Walt Terrell: A Detroit pitcher for seven years, a Tiger for life

When I learned that I would have a chance to chat with former Detroit Tigers pitcher Walt Terrell, I was mulling in my mind where he fit in on the rotation in 1984 when the Tigers won the world championship.

I knew Jack Morris was the ace with an early-season no-hitter under his belt with Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox following Morris in the rotation. Then my mind hit a wall and I had to look it up.

Oops, Terrell didn’t show up until 1985. The 1984 rotation also included Dave Rozema and, at times, Juan Berenguer.

Terrell was part of a 1985 rotation that included Morris, Petry Frank Tanana and, at times, Berenguer and Randy O’Neal.

Before Friday night’s West Michigan Whitecaps’ game, the final “Tiger Night” of the 2013 season, Terrell chatted about his 11-year career that included two separate stints (and seven years) with the Tigers.

“When people have asked me about the different places I have played, I tell them Tigers’ fans were unique,” Terrell said. “I’ve always enjoyed the fun and the interaction with them.”

In his 11 seasons, which began in 1982 with the New York Mets, Terrell fashioned a 111-124 record with a 4.22 earned run average. With Detroit, Terrell was 79-76 and 4.26.

“I’m not sure (the 1985 staff) compares with this year’s Tigers,” Terrell responded to a question. “This group (with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibel Sanchez and Rick Porcello) throws a whole lot harder than we ever did. That’s very tough to hit.

“Don’t get me wrong, our guys were pretty good, but these guys are awfully, awfully good.”

Terrell did not express any regrets about joining moving to Detroit a year after the championship celebration.

“I’m happy the ’84 Tigers won and I wish the ’84 Mets could have won,” Terrell said. “But my career was what it was and I’m happy. I’m one of the most fortunate people to have walked the face of the earth.”

Oh, there were some highlights.

“My first day in the big leagues when I joined the Mets, without a doubt, is a highlight,” Terrell said with a wistful look of longing on his face. “We were in St. Louis. That’s probably the biggest one.”

He also remembers his first start, but it might not necessarily qualify as a “highlight.”

“The first game I pitched was against the Cardinals in St. Louis,” he recalled. “I can’t remember every pitch, but I remember the first six because they were all balls. (Laughing). I remember thinking if I didn’t throw a strike, there might not be a seventh pitch.

“I hit two homes runs in Chicago (Wrigley Field) one day, so that would probably be a third.”

We should also note that Terrell only had one other career home run. He had a career batting average of .120 (23 for 192).

When he was reminded that he gave up the very first of Mark McGwire’s 583 career home runs (Milwaukee’s Rocky Coppinger gave up the last, in case anyone cares), Terrell laughed.

“The younger guys all remember stuff like that,” he said. “But I hit a few other bats, too (187 total, to be exact).”

He was at his comedic best when asked to compare pitchers of today with those of his generation.

“Look at them,” he said, pointing towards the Whitecaps’ bullpen. “The ones I saw out here earlier today are all about three to four inches taller than I am (Terrell is 6-2, 205), their arms are about six inches longer than mine and none of them have beer guts.” 

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Who you gonna call?

(This is a short one, intended for my friends and “fans” who are not on Facebook.)

I just had an epiphany of sorts. Certain groups are crying out that we have too much government involvement in our lives. Other groups are crying out that we don’t want God or religion in our public schools. Yet when there is a major crisis of any kind — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods — who are the first two entities we turn to for help? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the guys from Ghostbusters.)

Can you hear the sounds of silence?

The next time you lie down in bed to go to sleep, try not to go to sleep for a few minutes. It’s kind of an out-of-body biofeedback kind of thing, but just lie there with your head on your pillow – preferably while lying on your back – and just listen. Listen to everything that’s going on around you.

That light clunking, whirring sound coming from above? Oh, yeah, it’s the ceiling fan. I forgot my wife turned it on to keep the air circulating in the bedroom.

What’s that humming sound coming from the other room? Um, right, it’s the refrigerator. We were given a new one recently by our son and daughter-in-law for a Mother’s Day present and we’re still not quite used to the sound it makes when the compressor kicks on. My wife also told me that when I open the refrigerator door while she is still awake, she can hear a little clunk where it twists on its hinges.

I hear a train whistle in the distance. Ahhh, what a lovely sound coming from the tracks a few hundred yards from our house. It reminds me of my childhood when the house I grew up in was located just across a two-lane dirt road. We would hear not only the train whistle, but feel the rumbling of the engine and the cars as the train powered up for a trek south to places like Saugatuck and Fennville and Kalamazoo or even farther, maybe to Chicago or somewhere out west.

