The Detroit Tigers needed one more veteran pitcher as they attempted to catch the Toronto Blue Jays in August of 1987, so Manager Sparky Anderson agreed to trade a minor league prospect, John Smoltz, to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander.
Alexander went 9-0 down the stretch, enabling the Tigers to win the American League East title, but is now out of baseball. Meanwhile, Smoltz has become a fixture in the Atlanta rotation that some say is baseball’s best.
Said Anderson, who now laments the trade: “Every time I watch John Smoltz on TV I ask myself, ‘What did I do?’ I made a terrible mistake agreeing to that. We won in ’87, but for what? We didn’t win a World Series, so we didn’t win anything.”
It was a big week for Sparky as he continued to compile a quotebook bearing the touch of Casey Stengel:
On Jim Clancy, playing a key role in the Atlanta bullpen since being acquired from the Houston Astros: “Houston was begging people to take Clancy. If anyone can convince me he’s a good relief pitcher, they should put me in some insane asylum.”
On the possibility that Rob Deer, batting .177 with 170 strikeouts, will work with hitting instructor Walt Hrniak during the winter: “You couldn’t do one thing that wouldn’t help him. You could work with Joe the gorilla and that would help.”
Apparently referring to trade negotiations for Kirk McCaskill, during which the Angels asked for three of Detroit’s top prospects, Scott Livingstone, Rico Brogna and Greg Gohr: “That was insulting. I thought we should have countered by offering our three worst prospects.”
Todd Zeile leads the St. Louis Cardinals in home runs with 11, which is the lowest total for a Cardinal home run leader since Austin McHenry led with 10 in 1920. The next lowest was 13 by Andy Van Slyke in 1986.
The St. Louis Hall of Fame asked rookie Ray Lankford for his bat after he hit for the cycle the other night, but he said they would have to ask Ozzie Smith, because he used his bat.
The New York Yankees are headed for consecutive 90-loss seasons for the first time since 1912-13, which is all you need to know about Stump Merrill’s chances of returning as manager.
One way to measure the improbability of the Tigers’ 0-6 record in Cleveland: The Indians are 19-46 against the rest of the American League at home.
And the Tigers bottomed out in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss at Cleveland as Doug Jones, in only his second major league start after 271 relief appearances, struck out 13, a total exceeded this year only by Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden.
Said Jones, who spent most of the second half in triple-A after losing the touch that made him one of baseball’s top relievers: “It’s September and we’re 300 games out. I’m just trying to help us win and prove I can still pitch.”
George Brett of the Kansas City Royals had a sacrifice bunt Wednesday night for the first time since April 28, 1979. Brett said he was bunting for a hit. “I guess you get a little rusty when you go 11 years between bunts,” he said.
Howard Johnson, who has 108 runs batted in, could become the first New York Met to win a National League RBI title. HoJo, who opened the season at shortstop and then moved back to third base, was recently moved to right field, which might be the position that leaves him most relaxed at the plate. In his first 14 games in right, he batted .353 with 17 RBIs and six home runs.
Does a pennant race produce strange heroes, or what? This one’s name is Wayne Housie. The 26-year-old outfielder attended Riverside Community College, was signed by the Tigers in 1986, released in the spring of ’90 and signed to a minor league contract by the Boston Red Sox in August of that year.
Housie spent this season at three levels of the Boston system and was making $9 an hour as a floor manager at a Santa Ana department store when the Red Sox, responding to Mike Greenwell’s knee injury, summoned him to Fenway Park. He received a standing ovation when he stole a base as a pinch-runner Tuesday night and another when he sacrificed as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night.
Of his uncertain role, Housie said: “I don’t care. I’m here. That’s what it’s all about. Two weeks ago I was home, my season over. Now I’m in a pennant race. If I have to sit and watch, that’s just fine.”
Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles hit his 30th home run Wednesday night, joining Ernie Banks, Rico Petrocelli and Vern Stephens as the only shortstops to have hit that many in a season.
“People have always categorized me as an offensive player, and when you’re hitting it doesn’t matter what position you play,” said Ripken, whose previous career high was 28 in 1982.
“But 30 home runs feels good. I’ve thought about it some, wondering if I could do it.”