Happy Birthday, Jerry Don Gleaton

Gleaton Jerry DonOn April 2, 1990, the Kansas City Royals traded Jerry Don Gleaton to the Detroit Tigers for minor leaguer Greg Everson.

Gleaton pitched for the Tigers in 1990 and ’91 as a lefty specialist and based on his workload (as I remember it and according to Baseball-Reference.com), he was one of Sparky’s go-to relievers. He appeared in 104 games for Detroit and notched a 4-5 record and 15 saves.

After the 1991 season he became a free agent and eventually signed with the Royals, but was released in April ’92. His last big-league job was with the ’92 Pirates where he was anything but spectacular: 1-0, 4.26, 34 hits in 31 innings.

Jerry Don Gleaton, another in our collection of obscure Tigers, turns 51 today.

Happy Birthday, Morris Madden

Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember Morris Madden‘s mini-career with the Tigers. He pitched just twice for Detroit during the 1987 season and one look at his stats tells you why.Madden Morris

On June 11 versus Milwaukee at Tiger Stadium, he came in during the sixth inning to relieve Eric King (who had relieved starter Jeff Robinson) with the bases loaded and promptly walked Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner. In his one inning of work, he allowed two earned runs and three walks. The Tigers lost the game 8-5.

Robinson’s next start, five days later at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, the lefty Madden came in to start the fifth inning. The first hitter he faced, Fred McGriff doubled to center, then Garth Iorg grounded out to Alan Trammell, advancing McGriff to third. Tony Fernandez singled, Lloyd Moseby flied out to center, then Jesse Barfield got an infield single. And that was the end of Morris Madden’s Tigers career.

Less than a month later, on Aug. 12, 1987, Madden was sent by the Tigers to the Pirates to complete the Aug. 7, 1987 trade of Darnell Coles for Jim Morrison.

If you’re wondering how he fared with Jim Leyland‘s Pirates, well it depends on the year. In 1988, he appeared in five games, allowed five hits and seven walks in five innings (!) but didn’t allow a run. In ’89, Madden pitched 14 innings across nine games — including three starts — he allowed a stunning 13 walks, 17 hits, 14 runs, 11 earned. Final ERA: 7.07.

On Nov. 21, 1989, he was released by the Pirates and his career was over. But today we celebrate his 48th birthday. Three cheers for Morris Madden.

Happy Birthday, Urbano Lugo

Lugo UrbanoDon’t remember him?

The Tigers signed Rafael Urbano (Colina) Lugo as a free agent on April 8, 1990, and became a free agent on Oct. 15 that year.

In between, he appeared in 12 games for Detroit (one start) he posted a 2-0 record and a plump 7.03 ERA.

When you look closer at his stats, it’s astounding that he notched a win.

  • 24 IP
  • 30 Hits
  • 19 R – all earned
  • 9 HR
  • 13 BB
  • 12 K
  • 3 HBP
  • 2 WP

Happy 46th Birthday, Urbano, where ever you are.

May 27, 1980: The Day the Tigers Traded Jason Thompson

Twenty-eight years ago today, Tigers GM Jim Campbell broke my heart.

On May 27, 1980, he traded my favorite Tigers player, first baseman Jason Thompson, to the California Angels for outfielder Al Cowens. (For more on Cowens, check out this post from the archives.)Thompson Jason

The Hollywood native joined the Tigers full time in 1976 and played 123 games that year, hitting .218, with 17 home runs and 54 RBI. Two of the homers cleared the rightfield roof at Tiger Stadium. It was in 1977, though, that he made his mark: .270, 31 homers and 105 RBI — and earned an All Star Game selection.

The 1977 Tigers yearbook noted:

Jason led the Tigers with 31 home runs and 105 RBI — the first Tiger since Norm Cash (32) in 1971 to top 30 homers and the first since Willie Horton (100) in 1966 to attain the century mark in RBI.

At that point, the Tigers had to like their team of the future: Thompson, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish, Steve Kemp, Ron LeFlore, Jack Morris, et al, with a third baseman to be named later.

Thompson had another solid year in ’78, hitting .287 with 26 homers and 96 RBI.

The Beginning of the End in Detroit … Already?!

In 1979 he continued to hit homers and drive in runs — 20 and 79, respectively — but his average dropped 40 points to .246. That was also the year that Sparky Anderson arrived and, so the story goes, Thompson and Sparky didn’t mesh.

In 1980, Thompson got off to a slow start: .214/4/20 in 36 games, and Sparky invoked his My Way or the Highway clause and sent his first baseman to Orange County.

As I’ve said before, Thompson’s replacement, Richie Hebner, was a favorite of mine too. But, who were the Tigers kidding? Hebner over Jason Thompson? Thompson Jason78

From Anaheim to Pittsburgh to Montreal

Back home in southern California, Thompson thrived. In 102 games he batted .317 with 17 homers and 70 RBI. (Hebner hit .290/12/82.) On the eve of the 1981 season the Angels traded the three-time All Star to the Pirates for Ed Ott and Mickey Mahler.

