Two July 4s to Remember

Here are a couple of fond memories from the Tigers’ recent play on Independence Day, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com:July4th.jpg

  • 2000 – In the Tigers’ 11 – 0 win over Tampa Bay, Shane Halter takes over the catching duties in the eighth from Brad Ausmus. Halter has now played every position in the majors: with the Royals, he pitched on July 17, 1998. Dave Mlicki is the winner with Dean Palmer powering a pair of home runs.

  • 2001 – The 50 people stranded on the Ferris wheel ride at Comerica Park for two hours during the Royal-Tiger game are rescued by firefighters and emergency crews using a cherry picker and a fire truck ladder. The fans received tickets to another game, free dinner and team autographs from the Tigers.

Hope yours was a safe and festive Fourth.

An Ides of March Sunday Buffet

Sometimes there’s so much to talk about that it’s better to throw it all out there in no particular order…

  • Yeah, yeah. Pudge Rodriguez dipped himself in the Fountain of Youth in the offseason and is showing some zest in the World Baseball Classic. Any team that thinks he’ll perform at this level for a full season — at least as a number-one catcher — is fooling their bad selves. It was interesting, though, to see the number of teams (beyond the Marlins) reportedly interested in signing Señor Ivan. Among them, the Astros (where he’d replace, sorta, another former Tigers catcher, Brad Ausmus), the Twins (?!) and the Giants. Apparently the Marlins are waiting for him to come to grips with not being a full-time player in 2009.

    Then again, if Pudge withers at the end of the WBC, he could be looking at a longer wait.

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  • First it was Kerry Wood. Then Carl Pavano. Now it looks like the Indians are among the clubs eyeing Pedro Martinez. Given fifth-starter issues the Tigers are facing (we’re talking about you, Nate and Dontrelle), wouldn’t you think the Tigers would at least place a call? Who knows, maybe they already have. But if by some bizarre twist of fate, Pavano and Martinez are part of a Cleveland post-season rotation, it’s going to make one Tigers-blog-writin’ guy mighty unhappy.

  • Last week I attended three Cactus League games (of varying quality) with my pals Steve and John, who flew in from Detroit. The first game (Indians/Brewers) was about as ugly a contest as you can imagine — even by Spring Training standards. Final: Brewers 17 – Indians 7.

    The only notable thing to come out of it was that the Tribe rolls out 90-year-old Bob Feller (pictured) to sign autographs at every home Cactus League game. I didn’t get an autograph nor did I overhear Feller rail on how Jackie Robinson couldn’t/wouldn’t make it in the big leagues, as Feller did back in the day.

    Bob Feller
    The second game, Dodgers versus Mariners at the beauteous new Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, featured two former Tigers sightings. The first was a silver-haired Jim Slaton, now pitching coach for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, and as you might have read this week in the News, Mariners’ non-roster invitee Chris Shelton. It was nice to see him still in the mix somewhere.

    The final game was no-thrills tilt between the Rockies and Padres in Tucson. Todd Helton homered in his first at bat and that was enough for me. Oh, and a big thumbs-down to Hi Corbett Field for not accepting credit cards for concessions. I had to pay the $2.25 ATM charge instead. Bush league.

Finally, today’s the birthday of bad seed/jackass and former Tiger Robert Fick. He’s 35 today.

On this Date in 1999: Brad Ausmus Returns Before Leaving Again

It’s hard to tell whether former Tigers general manager Randy Smith liked catcher Brad Ausmus or had it in for him. After all, Smith dealt for or dealt away Ausmus five times in seven years.

The first time was in 1993 when Smith was an assistant GM with the Rockies. Ausmus went to the Padres with Doug Bochtler and Andy Ashby for Bruce Hurst and Greg Harris.

The next time Ausmus was traded, on June 18, 1996, Smith was the Vice President, Baseball Operations and General Manager for the Padres. Smith sent Ausmus, Andujar Cedeno and minor leaguer Russ Spear to the Tigers for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez.

Six months later, Dec. 10, 1996, Smith cobbled together another one of his beloved multi-player trades, this time with his hometown Houston Astros — a team his father, Tal, helped shape over two decades. The Tigers traded Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski, and Daryle Ward to the Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash.

Then, nine years ago today, Jan. 14, 1999, the Tigers re-acquired Ausmus and Nitkowski from the Astros for Paul Bako, Dean Crow, Brian Powell and minor leaguers Carlos Villalobos and Mark Persails.

Head spinning? Just hang on.

Less than 11 months later, Ausmus was on the move again — back to the Astros, of course, this time with Brocail and Nelson Cruz for Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt and Mitch Meluskey. I was living in Houston at the time and frankly couldn’t believe it.

After shuttling between Detroit and Houston, Ausmus settled down to become a fixture on some talented Astros teams, including the 2005 World Series team. And to this day people in Houston flat-out love Ausmus.

Detroiters would have too, if he’d stuck around long enough.