Saturday Smorgasbord

ViewFromOutfieldXSmall.jpgSome Saturday items, powered by the Tigers’ Game Notes:

  • Today marks Justin Verlander’s 99th career start at the major
    league level with the Tigers. With one more starts,
    he will become the 54th pitcher in Tigers history to
    start 100 games.

  • Verlander entered his start this afternoon against the Rangers tied
    for third among American League pitchers with 46 wins since the start of the 2006 season, while he is sixth with 96 starts, seventh with 592.1 innings pitched and 12th with 474 strikeouts.

  • Since the start of the 2007 season, the Tigers are tops among all American League clubs with a .474 slugging percentage against lefthanded pitchers, while they are second with a .287 batting average. During that stretch, the Tigers have compiled a 54-39 record in games started by lefthanded pitchers.

And some non-Game Notes nuggets:

Finally, Happy 58th Birthday to Sid Monge. (It’s also the birthday of Barney McCosky, the man the Tigers traded to the Philadelphia Athletics for George Kell.) Other birthdays include Sean Bergman (39) and John Martin (53)

That’s more like it!

Ah, Opening Day in Detroit! Happy New Year, everybody!

Great day today! The weather was nice. Not perfect, but a lot better than anticipated. And I’ve definitely seen worse.

Didn’t make it inside for the player introductions, so I didn’t hear what kind of reception Lyon received. The first pitch ceremony was nice. It was nice NOT to see the usual local politicians and the ritual booing that accompanies them.

Bummed that I missed the George Kell tribute, but there was just so much going on outside the park. There really is nothing like Opening Day around here.

Nice moment for Nick Adenhart. Tragic story, and so senseless.

Okay, enough with the appetizers, let’s get to the meat:

Continue reading “That’s more like it!”

The Detroit Tigers Podcast #65: Rebroadcast of a Talk with Hall of Famer George Kell


george_kell-1.jpgWelcome to The Detroit Tigers Podcast
, the podcast for Tigers fans, by Tigers fans. This is Episode #65, a 26-minute podcast Detroit Tigers recorded in March 2007 from Swifton, Arkansas, and Scottsdale, Arizona U.S.A.

This episode was originally broadcast on March 14, 2007.

In it we talk with Hall of Famer and former Tigers TV and radio voice George Kell, who passed away today, March 24, 2009, at the age of 86.

We spoke to Mr. Kell from his home in Swifton, Arkansas.

Here are some of the numbers from George Kell’s 15-year career (1943 to 1957):

  • Played for Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles
  • Career .306 hitter
  • Won the 1949 American League Batting Crown by less than two ten-thousandths of a point over Ted Williams. Kell batted .34291 to Williams’ .34276
  • A 10-time All Star including eight straight between 1947 and 1954. He missed the game in 1955 but was an All Star his final two seasons.
  • Lowest batting average was in his rookie year when he batted .262

Mr. Kell also broadcast Tigers games on radio and TV from 1959 to 1996. He sat out one year, 1964, before returning to the booth.

Listen here.

 

Theme music for the podcast produced by Paul Minshall.


The Detroit Tigers Podcast is not affiliated in any way with the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club or Major League Baseball.

George Kell: 1922-2009


Sad news
from Swifton, Arkansas, today.George_Kell

I grew up with George Kell and he will always be my favorite broadcaster — apologies to Ernie.

Two years ago I had the honor of interviewing him on the podcast. If you haven’t listened to it, and you want to hear his voice again, check it out here.

I’m sure I’ll write more later but feel free to use the comments to share your memories of George Kell.

The Monday Report: 2 Weeks to Go

MondayReport.jpg>> The winds were howling here in Phoenix on Sunday — 45 m.p.h. gusts, dust galore, burning contact lenses — and I was thankful that I wasn’t sitting at a Cactus League game (something I don’t often say). But then I saw this story and had deep regret. Fifteen homers?!

>> So Freddy Dolsi got sent out of big-league camp yesterday. As we watched last season crater, I kept thinking that Dolsi’s experience would benefit him in the long run. Sending him to Triple-A to start this season makes sense. Get him into some pressurized situations in the IL and he could be a nice addition when the bullpen needs reinforcements.

>> Former Tigers farmhand James Skelton continues to get ink in the Phoenix paper about his attempts to make the Diamondbacks as a Rule 5 selection. Arizona is trying to make Skelton — a “card trick connoisseur” according to the piece — a utility player, or so it appears.

>> Every year I pickup The Sporting News‘ baseball preview issue and every year I realize I learned nothing new or different than what I gleaned from off-season reading on the Web. This year, however, I’m singing a different tune. It’s not half bad. In an effort to cram the pages to look like a CNBC feed, TSN added a blurb about each team’s best-ever third baseman. Here’s who they selected for the Tigers:

  1. George Kell
  2. Aurelio Rodriguez
  3. Don Wert

Other than Kell, that sure is some slim pickin’s. (Tom Brookens can’t get an Honorable Mention?) And just imagine if the Tigers had held onto Howard Johnson. Methinks he’s be number one. And to think Chris Brown didn’t make this list.

>> This should be a more offensive — offensive, that is — week in Lakeland for the Tigers. For the first time since who know when they’ll have the complete lineup. I doubt we’ll see anymore no-hitters (or shutouts) this Spring.

25 Years Later: Milt Wilcox's Near-Perfect Game

I remember it clearly: April 15, 1983.

It was a freezing cold day in Detroit just like it was at Comiskey Park. Making matters worse, the Tigers and White Sox were playing at night. (Imagine last Friday night’s game in Chicago — only colder and without the precipitation.)

