I’m becoming a bigger fan of baseball history. I don’t have a lot of free-time, but when I do, I like to read books about baseball. I’m currently working my way through “Eight Men Out”, the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. One of the major players in the “Black Sox” scheme, was pitcher Eddie Cicotte.
Cicotte went 27-9 in 1919, but was underpaid and nearing the end of his career. He wanted to provide for himself and his family when his playing days were over, so he reluctantly took part in the plan to throw the World Series. The books author, Eliot Asinof, details Cicotte’s past, which included a stint with the Detroit Tigers to start his career; This was news to me.
So, over the next week or so, I’m going to highlight a few players who had memorable careers but spent minimal time with the Tigers. This is exactly the sort of thing that I find interesting. I hope you do too. Here we go…
- Earl Averill: Averill played 151 games of his Hall of Fame career with the Tigers. Averill spent most of his career with the Cleveland Indians and still ranks toward the top of most all-time leaders lists for the club. He made six straight all-star games while playing for the Indians and topped the 30 HR mark three times while leading the league in triples in 1936. Used sparingly with the Tigers, the 37-year old Averill went 0-3 for the Tigers in the 1939 World Series. He was elected to the Hall in 1975 and passed away in 1983.
- Steve Avery: Avery is probably best recalled for his big years with the Atlanta Braves in the early 1990s. Avery was the youngest player in the National League in 1990 and won the NLCS MVP award the following season at the age of only 21. That season would be his best as he went 18-8 and finished 6th in the Cy Young voting. Injuries derailed his career and threw 16 innings for the Tigers in 2003 and then called it a career. A Michigan native, Avery and his family still live in the state.
- Billy Bean: This is “the other” Billy Bean. Bean made his big league debut with the Tigers and his known in professional sports for announcing that he is a homosexual. Professional sports is still a very narrow arena and Bean was one of the first professional athletes to be open about their homosexuality. He appeared in 85 games for the Tigers in the late 1980s. He retired in 1995 with five career home runs.
- Billy Beane: This is the Billy Beane. Beane is the architect of the great Oakland Athletics teams of the early 2000s. He is written about at great length in the must-read book, Moneyball. Beane is almost universally regarded as one of the better GMs in pro sports, but as a player he was a total bust. A top pick back in 1980, he just never put it together as a player. The Tigers traded for Beane prior to the 1988 season and he produced one RBI in six at-bats before leaving the club via free agency.
- Rico Brogna: Brogna was a big time prospect for the tigers in the late 1980s, but the club gave up on him before he had a real chance to produce. The Tigers traded Brogna to the New York Mets for a guy named Alan Zinter who never did a thing. Brogna had a pair of 100 RBI seasons for the Phillies in the 1990s when the Tigers really could have used him. Brogna struggled with arthritis throughout his career. He is currently a scout.