- I spent the afternoon at Surprise Stadium watching Cactus League action — Royals vs. Diamondbacks — from the press box. After the game I interviewed former Tigers outfielder (1984-85) and current Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz in the Royals clubhouse.
While I waited for Rusty, I read the nameplates above the lockers and found myself standing in what could have been named The Former Tigers Wing. Smack-dab in front of me was Mike Maroth‘s locker. (Unfortunately, I didn’t see him. [He’s wearing #52 this year.])
A couple lockers to the right was former Tiger Hideo Nomo‘s stall. A few stalls to the left of Maroth’s was Jason Smith‘s. I half expected to see a locker for the late Al Cowens.
As for the game, the Royals won 4-3. Ryan Shealy hit a home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth off Jailen Peguero, who’d just entered the game.
- How did Marcus Thames spend his 31st birthday today? By going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against the Braves. And he saw his name come up in trade rumors. Unlikely trade rumors, I’ll grant you, but scuttlebutt nonetheless.
- On this date 30 years ago, the Tigers swung a deal with the Reds, acquiring RHP Jack Billingham for minor league OF John Valle and LHP George Cappuzzello.
Kirk Gibson tells a classic story about Billingham in his 1997 book “Bottom of the Ninth.”
[Billingham] believe that kids fresh from the minors, as I was in 1980, deserve to be treated one way and one way only — disrespectfully — which was not a philosophy I shared.
With Billingham it was always, “Rookie this, rookie that…rookie, rookie, rookie.”
“This rookie stuff don’t cut it with me,” I had told Billingham, and added, with a gesture, “So you can rookie this.” A few hours before a game early in the season, I walked through the swinging doors that led toward the training room and Billingham was at it again.
“Oh, boy, there goes the rook back into the training room,” he started in on me, “what kind of wonderful treatment are we getting today, rook?”
He barged through the doors and in a split second I decided I had taken my last razzing, ever from this guy.
I exploded at him with my forearm leading, and Billingham, all 230 pounds of him, went flying back through the swinging doors, and was falling to the floor as I jumped on top of him.
“Rookie me one more time!” I screamed. “You say one more word, and I’ll rip your windpipe right out of your throat. You’ll never talk again! You hear me?!”
The guys in the clubhouse were frozen.
“Hey, man, I was just screwing around,” Billingham wailed.
(It should be noted that in the book Gibson’s rampage is in all caps, but I thought I’d spare you that.)