We have family staying in our basement. Sometimes I can hear the water running when one of them gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or to get a drink. Our basement steps creak, so I can hear my son in the morning when he comes up for breakfast. I can click off in my mind what he’s doing just by the sounds. He’s pouring water into the coffeemaker, now he’s adding the grounds and … click, it’s on! There’s a ching, pop as he pushed the toaster handle down and the bread comes up. A cupboard door opens and closes as he retrieves a jar of peanut butter. Oops, coffee’s ready, time to pour the stuff into his travel mug and snap on the lid.

Well, you get the drill.

Recently, however, we spent a couple of nights without any of those sounds. My wife and I drove about 90 minutes down to Union City, Michigan where we stayed two nights in the Victorian Villa Inn, a Bed & Breakfast that was running a special weeknight deal of $90 per night, Monday through Thursday. It was a beautiful place, three stories of restored magnificence with gorgeous oak wood throughout and a Sherlock Holmes-themed interior. Union City is a small town, so it didn’t take us long to walk through downtown and visit the cute little shops. The Daily Grind is a coffee shop owned by the B&B people, so we had two breakfasts there. Free. The morning of the full day we stayed there, I drove to nearby Burlington to play golf at the Turtle Creek Golf Course. Nice. It was just down the road from the Turtle Creek Naturist Resort, but we chose not to visit the nudists. I even fished a couple of times on the St. Joseph River, just downstream from the dam. There was a full moon, but no fish. Still, it was beautiful. And relaxing.

What will remain etched in my mind for some time, though, but perhaps not in my ears, is what I experienced each of the two nights we stayed in what once was the carriage house behind the Bed and Breakfast. We left the door and one window open and even turned the ceiling fan on low.

As I was lying in bed Tuesday evening, in the room that was nearly dark (the shade trees prevented the moonlight from getting through), I nudged my wife with my elbow and whispered: “Do you hear that?”

“No,” she replied. “What?”

“Exactly,” I said. “Absolutely nothing.”

It was the best night of sleep we had in a long time.

Former Tiger Enos Cabell not afraid to speak his mind

One of the perks of my job as a sportswriter is the chance to interview somewhat famous people from time to time. I’m not sure Enos Cabell, a former Detroit Tiger who actually spent more seasons with the Houston baseball team and currently works in the front office for the Astros, would qualify as “famous,” but he did make a pretty good living hitting a baseball.

He was a member of three teams that made it to the division finals during his 15-year career, though he failed to taste the sweet taste of the World Series. He played for Detroit in 1982 and 1983, but re-signed with Houston as a free agent after 1983, missing by one season the Tigers’ World Series championship.

“That was only because I wanted a raise,” Cabell told me a couple of weeks ago when I chatted with him prior to his appearance at a West Michigan Whitecaps’ game. “If you go back and think about it, I was probably one of the highest paid players on the team at the time. All the kids had just arrived … (Alan) Trammell, Jack Morris, all those guys were there. I understand why (they didn’t resign me), but at the moment, I hit .311 and I played really well. We probably would have won (the division) if Baltimore hadn’t played so well.”

At THIS moment, however, most of the talk around baseball is around steroids and performance enhancing drugs. Cabell is something of an expert in that regard. In February, 1986, Cabell was one of seven players, including well-knowns Dave Parker and Keith Hernandez, who were suspended after admitting to using cocaine. They were allowed to play that season, however, by agreeing to donate 10-percent of their salaries to drug-related community service, submitting to random drug testing and doing 100 hours of drug-related community service.

“(Drugs) do help,” Cabell said with we chatted about Alex Rodriguez and many of the other players who were suspended by Major League Baseball. “Look at some of the numbers some of these guys are posting. The record books have gone to hell the last 10 years.”

Rodriguez, aka ARod, among others, was suspended for the rest of this season, but for 2014 as well. Cabell doesn’t think that suspension will stick.

“He admitted (to using PEDs), but he never failed a drug test,” Cabell said. “The basic agreement (between players and owners) says you can’t suspend anyone for more than 100 days. They all signed it, so I think it will be reduced to 100 days. Bud (Selig, baseball’s commissioner) can’t go ahead and overturn an agreement that everybody signed.”

It’s time to exonerate Pete Rose

“We did it in my usual slow process, but a good one.”

Those was a comment in USA Today recently from Major League Baseball commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig after a majority of the team owners approved the use of television instant replay for nearly every questionable play, but not for balls and strikes.

