Wednesday, January 10, 2007

TWFE's favorite Detroit Tigers of all time

We all have our favorite baseball players. They are often those who are far from being superstars. Some could be considered legitimate stars, but a level down from the best. Or they may have played at a high level for only a short time. Some are average ballplayers, journeymen whose hustle caught your fancy. Sometimes you just root for the last guy on the roster. We all have differing reasons.

What got me to thinking about all this was Andrew's post about his favorite Tigers over the years over at the Mickey Tettelton Memorial Overpass. I'll give you 1 guess as to who is his number 1... Anyway, since I enjoyed Beefshower's post so much, I thought I'd steal the idea write about mine.

Another thing that got me to pondering this subject was that for Christmas, I got the GF a Placido Polanco jersey. Placidome is by far her favorite Tiger. But you know what really makes her stand out as a Tiger fan? That she is someone who PROUDLY wears a Brad Ausmus jersey! She also has a fondness for ex-Tigers Dusty Allen and (gulp) Shane Halter. So as you can see, she has a thing for good field/no hit ballplayers. Which doesn't explain Halter, who could do neither, or her liking me despite my dissing of Shane, but I digress...

I'll say that of the current crop of Tigers, I have a man crush on Craig Monroe, who clutchiness David Ortiz strives to reach. Of course, I'm a big fan of some of the Tigers past stars. Players like Al Kaline, Alan Trammell (Don't get me going on the HOF. That's for another post), and Mark Fidrych, who are fondly remembered by all Tigers fans. But when it comes to players who are a step down from the great, and near great, here's my all time favorite Detroit Tigers...

(RP) Kevin Saucier: "Hot Sauce" was a great pitcher for a very short time, and is also one of the sadder tales in Tiger history. Saucier was your typically flaky, but ever effective, reliever. He was emotional in the Mark Fidrych mold, and became the Tigers closer in 1981. It looked as if the Tigers had found their closer of the future, when he went 4-2, with 13 saves, and a 1.65 ERA. After finishing a game, Hot Sauce would literally stomp around the field, giving handshakes that were hard enough to break hands and dislocate shoulders. It was both hysterical, and endearing. Unfortunately, the next season Hot Sauce, after starting the season effectively, came down with the dreaded and incurable "Steve Blass Disease." I remember his total loss of control got to the point that Saucier said he feared for the lives of the batters facing him. He had no idea where his pitches were going. Sadly, for himself and we fans who loved his antics, he was out of baseball by 1983. But you have to give credit to a man who was so fearful that he'd badly hurt someone, that he left the game altogether.

(1B) Jason Thompson: I became a huge Jason Thompson fan for life when I was in the stands the opening day he hit a line shot to dead center, a 1 hopper off the 440 mark, and when I looked toward the infield, saw Thompson still standing on 1st. (Thanks to a combination of being snail slow and missing the bag) There was that, and the fact that I was a high school player in the same exact mold. A tall, slow, left handed, power hitting, dead pull, porn 'stache wearing, 1st baseman. Thompson had a monster season in 1977, and then settled in as a consistent 25 HR/95 RBI guy. Until 1980, when he found himself so deep in Sparky Anderson's doghouse, a map couldn't get him out. He was traded for an obviously on the decline Al Cowens, for which I never forgave Sparky. It was as if he traded ME! I continued to follow Thompson's career, and he had some productive seasons with the Pirates thru the mid 80's. It's hard to believe the MLB me was out of baseball at the age of 31. Thankfully I then discovered another porn 'stache wearing MLB version of me, Sid Bream.

(OF) Steve Kemp: The arrival of Steve Kemp (along with Thompson a year earlier and Dave Rozema) in Detroit was the first sign of light after the long, dark days of the mid 70's. The Tiger system had finally begun to produce good major league players, and Kemp was one of the best of that era. What I really remember about Kemp was that he swung as hard as any player I've ever seen. After a mighty swing and miss, he'd corkscrew himself into the ground, with his helmet sent flying. Then he'd jerk the next pitch into the right field upper deck. Kemp talents were a perfect fit for Tiger Stadium, as his stats would bear out once he left. I was devastated when he was traded to the ChiSox after the 1981 season. Hell, I still remember where I was when I heard about the trade. (In my car, pulling out of my buddy's driveway. I pulled back in, stormed back inside, and proceeded to bitch up a storm) I mean, Kemp for CHET F'N LEMON? Hardly enough return for one of the Tigers' best players. What was Jim Campbell thinking?! Bad, bad trade! Well, that's what I thought at the time... Shows what I know. Kemp left the White Sox after 1 season, signed a big money free agent deal with the Yankees, was badly injured when hit in the head by batting practice liner, and was then never the same player. We all know what happened with Lemon...

