Cardboard Tigers: Lamont, Leach, LeFlore

Ninth 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.

Gene Lamont
Gene Lamont – 1975 Topps #593

Yes, that’s right. Before he was a coach for the Tigers from 2006 to 2017, before he managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1997 to 2000, even before he managed the Chicago White Sox from 1992 to 1995, Gene Lamont was a backup catcher for the Tigers. Interesting how many backup catchers eventually become managers. They have a special connection to the pitch-by-pitch flow of a game because of their playing position, but since they don’t play as often they also spend a lot of time on the bench still thinking like a catcher. Of course, that’s no guarantee of success as a manager: Geno was just a tad under .500 in his eight major league seasons (553-562), though he did win the AL Manager of the Year award in 1993 with the White Sox when they won the AL West before losing in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion Blue Jays.

Lamont played parts of five seasons with the Tigers (1970-72 and 1974-75), playing in 87 games and hitting .233 (37 for 159) with four home runs and 14 RBI. He also stole one base. 1974 was his best year, as he appeared in 60 games, starting 29 of them, as the Tigers moved Bill Freehan to first base most of the time and platooned Lamont, Jerry Moses, and John Wockenfuss behind the plate.

He was drafted in the first round by the Tigers in 1965 and hit a home run in his first major league at-bat on September 1, 1970, against Cal Koonce of the Red Sox.

Gene, who was born on Christmas Day, just turned 74 and is currently a special assistant to Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals.

Rick Leach
Rick Leach – 1984 Topps #427

Rick Leach was a standout football and baseball player at the University of Michigan from 1975 to 1979. A four-year starting quarterback for the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler, he beat Ohio State three of the four times he played them, which is really the only yardstick of success that matters at Michigan. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after his senior season in 1978 (behind Billy Sims and Chuck Fusina), and was one of the rare athletes named All-American in both football and baseball.

He chose baseball over football when the Tigers drafted him in the first round, 13th overall, in 1979 (He’d also been pursued by the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL and was drafted in the fifth round by the Denver Broncos). By 1984 – the year of this card – he’d spent parts of three seasons with the big club, compiling a .236 average in 543 at-bats, mostly as a reserve first baseman and outfielder. He’s another guy who has a 1984 Topps card showing him with the eventual champion Tigers, however, he was released by the club in March, 1984, during spring training. He was picked up by Toronto and played in their system through 1988. In 1986, Leach appeared in 110 games for the Blue Jays and hit .309. He finished his career with the Rangers in 1989 and the Giants in 1990. After failing a drug test in August, 1990, Leach was released by San Francisco.

Leach says he never regretted choosing baseball over football. He was named to the Wolverines’ Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ron LeFlore
Ron LeFlore – 1975 Topps #628
Ron LeFlore
Ron LeFlore – 1976 Topps #61

Ron LeFlore was born in Detroit in 1948 (though through most of his baseball career he claimed he was born in 1952 – in fact both of these cards have that birth year on the back). He grew up in and out of trouble with the law and addicted to heroin, and eventually ended up at Jackson State Penitentary after being sentenced to 10-15 years for an armed robbery in 1970.

In prison, LeFlore was introduced to baseball, and quickly showed promise well beyond what might be expected of a relative novice, especially one who was learning the game behind the walls of a maximum security prison. One of his fellow inmates reached out to Jimmy Butsicaris, owner of the Lindell AC bar where many Detroit sports personalities mixed with fans and local tavern patrons. Butsicaris in turn convinced Tigers’ manager Billy Martin to take a look at LeFlore, and a one-day pass was arranged for him so he could do a tryout at Tiger Stadium. Martin was impressed, and the Tigers gave LeFlore a contract that included a $5,000 bonus and $500 per month for the rest of the year, which allowed him to meet the employment terms of his parole. He was sent to Clinton, Iowa, where his first manager was Jim Leyland. Two years later, he made the Tigers out of spring training.

LeFlore was best known for his base stealing ability, leading the American League with 68 in 1978 with Detroit, and then the National League with 97 in 1980 with Montreal. He had a lifetime .288 average with 59 home runs, 57 triples, and 172 doubles out of his total of 1,283 major league hits. He finished with 455 lifetime stolen bases, tied for 52nd place on the all time list with Ed Delahanty. Fielding was his weak spot, though, and he was among the league leaders in outfield errors nearly every season.

