Baseball #15

April 11, 2012

Jim Driscoll to Daniel Gould


For all you Tiger fans out there, or at least current or ex-Detroiters.............  

I sent copies of this Tiger dittie out to a number of folks back there whom I thought might enjoy this little trip to Tiger yesteryear ....sometime last Novmber.

So, this may be a repeat.  If not, I thought perhaps you also might enjoy it.  It's a little tribute to Bill Tuttle, the old Tiger centerfielder....circa the early '50's ....

as I was poking fun at my brother, Tom.  I wrote it way back, perhaps in the late '60's or early '70's, and just found it last year,  buried in my closet, written only

in longhand at the time.  Some of the players' names might take you back.  I hope it transmits.........................JD



I found this little dittie in a box on a shelf,  high up in my closet.  As near as I can tell,  I wrote it in the mid '60's.  It was written in reference to my brother, Tom, who used to like Bill Tuttle, the old Tiger outfielder, and regarded him as his favorite Tiger player, before Norm Cash came along.   Recently he denied this ,  but, he's older now, and the memory sometimes fades.

Anyway, as I read it I realized it mentions several old-time Tiger players, the likes of which I'm sure you will remember, since I'm sure you too were a fan back then (and likely still are).  It was written in long hand, so I decided to print it up and send you a copy.  I thought about updating it somewhat, in the process, but then decided against it.  ( After all, you wouldn't "update" a Monet impressionist painting, or a Shakespeare sonnet, now ...would you? )

I used to call Bill Tuttle:  "Tuttle the Turtle", although he couldn't have been that slow, and still play CF in the Major Leagues.  We all had our favorite players back then.  Mine was Charlie Maxwell, of course; my cousin Bill's was Ray Boone; our late friend Bill Brunett liked Reno Bertoia, and then Gail Harris.  And so it went on down the line.  Comparisons and inner battles always raged, especially when we attended a game.

And so - - - here it is, word for word, just as I wrote it so many years ago ... probably as a derisive piece of propaganda opposing my brother's choice of  favorite Tiger ballplayer.  It should take you back a ways ... back to the early '50's , or so, when Bill roamed the green CF pastures at old Briggs Stadium.  And, no matter what anybody tells you, and as I thoroughly documented in this column,  Bill Tuttle was indeed a bum !

Hope you enjoy it.  

                             ===========   JD   ===========


                    " I REMEMBER BILL TUTTLE "  

I remember Bill Tuttle.  He was truly a bum.  I remember going to watch him on Sunday and saying to myself:  "Bill Tuttle is truly a bum."   In the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium I never saw him hit one out  - - - not in 186 games, one with a 200 mile per hour hurricane blowing out toward left field. But ahh....he brings back sweet memories at old Briggs Stadium.  I have a brother who used to idolize Bill Tuttle. "Some day",  he would say, "...I'm going to grow up and be just like him!" And, you know, he was right, ... he grew up to be a bum. But at least he hit a little better, especially with those RF "porches" at Jayne and Warren-Alter. What he saw in Bill Tuttle I will never know, but Tuttle the Turtle will always live in my memory, and he will always be a bum, and my brother will always wonder why Bill Tuttle never made the Hall of Fame. I haven't the heart to tell him. Perhaps someday he'll come to understand.  

But in remembering Mr. Tuttle, my heart grows heavy, and I drift back to days gone by ... days of fun and frolic at old Briggs Stadium. They used to have a rule there that you could not bring any cans or bottlesto the game (probably thought we would throw them at Bill Tuttle, which is probably true!).  Of course, we got around that rule.  We used to put  all of the cans of pop in a large bag at the bottom, and then cover them up with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and potato chips. Each bag weighed 30 pounds, but we always insisted they contained only sandwiches and chips. Sometimes they would get wise, so we had to put the cans inside the potato chip bag and cover them with the remainder of the chips. This led to two very important discoveries:  #1) root beer flavored potato chips taste terrible, and 2) the easiest way to find your car after the game ... by following the trail of potato chips you left with those chips the pop replaced in your bag. After you got by the guards and drank your pop, of course, you threw the cans at Bill Tuttle!    ' Cause he was truly a bum.     

Many names come to mind in thinking back to those grand games we used to see there.  Of course, the Tigers  used to always have a heady group of moundsmen  --- Major League stars like Saul Rogavin, Lou Sleater, Teddy Gray, and Don Mossi, just to name a few.  Unfortunately, many of their pitchers used to hit better than they pitched.  Of the 4 names just mentioned, all but Teddy Gray hit at least one HR while pitching for Detroit.   And Saul's was a grand slam! But Ted Gray once produced the shortest starting stint at Tiger Stadium I have ever seen.            In starting vs. the Washington Senators one day, Eddie Joost hit the first pitch of the game off the LF foul pole for a HR.  The next 2 pitches were line singles to left ... and exit Ted Gray.  Hardly worked up a sweat. Although Frank Lary and Lou Sleater were 2 of the best, the finest day at the plate for a pitcher was Billy Hoeft, the day he had a single and 2 blows, and witnessed by me. And so, of the pitchers, I remember Billy Hoeft for his hitting, and Ted Gray for his pitching ... and perhaps Don Mossi for his bubblegum card ugliness.

