Friday, November 4, 2011

1977 Detroit Tigers

At 74-88 Ralph Houk's charges finished in 3rd place in the AL East 26 games behind the New York Yankees.

Detroit spent the middle part of the decade floundering in the standings under Houk, who replaced the dynamic Billy Martin, who like always eventually wore out his welcome after jump starting the franchise.  1975 was the low point for the franchise where a group of aging veterans from their late 60's/early 70's glory years combined with some young up and commers for 102 losses and a last place finish.  Houk righted the ship the following season and won 17 more games to inch back toward respectability.  1977 saw the team finsih exactly the same as they did the previous year, but the youngsters began to improve steadily.  The following season (1978) saw the Tigers finish over .500 for the first time in 5 years.  Steady improvement under the dynamic stewardship of Sparky Anderson, who replaced Les Moss (who replaced Houk) in 1979.  By 1984 Anderson would have a juggernaut on his hands that would eventually win a world championship.  Many of those players were maturing or getting their first chance at major league ball during the '77 season.  21 year old Lance Parris, 19 year old Alan Trammell, 20 year old Lou Whitaker and 22 year old Jack Morris would eventually form that core that drove Detroit to contention.  They would see their first major league action during the '77 season.  Aging veterans like Mickey Stanley and Willie Horton were on their last legs and well on their way out of town.  Transitional players like Rusty Staub, Ron LeFlore and Aurelio Rodriguez were holding down jobs that the young guns would eventually take in years to come as Anderson built himself a winner.  Injured phenom Mark Fidrych was not able to reproduce his rookie year success.  After going 19-9 on a sub par team in 1976, Fidrych unfortunately got injured during spring training and only saw action in 11 games.  His 6-4, 2.89 record was darn good, but he only contributed 81 innings to a team that was challenged for good arms.  John Hiller was once again the workhorse out of the pen going 8-14 (3.56) in 124 innings.  Jim Crawford logged 126 inngs from the pen.

In retrospect you can really see the origins of a great team being built, but back in 1977 the Tigers looked like an also ran that couldn't play ball with the big boys.

18 new cards were created to complete the Tigers 1977 Topps Card set.

First off to answer your un-asked question:  No, you do not have cataracts.  The picture is blurry/fuzzy.  I chose it because I found a Tiger fan who is selling snapshots of players that he took back in the 1ate 1970's.  He had around 10 of them on ebay and I thought it would be cool to use them for this updated card set.  Since Topps was known to use blurry and out of focus pictures I had no qualms about using these.  I even tried my best to touch up the faded colors and sharpen it a bit.  Believe it or not this is about as good as it got.  With that bit of housekeeping out of the way let's talk about Tim Corcoran.  As a 24 year old rookie 4th outfielder Corcoran hit .282 with 3 homers and 15 RBI's in 103 Ab'S.  Not a bad start in the major leagues.  The following season he more than doubled his plate appearances, but his average dropped to .265 and his power numbers were even lower.  His OBP went up, but back in the dark days of the 1970's Bill Beane was a high school phenom, and not the SABR-metrics guru influencing baseball decisions.  This led to a trip back to Evansville (AAA) in 1979.  Hitting .338 against Triple A pitching earns you a return trip to the majors, so in 1980 Corcoran got into 84 games and hit .288.  I'm guessing Detroit figured that Corcoran wasn't going to get much better than what they saw, so they dealt him to the Twins for Ron Jackson.  After hitting .176 in 22 games during the strike season he found himself back in Triple A for the better part of the next 3 years.  When the Twins declined to renew his contract he signed a minor league deal with the Phillies organization.  In 1984 he got the call to return to the majors and hit a robust .241 with an OBP of .440 as a part time 1B-OF-PH type.  1985 saw him return to mediocrity with a .214 BA and a trip back to the minors.  The Mets would sign him as insurance in 1986 and he spent all but 6 games in the minors.  I wonder if the Amazin's voted him a World Series share for his 0-7 contribution?

19 year old Alan Trammell got into 19 games in September and hit a powerless .186.  Who would know that such an inauspicious start would lead to a borderline HOF career.  "Tram" would go on to become his generation's version of Al Kaline to Tiger fans.  After finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1978 the sky was the limit.  4 gold gloves, 6 All-Star selections, 3 Silver Slugger and a runner up for MVP in 1987 later one can say that Tram ranks up there with the all time greats.  Bill James ranks him as the 9th all time greatest shortstop.  20 exceptional seasons in 1 town shows you just how much he was beloved and respected by both the fan base and management.  While searching ebay I found this early action shot of this skinny kid from Garden Grove, CA.