He was an American League All-Star in 1976, when he and fellow newcomer Mark “The Bird” Fidrych captivated fans of the Tigers as well as the rest of major league baseball with their speed, ability, quirkiness, and compelling stories.

He was traded to the Expos after the 1979 season for pitcher Dan Schatzeder. After one season in Montreal he signed as a free agent with the White Sox, where his skills seemed to quickly diminish. He admitted that he was actually four years older than he’d originally claimed, which might explain some of the decline, since he was 34 years old in his last season, 1981, not 30.

When LeFlore first made it to the major leagues, Jim Hawkins, the baseball beat writer for the Detroit Free Press, co-wrote his story of redemption in Breakout: From Prison to the Big Leagues. The autobiography was made into a television movie for CBS in 1978 as One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story. The film starred LeVar Burton as LeFlore, Madge Sinclair as his mother, and Billy Martin as himself. Other former Tigers also appeared as themselves, including Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Jim Northrup, and Al Kaline.

He managed and coached with several minor league and independent league teams over the years. In 2011, LeFlore, who had smoked cigarettes since he was a young boy, had his right leg amputated at the knee due to arterial vascular disease. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Cardboard Tigers: Holdsworth, Humphrey, Jones, Knox

Seventh 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.

Today I’m featuring the law firm of Holdworth, Humphrey, Jones, and Knox, the names you can trust when it comes to personal injury attorneys.

1974 Rookie Pitchers – 1974 Topps #596

Fred Holdsworth was born in Detroit in 1952 and was both a standout athlete and valedictorian of the class of 1970 at Northville High School, where the Tigers selected him in the 21st round of that year’s amateur draft. Fred chose the Tigers’ contract over scholarship offers to play football or baseball. He spent a couple of years in the farm system before making his debut at the age of 20 in 1972, pitching 7 innings late in the season and piling up an ERA of 12.86. It did get a little better from there, as he had a cup of coffee with the big club in both 1973 (14 2/3 innings, 6.75 ERA) and 1974 (35 2/3 innings, 4.29 ERA).

Before we move on to the rest of Fred’s career highlights, let’s take a look at his colleagues on this 1974 Rookie Pitchers card: Wayne Garland had a decent nine year career with the Orioles (for whom he had his best season in 1976, going 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA and 113 strikeouts and finishing sixth in the Cy Young Award voting) and the Indians (oddly, the next year he led the AL in losses, going 13-19 but with a 3.60 ERA and 119 strikeouts – he was still a good pitcher but now on a lousy team). Mark Littell also played nine major league seasons as a solid reliever with the Royals and Cardinals, which seems appropriate since he was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. But the guy I wanna talk about, the man on everyone’s mind, was Dick Pole. I mean, come on. Dick Pole? I know it’s juvenile, but… Dick Pole? Also, I don’t know how many major leaguers were born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but Dick was one of them. He was born and raised in Trout Creek in the western U.P. county of Ontonagan, played college ball at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. He had an somewhat uninspiring six years in the American League (career WAR of negative 2.4) with Boston and Seattle (he was an original Seattle Mariner!), but Pole was better known for being the coach who helped Greg Maddux become a Hall of Fame pitcher when he was with the Cubs. For this, Braves fans will always be grateful. Thank you, Dick Pole, for being a stand-up guy, wherever you are.

Fred Holdsworth – 1975 Topps #323

Oh yeah, Fred Holdsworth. Well, from there it was off to Baltimore and then Montreal for a few more years, then ending up briefly back in the Tigers system (pitching for AAA Evansville and AA Montgomery in 1979) before finishing his career in Milwaukee and on Oakland’s farms in 1980. He pitched in a total of 72 games, starting 15 of them, and compiled a 7-10 lifetime record with an ERA of 4.40.

After leaving baseball, Fred went back to school, got his accounting degree, and eventually became the Vice President of Finance for Comcast’s Midwest Division. So for about a year in 2008-09, Fred and I worked for the same company. I wonder if he still has a Comcast ball cap like I do?

As of 2018, Fred lived in the Chicago suburbs and was still playing baseball in the Chicago North Men’s Baseball League. He doesn’t pitch anymore, both because he’s in his late 60s and because he had a bad shoulder, so he mostly plays the infield.

