Fifteenth in an occasional series. Collect ’em all! I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with occasional newer cards.
Gary Sutherland leads off this edition of Cardboard Tigers. Sutherland played mostly second base from 1966 to 1978 for seven teams, including the Tigers from 1974 to 1976. His “TRADED” card shown above is interesting because of the sort of odd airbrushing of a Tigers home cap onto a photo where he’s pretty clearly wearing a road grey jersey. And it turns out that jersey isn’t Houston’s, because although he became an Astro in 1972, by the 1973 season Topps still hadn’t gotten a new picture of Gary, so they airbrushed an Astros cap onto a file photo, meaning the jersey is either an Expos or Phillies road grey.
Also, the photo used for his Houston airbrushing is a slightly different take from the one used for his Detroit TRADED card.
Anyway, eventually Gary did get a couple of cards with him wearing his Tigers uniform, the home whites on the 1975 card and the old polyester pullover road set in 1976.
Sutherland was known as “Sudsy,” and if you don’t know why you don’t fully appreciate the depth of creativity that goes into player nicknames. Signed by the Phillies after his sophomore year at Southern Cal in 1964, he made his debut as a late-season call-up in 1966. He played both the outfield and shortstop for the Phils but, when it didn’t appear he’d hit enough to be a regular outfielder or field well enough to be a regular infielder, the Phillies tried to turn him into a catcher. When that didn’t take, they left him exposed to the expansion draft in 1969 and the newly-minted Expos picked him up.
He played three seasons in Montréal, mostly at second base but with some appearances at short, third, and in the outfield – but no catching. From there, he went to the Houston organization for a couple of years, only appearing in 21 big league games while spending most of his time in Oklahoma City and Denver.
The Tigers picked him up in December 1973 along with pitcher Jim Ray for relief pitcher Fred Scherman. He was Detroit’s starting second baseman for the next two seasons, hitting around .250 with little power but playing his position credibly. The Tigers and Brewers (then in the AL East division) swapped second basemen in the middle of the 1976 season, with Sutherland going to Milwaukee and Pedro Garcia heading to Detroit, in a trade that didn’t exactly shake up the fortunes of either team.
He played a handful of games with the Brewers in ’76, the Padres in ’77, and then the Cardinals before being released by St. Louis in May 1978. He stayed in baseball as a scout and administrator, including being a special assistant to the general manager of the Angels from 1999 to 2011, where his duties focused on the team’s scouting operations.
Gary hit .243 for his career with 24 home runs and 239 RBI.
Jason Thompson was a power-hitting rookie first baseman for the Tigers in “The Year of the Bird” in 1976. He led the team in home runs that season with 17 and proved to be a solid fielder as well. He’d have probably gotten more notice for both AL and Tigers Rookie of the Year but a young pitcher named Mark Fidrych got most of the attention that summer, for good reasons.
Thompson followed up his promising start with two All-Star seasons in 1977 and 1978, hitting .270 with 31 homers and 105 RBI in ’77, and .287 with 26 home runs and 96 RBI in ’78. He finished 21st in the voting for American League MVP in 1977.
Despite solid production, the Tigers traded Thompson to the Angels in May 1980 for outfielder Al Cowens. During spring training in 1981, California traded him to the Pirates, who then tried to trade him to the Yankees. But the second deal was voided by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn because it exceeded the $400,000 cash considerations limit Kuhn had put in place for any single transaction.
So Thompson found himself on the Pirates, who hadn’t really intended for him to be part of their roster. He got off to a slow start but eventually had another All-Star season in 1982, when he hit .284 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI, and finished 17th in the NL MVP voting. He stayed in Pittsburgh through 1985, then briefly played with the Expos in 1986 before losing his starting job to rookie first baseman Andrés Galarraga and then being released on June 30. A balky knee kept Thompson from attempting to catch on with another team and he retired from baseball.
For his career, Thompson hit .261 with 208 home runs and 782 RBI. He twice hit home runs over the right field roof at Tiger Stadium, which gave him the nickname “Roof Top.”
After his career, Thompson ran Jason Thompson Baseball in Auburn Hills, Michigan, which offered baseball training and camps.
Tom Timmermann took a long time to make it to the majors, but once he did he proved to be an effective pitcher for the Tigers, as both a starter and reliever, from 1969 to 1973, including posting an 8-10 record and a 2.89 ERA in 25 starts for the 1972 American League East division winners.
Signed in 1960 out of Southern Illnois University in Carbondale, Timmermann moved slowly through the Detroit farm system over the next nine seasons with stops in Montgomery, Durham, Duluth-Superior, Knoxville, Syracuse, Honolulu, and Toledo. Making it to the majors in 1969, he appeared mostly as a reliever, finishing 14 of the 31 games he appeared in. In 1970, he led the team in saves with 27 (third best in the American League) while throwing 85 1/3 innings over 61 appearances. In mid-summer, he recorded either a win (2 total) or a save (9 in all) in eleven straight games. He was chosen “Tiger of the Year” by the Detroit media after the season.
He continued in his relief role in 1971, then Billy Martin moved him into the starting rotation in 1972 as the team went on to win the division before losing in the ALCS to the Oakland A’s.
Detroit traded Timmermann to Cleveland in June 1973 for reliever Ed Farmer. He started 15 games and relieved in 14 for Cleveland, then made only four appearances for them in 1974, spending most of the season in Toledo and Oklahoma City.