Cardboard Tigers: Lemanczyk, Martin, Moses, and Narleski

Tenth 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.

Wow! It’s been almost a month since my last Cardboard Tigers post. Must have been something pretty compelling happening to keep me from doing another one of these. Wonder what it was?

Anyway, today we feature four more legends of Tiger baseball. Let’s get started, shall we?

Dave Lemanczyk
Dave Lemanczyk – 1976 Topps #409

Dave Lemanczyk spent eight years in the American League with the Tigers, Blue Jays, and Angels from 1973 to 1980. Drafted in the 16th round of the 1972 amateur draft, Dave worked his way through the Tiger system, Lakeland (A) to Montgomery (AA) to Toledo (AAA) before making it – very briefly – to the show in late 1973, appearing in one game and giving up 3 earned runs over 2 1/3 innings to post a 13.50 ERA for the season. The Tigers moved their AAA affiliation to the Evansville Triplets in 1974, and Dave started the season in southern Indiana, then got called back up to Detroit. He made his first major league start on August 2, 1974, beating the Brewers 4-1 while giving up only one run over seven innings.

Dave was an original member of the Toronto Blue Jays when they launched as one of two American League expansion teams in 1977 along with the Seattle Mariners. The Jays took Dave with their 43rd pick in the expansion draft, but he turned out to be more valuable than that. He led Toronto in wins in their first season, going 13-16 with a 4.25 ERA and 11 complete games. After a down season in 1978, Dave had his best season in 1979, going 7-5 with a 3.15 ERA by mid-season and making his only All Star Game. The second half didn’t go as well as he had some arm issues, and he finished the year 8-10 with a 3.71 ERA.

He finished his career in Anaheim with the California Angels in 1980, deciding to retire when they released him after the season.

Dave runs a baseball academy in Lynbrook, New York. If you’d like to know more about him, Cooperstowners in Canada did an interview with him in 2016.

John Martin
John Martin – 1984 Topps #24

John Martin was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, and was a member of the 1976 and 1977 Mid-American Conference championship baseball teams while pitching for Eastern Michigan University. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 27th round in 1978 but didn’t make it to the bigs in his first time around with Detroit.

They traded him to St. Louis in 1980 along with Al Greene (8 for 59, .136, with 3 HRs in 1979, his only big league season) for outfielder Jim Lentine (who only appeared in 67 games for Detroit in 1980). This is what is sometimes known as a “parts trade” in baseball; three guys who had some ability but not enough for a solid major league career but who might fit into another organization’s overall plans as pitching or outfield depth, more likely at the AAA level.

John’s another guy with a 1984 Tigers Topps card who was already gone before they started the season 35-5 on their way to a wire-to-wire AL pennant and World Series championship. John spent a couple more seasons in the minors in the Detroit, Baltimore, and Minnesota systems before hanging up his spikes in 1985.

That’s a hell of an ’80s ‘stache, there, though, John.

Jerry Moses
Jerry Moses – 1975 Topps #271

Gerald Braheen Moses was a backup catcher for several teams over eleven years from 1965 to 1975. He hit .251 in 1072 at-bats with 25 home runs and 109 RBI. He broke into the bigs early, appearing as a pinch-hitter in four games for Boston and becoming the youngest Red Sox player to hit a home run when he took Jim “Mudcat” Grant of the Twins deep on May 25, 1965 when he was just 18 years and 289 days old.

Jerry had been a star athlete at Yazoo City High School in Mississippi. He was an All-State quarterback in football and a pitcher and catcher in baseball, where one of his teammates was Haley Barbour, who later became governor of Mississippi. He was good enough to get a visit from Bear Bryant, who wanted him to come to Alabama and play football, but Jerry, while extremely flattered (“Bear Bryant was the John Wayne of my era,” he noted), chose baseball.

In the years before the amateur draft, young talent was free game for any team willing to offer a contract, and Jerry was chased by no less than six teams. A recently added rule intended to limit the wealthier teams from snapping up all of the best players required that any player who received a large signing bonus had to be put on the major league roster within a year or risk being lost in what was known as the “Fall Draft” (somewhat similar to the Rule 5 Draft these days). So after one season in the minors in 1964, Jerry spent most of 1965 in Boston, though he only appeared in those four games as a pinch hitter.

Jerry made it to the majors for good in 1968 with the Red Sox, but mostly served as a backup catcher for the next two seasons. 1970 was his best year, as he hit .263 with 6 home runs and was selected for the All Star Game along with Carl Yasztremski.

