Who is this player? Tom Veryzer, shortstop, Cleveland Indians In what would be his last full season as a regular shortstop, Tom Veryzer of the Cleveland Indians posted one of the best batting averages of his career (.271). He missed over a month of playing time due to tendinitis in his shoulder, a condition that would ultimately lead to the end of his career. Despite the injury, Tom was fourth among AL shortstops in fielding percentage A likely highlight of the 1980 season came in May when the righthanded batting Veryzer rapped out three hits and drove home two in an Indians 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners.
The son of a Manhattan College basketball star, the Port Jefferson, New York native was a #1 selection by the Detroit Tigers in the 1971 amateur draft. He immediately showed promise when he was named MVP of the Appalachian League later that summer. He helped lead Double-A Montgomery to a league championship the following season and made his major league debut in 1973. He only appeared in a handful of games for the Tigers in 1973 and 1974 but nonetheless impressed the Detroit brass. The Tigers were so confident in Veryzer that they traded sure handed veteran Eddie Brinkman, clearing Tom's path to the major leagues.
He was the Tigers' Opening Day shortstop in 1975 and began the season slowly at the bat. Veryzer had a hot streak after the All-Star break, hitting .313 the final seven weeks of the campaign and earning a spot on the Topps All Rookie Team. He finished seventh in the league with a .960 fielding mark but it was his powerful throwing arm that impressed. It appeared that Tom would be the shortstop of the future in Detroit. Tiger hitting instructor Wayne Blackburn went so far to claim Veryzer was "the best hitting shortstop since Honus Wagner."
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Veryzer gained weight and was dogged by the Detroit press for having a pot belly. He slumped in 1976 and was even worse in 1977 when he batted a meager .197. With the emergence of Alan Trammell, Tiger management traded Veryzer to the Cleveland Indians on December 9, 1977. He found a fresh start in Cleveland, choked up on the bat and lost weight. He resulted in the best batting average of his career in 1978. He led the Tribe in games played and sacrifice hits the following season, but his batting average dropped 50 points.
By 1981, Tom's inconsistency at the plate and suspect arm saw him reduced to a part-time player for the first time. Cleveland traded him to the New York Mets in 1982 and New York shipped him off to the Chicago Cubs the following year. In his 12th and final season (1984), Veryzer appeared in the post-season as a member of the NL East Champion Cubs. He played in three games and the final game he ever appeared in was the decisive Game 5 that the Cubs lost 6-3. Veryzer returned to his native New York, where he works today for the Miller Place School District. Veryzer coaches high school athletics, where he led his squad to a league championship in 2009.
Why I love this card I never understood why the older kids liked Tom Veryzer. Sure he used to be a Tiger, but that didn't mean much to me. Things changed, however, when I traded this card for a 1977 Veryzer. Seeing the same guy in the hometown uniform on a card that was three years old turned me into a trader. Suddenly, I had a Tommy John with the Dodgers and Rod Carew with the Twins. Ah, to return to the days when trades had no regard to condition or value.
Something else.... In his rookie year, Veryzer broke up a Ken Holtzman no-hitter in the ninth inning. Had Holtzman accomplished the feat, it would have the third of his career. Only Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan would have had more. Also, check out the 1980 card of Veryzer's teammate Dave Rosello. I would have thought that they were the same:
On this date in 1980: St. Louis Cardinals' infielder Felipe Lopez was born on this date in 1980. Lopez was a 2005 National League All-Star as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
This blog is inspired by several influences; first, the other blogs dedicated to a single season of Topps sets and the folks at http://www.deanscards.com/, who provide a great resource of all years of cards (and from whom I stole the awesome header).
Mainly though, this blog is inspired by my Dad who during the summer of 1980, fully introduced me to the great game of baseball through these cards. Every one of these cards is somehow connected to a memory of that time.