(Utility) John Wockenfuss: 'Fuss only had the "GREATEST BATTING STANCE OF ALL TIME!" If his stance was any more closed, he would have been facing the backstop. (It's killing me that I can't find a single picture of his odd stance on the web) Amazingly, once he converted to the ridiculously closed "Playing peek-a-boo while batting in a phone booth" stance, Wockenfuss was able to generate surprising power. He then became a dependable platoon C/OF/1B/DH. I was crushed when he was traded during 1984 spring training to the Phillies, along with Glenn Wilson, for Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman. But in a way, thanks to his trade giving the Tigers the final parts they needed, he was one of the reasons they won in '84. Wockenfuss so should have gotten a ring.

(Utility) Ike Brown: Brown managed to carve out a 6 season career, all with the Tigers, which is rare for any utility man. Brown hung around as the 25th man on the rapidly aging early-mid 70's Tigers,. He did so despite not doing much of anything notable, other than he could play anywhere on the field and not hurt you...Too much. Another thing that I'll always remember is that it seemed that for every Al Kaline baseball card I'd get, I would have 20 of Ike Brown. God damn Topps! For that matter, for every Ike Brown, I'd have 2 of Walt "No neck" Williams, but that's another post...

(Utility) Skeeter Barnes: After seeing Skeeter Barnes, who for some unknown reason one of Sparky's favorite players, it was as if Ike Brown had been reincarnated. They were the exact same player. Usually the last man on the roster, could play everywhere on the diamond, and not hurt you all that much in limited use. I guess I have a thing for late blooming players with great names who manage to carve out a career in MLB at an age where most would had given up hope and left the game.

(OF/DH) Champ Summers:
The Champ is last on my list, only because he is my all time favorite Detroit Tiger. Why? I really can't explain it. I became a Champ Summers fan for life when he made a diving catch in right one afternoon, and for some reason his play really struck a chord in me. He fits the mold of my kind of player, as Summers didn't make the bigs till late in his 20's. He then managed to have an 11 year(!) career. Champ was born to play in Tiger Stadium, and the 2 best (By far) seasons of Summers' career were spent with the Tigers. As a left hand hitting platoon OF/DH, the short right field porch and overhang were absolutely tailor made for Summers. He took advantage of it, and always seemed to be hitting a big HR when the Tigers needed it in 1979 and 1980, much as Marcus Thames did in 2006. (Their best seasons, when compared, are eerily similar) Champ also took no shit from Sparky, which (Along with his age and declining stats) lead to his exile to the National League after the '81 season. Champ hung around long enough to play against the Tigers in the 1984 World Series. God damn Sparky HATED my favorite players...

Here's a tip 'o my Tiger cap to Champ Summers, the all time favorite Tiger of TWFE...


  1. Ebay is sometimes good for finding images. For example: John Wockenfuss.

  2. Champ Summers is one of my all-time favorites too!

  3. Where's the Grubber??

    Seriously, terrific stuff. It's always fun to make lists like that, and to read others'.

    BTW, a lot of those guys would be on my list, too -- especially Ike Brown. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.

    Another one who died young that I loved: Norm Cash!

  4. Wow, Champ and Hot Sauce! Two of my favorites too. I didn't think anybody else remembered. Aurelio Rodriguez and John Hiller were pretty nifty too. The late-70's-early-80's Tigers- best damn 5th place team ever!

  5. HEY! Leave my Shane Halter alone! As I may have mentioned, once or twice before, EVERYONE needs a fan.....


  6. hope the link works, here is some more info on Champ Summers

  7. As a kid who hit his baseball watching age in the early to mid 80's, I wasn't aware of Ike Brown. What a weird career! 99% of utility guys who spend five or six years in the big leagues are glove men who can't hit, because guys who can hit almost always get a shot as a regular player. Brown was a significantly better than average hitter who couldn't field, but played middle infield. Bizarre. He was a righty hitter, and played almost exclusively against lefties. I can only assume he never got a shot as a regular because his defense was terrible, and he had a rep for not hitting right-handers. His career splits against righties don't really support that, though. Very unusual.