 

“I made mistakes. I can’t whine about it. I’m the one that messed up and I’m paying the consequences. However, if I am given a second chance, I won’t need a third chance. And to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance. They haven’t given too many gamblers a second chances in the world of baseball.”

Those were comments baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, made to a Pittsburgh radio station recently when he was called for comments about the steroid-related suspensions of a number of Major League Baseball players, including Texas Rangers’ outfielder Nelson Cruz and Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

 

Now let me make a comment. Pete Rose’s banishment from baseball has been going on since, oh, what seems like forever while the argument about using instant replay for the so-called questionable plays is, in perspective, a relatively new issue.

So, why did Bud Selig call his instant-replay revelation a “slow process, but a good one” when he’s been dragging Pete Rose through the mud since 1989.

Yes, I’ll admit, I’m a Pete Rose fan. I’ve been a fan of the Cincinnati Reds since the early 1970s when my older brother, John, lived in Los Angeles and he would call and tell me that Sandy Koufax was pitching or Don Drysdale was pitching and he was on his way to Chavez Ravine. So I decided I might as well pick a National League team to like and since Cincinnati is relatively (speaking) close to West Michigan, I chose them. That was about when Rose and Joe Morgan and Tony Perez and Davey Concepcion and Fred Norman were making their way to stardom, so it turned out to be a pretty good choice.

But those days are done, as are the days of no instant replay and of Pete Rose’s gambling.

So, Bud Selig, I implore you. For the good of baseball and for a deserving spot in the Hall of Fame, exonerate Mr. Pete Rose. How long does he have to wait? How long do WE have to wait?

A little bit more about myself … if you care

I’ve been working as a sports journalist since the early 1980s, shortly after I graduated from college. That, in itself, was an adventure as I began my studies in the winter term (back than Grand Valley State College, which is now a university, had 10-week terms), which meant I ended my four years at the end of the fall term … which meant I had to wait some six months for the graduation ceremony. “You’re going to walk,” my wife told me. “We spent a lot of money to get this degree, so you’re going to walk.”

I did walk, but it was not the smoothest of graduation ceremonies. Back then, Grand Valley State was making a transition in sports from an NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) to an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) school. One of their goals, which has since happened, was to become a national football power. To do that, about the time I was going to walk, the school expanded its football field into more of a stadium, thereby lending credibility to its program. To dedicate the new stadium, my class was going to be the first to walk on the field for the graduation ceremony with hundreds of friends and family in the bleachers. Watching. Cheering.

Not quite.

That morning, a heavy-duty, early-summer Michigan storm blew through the area, effectively flooding the field and forcing the graduation ceremony indoors in the Louis Armstrong Theatre that season, oh, maybe 150 people. That was us, the graduates. The family and friends ended up watching the ceremony on closed-circuit television from the fieldhouse which was almost on the other side of campus. So, my wife and parents got to see me walk, but that was about all they saw. They didn’t get to see me wave to them or anything.

Just think, I could have slept it.

Let the sun (son) shine in your life

(August 11, 2013)

“We are a holy nation, set apart for You. We are take Your light to every nation, tongue and  tribe, so they may see your glory shining through our lives.

“You have called us out of darkness, out of darkness into Your marvellous light. You have saved us from the darkness, we rejoice in Your power and might.”

 

We sang this song this morning in our church. As usual, it was met with good response. But between the morning sound check and final run-through and the actual service when we sang, I was running images of “Your light” through my brain, trying to comprehend what that really means.

Then it hit me.

My older brother once told me a story about how he and his brothers-in-law, on his wife’s side, once spent a week at deer camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a time of year when there was a new moon: in other words, the time of month when there is no reflection of the sun off the lunar surface at all.

My brother told me it got so dark that he could hold his hand in front of his face and not see anything until someone would light a match or turn on a flashlight or a lantern.

My mind also conjured up the image of someone — me, perhaps — walking through the house following a power outage. These days, when I wake up in the middle of night night, I can see the LED alarm clock next to my bed, the reflection of the night light in the bathroom and even the flashing lights of the wireless modem down the hall in the living room. That all goes away, of course, when the power goes out.

Then I got to thinking of walking through the house with a flashlight. Our natural instinct is to shine the light on the floor or just a few feet ahead to see where we’re going. I have learned, however, that shining the flashlight on the ceiling brightens up our path a lot better than the other way, that the light reflecting off the ceiling kind acts like the sun shining about us in the sky on a cloudless day.

Or, in this case, we might view that light as the reflection of the Son shining down on us from above. And that makes me smile.