The annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 12th in sunny San Diego. That’s Alan Trammell’s hometown.
Trammell went to the All-Star six times and was selected eight times. Each time he was named an All-Star, Tram deserved it. Given his stellar career, it’s not surprising that the former Detroit shortstop earned All-Star status several times.
But there have been some Detroit All-Stars who make you scratch your head a little. Not that they were terrible players — some were steady — but most fans wouldn’t expect that these players were named to the Midsummer Classic.
Here’s a quick rundown of ten unlikely Tiger All-Stars.
Vern Kennedy (SP, 1938)
Be honest, how many of you have ever even heard of Vern Kennedy? I didn’t think.
Kennedy is known for throwing the first no-hitter at Comiskaey Park. But he did that as a member of the White Sox, so it doesn’t explain why he made the All-Star team in 1938 with Detroit. In those days, the team was selected less based on how a player was doing in the first half than how well they were regarded in their era. But his first half that season tipped the scales in his favor for sure: Ol’ Vern started ’38 by winning his nine decisions, seven of them in complete games. But by the All-Star Game his record was 10-4 and the Tigs had placed him in their bullpen (his ERA was almost 5.00). AL manager Joe McCarthy did not use Kennedy in the All-Star Game.
Jerry Lumpe (2B, 1964)
In his prime, Lumpe was considered one of the better defensive middle infielders in baseball, but by the time Detroit acquired him before the 1964 season the 30-year old was nearing the end of the line. He’d never been an All-Star, but for some reason he must have impressed some folks in the American League with his play for the Bengals. He was hitting .268 with a grand total of one home run (and just 16 extra-base hits!) at the break, but Lumpe was named an All-Star along with teammates Bill Freehan and Al Kaline, who deserved the honor.
Don Wert (3B, 1968)
Sometimes the league or voters get carried away when a team is dominating the first half and they select an average player for All-Star status. Such was the case with Wert in ’68. The third baseman was a nice little ballplayer, and steady with the glove, but no star. He was hitting .220 at the break, and granted he was playing in an era when averages were low, but still.
Eddie Brinkman (SS, 1973)
Always one of the most brilliant defensive shortstops in the game, Brinkman was a valuable player. But he couldn’t hit a lick. Maybe he saved more runs than he cost his teams with his anemic bat, but it would take a super computer and Google-like algorithms to figure that out. In his defense (no pun intended), in 1973 Brinkman was having one of his better seasons with the lumber when the ASG rolled around. The rail-thin infielder was hitting .251 with 14 doubles and four homers at the break for Detroit, which earned him his first and only All-Star nod. Despite his greatness with the leather, Brinkman only won one Gold Glove in his career also.
Mike Henneman (RP, 1989)
As Dan D’Addona wrote recently, Henneman was the last of Detroit’s “old school” closers. But as solid as he was, he was never one of the elite relievers in his league. Still, in 1989 he was named an All-Star for some reason. His stats at the break: 5-2 with a 4.17 ERA and 65 baserunners in 45 1/3 innings. Henneman had only two saves at the break. of course the Tigers were dreadful in ’89 (that’s the year Sparky Anderson went home to California after having a nervous breakdown). The most worthy Tiger candidate for the All-Star team was Sweet Lou Whitaker, who had 18 home runs at the break, but he was passed over. Whitaker rarely got the respect he deserved.
David Wells (SP, 1995)
The rule is that every team must have at least one representative on the All-Star team. In 1995 the Tigers were pretty terrible but Wells was one of the few bright spots. In the first half, Boomer was 8-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 15 starts. Only three weeks after representing the Tigers at the All-Star Game, Wells was shipped to the Reds at the trade deadline.
Brad Ausmus (C, 1999)
Did you know the current Detroit manager was once an All-Star? True, in 1999, the final season for the team in Tiger Stadium, Ausmus was the lone representative for the Bengals in the Midsummer Classic. In the ASG, which was played at Fenway Park, Ausmus came in to replaced Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate, catching the last four innings of the AL’s 4-1 victory. It was the lone ASG selection for Ausmus, who played 18 years in the big leagues.
Dmitri Young (DH, 2003)
When you have a nickname like “Da Meat Hook,” you have to be an All-Star, right? Not really. Dmitri was a streaky hitter, and he was having a great first half when he earned his only All-Star selection as a Tiger in 2003, specifically as a power threat. The switch-hitter was batting .283 and had 18 homers at the break when he became the only Tiger named to the ’03 Game. Four years later he was hitting at the break for the Nats when he earned his second trip to the ASG.
Brandon Inge (3B, 2009)
A great nickname for Brandon Inge would be “The Little Engine That Thought He Could.” Supremely confident, even in the face of his own limitations, Inge was usually chirping about a lack of respect during his controversial tenure with the Tigers. In 2009 he had 21 home runs at the All-Star break, which convinced some people that he was All-Star worthy. The third baseman was voted to the team via the fan “final vote,” a gimmick created by MLB.com to get email addresses in their database. Inge reported to St. Louis for the ASG along with three teammates (more on that below). The plucky little Inge was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby and promptly laid an egg, hitting zero home runs. He got into the All-Star Game the following night and was 0-for-1 in the AL victory. Inge never sniffed another All-Star Game and he hit only eight home runs in the second half of 2009.
Edwin Jackson (SP, 2009)
One of Inge’s teammates in the 2009 All-Star Game was Edwin Jackson, a journeyman starting pitcher who somehow finagled a spot on the American League roster. The righty had a nifty 2.52 ERA at the break to go along with seven wins. He joined Inge, Justin Verlander, and Curtis Granderson as the Detroit contingent in the ASG and even got in to pitch an inning, pitching a 1-2-3 fifth for AL skipper Joe Maddon. Jackson won six games in the second half and his ERA ballooned. He was not welcomed back the following year and embarked on an odyssey that has seen him pitch for ten teams in 14 seasons. He’s still tossing the sphere — having appeared in eight games for the Marlins in 2016 (albeit now as a reliever). Jackson may be the most unlikely All-Star the Tigers have ever had. He’s never won more than 14 games and he has a career 88-108 record with an ERA approaching 4.50 in 348 games.