The Tigers’ Milt Wilcox pitched the game of his life against the White Sox’s pot-smoking and eventual Cy Young Award-winning LaMar Hoyt (or according to Baseball-Reference.com, “La Marr Hoyt”). And to this day, it was the most meticulously pitched game I’ve ever seen … though Mike Mussina‘s near-perfecto against Boston in 2001 was darned close.

Twenty six Chicago batters up, 26 down. More on that in a moment.
According to Retrosheet.org, here is Detroit’s lineup from that night:

  1. Lou Whitaker 2b
  2. Howard Johnson 3b
  3. Larry Herndon lf
  4. Lance Parrish c
  5. John Grubb dh
  6. Glenn Wilson rf
  7. Chet Lemon cf
  8. Rick Leach 1b
  9. Alan Trammell ssWilcox p

And, the White Sox’s:

  1. Rudy Law cf
  2. Tony Bernazard 2b
  3. Harold Baines rf
  4. Greg Luzinski dh
  5. Ron Kittle lf
  6. Greg Walker 1b
  7. Carlton Fisk c
  8. Vance Law 3b
  9. Jerry Dybzinski ss
  10. LaMar Hoyt p

For me, there are many fascinating things about the Tigers’ lineup that night — Howard Johnson batting second and playing third base, Glenn Wilson in right, Rick Leach at first — but none more fascinating than Alan Trammell hitting ninth.

 True, he often hit in the nine-hole early in his career. But 1983 was a particularly interesting year for Trammell, who batted primarily ninth during the first half of the season, though occasionally Sparky slotted him at number-two or, less frequently, leadoff. But from Aug. 20 on, Tram never hit below the number-two spot.

The story on this night 25 years ago was Milt Wilcox.

Wilcox’s Road to the Majors

The Honolulu native was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 1968 amateur draft. He debuted with the Sparky Anderson-managed Reds in 1970 at the age of 20, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.42 ERA.

Sparky would earn a reputation for having little tolerance for youngsters on his team. Apparently he didn’t feel that way in 1970 because he pitched Wilcox in the NLCS and World Series that year. He struck out five in just three innings of the LCS against the Pirates allowing only one hit.

The Orioles fared a tad better against Wilcox in the World Series. In two appearances (just two innings pitched), he allowed three hits, two earned runs, two walks and a pair of strikeouts.

After the 1971 season, Wilcox was traded from the Reds to Cleveland for outfielder Ted Uhlaender. After three mostly forgettable seasons with the Indians, he was dealt to the Cubs for pitcher Dave LaRoche and outfielder Brock Davis. Wilcox appeared in only 25 games for the Cubs in 1975 and spent the Bicentennial Year in the bushes.

Welcome to Detroit

On June 10, 1976, the Tigers purchased his contract from the Cubs and his career began to stabilize. From 1977-84, Wilcox was a mainstay in the Tigers’ rotation, averaging 22 starts and nearly eight complete games a year.
WilcoxTigers

But none of his 72 other complete games could compare to the frigid night on the South Side.

26 Down…

Wilcox, wearing number 39, cruised through the first 26 batters with only a couple minor scares — a Tony Bernazard dribbler up the middle in the first that Trammell turned into an out and then a Harold Baines low liner to Herndon in the bottom of the seventh.

In the bottom of the ninth, Carlton Fisk flied out to left on the first pitch. Then Mike Squires, a Western Michigan University product, pinch-hit for Vance Law and promptly grounded out to Leach at first.

Chicago manager Tony LaRussa replaced Jerry Dybzynski with another Jerry, Jerry Hairston

On Wilcox’s first pitch, Hairston grounded a single to center for Chicago’s only baserunner of the night. (And I can still hear George Kell crying out: “Wouldya believe it!“)

The next hitter, Rudy Law, bounced out to Leach to end the game. The Tigers won 6-0, but Wilcox lost a chance at the Hall of Fame.

Here’s what Wilcox told the Free Press‘s Mike Downey:

“I was nervous the whole game,” Wilcox said later. “Pitching a perfect game puts you in the Hall of Fame. That’s the only way I’m going to get there.”

Here’s the final pitching line that night:

Wilcox: 9 IP – 1 H – 0 R – 0 ER – 0 BB – 8 SO – 0 HR

Less than a year later, in the same park and in similar conditions, Jack Morris would throw his no-hitter; perhaps using the leftover karma from Wilcox’s gem.

Though officially it was Hairston’s single that broke up the perfect game, perhaps there was some friendly fire jinxing going on in the Tigers dugout.

Again from Downey’s column:

“I heard them talking about it on the radio,” Wilcox said, and “(Kirk) Gibson said something to me in the fifth inning. I wasn’t worrying about being jinxed. I was worried about finishing the game.”

So much for Gibson following tradition.

Winding Down a Career

Wilcox would finish the 1983 season with a 11-10 record and a 3.97 ERA. His highest win total would come the next year when he finished at 17-8, 4.00 ERA.

His last season in Detroit was an abbreviated one. Arm trouble caused him to shutdown with a 1-3 record and a 4.85 ERA in 1985. The Tigers released him on Dec. 20 that year.

The Mariners signed Wilcox on Feb. 5, 1986. He appeared in 13 games for Seattle that season before being released on June 14 with a 0-8 record and a 5.50 ERA.

In 1984, Wilcox won a game in the ALCS and the World Series (I attended both games). But for most Tigers fans, his defining moment will be his flirtation with a perfect game a quarter-century ago.