Steve Searcy – 1989 Score

September 13, 2010

“All of my rookie cards & $4.75 will get me a Caramel Frappuccino”

I started collecting again this year, and I’ve already completed the two sets (well, as complete as I want them, 2010 Topps base and 1988 Topps) and one the way to more. Since the junk wax era collides nicely with the zenith of my baseball interest I often migrate to cards of this era.

Well, that and they’re pretty cheap…

I have received multiple cards of many gentlemen (I think I had 9 of the 1987 Topps Duane Ward) but Steve Searcy kept coming to me in various brands. Most all of them said “Future Star”, “Rated Rookie, “Kick Ass Ninja Warrior” (well…maybe not).

Anyway, baseball card companies were high on Mr. Searcy.

And why not? In 1986 he had a good year in AA Glens Falls. In 1988 he went 13-7 for Toledo. He probably was on track to hit the big club in 1988 had he not gotten the Wilbur Wood treatment in 1987 (i.e. fractured kneecap). Actually, had Searcy not had that injury, it could have been him and not John Smoltz that went to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander.

Wrap your head around that for a minute – how many things would have changed in baseball if it was Searcy for Alexander, and not Smoltz. Yikes – maybe the Cubs would have won the World Series? Maybe the Yankees and Pirates would have changed courses? Right would be left. Lenny Dykstra would be financially solvent. Chip Caray wouldn’t have said ‘fisted’ after every ball hit in the 2009 post-season.

That was a great season in 1988. More K’s than IP, 131 hits in 170 innings. He did walk 4.2 per 9, but still, with a bit more control, the sky was the limit.

Of course, the 1989 season was a disaster for the Tigers, in more ways than one. And it wasn’t too good for Steve.  That was the year Torey Lovullo was going to break through! Instead, that was the year Mike Brumley got 230 at bats with OBP and SLG under .300. And while the narrative is non-existent around the internet, Searcy went all the way down to Class A during the year.

He was rotten at Toledo (2-3, 7.54) and made some start to get his stuff together in Lakeland. He did come up to the bigs in 1989 for the stretch run, but the bloom was off the rose (1-1, 6.04 in 22 1/3 innings).

He did get called up to Detroit in mid-season 1990 and made the team out of spring training in 1991. It wasn’t pretty, and he was DFA’d by Detroit. The Phillies signed him three days later and he closed out the year with them. Overall, he was 3-3 with a 6.59, and went from ‘hot prospect’ to ‘pitching for his life’ in two seasons. He made the Phils out of spring training in 1992, but was hit hard a couple of times, then traded to LA for Stan Javier. He finished his career the next year in Rochester after the Dodgers dumped him, and after being released by the Red Wings he went fishing.

(I am assuming someone from Knoxville, TN likes to fish. I could be wrong…)

This is a typical failed prospect story, right?

Well, except that his confidence was probably shot all to hell in 1988 by Sparky and the Tigers.

That season, the Tigers surged ahead in June, and were leading a 5-team race coming down the stretch. On August 21, they swept the White Sox and were four games ahead.

But then, Le Tigre hit the road, and Kathleen Hanna flaked out (wait, wrong Le Tigre)…and they were swept by the Twins and lost two of three to the Brewers (who were also in the AL East Daisy Chain). On Sunday, August 28, Detroit lost 12-10 to Milwaukee, and there was more trouble. Jeff Robinson was having a great season (13-6, 2.98) but couldn’t answer the bell to start the next day. In fact, he was done for the year (and never the same).

Except for a few spot starts by Eric King and Paul Gibson, the Tigers had a pretty locked in rotation. But someone had to take the ball that Monday in Chicago  to keep the Tigers in the lead.

Sparky called for the kid down in Toledo, Searcy.

Searcy pitched well, though lost 3-2 thanks to homers by Carlton Fisk and Ken Williams. Still, he went 7 2/3 in his first start of 1988 and showed why he was a ‘rated rookie’ or whatever.

He got the ball again for the next start in Robinson’s turn. It was Saturday, Sept. 3, and the Tigers were still in the lead. But they were stumbling, having lost 9 of 11 since the surged ahead by four games.

It was Searcy at home against Tom Filer.

Top of the first –

Molitor single

Leonard home run.

Yount ground out.

Deer walk (three true outcomes again!)

Schroeder hits a grounder to short. Luis Salazar is filling in for Trammell and he boots it.

Joey Meyer singles, scoring Deer.

Sparky goes to the pen – Ted Power comes in and pitches the next seven. The Brewers win 7-3.

Searcy never pitches again in 1988.

Was he hurt? Did he lose confidence? Sparky was trying to win a pennant race, but he vanished from the Tigers that year as quickly as he arrived.

Now I send Searcy cards to my friend Tom, taunting him about “yet another wonderful Tigers pitching prospect.”

Maybe that’s why I don’t have more friends…


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