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

Thirty years ago today the Tigers traded my favorite player, Jason Thompson, to the Angels for Al Cowens. Here’s a piece I wrote two years ago about the deal. Get a load of my thoughts on Miguel Cabrera who had recently been moved to first base. Another gleaming example of why I’m not fit to be a GM.


JasonThompson.jpgTwenty-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.)

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.

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The Non-Sequiturs Three

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  1. Why can’t this Tigers team sustain any momentum? Miguel Cabrera seemingly got the Tigers on the path to victory tonight during the ninth with his opposite-field shot. Instead, the Tigers hacked away at Kerry Wood’s offerings — despite Placido Polanco leading off the inning with a four-pitch walk. Infuriating.

  2. Here’s a nugget from Baseball-Reference.com: On this date in 1917, Boston’s Babe Ruth tops the Tigers 1-0 in Detroit, allowing just Donie Bush‘s scratch single in the 8th. Ruth deflects the ball but the throw by the shortstop is too late. Ruth has a single and triple, but a pinch triple by Chick Shorten in the 9th drives home the only run. Ruth strikes out Bobby Veach, Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb in the 9th; for the last he shakes off catcher and player/manager Carrigan. In early 1942, in a speech in Los Angeles, Ruth will call this game his greatest thrill.

  3. Remember how the loss of alleged catching prospect James Skelton in the Rule 5 draft seemed like a catastrophe waiting to happen? Funny how things turn out:

    James Skelton, who hit just .182 in Mobile, was demoted to Visalia this week. He went 3 for 12 with two doubles and three walks in his first three games. He had just 10 extra-base hits in 214 at-bats with Mobile.

One bonus item of sorts: here’s a Q&A with former Tigers first baseman Tony Clark.

Wednesday Walewanders

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  • Dontrelle Willis returns to the D as a reliever. If he continues to pitch the way he has in Spring Training and early in the regular season, his name might very well end up ahead of Damion Easley as the Tigers most expensive contract-as-main-course ever. Rob Neyer‘s already weighed in on the move.

  • Speaking of Mr. Neyer, in case you haven’t listened, today I posted an interview with him on the podcast. He thinks the Tigers are still very much alive in the A.L. Central; it’s Kenny Rogers and Willis, Neyer’s all but certain, who’re finished.

  • In case you need one more article on the effect of Jim Leyland‘s verbal fireworks, check out Mike Bauman‘s column on MLB.com.

  • Baseball and poetry? Why not? In college I penned a poem about my first game at Tiger Stadium. At BardBall.com, Tigers fan Jim Garner publishes baseball poetry — doggerel to be exact (I had to look it up). He’s featuring a poem on Freddy Dolsi’s first major league pitch. You remember it, the one to Manny Ramirez that might still be sailing. Here’s a sampling:

    Freddy went down the middle

    To show off his heat.

    Manny clobbered that apple

    Five hundred feet.

  • Remember Andrew Miller? (Ahem.) He has a birthday today — his 23rd. Other former Tigers celebrating include: Bryce Florie, Bob Molinaro and Earl Averill.

  • Wondering how some former Tigers are faring with their new clubs? Me too:
    • Chris Shelton, Rangers: .179, 2 HR, 3 RBI
    • Wil Ledezma, Padres: 0-1, 3.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP
    • Tony Clark, Padres: .238, 0 HR, 1 RBI
    • Mike Rabelo, Marlins: .219, 1 HR, 7 RBI

    And here comes the Omaha Royals Trio:

    • Mike Maroth: 0-2, 12.91 ERA in three starts (7.2 IP)
    • Roman Colon: 0-0, 6.30 ERA in 10 IP
    • Jason Smith: .253, 10 HR, 27 RBI (His 10 homers lead the team.)

Finally, from Baseball-Reference.com, on this date in 1967, Earl Wilson gives Detroit its third straight win over the Yankees, 9-4. Mickey Mantle hits his fifth homer in six games but it’s not enough for Whitey Ford, who appears in his last ML game.

The Non-Sequiturs: Matinee Edition

After reading Doug‘s pithy and spot-on assessment of Todd Jones — heretofore known by me as the Tigers “opener”, not “closer” — I decided not to waste my or your time with a vitriolic post about him. What more is there to say? For me, nuttin’. For Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski, lots apparently.According to today’s Detroit News:

“I have no problem with Todd Jones. None,” Leyland said. “He’s done an outstanding job, and he’s a heck of a pitcher.“But he’s such a perfectionist and competes so hard, what I think happens to him on occasion is that he outthinks himself. You try to pitch too carefully, it can backfire on you.”

Ahem.And this from the GM in the Freep:

“He’s our closer. He’s done a solid job for us. He’s pitched well at times. Other times, he hasn’t. He’s pitched very similarly to the way he did last year. He’s not your dominant-type closer, but we know what Todd is.”

Insert your own punchline. Or, better yet, don’t:

“It’s not fun to be the butt of everybody’s jokes,” Jones said Wednesday.

Will Jones be summoned from the ‘pen this afternoon? Yeah, probably. Settle in.How’s that for not writing about Todd Jones? Now, on to the Non-Sequiturs:

  • Peter Pascarelli, the new host of ESPN’s Baseball Today Podcast, is a Tigers believer. He’s been on board for a while now and again this morning said he knows this Tigers have inquired about both Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka. Earlier this week he interviewed Leyland about the Tigers’ season so far. Check it out here.
  • One other Pascarelli note, he said that if the Tigers get the bullpen together they could run away with the division.
  • I don’t know about you but yesterday’s rainout was just what the Tigers needed to put the Tuesday nightmare behind them. Let’s see how they respond today. (Rod Allen just said the same thing on the telecast.)
  • Remember in the winter of 2005-06 when Tigers fans were clamoring for Kevin Millwood? Remember, too, the outcry (I might have been the loudest) when the Tigers signed Kenny Rogers instead? So how’d that workout for both teams?
  • Looking to buy the ugliest Detroit Tigers hat ever created? Here it is.
  • I suppose I’m in the minority when it comes to the Tigers first base situation and its lack of pop. I know that the offense is clicking and all that but I’m sorry, one dinger from Sean Casey and six from Marcus Thames is unacceptable. Detroit hasn’t had a full-time power threat at first since the days of Cecil Fielder and Darrell Evans. (Apologies to Tony Clark.) Get Mark Teixeira, if not for this season then at least for the long haul and before the Yankees scoop him up. Here’s what Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has to say about it:

Tigers: An obvious possibility, considering that the team ranks 11th in the American League in on-base/slugging percentage at first base. However, Sean Casey’s OPS is over .800 since his horrid April, Marcus Thames helps against lefties and Chris Shelton is performing decently at Class AAA.”Our offense is not a problem,” GM Dave Dombrowski, noting that the Tigers are on pace to set the all-time franchise record for runs scored. “I don’t think we would put resources into position players at this time. Our biggest need is the bullpen.”

  • Question for you: Who gets an All Star Game invitation as a reserve: Gary Sheffield, Curtis Granderson or Carlos Guillen? One, two or all of the above?
  • Another question: If the Tigers do take the plunge and shore up the bullpen via trade(s), who are you willing to give up for relief help? Nate Robertson? Craig Monroe (but of course)? Thames? Shelton? Omar Infante?

Finally, during the rain delay on Wednesday I had to endure the Monroe spotlight on FSN Detroit. Mike McClary enjoyed Craig Monroe talking about Craig Monroe in the third person. Mike McClary particularly enjoyed the segments of the show in which Monroe was wearing a Texas Rangers uniform.If only it weren’t six-year-old footage.