1977 was Bob Adams' one opportunity to be a major leaguer.  In 15 games with Detroit he went 6 for 24 (.250) and hit 2 homers, while splitting time behind the plate and at first.  He was called up after hitting .330 in 62 games at Evansville.  1978 saw him return to the minors and bottom out.  Hitting .204 at Evansville earned him a demotion to Montgomery (AA), where he was even worse (.154).  The Tigers cut him lose and his career was over at the age of 26.  I was shocked to see this photo on ebay.  It was part of that aforementioned collection of faded snapshots.  My assumption is that since Adams only had a cup of joe in '77 that the snapshots were taken specifically during that season.

Originally drafted in 1968, Molinaro languished in the Tiger farm system for 10 seasons.  This tough guy out of Essex Catholic High School in Newark, NJ never took no for an answer.  At the age of 25 he got his break and hit .263 in limited action with the big club.  When he got sent back to farm in '76 he hit .289 and didn't get down on himself.  After hitting .303 at Evansville in 1977 he was recalled to Motown only to get 4 lousy at bats.  The Chisox must have seen something in him.  Bill Veeck was know to see things that others couldn't, so they claimed him on waivers on September 22, 1977.  Veeck's keen eye was rewarded modestly when Molinaro went .262 in 1978 and .291 in 1980.  Ironically he bounced around 3 more organizations before landing in Detroit in 1983 where he got 3 at bats in 8 games.  Most guys would have called it quits at this point, but not the hard nosed kid from Newark, who wound up taking a year off from baseball (1984) then returning for 1 more AAA season in Rochester (Baltimore affiliate) in 1985.  This is an airbrushed photo that I found on the baseball birthdays web site.  I darkened his White Sox cap and added the Tiger logo.  I also took the Chicago logo off the batting glove.  I did find some early pictures of him with Detroit, but he had short hair and sideburns, which was a typical style during the early 70's and would have looked out of sorts during the disco era of the late 70's.

The pride of Neptune, NJ, Bob Sykes pitched in 32 games for the Tigers during the '77 season.  He started 20 of those games and finished the season with a 5-7 (4.41) record in 132 2/3 innings of work.  He improved to 6-6 in 1978 and was dealt to the Cardinals in the off season for Aurelio Lopez and Jerry Morales.  He would pitch 3 average season in St. Louis before being traded to the Yankees in a deal that could arguably be called he heist of the century.  The pitching starved Yanks got an injury prone mid level pitcher (Sykes) in exchange for a future All-Star / World Series hero, Willie McGee.  Sykes never pitched in the Bronx and spent 2 sub par seasons in AAA and AA.  The only photos that I found of him of Sykes in a Tiger uniform were either in black and white or without a cap.  I took his 1980 Topps card and airbrushed out the Cardinal Cap and pasted a Tiger cap on his head, which was much easier than trying to colorize a B&W shot.

Taylor had a great 7 season minor league career exclusively as a reliever in the Tiger chain.  His 44-37, 43 Sv record with a 2.65 ERA was pretty solid.  He would see action with the big club in parts of 3 seasons (1977-79).  During the '77 season he would get into 19 games and post a 1-0 (3.38) record.  His WHIP was a solid 1.125, but he was sent back to the minors for most of '78 (all but 1 game).  He got into 10 games during the '79 season, then returned to the minors where he career came to a close.  The photo used here is another one of those from that Tiger fan's snapshot collection.  This one wasn't as fuzzy as most.  I'm guess the photographer was a 10 year old kid with a Kodak 126 Instamatic camera with one of those legendary off center viewfinders.  This would explain why most of the pictures in the set are not centered.  Then again the photographer could have been a middle aged fan who was drinking heavily and not paying close attention to the light meter or the aperture ring on his Nikon.

Rozema was originally drafted out of high school in June 1974 by the San Francisco Giants in the 22nd round of the amateur draft, but did not sign. He played for Grand Rapids Community College in 1974 and was drafted in January 1975 by the Detroit Tigers.  In 1976, Rozema played for the Montgomery Rebels in the Tigers' farm system and led the league with a 1.57 ERA.  The Rebels were 86-51 in 1976 and won the league championship.  Rozema debuted in the major leagues at age 20 with the Detroit Tigers in 1977. On April 21, 1977, he shut out the Boston Red Sox, 8-0, for his first major league win. In his rookie season, Rozema was 15-7, finished 8th in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award and finished among the league leaders with a 3.09 ERA (7th in the AL), a .682 winning percentage (.682), 16 complete games (8th in the AL), a 138 Adjusted ERA+ (5th in the AL), and a 2.71 strikeout to walk ratio (6th in the AL).  Rozema finished fourth in the 1977 Rookie of the Year voting behind Eddie Murray, but he was selected as The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year.  Rozema never equaled his rookie success, but will go down in the annals of Tiger lore as one of the greatest characters in franchise history for his "Karate Kick Incident" in 1982.  His other exploits included:  (2) a subsequent injury the same year in which Rozema fell on a flask in his back pocket and needed 11 stitches in his hip, (3) an incident in which he shoved a bar glass into the face of Alan Trammell resulting in 47 stitches near Trammell's eye, (4) missing a team bus when he overslept after judging a wet T-shirt contest, and (5) using Brillo pads to wash his new car.  He was a major contributor on the '84 championship team as well.

