Thursday, November 11, 2010
A Veteran's Day salute to Mickey Lolich. Lolich was a popular Tiger player in during the 70s, partially as a result of his his 3 complete game wins in the 68 series. But there is more to Lolich's career than just those 3 games. Most people do not realize that at the time of his retirement in 1979 he held the record for most career strikeouts by a lefthander. He is now third on the list of lefties, behind Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson.
Lolich enjoyed a solid career in Detroit, as he is stil number 1 on the all time strikeout, shutout, and games started list. He is also number 3 in wins, games pitched, and innings pitched. Those career numbers are part of the reason that he was a fan favorite. When he was traded to the Mets in 1975 for Rusty Staub (who was a favorite of mine) he did not move his family to New York and decided to sit out the second year of his contract to be a free agent after the 77 season. Lolich remained in the Detroit area after retirement and opened a donut shop.
Lolich also served in the Air National Guard during the late 60s, having to meet his guard obligations during the season. In 1967, during the Detroit riots, he was called up to active duty for 15 days during the pennent race to patrol the streets of Detroit. During the 68 season he also had to work playing time around his guard obligations. That seems strange now as players do not have to worry about being drafted into service while playing ball, but that was a common practice during the 60s. Most military posts had baseball teams in the early 60s and if a baseball player was serving in the Army, odds are that he would be on the post baseball team.
Looking back at the career numbers for Lolich I do wonder why he did not seem to get a lot of support for the Hall of Fame. He had a high career strikeout total, but never won a Cy Young award. He did have 2 outstanding seasons (1971, 1972) and of course his one appearance in the World Series. IMO, his series performance is the first thing that you think about when you see his name. This is a case where one big event overshadows a solid career. Do I think he will ever be in the HOF? Reality tells me no, but he is in my personal HOF, along with Bill Freehan.
If you know a vetern make sure you take the time to thank them for their service to their country.