Monday, December 22, 2008

Where Have You Gone, (fill in the blank)?

I know the title of this blog is dedicated to one of my favorite Tigers of all time, Johnny Grubb, but there are a few others who I'd like to place that "Where Have You Gone" prefix in front of, as well.

1. John Wockenfuss. 'Fuss was Brandon Inge without the defensive chops: a versatile player who could catch, play the outfield, first base, DH, and jack an occasional ball out of the park. No. 14 was as blue collar and hard-working as the city in which he played.

2. John Hiller. My favorite Tigers pitcher. Hiller could do it all: start, long relieve, situational relieve, close -- you name it. And he often did it all within a week. A lefty with a wicked strikeout ratio. All this, and he did it after suffering a heart attack in 1971. I never thought Hiller got enough national recognition for what he accomplished after he was stricken at such a young age. If Fergie Jenkins is the best right-handed pitcher from Canada of all time, then Hiller's got my vote for best Canuck lefty.

3. Tito Fuentes. The Tigers' first free agent signing, in 1977. Tito was just here to play 2B until Lou Whitaker was ready to take over, but Fuentes gave us his best year -- at least in terms of BA (.309; the only time he ever hit .300). Not a great fielder, but a flamboyant, hot doggy player who I emulated when I was a 14-year-old Little Leaguer. The old-timers will remember his little bat flip he did at home plate before every at-bat.

4. Fred Scherman. I don't know what it was about Scherman, but I just liked him. He was pretty effective as a situational lefty and part-time closer in the early-1970s, until he slammed his fist against a wall in anger one day. He was never the same after that.

5. Champ Summers. I share with Big Al my liking of Summers, the left-handed hitting slugger whose swing was built for Tiger Stadium's short porch in right. He had a terrific HR/AB ratio, and even though he had an iron glove, his offense turned Detroit on in the early-1980s. Supposedly had a contentious relationship with manager Sparky Anderson, dating from when they were both in Cincinnati.

6. Alex Johnson. Detroit-born Johnson was a head case, but he finished his career with the Tigers in 1976. A former batting champ, Johnson once accused Angels teammate Chico Ruiz of pointing a loaded gun at him in the clubhouse. Brother of NFL running back and U-M grad Ron Johnson.

7. Dalton Jones. Jones was a pinch-hitting specialist, and one day he lost a home run (maybe it was even a grand slam) because he lost track of himself and passed the first base runner on the base path.

8. Kevin Saucier. "Hot Sauce" had a brilliant season in 1981 as the Tigers' closer, posting an ERA of well under 2.00. His act involved jumping up and down excitedly and slapping his glove after the final out, shaking anyone's hand that he could grab. Retired abruptly the next season, fearing his sudden loss of control would result in him hurting someone.

9. Chris Pittaro. The kid that was supposed to be so good, Whitaker was going to have to move to 3B to make room for this second sacker phenom. Not so fast.

10. Darnell Coles. His first term with the Tigers was punctuated by the night that he threw a ball out of Tiger Stadium in disgust of the fans' treatment of him. Playing 3B, he just whipped the baseball over the roof on the third base side during between-inning warmups. No joke.

So there are ten for now -- ten Tigers who I'd like to know the whereabouts of. For one reason or another, they stuck to my psyche.

You got any?


Blogger Michael David said...

I was lucky enough to be just a kid when Mark "The Bird" Fidrych came on the scene and captured my imagination. I think he's one of the reasons I'm such a big baseball fan(and Tigers fan) today. My kids know him, and I even mailed him some cards that he signed for the kids kids and mailed back. Would like to see him back at the Whitecaps for '70's night or something. When he faded out, I like Dave Tobik for some reason, again just a kid, but by Grandpa met him at spring training and said he was a nice guy. Sorry, but always had a bit of a grudge against Grubb from Tobik being traded to Texas for him. But I guess it's time to forgive, it wasn't his fault really. Keep up the great work on this site, it's appreciated.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Michael David....

Thanks for the visit and the cool comments! Yes, I remember Dave Tobik very well; glad to see you're "letting it go" after all these years!

Maybe Fidrych was only destined to have that one glorious season. Who knows? Maybe he would have turned into a journeyman and his 1976 season would have been looked at with derision ("lucky year", etc). At least this way, we remember him for 1976 and we only have fond memories. That's how I look at it, anyway.

Happy Holidays!


6:46 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I know I've said this before but you and I had to be twins separated somehow at birth (even though you were born about 9 months before me). You hit three of my all-time favorites - Wockenfuss, Hot Sauce, and Tito. I used to do that bat flip on every at bat I ever had for about two years!

I seriously just got goose bumps thinking about that because I don't think I've thought about that in about 30 years. Which is one of the reasons your blogs are a daily read - you bring up stuff that I don't think anyone else will remember so I just kind of stop talking about it (I have one friend that I can talk to about this stuff, but that's it).

Fidrych is the obvious one to bring up, too. I keep trying to explain to my wife (who is a baseball fan, but was only 7 in 1976) what impact he had on this city during that summer. And she keeps saying, "is it like..." and then mentions Barry, Stevie Y, etc. and I have to say no. I can't remember any one athlete in this town for which the world stopped when he played like it did in 1976.

Just to throw a few other names out there - Enos Cabell, Richie Hebner (The Old Gravedigger), Steve Kemp, Jason Thompson, Gary (Suds) Sutherland, Duke Sims, and I really would like to know what/how Paul Carey is doing.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...


As usual, thanks for the kind words; I really appreciate your "blogging business."

I loved Hebner; he had something like 82 RBI in just 340 AB in 1980. He was obtained for Jerry Morales, which was a steal.

I almost included Suds, too! And Sims was a great acquisition who helped the Tigers win the division in 1972.

Happy Holidays!!

10:46 AM  
Blogger Michael David said...

Other of my favorites would be Tom Brookens and Matt Nokes. Got to meet Brookens when he was managing the Whitecaps, and he was great. Had all of Nokes' rookie cards thinking he would be something special.

4:21 AM  

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