Lefty Ed Glynn spent parts of 4 seasons with the Tigers, but never really found his niche, and actually got worse after each opportunity.  1977 was his 3rd chance with the big club.  Glynn Wendt 2-1 (5.27) in 8 games (27 innings).  He was traded to in 1979 to his hometown Mets, where he spent tow unremarkable seasons.  His career highlight:  When Glynn was a student at Frances Lewis High he sold hot dogs at Shea Stadium, As a result when he later played at Shea as a player the team honored him in a pre-game ceremony. At the ceremony Glynn was presented with an official Shea Stadium hot dog.  After leaving New York he bounced to Cleveland for 3 years then back to the minors and a final shot with Montreal in 1985.  I found this photo on monster marketplace.

To highlight the fact that the Tigers lacked pitching they promoted Arroyo from the minors, where he went 5-8 (4.76) in 1976 straight into their starting rotation in 1977.  Arroyo responded by going 8-18 (4.17) in 209 innings spread out over 38 games.  Not overly impressive, but the pitching starved Tigers craved the 200+ innings he had to offer.  Arroyo had himself one of those up and down careers where he shuttled between the majors and the minors.  After 2 horrible cups of coffee in '78 and '79 he moved over to Minnesota and spent two years with the big club and not really solidifying himself as a major leaguer.  In 82 he was traded to Oakland where his 5.27 ERA earned him a 3 year sentence in Triple A.  Desperate for pitching in 1986 the A's called him up and he got into 1 final game and walked all 3 batters he faced before it was all said and done.  This photo was found on autograph warehouse's site.

In just 45 2/3 innings of work in 6 starts (7 games) 22 year old Jack Morris went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA.  He actually took a step back in '78, but then the light bulb went on in 1979 (17-7, 3.28).  Once the light began to shine, it shined bright as Morris was the winningest pitcher during the decade of the 1980's  A 5 time All-Star and a supreme post season clutch performer Morris has all the credentials to be in the HOF.  Sadly the voters hold his 3.90 career ERA against him.  Those voters most probably didn't see him pitch.  Morris would give up 9 runs if his team scored 10.  He would also give up no runs if his team scored 1 (refer to game 7 of the 1991 World Series).  Morris owns 4 World Series Rings with 3 of them coming in the 15th, 16th and 17th years of his career.  Upon retirement Morris compiled a 254-186 lifetime record.  This photo was taken at old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.  I found it on the dailyfongo site.

Wockenfuss played twelve seasons in the major leagues for the Detroit Tigers (1974–1983) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1984–1985).  He played catcher, first base, third base, outfield and designated hitter. He may be best remembered for his use of an unusual batting stance: extremely closed with his back nearly to the pitcher, with arms extended well overhead.  Wockenfuss adopted the closed stance in 1977, while playing winter ball at Caguas, Puerto Rico.  Wockenfuss was drafted by the Washington Senators in the 42nd round of the 1967 amateur draft but did not reach the major leagues until seven years later in 1974.  On December 3, 1973, Wockenfuss was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Detroit Tigers. Wockenfuss found a home with the Detroit Tigers where he played 10 seasons and became a fan favorite.  Used mostly as a backup, the only year in which Wockenfuss played in more than 100 games was 1980. That year, "Fuss" (as he was affectionately known to Detroit fans)[2] hit 16 home runs, collected 65 RBIs and 68 bases on balls, with a .390 on base percentage.  I found this photo on the detroitathletic web site.

Parrish was drafted as a third baseman by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 1974 Major League Baseball draft. While playing for the Lakeland Tigers in the minor leagues, he was converted to a catcher.  He reached the major leagues in 1977 on a part time basis, and by 1979 he had replaced Milt May as the team's regular catcher. In 1979, he also played winter baseball in Puerto Rico with the Mayaguez Indians. Parrish hit for a .286 batting average along with 24 home runs and 82 runs batted in during the 1980 season to earn his first American League All-Star team berth, as well as winning his first Silver Slugger Award.  A 7 time All-Star and 6 time Silver Slugger award winner Parrish hit 10 or more homers for 15 consecutive season.  He is widely recognized as the top catcher in the American League during the 1980's, where he averaged 22 homers a season.  I found this great action shot on someone's Wordpress blog.

