Tigers yearbook

Walking through the Tigers 1979 Yearbook


That last post about Bill Lajoie caused me to reach for my favorite baseball yearbook of all time: the Tigers 1979 yearbook.  I used to get them every year — I have them all from ’78 through ’85 — but this one was my favorite because I distinctly remember bringing it home from the ballpark early that year and poring over every page.  Plus the cover has a picture of a painfully young Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker sitting back-to-back on second base.  I probably need to contact the Tigers to get a larger photo of that from their archives so I can frame it.

Anyway, I leafed through the yearbook again this morning. And, as I did so, I realized that there is way more entertainment, nostalgia and humor value to it than I would have been in a position to appreciate back when I was six years old.  The highlights:

  • Former Expo Boots Day was the batting practice pitcher. I’ve just always liked his name;
  • Reliever John Hiller was described as “the lone survivor of the 1968 team which won the World Championship.” R.I.P. Al Kaline and Mickey Lolich;
  • Hindsight is 20/20, but the writeup of manager Les Moss — who was called up from the minors to take over the team when Ralph Houk left town — reads like the writer knew he wasn’t going to make it to the All-Star Break. Which, of course, he did not;
  • Rusty Staub was described thusly: “Playing the role of Designated Hitter the way Barrymore played Hamlet …”
  • Much of the verbiage of Milt Wilcox’s biography was taken up by the sore elbow he suffered from between 1975 and 1978. But never fear: “Milt says it’s cured now, strengthened by off-season bowling.” In five of his next six seasons, Wilcox pitched over 180 innings.  Yay for bowling!
  • Lance Parrish, described thusly: “The handsome, husky Californian.”  Indeed, a hunk he was.
  • A pitcher is described thusly: “How can a pitcher that good be a 23rd round draft choice.” They’re talking about Kip Young of course, who pitched 43 awful innings in 1979 and never sniffed the majors again.  Pfun Pfact: I wrote and read a report about Kip Young to my first grade class that fall. I know that I chose him because he looked like a handsome matinée idol in the yearbook pic. I never saw him pitch once. I can’t for the life of me remember what I said about him. I probably just copied the bio and added something about him being my third or fourth favorite player.
  • There’s a crowd pic from the 1978 season of two girls in short-shorts, posing somewhat provocatively while wearing batting helmets. The caption: “Young ladies turn on the charm … they like baseball, too.”
  • There’s a pic of a ceremony from 1978 honoring the 1968 World Series team.  Half of the players are wearing white leather shoes.  There’s a pic of Dick McAuliffe taking batting practice while wearing light blue dress pants, a short sleeve dress shirt and a wide, wide, wide white belt.
  • Jack Morris’ bio gives no indication that he would one day be thought of as a potential Hall of Famer. Indeed, the ratio of words about Morris’ 1978 shoulder trouble to those about him pitching to the score: 53-0.
  • Utilityman Tim Corcoran: “Irish and left-handed … ”  You tend not to see a lot of player bios begin with ethnicity these days.  Well, except for Dominicans.  Maybe one day they’ll gain respectability like the Irish have since 1979.
  • After calling Aurelio Lopez “stocky,” our 1970s bio writer channels a 21st century blogger: “He also brings another distinction. After all, what other major league club can claim two Aurelios?” (note: hyperlink added by me; only implied in actual yearbook);
  • On the very next page, Milt May is profiled.  No mention whatsoever that the Tigers also feature two Milts;
  • The first sentence of the Lynn Jones bio: “A magician with the glove and a demon on the basepaths!”  Yes, the exclamation mark is in the original. This basepath demon stole 13 bases in eight major league seasons.
  • Pitcher Steve Baker: “Baker’s family owns a successful daily newspaper in Eugene, Oregon and Steve could probably be a city editor or something if he chose.”  I love the “or something.” I do that all the time out of some weak sense of irony. Seeing as though irony was not invented in 1979, however, I am convinced that the guy who wrote this yearbook is a blogger sent back in time through a wormhole. Or something.
  • “Mark Wagner is a key performer among the Tigers’ shock troops.” I wish the Braves had shock troops. By the way: nowhere in his bio is it listed that, as a 2B/SS, Wagner had absolute zero future with this team.
  • Oh, speaking of the second basemen and shortstop positions, Trammell is described as being “one half of ‘DP, Inc.'”  If that nickname had stuck, I imagine Whitaker and Trammell would both be in the Hall of Fame right now.
  • Minor leaguers and random roster filler from 1979 spring training aren’t given bios. They’re only given black and white pics with their name next to them.  Some of them are notable: Kirk Gibson, Dan Petry, Jerry Manuel — yes, that Jerry Manuel — and Bruce Kimm.  Others, such as Ralph Treuel and Garry Grafton, look like actors who are playing baseball extras in movies like “Bull Durham” and “The Slugger’s Wife.”
  • After those guys come even smaller, less conspicuous pics of minor league staff and scouts.  Jim Leyland was the manager of the Evansville Triplets.  He looks absolutely nothing like Jim Leyland.  After that is a page of the broadcasters and beat writers who cover the team.  Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey are given the caption “Able and experienced Tiger radio broadcasters.” George Kell and Al Kaline are given “Great names on Tiger television network.”
  • On the last page is an add for lamps with batting helmets built into the base.  I used to want those really bad when I was a kid.  They were $25 each, though, and I remember my mom saying that there was no way she was paying $25 for a baseball helmet lamp.  If I had 26 of those things today, though, I’d be the happiest boy on the block.  I probably never would have convinced a woman to marry me, but boy would I be happy.

Oh well, that’s that.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.


MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.