Lynn Henning has returned from fishing in Manitoba, Canada — so we might as well ’fess up right away.
Gage: We talked about you while you were gone, Lynn. Welcome back, by the way.
Tony Paul and I said we were looking forward to the minnows-and-chips dinners you were going to fix for us with your Manitoba catch.
But now you’re going to tell us they weren’t minnows, right? You’re going to tell us you caught everything from pike to pompano, from smallmouth to largemouth to Chilean sea bass, right?
And you have the menus, I mean the photos to prove it, I’m sure.
Henning: Yes, photos and an account of last week’s adventure appeared in Friday’s Detroit News, which, in this case, was happy to tell a fish story. Pompano and sea bass are a bit tough to come by in Manitoba, but am headed to the Florida Keys in November. Will chase some saltwater friends there. Doubt any fish are quaking.
G: Were you able to pay attention to the Tigers where you were? They still step in a pothole once in a while, as they did with Tampa Bay, but are they out of the woods for the rest of the year as far as deep downswings? I mean, could yet another 9-20 happen?
H: No contact with civilization for five days, and it was kind of nice. Caught up later with the box scores. So many things have changed, so fast, with this team. J.D. Martinez and Eugenio Suarez have really, dramatically, flipped Brad Ausmus’ lineup and what it can do against good pitching. But I think the bullpen’s sudden stability is just as much the story. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan — you can see that, in fact, an arm-slot breakdown was behind Nathan’s nosedive — have nailed down those late innings. What a turnaround.
G: What do you remember about the late Tom Veryzer? I got to know him a little bit in 1976 and liked him, plus his teammates liked him, but he loved to stay out of the spotlight, didn’t he?
H: Oh, my. The most shy and introverted player who perhaps has worn a Tigers uniform in the past 40 years. He was a good soul, a nice kid with a Long Island lilt, but so painfully inhibited. I remember Ernie Harwell interviewing him one night on the pregame show and Ernie never, ever, worked as hard to save a conversation. More to the point, he never quite delivered on talent that scouts early on thought was exceptional. Sad story, it seemed, on so many fronts.
G: Jim Leyland was upset to learn about Veryzer, who was only 61 at the time of his death. It has to be difficult to remember players as the young men they were, only to hear they died far too early — such as Fidrych and Veryzer.
H: So true. You look at all the Tigers who left us early: Norm Cash, Joe Sparma, Ray Oyler, Fidrych and Veryzer, and it brings a chilling dimension to that word “mortality.” These are men we regarded as the essence of health and longevity. And then they remind us of how quickly life can cease. Tough moments, for all.
G: This looks like a question with an obvious answer and maybe it is, but who has solidified this lineup more? Outfielder J.D. Martinez or shortstop Eugenio Suarez?
H: Ah, I think Martinez has the edge because of his game-breaking bat. Suarez has been the infield’s dab of glue — because he is such an impressive two-way rookie — but in terms of scaring pitchers and busting up innings and games, I have to go with Martinez.
G: Is the All-Star Game must-see TV for you?
H: It used to be. Remember, as kids, before cable, when the only chance we got to see these National League stars was at the All-Star Game or World Series? Now, the mystique is gone, and the Home Run Derby is tiresome (for me, anyway) and I frankly have marginal interest in the game. I confess to being spoiled.
G: Non-baseball question now: I was interested in where LeBron James signed, true or false?
H: I admit: Very interested. And I was very hopeful he would sign with the Cavaliers. I wanted that LeBron-Cleveland reunion. And we got it. Great story — The Prodigal Son in basketball togs.
G: Now for my opinions. What? We’re out of time again?