Terry Humphrey – 1976 Topps #552

Terry Humphrey was, along with Johnny Wockenfuss, a backup catcher for the Tigers in 1975. As noted in the last exciting edition of Cardboard Tigers, Terry was traded to Detroit by the Expos (along with Tom Walker) after the 1974 season for Woodie Fryman. He played in 18 games for Detroit that year, hitting .244 with one RBI in 41 at-bats. By the time this 1976 card came out, he’d been sent to the California Angels (along with Leon Roberts, Gene Pentz, and Mark Lemongello) for Dave Roberts (not the Dodgers manager, but a pitcher), Milt May, and Jim Crawford, in one of those deals teams used to agree to just to move players around to see if they’d play better if they just got a “fresh start.” Most of the time, the answer was no, and it certainly was for Terry.

Lynn Jones – 1984 Topps #731

Lynn Jones is another guy who missed out on the 1984 Tigers World Series win, after toiling as a reserve outfielder for five seasons. He played in 303 games from 1979 to 1983, hitting .252 with 7 home runs and 91 RBI. Though he has a 1984 Topps cards showing him in Tigers garb, he was traded to the Royals before the season, which meant he did get to play in the 1984 ALCS against his former team, going 1 for 5 as a pinch hitter, pinch runner, and defensive replacement. He also got to play in the 1985 World Series with Kansas City, going 2 for 3 in a similar role but getting to cash a winner’s share check and getting a World Series ring.

The thing I remember about Lynn was the huge glasses he wore. Ballplayers rarely wear glasses, so his were particularly noticeable. You can see them in the main photo on this 1984 card, though not in the smaller portrait, in case you’re looking really hard for them.

After retiring, Lynn coached with the Red Sox and as a minor league instructor with the Braves before joining the coaching staff at his alma mater, Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, in 2013.

John Knox – 1975 Topps #546
John Knox – 1976 Topps #218

The back of John Knox‘s 1975 card notes that he “Spent 1974 with Tigers.” That he certainly did, sticking with the big club all summer while only appearing in 55 games, mostly as a second baseman with a few games logged at third and as designated hitter (I’m guessing he pinch-ran for Al Kaline and ended up as the DH in the box score after staying in the game). He only had 88 at-bats but hit .307, his best mark in the majors, with one double, one triple, and 6 RBI. He also stole 5 bases.

John appears to have been a pretty good player overall. I remember him mostly because I’ve always been a fan of utility players, having been one myself (it sounds better than bench-warmer), and John was the utility guy on a team full of them in 1974, the year many of the aging leftovers from the ’68 team retired and were replaced by big names like Gary Sutherland, Gerry Moses, and Dick Sharon.

Ralph Houk baseball card

These days, managers like to get their bench players into games every few days, just to keep them sharp in case of an injury. Ralph Houk, who took over as Tiger manager in ’74, had a different style. He tended to run the same eight position players out there, day after day, often with the same lineup. It worked for him with the Yankees (at least until it didn’t), and the Major was gonna dance with who brung him. So guys like Knox didn’t play much.

Houk (who I also discussed in this post) learned this method firsthand playing for Casey Stengel in the fifties. For many years, Yogi Berra was the Yankees catcher, not only the best one in baseball but a perennial MVP candidate. Houk was the third-string catcher, which meant he mostly warmed up relief pitchers in the bullpen. Charlie Silvera was the second catcher, and he only averaged 20 games a season, so Ralph had to settle for less than that. Over a four-season run from 1950 to 1953, he appeared in 5, 10, 3, 9, and 8 games, followed by just a single appearance in 1954. And it’s not like he was spending the rest of the time killing the ball in the minors. He spent the whole year in New York. He just didn’t get to play.

John played college baseball at Bowling Green State University, where he’s a member of their Athletic Hall of Fame. As far as I know, he’s still alive (he’d be 72), but he’s done as solid a job of being invisible to Google searches as he was to box scores when he was with the Tigers.

Cardboard Tigers: Fryman, Gamble, Glynn, Gumpert

Sixth 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.

Woodie Fryman – 1974 Topps #555

The Tigers picked up Woodie Fryman in August of 1972 after he was put on waivers by Philadelphia. He’d gotten off to a less-than-stellar start for a crummy Phillies squad that year, going 4-10 with a 4.36 ERA when they cut him. After coming to Detroit, though, Woodie turned his season around, going 10-3 with a 2.06 ERA and helping the Tigers overtake the Red Sox to win the American League East.