In his five seasons in Pittsburgh, Thompson hit 93 home runs and averaged 93 RBI (not counting the 42 in the shortened ’81 season).

On April 4, 1986, the Pirates traded him to the Montreal Expos for players to be named later. Thompson played only 30 games for the Expos, hitting .196 with no home runs and just four RBI. On June 30, at the age of 31 and with balky knees, Jason Thompson was out of baseball for good.

The Jason Thompson Curse

If you remove the years that Darrell Evans and Cecil Fielder manned first base, the Tigers have had a revolving door at the position since they traded Jason Thompson. I call it The Curse of Jason Thompson: Hebner, Enos Cabell, Dave Engle, Keith Moreland, Tony Clark, Eric Munson, Carlos Pena, Chris Shelton, Sean Casey and Carlos Guillen. (And now, of course, Miguel Cabrera. Though I’m not convinced he’s long for first base.)

When looking back on the 1984 World Series team, I often think about how that team, or three-quarters of the starting nine, could’ve been homegrown talent — if Thompson were still in Detroit then.

With the exception of Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon, the Tigers could’ve had six of eight starters developed from Lakeland on up. (Or seven of nine if Morris or Dan Petry were on the hill.) Quite a different scenario from the 2008 Tigers when only two full-time, homegrown position players — Curtis Granderson and Matt Joyce — roam the field.

Today Thompson runs “Jason Thompson Baseball” in Auburn Hills, where kids can get hitting and fielding instruction from old #30 himself. He’s also an executive with Wachovia Securities.

If you can’t tell, even 28 years later I’ve still not gotten over the trade involving my favorite childhood player. I quickly hitched my wagon onto Hebner as a way to ease the pain. But that didn’t last long either, come to think of it.

So I threw my allegiance behind Kirk Gibson and five years later, when Gibson signed with the Dodgers, had to deal with the anguish all over again.

Happy Birthday, Darrell Evans

Evans Darrell 1986
Happy 61st (?!) Birthday to ol’ #41 Darrell Evans.

Before Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers’ big splash in the free agent market came on Dec. 17, 1983, when they signed the 36-year-old slugger.

As most seasoned Tigers fans remember, the free agency was anathema to the club’s leadership. Former Tigers GM Jim Campbell hated paying for his own free agent players — and loved to trade them before their walk year. He certainly wasn’t going to dole out cash for someone else’s players.

I can distinctly remember the old “re-entry draft” which created a competitive auction market for the services of veteran players. The Detroit News and Free Press would list, usually in agate type, each team and the free agents it “drafted.” Year after fifth-place year I would read “Detroit: No selections made.”

That changed in 1983 when Evans chose a Detroit offer which was, of course, lower than those of the Yankees, Giants and other clubs that tried to sign, or in the case of San Francisco, re-sign him. The allure of joining a team poised to win now (or then, as it were) made Detroit the best choice.

In his first game as a Tiger, April 3, 1984, Evans homered of the Twins’ Keith Comstock — a three-run jack — and Detroit was off to the races. A week later, on Opening Day in Detroit, he homered in his first Tiger Stadium at bat, an upper-deck blast of the Rangers Dave Stewart. He’d hit only 14 more home runs that year, but quickly became a fan favorite.

In five seasons with the Tigers, Evans hit 141 of his career 414 home runs. In 1989, he finished his career where it began: with the Atlanta Braves.

Today’s Tigers fans may be used to their team being in the mix for big-name free agents. But it certainly wasn’t the case in the late 1970s and early ’80s. And what better guy to break that bad habit than Darrell Evans?

Today’s Tiger: Stan Papi

Papi Stan
…When, on May 14, we failed to acknowledge the 57th birthday of former Tigers infielder Stan Papi.

The Tigers purchased Papi’s contract from the Phillies on May 29, 1980 and he made an immediate splash in Detroit.

On Friday, May 30 against the Angels, Papi started at second base and batted ninth (behind the number-eight hitter, Kirk Gibson).

He struck out against Frank Tanana in the bottom of the second but in the fourth smacked a two-run home run of Tanana to give the Tigers and Milt Wilcox a 4-1 lead. He singled in his next at bat and then tripled in the sixth off Jim Barr. The Tigers won the game 12-1.

Papi finished the 1980 campaign with a .237 average, three homers and 17 RBI in 46 games. He hung around for 40 games in the strike-shortened 1981 season, hitting just .204.

His last appearance in a big-league game came on Oct. 1, against the Orioles at Tiger Stadium. Sparky inserted him as a pinch hitter for Rick Leach in the seventh; Papi struck out against Tippy Martinez to end the inning.