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.