with six strikeouts.

Worst beating: On August 11, 1953, Larsen started against the Tigers for the St. Louis Browns in Busch Stadium. The Tigers battered him for seven earned runs in four innings en route to a 9-3 victory. Don Lund did the most damage with a home run and a double and four RBIs, while Jim Delsing, Bud Souchock and Johnny Bucha each added two hits.

Last game against Detroit: Larsen’s final game against the Tigers came for the Baltimore Orioles on June 28, 1965, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Larsen pitched two scoreless innings – the eighth and ninth – and allowed one hit with three strikeouts in the Tigers’ 4-3 victory. Detroit led 4-0 when Larsen took over, but the Orioles scored one in the eighth and two in the ninth. Larsen’s final game in Detroit came as a member of the Chicago White Sox on June 27, 1961. He was the second of five pitchers used and tossed one and one-third innings and gave up a home run to pitcher Paul Foytack. The White Sox won the game 6-5, and Larsen did not get a decision.

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