Today’s Tiger: Steve Kemp
Posted on January 12, 2011
- Born: Aug. 7, 1954 in San Angelo, Texas
- Bats: Left Throws: Left
- Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 195 lb.
- Acquired: Drafted by the Tigers as the first overall pick of the 1976 amateur draft.
- Seasons in Detroit: 5 (1977-81)
- Uniform Number: 43, 33
- Stats: .284 avg., 89 HR, 422 RBI, .826 OPS
- Awards: All-Star 1979
Kemp made too much money and former GM Campbell didn’t like players who held out (Rusty Staub) or won in arbitration (Kemp, again). Campbell also liked to trade players who, like Kemp and Ron LeFlore in 1979, were entering their walk year.
Steve Kemp was terrific during his five years patrolling left field at Tiger Stadium.
He produced a .284 average, 89 home runs (lowered a bit with his nine homers in the strike-shortened 1981 season), and averaged 84 RBI and 23 doubles. He also displayed a keen eye at the plate averaging 75 walks — including 97 in 1978.
On Nov. 27, 1981, the Tigers and White Sox swapped outfielders — both who were former top selections in the amateur draft — Lemon by Oakland in 1972, Kemp number-one overall by Detroit in 1976. They were roughly the same age and had put together similar careers to that point.
In his only season in Chicago, Kemp had a career year batting .286 with 19 HR and 98 RBI in 160 games. After the ’82 season Kemp cashed in on a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees but he, like so many other mid-’80s free agents, flopped in the Bronx.
An eye injury, suffered when Kemp was hit by a batted ball in batting practice, shortened his career in the mid-1980s. He last played in the majors in 1988 when he played in 16 games for the Texas Rangers, hitting just .222 in 36 at bats. His career batting average in 11 seasons was .278 — five points higher than Lemon’s.
When Campbell pulled the trigger on the Kemp-for-Lemon deal he probably had no idea that Kemp would flame out and that Chet the Jet would play more than 1,100 games in the outfield for Detroit.
Still, he had to like the odds that the trade would work out better than LeFlore for Dan Schatzeder.