September 24, 2018

Dave Rozema, The Quirkiest Detroit Tigers Pitcher

June 25, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Baseball players are often remembered for the skill they displayed on the field, and in some instances for amazing plays they made. The ability to create such memories is the backbone of the game’s rich tradition and why legions of fans lovingly curate the stories throughout the years. Then there are players like pitcher Dave Rozema, who while having a solid 10-year career may be best known for his exploits without a ball, glove or bat in his hands.

The right-handed Rozema was a fourth-round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers in 1975 out of Grand Rapids Community College. “Rosey” went a combined 26-9 with a 1.86 ERA in two minor league seasons after his selection, earning him a promotion to Detroit in 1977. He won 15 games as a rookie, including 16 games, and went on to have a successful 10-year career (1977-1986), spending the final two years with the Texas Rangers. With a fastball that topped out in the mid-80s, he relied on a good changeup and pitching to contact. All told he was 60-53 with a 3.47 ERA in 248 games (132 starts). However, he seemed to make as many headlines with his colorful behavior as he did for his play, including:

-On May 14, 1982 he sustained a season-ending knee injury after attempted to karate kick Minnesota Twins John Castino in a brawl precipitated by multiple players being hit by pitches. Interestingly, Rozema earned the win in that game. Decades later, the kick is still widely remembered, and was even commemorated by a bobblehead give-away in 2008.

-In late 1985, Rozema and teammate Kirk Gibson married sisters in a double wedding ceremony in front of 600 guests in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Following the reception, the two couples left for a dual honeymoon in Australia.

-Gibson once playfully shoved his brother-in-law off a stool at a bar. Unfortunately, Rozema had a bottle of cough syrup (other versions say a flask) in his pocket. The broken container cut him and resulted in 11 stitches in his hip.

-During spring training in 1980 Rozema missed a team flight for a game in San Juan, Puerto Rico because he overslept; the product of having stayed up late the night before judging a wet t-shirt contest. He made it in time to start the game, which he lost 11-0. After game he was quoted as reflecting, “I’ve got to be more serious. That’s all Sparky (manager Sparky Anderson) is asking.”

-In April, 1982, the night before his first start of the season, Rozema good naturedly shoved teammate Alan Trammell at a bar. When the shortstop ducked Rozema’s glass beer mug caught him in the face and cut him bad enough to require over 40 stitches for the future Hall-of-Famer.

Stories are told that when Rozema was still in the minor leagues he decided to wash his one car one day. Unfortunately, he allegedly used Brill Pads, which of course are better suited to use on last night’s lasagna pan.

By all accounts, Rozema is one of the good guys in baseball history. He also had a pretty nice career. Although he had some unusual moments he is a definite baseball treasure, who could probably tell a fair number more stories about himself than what are now widely known.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

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