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In Memoriam 2017

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Assuming no one shuffles off this mortal coil today, here are the people associated with the Tigers who passed away in 2017:

Walt Streuli (Jan. 19, 81) played in 6 total games for the Tigers in the 1954-1956 seasons, batting .250 with 2 RBI in 12 at bats as a catcher.  Of his three career hits, two were doubles.  Sent to the minors at the May cut in 1956, he would never play in the majors again.  Done with baseball by 1957, Streuli did not appear in the majors with any other team.

 Mike Ilitch (Feb. 10, 87) owned the Tigers from 1992 until his death.  For the first half of his ownership tenure, the team languished at or near the bottom of the American League with low payrolls and bad pitching, bottoming out in 2003 with the worst record in AL history.  However, Ilitch soon opened his wallet for the team, pouring tens of millions of dollars into lucrative player contracts as the Tigers became one of the top teams in the league, competing for the AL pennant on a regular basis.  Ilitch’s death left the Tigers in the hands of his son Chris Ilitch, who soon began shedding veteran players to cut payroll.  At the time of his death, Ilitch was ranked as the 86th richest man in America, with a net worth of just over $6.1 billion.

Ned Garver (Feb. 26, 91) pitched for the Tigers from 1952-1956, going 38-40 with a 3.68 ERA and 2 saves in 105 games, 94 of them starts.  The team’s Opening Day starter in 1953 and 1955, he led the American League in both hits given up and earned runs in 1955.  A solid hitter for a pitcher, he finished with a career batting average of .218 and batted as high as sixth in the lineup.  Garver also appeared in the majors with the St. Louis Browns, Kansas City Athletics, and Los Angeles Angels.

Bob Bruce (Mar. 14, 83) pitched for the Tigers from 1959-1961, going 5-10 with a 3.97 ERA in 50 total games, 22 of them starts.  His best game came on August 15, 1960, when he threw a complete game 2-hitter against the White Sox, leading the Tigers to a 4-1 victory.  Following the 1961 season, during which he was rarely used, he was traded to Houston.  Bruce also appeared in the majors with the Houston Colt .45s/Astros and Atlanta Braves.

Ed Mierkowicz (May 19, 93) played for the Tigers in 1945 and again from 1947-1948, appearing in 34 total games and batting .177 with 1 home run as an outfielder.  Drafted by the US Army after graduating from high school in 1942, he was discharged without seeing service after rheumatic fever.  He was the last surviving member of the 1945 World Series champion team, playing in the 9th inning of Game 7 as a defensive replacement.  Mierkowicz also appeared in the majors with the Cardinals.

Jim Bunning (May 26, 85) pitched for the Tigers from 1955-1963, going 118-87 with a 3.45 ERA and 12 saves in 304 games, 251 of them starts.  A five-time All-Star with the Tigers, he twice led the American League in strikeouts and ranks sixth in team history with 1,406 in his nine seasons.  On July 20, 1958, he pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox, walking two batters while striking out 12.  Despite being one of the best pitchers in baseball, he was included in a four-player trade with Philadelphia, one of the worst trades in team history, as the return for the Tigers was far less valuable than Bunning’s contributions to the Phillies.  Following his playing career, Bunning entered politics, serving in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate as a Republican from Kentucky.  One of the most conservative senators in recent memory, he was regularly ranked among the worst, least productive members of the senate and was criticized for frequently blocking legislation and for his combative, mean-spirited behavior toward any colleague with whom he disagreed.  Prone to angry outbursts and accused of discrimination against racial and sexual minorities, he chose not to seek re-election in 2010, blaming his fellow Republicans and House leader Mitch McConnell in particular for not being conservative enough.  Elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans’ committee in 1996, Bunning also appeared in the majors with the Phillies, Pirates, and Dodgers.

Gene Michael (Sep. 7, 79) played for the Tigers in 1975, batting .214 with 3 home runs and 13 RBI in 56 games in his final MLB season.  Much better known for his time playing for the New York Yankees, he continued his relationship with New York after his playing career, serving as both manager and general manager.  During his time as the Yankees' GM, he signed or acquired most of the players of the Yankees 1990s and 2000s dynasty, including Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill, and Bernie Williams.  Michael also appeared in the majors with the Pirates, Dodgers, and Yankees.

Jim Donohue (Sep. 9, 79) pitched for the Tigers in 1961, going 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA and 1 save in 14 games, all in relief.  Selected from Los Angeles in the Rule V draft after the 1960 season, he made his MLB debut as a reliever on Opening Day after making the team out of spring training.  His only Tigers win and only Tigers save came on the same day, as he recorded a save in the first game of a doubleheader against the Angels before coming in for the 11th inning of the second game and being credited as the winning pitcher with a Dick Brown single pushing across the winning run in the bottom of the frame.  On June 7, Donohue was traded to those same Angels in exchange for fellow reliever Jerry Casale, ending his Tigers tenure.  Donohue also appeared in the majors with the Angels and Twins.

Jim Landis (Oct. 7, 83) played for the Tigers in 1967, one of three teams he played for that season, appearing in 25 games and batting .208 with 2 home runs as a utility outfielder.  A winner of five consecutive Gold Glove awards with Chicago, Landis also appeared in the majors with the White Sox, Athletics, Indians, Astros, and Red Sox.

Dick Gernert (Nov. 30, 89) played for the Tigers from 1960-1961, batting .291 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in 27 total games as an outfielder and first baseman.  Purchased from the Cubs for the final month of the 1960 season, he was traded to Cincinnati early in the 1961 season in exchange for infielder Jim Baumer, who never played for the Tigers.  A longtime coach and scout following his playing career, Gernert also appeared in the majors with the Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, and Houston Colt .45s.

Frank Lary (Dec. 13, 87) pitched for the Tigers from 1954-1964, going 123-110 with a 3.46 ERA in 304 games.  Nicknamed “The Yankee Killer”, he racked up a 27-10 record against the powerhouse New York Yankee teams of the 1950s and 60s.  His prowess against them was so noted that Yankees manager Casey Stengel rearranged his pitching order so as not to waste Whitey Ford against the Tigers, telling reporters “If Lary is going to beat us anyway, why should I waste my best pitcher?”  A two-time All-Star with the Tigers, he was twice a 20-game winner, leading the American League in wins in 1956.  He also led the league in complete games and innings pitched three times each.  The heavy workload took its toll, and he was much less effective later in his career after suffering shoulder and elbow injuries.  Lary also appeared in the majors with the Mets, Braves, and White Sox.

Doug Gallagher (Dec. 17, 77)  pitched in 9 games for the 1962 Tigers, going 0-4 with a 4.68 ERA and 1 save.  He made the team's Opening Day roster as a 22-year-old reliever in '62, having worked his way through the team's minor league system after being picked up as an unsigned free agent just days after his high school graduation in 1958.  Infrequently used out of the bullpen by manager Bob Scheffing, Gallagher was sent to the AAA Denver Bears after being scored upon in all four of his May appearances.  He returned to the majors for single relief appearance as a September call-up, after which he was never again seen in a major league uniform.

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21 hours ago, BoomGaspar said:

Prone to angry outbursts and accused of discrimination against racial and sexual minorities, he chose not to seek re-election in 2010, blaming his fellow Republicans and House leader Mitch McConnell in particular for not being conservative enough

In retrospect you have to wonder if the virtual dumping of Jim Bunning was in part driven by him being a jerk? It was only a couple of years into Fetzer's ownership and maybe he had rubbed him the wrong way. Then again, they didn't dump Frank Lary.

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