Tigers yearbook

Walking through the Tigers 1979 Yearbook

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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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.