Of the catchers the Tigers have employed, many were great.  Who can forget the acumen and agility of a Bob Swift, or a Harry Chiti , or the rifle arm of a Red Wilson.  Whenever Red used to try to throw out a runner at 2B, the left fielder used to run over to back up the center fielder, which gives you some idea of how Red threw.  Frank House used to bounce his HR's off the RF fence.  But the ultimate of bum-ness had to be Lou Berberet.  And the one sight I'll never forget, as seen from the lower LF pavilion, was the arching drive that Lou hit to the RF upper deck one Sunday afternoon with the bases loaded. That memory still keeps Mr. Mouse up some nights.  Yes, Lou, when it comes to Tiger catchers, you will never be forgotten! 

First base has long been a delicate position for Tiger fans.  One immediately thinks of Norm Cash, to whom my brother turned after Bill Tuttle, to the obscurity to which he was always doomed, had finally faded. Norm used to like to catch those air currents toward Trumbull Avenue.  But others have also had their hour of glory at 1B.  Who can forget the likes of a Gail Harris or Wayne Belardi or Gus Zernial....and that unforgettable prodigious pair : Steve Bilko and Bobo Osborne?  Bobo's the only one I know whose only Major League grand slam was washed out by rain!  But let us be fair   - - -  Stormin' Norman is our man - - - even if he was only a sun shower.

For 2B, one must always recall Freddy Hatfield, or "Coffee",  as he was known as a player  ( because  he followed Maxwell and House in the line-up).  Fred had that instinct and desire prevalent in all no-field, no-hit Tiger pivot men.  And so, Fred, you're our man, although your competition at 2B has always been (like your bat) very light.

At  SS memories flood my soul. Harvey Kuenn  - - - I can still hear that ball click off your bat, and go screaming on a line towards left center.  You were the bat, Harvey, but ahh...the that was a different ballgame! Coot Veal - - - you were smooth, but ... Chico Fernandez ... you were our pride and joy, especially the year you hit 20 HR'S. What glory you brought to the stadium. I still remember that bases-loaded twisting, struggling blooper against the dreaded Yankees during their power years.  It hit the chalk line behind 3B , giving birth to 3 runs and an ultimate Tiger win. The pitcher couldn't believe it, and 3 days later he attempted suicide by swallowing a whole jar of Exlax ... almost lost all his vital organs.  Oh glorious Chico ... how you shine in my memory!

And now we come to the most painful position: 3B.  I could speak of Ferris Fain and (good grief!) Reno Bertoia and Don Demeter, and even All-Pro George Kell ... (now, there was a third-baseman), but ultimately I must mention  RAY BOONE.   Ray had a lot of good attributes, but always used to slip and slide around in the batter's box for some reason. I don't know how he could see the pitch, 'cause his elbow was always in the way. He managed a few hits, though, and I guess he was considered a good 'ribbie' man. He was my favorite player's ultimate adversary, however, and deserves little praise in this literary endeavor. Suffice to say he was a fair hitter with occasional power, and decent in the clutch. If he had only learned not to let those bunts play him, he might have been a decent third-baseman.

In RF my memory most recalls (of course) Al Kaline, simply because,  since 1954, when I was 12, he has always been in right field!  Before that we get in the Jim Delsing era, which is much too sad to recall.  Al is our man in RF  - - - he did it all, from bloopers to blows  - - - a rifle arm and moves like a cat. He owns RF at Tiger Stadium, and there is no mortgage holder. One of the few Tigers to hit 3 HR's in one game, and two of those in one inning.  So...hats off  to Al  ... in a class all by himself.  He has reached the heights to which Boone will only dream of.

In CF, the true  bum-ness of Mr. Tuttle stands vivid and unflinching in my memory.  One may think of Johnny Groth or Hoot Evers, or even Jim Northrup - - - the only modern Tiger to hit 2 slams in one game ... on consecutive pitches, no less. But Tuttle, you pass them all, and for all the wrong reasons!

And now, a moment of silence, in respect to our next (and last) position:  LF. say...he's going to praise those dynamos of destruction, Jim Small and Chick  King.  No, my dear reader, - - - not even Wonderful Willie will ever come close to matching the legendary exploits of that daring doer of deliverance, that stupendous swatter of the Sabbath...


               CHARLEY  MAXWELL

                                     (  PAUSE, GENUFLECT...)  