Going into the final weekend of the ’72 season, Boston was a half-game up on Detroit. Billy Martin started Mickey Lolich in the first game, and he threw a complete game victory to put the Tigers up by a half-game. Then Fryman took the mound in the second game. He allowed only three hits over 7 2/3 innings before turning things over to Chuck Seelbach for a four-out save that clinched the division.

In the 1972 ALCS, Fryman pitched Game Two in Oakland but wasn’t sharp, leaving the game down 1-0 in the fifth with the bases loaded. The Tiger bullpen couldn’t shut the door, all of the inherited runners scored, and the A’s won 5-0 to go up 2-0 in the best-of-five series. The Tigers rallied to take the next two games to tie the series, and Fryman started Game Five back at Tiger Stadium. He pitched well, giving up two runs and only four hits over eight innings. One of the A’s runs was on a steal of home by Reggie Jackson (who tore his hamstring running into Tigers catcher Bill Freehan and would end up missing the World Series), and the other was an unearned run thanks to a throwing error by second baseman Dick McAuliffe that pulled Norm Cash off the bag at first. But John “Blue Moon” Odom was even better, allowing only one unearned run in five innings of work. He was followed by Vida Blue, who worked four innings of perfect relief for the save and the A’s moved on to the 1972 World Series.

Woodie pitched for the Tigers in ’73 and ’74 before being traded to Montreal in December 1974 for catcher Terry Humphrey and pitcher Tom Walker. He spent two years in Montreal, then a season in Cincinnati. He started the 1978 season with the Cubs, but was traded to the Expos in June. He played with Montreal for parts of five more seasons before retiring in 1983 at the age of 43.

I’ve always thought this picture of Woodie looks like he’s bracing to tackle some streaker who’s just jumped onto the field at old Comiskey Park. Get ’em, Woodie!

After baseball, Woodie went back to his hometown of Ewing, Kentucky, where he had a tobacco farm, where (at least according to the back of this card) he also raised Black Angus cattle. He died there in February of 2011 at the age of 70.

’74 Rookie Shortstops – 1974 Topps #597

Every year, Topps would include some cards that had multiple rookie players on them. These guys weren’t necessarily gonna make it, so they weren’t going to waste valuable cardboard acreage on a full card. Most of the time you never heard another thing about them, frankly.

John Gamble is the perfect example of this phenomenon. Born in Reno, Nevada, he was a 5’10”, 165 pound shortstop. His entire Wikipedia entry consists of three sentences. In 1972 he appeared in six games for the Tigers, batting three times with no hits, though he did get to play some shortstop. In 1973 he was in seven more games with no plate appearances or time in the field. It appears he was used as a pinch runner for whoever the designated hitter was that day (’73 was the first year of the DH rule), probably Gates Brown. He played three more years in AAA for the Expos and the Tigers before retiring.

After baseball, Gamble returned to Reno where he was a star for the Reno Toyota men’s fast pitch softball team, which was highly competitive and appeared in the International Softball Congress World Tournament. He also coached high school baseball and softball, including his daughter’s team from 2003 to 2007.

While he didn’t make much of a splash in the major leagues, John is still happy he had the chance. “It was really a neat time. I’m so grateful for the time I did have.”

Rookie Pitchers – 1977 Topps #487

Ed Glynn, the “Flushing Flash,” on the other hand, pitched in 175 major league games over ten seasons with the Tigers, Mets, Indians, and Expos. Ed bounced up and down between Evansville (then the Tigers’ AAA affiliate) and the big club from 1975 and 1978. Interestingly, though this is his 1977 “rookie” card, Ed made his debut late in 1975 against Milwaukee, pitching six decent innings but losing to one of the other guys on this card, Larry Anderson, who pitched a shutout. (Anderson was taken in the 1977 expansion draft by Toronto, which explains his headgear on this card, though he never pitched for the Blue Jays, instead being traded two months later to the White Sox. Anderson only pitched 16 games over three seasons and finished with a lifetime ERA of 5.66. So much for that early shutout.)

Glynn is one of the few Mets players to have actually grown up in the neighborhood where the team has played since 1964, Flushing, in the borough of Queens. When he was in high school, he sold hot dogs at Shea Stadium.

Ed finished his career with a 12-17 record and an ERA of 4.25. He struck out 184 batters in 264 2/3 innings.

