Former Tigers shortstop Tom Veryzer dead at 61

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Veryzer, the shortstop who bridged the Eddie Brinkman and Alan Trammell eras for the Tigers, has passed away at the far too young age of 61.

Tom Veryzer, who spent three seasons as the Detroit Tigers starting shortstop in the mid-70s, passed away July 8 at the age of 61. He never recovered from a recent stroke. Veryzer had a 12-year major league career, spending his first five seasons with the Tigers. He also played for the Indians, Mets and Cubs before his career came to an end after the 1984 season.

For an older segment of the Tigers fan base, Veryzer, along with players such as Dan Meyer, Leon Roberts, and Bruce Kimm , will be remembered as part of the first wave of Detroit prospects who would bridge the gap between the dismantling of the 1968 World Champions and the building of the 1984 World Championship team.

As the team was moving on from the last remaining players who were part of the 1968 World Series and 1972 East Division winners, Veryzer was an integral part of the rebuilding process. Groomed to replace Brinkman, Veryzer had cups of coffee with the big club in both 1973 and 1974. The Tigers traded Brinkman after the 1974 season,  making a 22-year-old Veryzer Detroit's full-time shortstop in 1975.

Known far more for his glove than his bat, Veryzer spent three seasons as the Tigers' primary shortstop. But he never hit better than the .252/.297/.327, five home runs and 44 RBI he posted in his rookie season. With top prospect Trammell on track to be Detroit's starting shortstop in 1978, Veryzer was dealt to the Indians for outfielder Charlie Spikes.

Spikes would play just ten games for the Tigers, while Veryzer would go on to be the Indians' starting shortstop for the next three seasons. Veryzer would finish his career as a backup infielder for the Mets and Cubs. His last games as a big leaguer were also his only playoff appearances, playing in three games of the 1984 NLCS. The Cubs released Veryzer the end of spring training in 1985, ending his career.

In 12 MLB seasons, Veryzer appeared in 996 games, 390 as a member of the Tigers.

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