Former big league shortstop Tom Veryzer passed away yesterday of complications of a stroke. He was 61.
A native of Long Island, Veryzer was the number one draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1971. He would make his big league debut with the Tigers late in the 1973 season. Veryzer would become the Tigers everyday shortstop in 1975 and would remain in that capacity for three seasons. He was a classic good field, no hit player who had the added trouble of not being able to stay healthy. After hitting only .197 in 1977, Veryzer was traded to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Charlie Spikes to make room at short for none other than Alan Trammell.
Veryzer would play four seasons with the Indians as their number one shortstop hitting a career high .271 in both 1978 and 1980. In 1982, the Indians dealt Veryzer to the New York Mets for pitcher Ray Searage (who is currently the pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates). He would be relegated as a backup infielder with the Mets and his final two big league seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Veryzer would make his only post-season appearance with the Cubs in 1984 and then retired. In all, Veryzer played 996 games over 12 seasons finishing wih a .241 lifetime batting average with 14 HR and 231 RBI. He also had a career fielding percentage of .966. His career highlights including getting the last hit in old Yankee Stadium before it was closed for renovations, broke up a no-hitter attempt by Ken Holtzman and was on the field when Len Barker tossed a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
More than anything else, I remember Veryzer because he was among the very first baseball cards I ever owned.