Dave Gumpert – 1984 Topps #371

Dave Gumpert was another of the guys who, despite having a 1984 Tigers baseball card, didn’t play for the World Series team that year. He was a Michigan boy, growing up in South Haven and pitching for Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

Dave had a decent 1983 season with the Tigers, pitching in 26 games with a 2.64 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP while notching two saves and being named the team’s Rookie of the Year. But he didn’t head north with the team out of spring training in 1984, instead spending the season in Evansville where he put up numbers that didn’t exactly warrant a return to Detroit.

He pitched with the Cubs and Royals briefly, along with their AAA teams, from 1985 to 1987 before retiring from baseball. He went back to South Haven, where he coached baseball and was the athletic director at South Haven High School. He’s a member of the Aquinas College Athletic Hall of Fame and the South Haven High School Hall of Fame.

At 62, Dave still lives in South Haven. He retired recently but still is involved in the community and helped coach the 2018 South Haven girls’ softball team to district and regional titles. Here’s a short interview MLive did with him in 2018 as the team was making its run in the state playoffs:

Cardboard Tigers: Ike Brown, Bruton, Colbert, and Coleman

Third in an occasional series. Collect ’em all!

Ike Brown
Ike Brown 1972 Topps #284

Ike Brown was a utility infielder and outfielder for the Tigers in the early seventies. He was the kind of player who wouldn’t embarrass you wherever you put him, hit well enough that you could consider using him as an occasional pinch hitter (though with Gates Brown – no relation – also on the team, those opportunities didn’t happen often), and always seemed like a nice teammate. He wore the stylish wireframe glasses you see on both his 1972 and 1974 cards before they became commonplace, not to mention that few ballplayers wore glasses during games at all, and along with his linebacker build, he was a recognizable and popular Tiger each of his seasons with the club.

Ike came up about the time the Tigers put last names on the back of their uniforms, and he wore “I. BROWN” while Gates wore “G. BROWN,” which I somehow thought was pretty sophisticated. Now we have a plethora of SRs, JRs, IIIs, and IVs it feels a little out of control, but Ike and Gates were trendsetters in the uni nameplate world.

Ike Brown
Ike Brown 1974 Topps #409

Other than being the Don Kelly or Andrew Romine of his day in Detroit, Ike has two other interesting distinctions:

  • He hit a home run in his first major league at bat on June 17, 1969 at Yankee Stadium. Considering he only hit 19 more in 536 total big league at bats, the trend was definitely downhill from there.
  • Ike was the last player who had played in the Negro Leagues to debut in the majors. The Tigers signed him from the Kansas City Monarchs in 1961.

Ike died in 2001 in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 59.

Bill Bruton
Bill Bruton 1963 Topps #437

Bill Bruton was a very fast outfielder for the Milwaukee Braves (1953-1960) and the Tigers (1961-64). A good hitter and an above-average fielder with good range due to his speed, he led the National League in stolen bases for three consecutive years from his rookie season of 1953 through 1955, racking up totals of 26, 34, and 25 swipes, which should give you an idea how often NL teams were running in the early fifties. Bill played for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1952 when the team was the top farm club for the Boston Braves. The next year he was promoted to the bigs but didn’t have to move as the Braves moved to Milwaukee. When fans think of western expansion of the major leagues they usually think of the Dodgers and Giants moving to California in 1958, but the Braves were the first to head west, though they only went as far as Wisconsin. Bill had the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th inning in the transplanted Milwaukee Braves’ first game on April 14, 1953, as they beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2.

Bill hit two bases loaded triples in the same game in 1959, something that had only been done once before (Elmer Valo in 1949) and once since (Duane Kuiper in 1978). That may not seem like much of a record to share, but it probably got Bill a beer or two.

Bill died in a car crash that was caused by an apparent heart attack outside of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1995. He was 70 years old.

Nate Colbert
Nate Colbert 1975 Topps #599

Nate Colbert was a power hitter. He hit 173 home runs in his ten-year major league career with the Astros, Padres, Tigers, Expos, and A’s. Mostly remembered for his years in San Diego, he was a National League All-Star three times from 1971 to 1973, years in which he hit 27, 38, and 22 home runs and racked up 84, 111, and 80 RBI. Plagued with back problems, he was traded to Detroit after a down 1974 season in the three-team deal involving Eddie Brinkman that I mentioned the other day. Nate only played 45 games for the Tigers before being sold to Montreal in June. He played 52 games for the Expos in 1975 and 1976 before they also let him go. He spent the rest of the bicentennial year in the minors before making one last brief appearance with Oakland at the end of the season, going 0 for 6 with one walk in two games. He retired at the age of 30.

