Cardboard Tigers: Holdsworth, Humphrey, Jones, Knox

Seventh in an occasional series. Collect ’em all! I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with occasional newer cards.

Today I’m featuring the law firm of Holdworth, Humphrey, Jones, and Knox, the names you can trust when it comes to personal injury attorneys.

1974 Rookie Pitchers – 1974 Topps #596

Fred Holdsworth was born in Detroit in 1952 and was both a standout athlete and valedictorian of the class of 1970 at Northville High School, where the Tigers selected him in the 21st round of that year’s amateur draft. Fred chose the Tigers’ contract over scholarship offers to play football or baseball. He spent a couple of years in the farm system before making his debut at the age of 20 in 1972, pitching 7 innings late in the season and piling up an ERA of 12.86. It did get a little better from there, as he had a cup of coffee with the big club in both 1973 (14 2/3 innings, 6.75 ERA) and 1974 (35 2/3 innings, 4.29 ERA).

Before we move on to the rest of Fred’s career highlights, let’s take a look at his colleagues on this 1974 Rookie Pitchers card: Wayne Garland had a decent nine year career with the Orioles (for whom he had his best season in 1976, going 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA and 113 strikeouts and finishing sixth in the Cy Young Award voting) and the Indians (oddly, the next year he led the AL in losses, going 13-19 but with a 3.60 ERA and 119 strikeouts – he was still a good pitcher but now on a lousy team). Mark Littell also played nine major league seasons as a solid reliever with the Royals and Cardinals, which seems appropriate since he was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. But the guy I wanna talk about, the man on everyone’s mind, was Dick Pole. I mean, come on. Dick Pole? I know it’s juvenile, but… Dick Pole? Also, I don’t know how many major leaguers were born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but Dick was one of them. He was born and raised in Trout Creek in the western U.P. county of Ontonagan, played college ball at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. He had an somewhat uninspiring six years in the American League (career WAR of negative 2.4) with Boston and Seattle (he was an original Seattle Mariner!), but Pole was better known for being the coach who helped Greg Maddux become a Hall of Fame pitcher when he was with the Cubs. For this, Braves fans will always be grateful. Thank you, Dick Pole, for being a stand-up guy, wherever you are.

Fred Holdsworth – 1975 Topps #323

Oh yeah, Fred Holdsworth. Well, from there it was off to Baltimore and then Montreal for a few more years, then ending up briefly back in the Tigers system (pitching for AAA Evansville and AA Montgomery in 1979) before finishing his career in Milwaukee and on Oakland’s farms in 1980. He pitched in a total of 72 games, starting 15 of them, and compiled a 7-10 lifetime record with an ERA of 4.40.

After leaving baseball, Fred went back to school, got his accounting degree, and eventually became the Vice President of Finance for Comcast’s Midwest Division. So for about a year in 2008-09, Fred and I worked for the same company. I wonder if he still has a Comcast ball cap like I do?

As of 2018, Fred lived in the Chicago suburbs and was still playing baseball in the Chicago North Men’s Baseball League. He doesn’t pitch anymore, both because he’s in his late 60s and because he had a bad shoulder, so he mostly plays the infield.

Terry Humphrey – 1976 Topps #552

Terry Humphrey was, along with Johnny Wockenfuss, a backup catcher for the Tigers in 1975. As noted in the last exciting edition of Cardboard Tigers, Terry was traded to Detroit by the Expos (along with Tom Walker) after the 1974 season for Woodie Fryman. He played in 18 games for Detroit that year, hitting .244 with one RBI in 41 at-bats. By the time this 1976 card came out, he’d been sent to the California Angels (along with Leon Roberts, Gene Pentz, and Mark Lemongello) for Dave Roberts (not the Dodgers manager, but a pitcher), Milt May, and Jim Crawford, in one of those deals teams used to agree to just to move players around to see if they’d play better if they just got a “fresh start.” Most of the time, the answer was no, and it certainly was for Terry.

Lynn Jones – 1984 Topps #731

Lynn Jones is another guy who missed out on the 1984 Tigers World Series win, after toiling as a reserve outfielder for five seasons. He played in 303 games from 1979 to 1983, hitting .252 with 7 home runs and 91 RBI. Though he has a 1984 Topps cards showing him in Tigers garb, he was traded to the Royals before the season, which meant he did get to play in the 1984 ALCS against his former team, going 1 for 5 as a pinch hitter, pinch runner, and defensive replacement. He also got to play in the 1985 World Series with Kansas City, going 2 for 3 in a similar role but getting to cash a winner’s share check and getting a World Series ring.

The thing I remember about Lynn was the huge glasses he wore. Ballplayers rarely wear glasses, so his were particularly noticeable. You can see them in the main photo on this 1984 card, though not in the smaller portrait, in case you’re looking really hard for them.

After retiring, Lynn coached with the Red Sox and as a minor league instructor with the Braves before joining the coaching staff at his alma mater, Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, in 2013.

John Knox – 1975 Topps #546
John Knox – 1976 Topps #218

The back of John Knox‘s 1975 card notes that he “Spent 1974 with Tigers.” That he certainly did, sticking with the big club all summer while only appearing in 55 games, mostly as a second baseman with a few games logged at third and as designated hitter (I’m guessing he pinch-ran for Al Kaline and ended up as the DH in the box score after staying in the game). He only had 88 at-bats but hit .307, his best mark in the majors, with one double, one triple, and 6 RBI. He also stole 5 bases.

John appears to have been a pretty good player overall. I remember him mostly because I’ve always been a fan of utility players, having been one myself (it sounds better than bench-warmer), and John was the utility guy on a team full of them in 1974, the year many of the aging leftovers from the ’68 team retired and were replaced by big names like Gary Sutherland, Gerry Moses, and Dick Sharon.

Ralph Houk baseball card

These days, managers like to get their bench players into games every few days, just to keep them sharp in case of an injury. Ralph Houk, who took over as Tiger manager in ’74, had a different style. He tended to run the same eight position players out there, day after day, often with the same lineup. It worked for him with the Yankees (at least until it didn’t), and the Major was gonna dance with who brung him. So guys like Knox didn’t play much.

Houk (who I also discussed in this post) learned this method firsthand playing for Casey Stengel in the fifties. For many years, Yogi Berra was the Yankees catcher, not only the best one in baseball but a perennial MVP candidate. Houk was the third-string catcher, which meant he mostly warmed up relief pitchers in the bullpen. Charlie Silvera was the second catcher, and he only averaged 20 games a season, so Ralph had to settle for less than that. Over a four-season run from 1950 to 1953, he appeared in 5, 10, 3, 9, and 8 games, followed by just a single appearance in 1954. And it’s not like he was spending the rest of the time killing the ball in the minors. He spent the whole year in New York. He just didn’t get to play.

John played college baseball at Bowling Green State University, where he’s a member of their Athletic Hall of Fame. As far as I know, he’s still alive (he’d be 72), but he’s done as solid a job of being invisible to Google searches as he was to box scores when he was with the Tigers.