This date in baseball history.
On July 13, 1974, Aurelio Rodriguez’s fourth-inning single broke a 2-2 tie, propelling the visiting Detroit Tigers to an 8-2 win over the homestanding Kansas City Royals.
Woody Fryman (4-5) went the distance to pick up the win for the Tigers, scattering 12 hits and two walks while striking out five. Starter Paul Splittorff gave up four runs, all earned, over 3.1 innings, falling to 9-9. Splittorff gave up eight hits and a pair of walks before being replaced by Al Fitzmorris, who gave up the remaining four runs in 3.2 innings.
The Rodriguez ground ball single to center plated Marv Lane, who had led off the fourth with a single and then stole second. Lane advanced to third when Splittorff’s errant pickoff throw ended up in center. Rodriguez would advance to third on a single to right by weak-hitting Ed Brinkman, scoring on a Mickey Stanley sacrifice fly that made the score 4-2. (Aside: Rodriguez is the answer to a great trivia question – he’s the first player in MLB history to use all five vowels in his first name. Ed Figueroa is the first to use all five vowels in his last name. I don’t know if there’s been a second in either case.)
The Tigers opened the scoring in the first when Stanley led off with a double. After a pair of strikeouts, Bill Freehan crushed his fourth homer of the season on a shot to left. The Royals knotted the score in the third when Kurt Bevacqua reached on an infield single and then scored on Cookie Rojas’s inside-the-park home run to left.
Detroit extended the lead in the fifth, keyed by a two-run triple from Lane that scored Freehan and Dick Sharon. Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-2. Detroit closed the scoring in the seventh when Freehan scored on a Fitzmorris wild pitch. Freehan had reached on an error, stole second and advanced to third when catcher Fran Healy’s throw went into center.
Lane finished with four hits in four trips to the plate, with two stolen bases to go with his two-run triple. Freehan had a single alongside his homer, scoring thrice and driving in two.
Everyone in the Tiger lineup had at least one hit, except future Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who struck out twice in his five trips to the plate. Kaline would join the 3,000 Hit Club later in this, his final season, finishing with 3007. With 13 homers on the season, he fell one short of joining the 400 Home Run Club. (Aside: Kaline holds notoriety in our house – my baseball-loving son missed “alkaline” to be eliminated from the county spelling bee.)
At the other end of his career, rookie Royal third baseman George Brett had the night off. His replacement, Bevacqua went three for five from the leadoff spot, improving his average to .167. Bevacqua would go on to fame as the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Champ, earning his way on to a 1976 baseball card celebrating the feat. For the Royals, Hal McRae had a double and two singles. Rojas had a single to go along with his homer and Amos Otis had two singles.
Just another ho-hum midseason game between teams that would finish fifth (KC) and sixth in their divisions, right?
Not so, my TD friends. Sitting amidst the 25,834 fans in 97 degree heat was an eight-year-old IT, taking in his first-ever major league baseball game. He, his parents and his 14-year-old brother were visiting his dad’s oldest brother in Kansas City, and the businessman uncle had procured four tickets for the family. Regretfully, I don’t have the ticket stub, but in looking at the map of Royal Stadium, as it was then called, my hunch is that we were somewhere near the back of section 115 or 116, just beyond the third-base turf cutout and painted infield arc, perhaps in the area I circled above.
And why does Marty Pattin rock? After all, he didn’t even get into the game. Well, prior to the contest, IT and his brother made their way down to the rail by the dugout. Nearing the end of an impromptu autograph session, older brother found his way to the front of the herd, where Pattin used a borrowed pen to add his autograph to the thumb of the red baseball glove IT would wear with pride throughout Pee Wee and Little League baseball. Regretfully, the glove either didn’t survive our last move or is boxed up in the basement. Pattin had 224 starts in a 475-game career. Most would describe him as a journeyman, but he’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
Speaking of special places in my heart, my mom turned 90 on Monday. I give her and Dad huge props. Mom grew up Amish, and both concluded school at eighth grade, but they encouraged me (especially Mom) toward college. Though Dad loved competing (he competed in the World Ploughing Contest, a worthy story in its own right), neither were sports fans beyond going to local high school events well into their 80s. They knew their youngest had an insatiable passion for baseball, however, and allowed him to live into it.
After Dad died about 20 months ago and Mom moved to the retirement home, I became the recipient of the diaries that Mom kept from 1957 until late in 2019, when her Alzheimer’s made it impossible to continue. The entry for July 13, 1974 includes, “(For) the big event of the day, we went to the Major League baseball game between Kansas City Royals and Detroit. Boys thought it was great.”
Yes, I did, Mom. Thank you.