I love Nate’s smile in this 1975 Topps card. This is a classic baseball card photographer’s trick: get at least one shot from underneath the ball cap, so if the player is traded you won’t have to airbrush the new team’s colors and logo onto the crown of the hat. This explains Nate’s snappy jersey piping in the photo, which appears to have been done with a chisel-tip Sharpie marker, but does not at all explain why the upper deck of Jack Murphy Stadium is visible behind him.

Nate had the bad luck to play with nine last-place teams in a row from 1968 to 1976. He had a brief cup of coffee with the Astros in 1966 (they finished eighth in the then-ten-team National League) and, as mentioned above, finished with the A’s in 1976 (they finished second in the AL West that year). In 1975, he played with two last-place teams: the Tigers and the Expos.

He deserved better, yet somehow he was able to keep smiling. Unlike many of the players we’ve met so far in this series, Nate is still alive at the age of 74.

Joe Coleman
Joe Coleman 1974 Topps #240

Joe Coleman was always one of the American League’s leaders in the “Largest Lump of Chaw” competition. And he only got better with age. I mean, look at the 1974 card: only a small bump showing through his left cheek. By the next year, though, as seen below, Joe really was getting good, with a wad of chewing tobacco so big he couldn’t even close his mouth anymore. By 1976, the chaw was threatening to take over his face and maybe petition to get its own zip code, and he appears to have been drooling tobacco onto his left knee as well.

I don’t understand the poses on Joe’s cards. He seems to be getting ready to pitch or has just delivered a killer curveball despite appearing to be standing nowhere near a pitcher’s mound but instead somewhere along the first base stands. That is not how you play baseball, Joe. At least he has his glove in position, ready to spear a hot liner through the box.

Joe Coleman
Joe Coleman 1975 Topps #42

Joe’s father was also a major league pitcher for ten seasons from 1942 to 1955, interrupted for three years by World War Two. He played mostly for the Philadelphia Athletics before finishing two short stints with Baltimore (as shown in this special 1976 card with son Joe, Jr.) and finally with the Tigers, where he went 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA and three saves in 17 games at the end of the 1955 season. If you look closely, Joe Sr. seems to have a wad of chewing tobacco in his left cheek as well, right down to the crooked grimace. Pass the tradition along, Joe! (Incidentally, Joe Jr.’s son Casey pitched for the Cubs in 2010-12 and briefly for the Royals in 2014, making the Colemans one of the few three-generation big league families.)

Joe Coleman and Joe Coleman, Jr.
“Father and Son – Big Leaguers” Joe Coleman and Joe Coleman, Jr. – 1976 Topps #68
Joe Coleman
Joe Coleman 1976 Topps #456

Joe was a very good starting pitcher for the Senators (1965-70) and the Tigers (1971-76), and then a succession of other teams over the next four seasons before hanging ’em up. With the Tigers in 1972, he was part of an excellent starting rotation that led the team, which wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, to the American League East division championship. The staff was led by Mickey Lolich (22-14, 2.50 ERA, 250 Ks), Coleman (19-14, 2.80 ERA, 222 Ks), and August pickup Woodie Fryman (10-3, 2.06 ERA, 72 Ks), plus a solid bullpen of Chuck Seelbach (14 saves, 2.89 ERA), Fred Scherman (12 saves, 3.64 ERA), and John Hiller (3 saves, 2.03 ERA)

The Tigers lost to Oakland in the 1972 ALCS, 3 games to 2, with the most memorable moment coming in the seventh inning of Game 2, when Tiger reliever Lerrin LaGrow hit A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris in the foot with a pitch, causing Campy to hurl his bat at LaGrow, who was wise enough to duck as the bat sailed by. The benches cleared, Billy Martin had to be restrained by several Tigers and the umpiring crew to keep him from fighting Campaneris. Here’s a clip of the incident, with George Kell and Larry Osterman of WWJ-TV (Channel 4) with the call:

Joe was later a pitching coach and minor league manager, finishing his over 50 year career in baseball with the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Florida State League. He’s retired now at the age of 74, and reportedly spends his time in Florida and Tennessee.

Cardboard Tigers: Arroyo, Bare, and Brinkman

Second in an ongoing series.

Two fairly obscure Tigers today plus “Steady Eddie.”