After hitting .250 in 11 games during the '77 season "Sweet Lou" hit .285 the following year and was named the AL Rookie of the Year.  His sophomore jinx season saw his average rise 1 point and his stolen bases jump to double digits.  Playing alongside his keystone partner Alan Trammell for nearly 20 season, Whitaker finished his career with a higher batting average than his rookie year and his lifetime average.  A 5 time All-Star, 3 time Gold Glover and 4 time Silver Slugger award winner, Whitaker's numbers compare favorably to Joe Morgan's, yet he never got any support for the HOF.  Could it be, because he was quiet and unassuming and was so consistently good nobody ever noticed ?  Interesting tidbit:  In the 1985 All-Star game, Whitaker forgot to pack his uniform. Making this discovery just before the game, he had to make do with whatever replica merchandise was available for purchase at the park. He obtained an adjustable mesh hat and a blank jersey. He finished off his outfit by scrawling his number on the back in magic marker. The Smithsonian requested the jersey and it was given to them by Mr. Whitaker and it remains a part of their collection.  This photo, like Parish's came from Wordpress.

A very valuable backup infielder, he never batted above .216 in a season.  His final appearance in a major league uniform occurred with the tigers during the 1977 season when he got into 2 games and had 1 hitless at bat.  The closest he ever came to being a regular was during his 3 year stint with the White Sox (1971-73) where he averaged 90 games a season.  I have to give credit to the OOTP boys for posting this photo on their site.

Wagner had the misfortune of being a shortstop in the Tigers system at the same time that a fellow named Trammell was also there.  Wagner had the inside track hitting .261 as a part time starter in 1976.  He fell to .146 during the '77 season and opened the door for Trammell to take over.  He spent 3 more seasons in Detroit as a utility infielder before moving on to Texas for 3 years.  He finished his career up in Oaklan in 1984.  His best season in the majors was 1979, when he hit .274 for Detroit.  I found this photo on monstermarketplace.

With Detroit, he was a reliable third starter in the rotation for years, consistently giving his team six and more innings each start. This complemented Jack Morris and Dan Petry, who were power pitchers and considered the aces. His 17 wins in 1984 were important in the Tigers' run to their world championship. (Morris won 19, Petry 18 that year.) He won one game each in that year's ALCS and World Series. That year, he also started his season going 6-0.  On April 15, 1983, Wilcox came within one out of a perfect game, when Chicago White Sox batter Jerry Hairston, Sr. singled off him in the ninth inning.  After spending 6 seasons in the majors, Wilcox wound up in the minors for all of 1976, then signed as a free agent with Detroit.  Over the next 9 seasons he would go 97-75 for the Tigers.  His 6-2 record as a swingman between the pen and the rotation helped give Ralph Houk flexibility with his staff during the '77 season.  I found this photo while searching ebay.

Mankowski was never an everyday player, but the Tigers platooned him at third base with Aurelio Rodríguez in 1977 and 1978. His most productive season was 1977 when he hit .276 with career highs in games played (94), at bats (286), hits (79), triples (3), and RBIs (27). The only other season in which Mankowski had at least 100 at bats was 1978, when he hit .275, scored 28 runs, hit four home runs, and drove in 20 runs. On April 7, 1978, Mankowski hit a home run to help Mark Fidrych get the win in a five-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. On October 31, 1979, the Tigers traded Mankowski and Jerry Morales to the Mets for Richie Hebner.  Mankowski played Hank Benz in the 1984 movie "The Natural".  I colorized this black & white photo that I found on the baseball birthdays site.

After 4 decent years in Texas working exclusively out of the pen Foucault arrived in Detroit in a trade that liberated aging veteran Willie Horton from a season as a part time player.  Foucault went 7-7 (3.15) in 44 games out of the pen.  He saved 13 games.  The following season he was 2-4 with a 3.13 ERA before being traded to KC, where he finished out the season and was released.  Houston took a chance on him and assigned him to their Triple A affiliate in Charleston, where he went 0-2 (7.71) and was given his final release.  I found this autographed photo on monstermarketplace.

Kemp was made the #1 pick in the 1976 amateur draft by the Detroit Tigers, he played just one season in the minor leagues. Starting the 1977 season in the majors, he was immediately installed as the Tigers' starting left fielder.  His best season was with the Tigers in 1979 when he hit .318 with 26 home runs and 105 RBI.  He was selected for the American League All-Star team during the 1979 season.  Kemp hit .257 with 18 homers and 88 RBI's during his rookie season.  He would play 5 total years in Detroit and hit 89 homers during that period with a .284 average.  Detroit traded him to the White Sox after the 81 season in return for Chet Lemon, who became a fixture in their outfield during their glory days of the mid 80's.  Kemp singed with the Yankees as a free agent in 1983 and bombed terribly in the Bronx.  He somewhat recovered by hitting .291 the following year (1984), but his power was completely gone.  Shoulder injures over the following 3 seasons in Pittsburgh and Texas ended his career prematurely at the age of 33.

1 comment:

  1. Great job. One small note: Trammell wore #42 in 1977. He did not don #3 until 1978. If you do find a pic of that though, PLMK