The West Michigan Whitecaps will continue to have ‘Tiger Friday’s’ as one of their top promotions next summer. The former Detroiter who will be ‘headlining’ this promotion will be one of the best second baseman in Tigers history…’Sweet’ Lou Whitaker. The other half of one of the greatest double-play tandems in history (along with Alan Trammel) will appear at Fifth-Third Ballpark on June 28. The first 2,000 fans will receive a bobble head, but due to high demand, there will be a raffle for autographs. Nothing has been posted yet on the ‘Caps website on how to enter the raffle, but when they due I’ll be sure to keep it to myself.. I would love to meet Lou, as a fellow second baseman, he’s was one of my idols growing up. He came up just about the time I was really getting into baseball, collecting cards, and getting my jersey dirty on the field myself. In high-school, I was even given the ‘Sweet Lou’ moniker for my play in the field. We’ve actually only been to one Tiger Friday, when we met John Wockenfuss back in 2009. I’ve missed some of my other favorites like Matt Nokes and Mickey Tettleton, though. I’m hoping that either one of the kids or myself win a chance to meet Whitaker. The rest of the participants for Tiger Fridays will be announced later this winter.
Lou played in Detroit for 19 seasons from 1977-1995. He and Trammel were one of the best double-play combinations in the game through out that period. Lou was on that great Tigers’ team of 1984 that roared to the World Series Championship. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1978, and a five-time All-Star. In 1985 he was voted to start the All-Star game, but forgot his bag in the back of his car before leaving for Minnesota. He used the glove, batting glove, and helmet from his fellow All-Stars, and wore a Tigers hat and jersey from a souvenir stand. One of the clubhouse attendants drew his #1 on the back with a marker. One of my favorite Lou stories.
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The title pretty much says it all. With such a roller coaster ride in the regular season, it’s very gratifying to see the Tigers win the pennant and go back to the World Series. Although the bats were broke out in game 4, it was the starting pitching that really got this team here. The Yankees are not easy opponents, and two of the three games were won in extra innings. Yes I wanted the sweep, I wanted a route, but not because I’m a Yankee hater or anything. I simply respect the fact that they have the talent that can win, no matter what the score or the series. If the Tigers let up one bit, the Yanks might have extended this series. The 8-1 win gave Tiger fans a chance to relax just a little, and enjoy the road to the World Series in this one game. Of course the Tigers couldn’t have done it without a few former Whitecaps that worked their way up the chain to the big team’s roster. In yesterday’s game Avisail Garcia went 2-5 with an RBI, Omar Infante went 2-5 with two runs scored, and Andy Dirks was 3-5. Granted, without Miggy’s monster shot, Jhonny’s two homers, and the ACLS MVP Delmon Young, Detroit wouldn’t be celebrating tonight, but it’s still fun to see the young guys help out. At this point it looks like another showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals is destined…and remember, it’s the Tigers turn.
Yesterday would have been the 58th birthday of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The age of 58 is considered fairly young, as ‘The Bird’ was taken from us early in a tragic accident in 2009. Also ending early, was Fidrych’s baseball career. For that one magic season, though, in 1976, he showed the world what baseball was really all about. He started the season as a non-roster invitee at spring training, and ended the season leading the American League in wins with a 19-9 record, a 2.34 ERA, and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He also finished second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. More than all of that, the captured the imagination of a certain child in mid-Michigan…making him a baseball fan for life. I admit, I was caught up in all that Fidrych did on the mound, and it was no wonder opposing GM’s would beg Detroit to alter its rotation to make sure he would pitch in their stadium. They knew it would be a sell out. Fans all over the country couldn’t get enough of antics of talking to the ball and manacuring the mound. He would even congratulate his teammates on a good play, or go give them a pat on the back if they made an error. For years I carried a Fidrych card in my back pocket that I had cut off of the bottom of a Hostess Twinkies box. It’s corners are jagged and it has a crease down the middle, but I still have that card to this day and it is one of my most prized possessions. I was lucky enough to meet him back in 1995 at a baseball card show and he was very thankful for his fans. When my kids were born, I mailed him a coupled of cards and he was nice enough to sign them for Lily and Trevor and send them back. He is actually Lily’s favorite player, as she grew up with stories of his craziness on the mound, but I feel bad she will never be able to meet him. He had made a few appearances at the Whitecaps ’70’s nights, too, and that would have been a fun experience. I do have a DVD of a Monday Night Baseball game during the ’76 season, where he pitched a great game en route to a victory over the New York Yankees. I’m still always in awe that the crowd would not leave until he made a certain call. I think a lot of us kids saw in him what we saw in ourselves, just a kid having fun playing a game, which is the way it should be. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych was larger than life. He was a super hero and a rock star all rolled into one. After all, he was the first athlete ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone…