Tom Veryzer was drafted by the Tigers in the first round in 1971, and also played for the Indians, Mets and Cubs before retiring after he was cut in spring training in 1985. (Associated Press)
Detroit — Tom Veryzer, the man who preceded Alan Trammell as Tigers shortstop, passed away this week at the age of 61.
Veryzer suffered a stroke last week at his home in Long Island, N.Y., and died Tuesday, the Tigers confirmed.
Drafted by the Tigers in the first round in 1971, there were high hopes for the slick-fielding shortstop out of Islip High School in New York.
They never quite materialized though. While he had an RBI single in his first major-league at-bat, he batted .231 in five years with Detroit, after debuting in 1973. Then, convinced they had their shortstop of the future in Trammell, the Tigers traded Veryzer to the Indians in December 1977.
He spent four years with Cleveland, one with the Mets and two with the Cubs before retiring after he was cut in spring training 1985.
Interestingly, Veryzer’s last major-league appearance could’ve come against the Tigers in the 1984 World Series, but the Cubs blew a 2-0 series lead to the eventual National League champion Padres.
That was the only time Veryzer made the postseason.
Injuries limited Veryzer’s career, but so did competition. In Detroit, his tenure was sandwiched between shortstops Eddie Brinkman and Trammell. He competed with Ron Gardenhire and Wally Backman for playing time with the Mets, and with Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg for playing time with the Cubs.
The emergence of Shawon Dunston eventually squeezed him out of the Cubs system.
One of the highlights of Veryzer’s career came May 15, 1981. The Indians shortstop that day, he made a great play on Toronto’s Alfredo Griffin grounder up the middle, and recorded the out. Cleveland’s pitcher that day, Len Barker, retired the next 26 men for a perfect game.
For his 12-year major-league career, Veryzer batted .241 with 231 runs batted in over 996 games.
And while he only hit 14 career homers, his first one was one to remember — a walk-off shot off Milwaukee’s Tom Murphy at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 12, 1974.
Veryzer’s older brother, James, also was an outfielder in the Tigers system, briefly in 1971-72.
Veryzer is survived by his wife Vivian, and children Tom Jr., Billy and Jenny.
The viewing for Veryzer will be from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Overton Funeral Home in Islip, N.Y. A service will be held at 9:45 a.m. Friday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in East Islip, N.Y.