In his first full  year with Detroit he accounted for 183 runs personally ---hit  .326 and blasted (26)  400 ft blows and (2) 500 ft. wallops !   He came to be known as the "Sabbath Swatter"  because of his Sunday HR's. The highlight of his career was the Sunday DH in which he hit a single and  4 consecutive blows. "Awesome" , read the headlines the next day. "Godlike", printed The Detroit Free Press. "Lucky" , quoted an unknown source (with the initials: B.D. ).  Charley, or Paw Paw, as he had come to be known, had finally arrived ... and from that day on Ray Boone began to lose his tan henceforth he would always remain in the shadow of the mighty M. !

But those days are gone now...those days of Jake Wood and Neil Chrisley ... of Chick King and  Purn Goldy ... and now I see a new set of bums have taken their place ... names like Roberts and James and Pierce ... non-entities right now ... perhaps the future bums of  tomorrow's elite. But will it ever be the same?   I don't think so. Those echoes of yesteryear will never come back for me.  Nor will you, Van Patrick  ... "...Here's the wind-up and the's a  long belt to right!  It could might be ... it's going ...  going ... going......"  

Yes, even you are gone, Bill Tuttle, but not forgotten ...


                                   (After Thoughts)


I wrote this little blurb really as a tribute to the old Tigers mentioned in the text, and not really as a testament against them.  They were all really dear to my heart as I recalled those many special games I attended at the stadium at Michigan and Trumbull,  with my friends and siblings and cousins ... my dad, my grandfather and once even with my Uncle Jerry (at a Sunday double-header) .  The rivalry we had regarding our favorite players merely underscored our enjoyment of the game at the old park. 

Sad to say it's long gone now ... with a beautiful new stadium in its place, now downtown, across from the Fox Theatre, which was  another favorite haunt of mine, where I used to go between day and night classes at Wayne State University.  And where I once enjoyed  "North To Alaska" (comedy / western with  "The Duke") , and where I actually saw Brigitte Bardot's bare bottom ( in some foreign pot-boiler).

Games are still fun to attend, but it's somehow not the same.  Time changes everything, and not always for the better. 

Also sadly gone are most of those players mentioned  in the column.  Charley  is still with us, the last I heard, up in the Lawton, Michigan, area, near Paw Paw.  I know this because I've never received a congratulatory message from my erstwhile cousin, Bill Denomme, the Ray Boone supporter, on Charley's passing. 

Ironically, about 6 weeks ago, while attending a baseball tournament my grandson, Ryan, was playing in, down in San Diego, California, I was told that Brett Boone was there, helping coach one of the participating teams, which came from all over the western United States.  I went over and introduced myself to him ... Ray Boone's grandson, and a pretty good ex-Major Leaguer himself.  I mentioned quickly my connection to his grandfather, Ray, during those precious years at the old ball park.  He was most ingratiating.

(Bill would have told me that , had it been Charley, he would have likely snarled at me, and told me to get lost.  I don't think so. )  

The Tigers have a pretty good team this year, and could go all the way.  But, even if they do, they won't hold a candle to any of these Tiger teams of the '50's ........ at least in my nostalgic mind.  Bill Tuttle has partly seen to that.   

                                                                Jim D.   ..............  (9/19/11)



May 1, 2012

Daniel Gould to Jim Driscoll


Hi JD; 
The first month of the season has come to an end...So let's see what the cards may or may not hold for the rest of the season.
The Cubs are off to a very slow start with an 8-15 record. But that stat is deceptive. There is much talent on the team and a couple of the players are rookies.
When Pujols and Prince Fielder were on the market, as free agents, Cub fans where hanging by their finger nails in anticipation that one of the two would be signed by the Cubs as their new first baseman. Both were rejected, the cost. The Cubs decided to go with a 29 year rookie---LaHair. Well, if April can be considered a legitimate measure of that decision, they appear to have done the right thing. Pujols has had no home runs as of yet for your beloved Angels and Fielder, now with Detroit, has three. LaHair has five and eight doubles. One hopes that he will keep up the pace.
Another rookie is Campana who started April in the minors but was called up a few weeks back. In 9 games he is hitting 370 and has 7 stolen bases.
Hold over's from last year: Castor is batting 333 with 30 hits and has 10 stolen bases. Barney is in a slump and batting 263.
The pitching looks great. Gazra has a record of 2-1 but that doesn't tell the whole story. He should be 4-0 with a little help from the offence. Yesterday, Monday, he pitched 7 innings, gave up one hit and didn't get the decision.
Samardzija (pitcher) is an interesting story. He was an all American wide receiver, at Notre Dame, but chose baseball over football. The Cub scouts saw something and decided he would make a good pitcher. He has now been in the organization for four, five or six years and has been on the fast track from the beginning. He is 2-1 this season (his first as a starter) and has pitched a couple superb games. He has finally got my attention.


Photo: Bill Tuttle