Detroit Tigers pitcher Fernando Arroyo
Fernando Arroyo 1976 Topps #614

This is Fernando Arroyo, sporting the Tigers’ old double-knit pullover road jerseys. Fernando looks very serious in this photo. He was a 6’2″ right-handed starter who was drafted by the Tigers in the eleventh round in 1970, then spent the next six seasons working his way through the farm system, including stops in Bristol, Lakeland, Montgomery, and Evansville. In 1975, he finally made it to the bigs, throwing 53 innings as a middle reliever and spot starter, going 2-1 with an ERA of 4.58.

Despite getting a shiny 1976 Topps card with his 24-year-old face on it, he didn’t pitch in the majors that year, but did spend parts of the next three seasons in Detroit before finishing his career with the Twins (1980-82) and the A’s (1982 and briefly in 1986). His career totals included a 24-37 record in 121 games, 60 of them starts, and a 4.44 ERA.

Fernando is a member of the Mexican-American Hall of Fame in his hometown of Sacramento, California.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Ray Bare
Ray Bare 1976 Topps #507

Ray Bare was another right-handed pitcher for the Tigers from 1975-77. Drafted by the Cardinals in the supplemental draft in 1969, the Tigers bought him before spring training in 1975. He went 8-13 that season, mostly as a starter, with a 4.48 ERA. The back of this card notes that he threw a two-hit shutout against the California Angels on August 16, which broke a 19-game losing streak for the Tigers. Probably the highlight of a short major league career, which ended two years later. After starting the 1977 season with a 12.56 ERA, the Tigers sent Ray down to Evansville, then released him after the season. The Orioles gave him one more shot in 1978 with their AAA farm team, the Rochester Red Wings, but that was the end of the road for Ray.

Most players usually looked a bit different from year to year on their baseball cards, but Ray always had this expression and this mustache. Ray Bare died of leukemia in 1994 at the age of 44 in his hometown of Miami, Florida.

Detroit Tigers shortstop Ed Brinkman
Ed Brinkman 1974 Topps #138
Detroit Tigers shortstop Ed Brinkman
Ed Brinkman 1975 Topps #439

Ah, Steady Eddie. He certainly looks steady in these pictures, though considering his career perhaps they should have shown him with his glove on instead of holding a bat.

Ed Brinkman was a solid defender at shortstop, winning a Gold Glove in 1972 which somehow led to him being an American League All Star in 1973. Ed played all ten seasons that the second version of the Washington Senators existed from 1961 to 1970, then was traded to Detroit (along with third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez and pitcher Joe Coleman) for Denny McLain and Don Wert from the ’68 championship team. All three played a big part in the Tigers making it to the American League Championship Series in 1972. Eddie set an American League record in 1972 by playing in 72 straight errorless games (Mike Bordick of the Orioles most recently set the record at 110 games in 2002).

He was a high school teammate of Pete Rose at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati. Their coach said that Rose was a good player, “but no Brinkman.” After a stellar high school career, Eddie got the Senators to cough up a $75,000 bonus when he signed, which was a decent chunk of change for a ballplayer in 1961.

Rose, meanwhile, went largely unnoticed and ended up playing for an amateur league in Dayton, Ohio, after using up his high school eligibility. If his uncle hadn’t been a roving scout for the Reds, Rose might have never made it into professional baseball. The Reds gave him a miniscule payment to sign with them, and Ed later joked that Rose told him that “the Senators brought me my bonus in an armored truck. Pete said he had cashed his at the corner store.”

Ed was traded to the Cardinals as part of a three-way trade after the 1974 season in the deal that brought Padres’ slugger Nate Colbert to Detroit. He only played 24 games for St. Louis before they traded him to Texas – which is where the Washington franchise moved in 1971. He played just one game for the Rangers before the Yankees bought his contract in June of 1975. He’d had back problems for several years, and this limited him to just 44 games for the Bombers before he hung it up for good at the age of 33.

Ed played in an era where being a shortstop was primarily a defensive position; any hitting you got out of the position was a bonus. In 1,846 games, Ed hit .226 with 60 home runs, 461 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. He was later a minor league manager, coach, and scout for the Tigers and the White Sox before retiring from baseball in 2000.

His younger brother, Chuck, also played major league baseball as a catcher for the White Sox from 1969 to 1974, hitting .172 with one home run and 12 RBI in 149 games.

Ed Brinkman died in his hometown of Cincinnati on September 30, 2008, from heart disease. He was 66 years old.