After that, he bounced around for several more seasons with the Angels, Indians, Yankees, Tigers, Padres, and White Sox, before finally retiring after the 1975 season. This 1975 Topps card notes on the back that “Jerry holds the distinction of having played the last 5 seasons each with one different team in the Junior Circuit.” I’m not sure “distinction” is exactly the right word in this instance.

Jerry Moses died in 2018 at the age of 71.

Ray Narleski
Ray Narleski – 1959 Topps #442

This is another of the older cards I got from my childhood friend’s older brother’s card collection. I probably traded one of the endless duplicates of Cy Acosta or John Lowenstein I had; it felt like I got one of those guys’ cards in every pack. Somehow my friend didn’t, though, so in order to complete his 1974 collection, he traded me a number of these classic beauties.

Ray Narleski was half of a great bullpen duo in Cleveland in the mid-fifties. He was a tall (6’1″) right-hander who threw smoke and Don Mossi was an equally tall lefty who threw a sweeping curve. Between the two of them, they kept opposing hitters off-balance for five seasons from 1954 to 1958, including All Star appearances for Narleski in 1956 and 1958.

Ray was plagued with arm troubles beginning in 1956 and annually was among the leaders in pitching appearances in the American League, and combined with his preferred style of flame throwing, his arm eventually started to wear out. Traded to Detroit along with his friend and roommate Mossi before the 1959 season (with one of the players heading to Cleveland in return none other than future Tigers manager Billy Martin), Ray had his worst season, posting a 5.78 ERA in 42 games. In addition to the arm troubles, he also was suffering from a bad back that had cropped up in spring training. After spending 1960 on the disabled list, the Tigers offered to send him to AAA Denver in 1961 to rebuild his strength, but Narleski turned down the offer and he was released on March 31, 1961.

The save wasn’t an official stat in baseball before 1969. It wasn’t really needed; until Narleski and Mossi (and their manager Al Lopez) came along, relief specialists weren’t common. Generally, starters went as long as they could and the bullpen would finish the game if they tired. Retroactively, Narleski was credited with 58 saves in his six-year career, and, if the stat had existed then, he’d have led the AL in saves in 1955 with 19.

Ray Narleski died in 2012 in his home state of New Jersey at the age of 83.

Stuck in the middle with me

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Gerry Rafferty & Joe Egan, performed by Stealers Wheel

I’m a centrist. A fence-sitter. A negotiator and a compromiser. Under “moderate” in the dictionary there’s a nicely-etched portrait of yours truly.

Nobody likes centrists. People on the right and left think we just can’t make up our minds about anything. We fear commitment. We’re hedging our bets. Our laissez-faire attitude infuriates true believers, who are convinced we don’t believe in anything.

I understand why they’re frustrated with us. Even moderates don’t like having political discussions with other moderates. I mean, what’s the point? It’s almost certain we’ll end up agreeing with each other, and where’s the fun in that?

(more…)

Dispatch from the Fortress of Solitude

24th May –

Family left yesterday. Said they were going to “Seattle” but that could have been a ruse to keep me from finding them later. I still have the dog and two cats, so I won’t lack for companionship during the difficult days ahead.

Very cold this morning. Wind from the north. Considered wearing a jacket but didn’t want to give in to desperation. Walked around without one. Wished I’d made a different decision later.

Ventured out about noon. Dropped in at my place of employ and accomplished a few desultory tasks, nothing major. Place was deserted. Wondered if they’d also gone to “Seattle.” Guess I’ll never know.

Bought a desk chair so these entries won’t continue to cause the wracking pain in my back. Writing is painful, they say. They are correct.

Also purchased provisions at the local grocery. Saw several other survivors there, and spoke to a casual acquaintance of mine. He agreed that there seemed to be an exodus from the area today, but thought it might have to do with “Memorial Day Weekend.” I scoffed and walked away.

Upon arrival at home, I was greeted by Raven, my trustworthy Labrador Retriever. She waited patiently as I put away the victuals in the larder, but later was absolutely no help when it came time to assemble the chair. Dogs!

Watched the local baseball squad defeat a team from Minnesota (which is near “Seattle,” I believe) tonight. Our pitcher, Mr. Sanchez, gave up only one hit. It made my evening complete.

Who knows what excitement tomorrow will bring?