As the Tigers celebrate their ALDS victory, news comes (thanks to HHS reader Steven for this alert) of the passing of a former fan favorite in the motor city, albeit in a brief stint with the Tigers.

Champ Summers (so nicknamed, according to Wikipedia, by his prize-fighter father who remarked at Champ’s birth that he looked like he had just gone 10 rounds with Joe Louis) came up with Oakland in 1974 and, through 1978, bounced between the majors and minors with the Cubs and Reds, being used with the big club mostly as a pinch-hitter. His fortunes changed early in the 1979 season with a trade to Detroit where, under new Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, Summers finally got to play on at least a semi-regular basis.

For his time in Detroit (1979-81), in the equivalent of about a season-and-a-half (887 PA), Champ had a .293/.388/.508 slash, good for 143 OPS+ with 40 HR, 132 RBI, 111 BB and 124 runs scored. Most of that damage came in Summers’ very impressive 1979 and 1980 campaigns when he compiled 4.2 WAR and 2.2 WAA with the totals below.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pos
1979 33 DET AL 90 290 246 47 77 12 1 20 51 40 33 .313 .414 .614 1.028 171 9D/37
1980 34 DET AL 120 408 347 61 103 19 1 17 60 52 52 .297 .393 .504 .897 143 D97/3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/11/2012.

Champ’s 1979 season featured an impressive .522 slugging percentage as a pinch-hitter, and ranks as one of the top 15 OPS+ seasons for similarly used players. Here are those seasons for players with 100+ games and under 400 PAs (Note that totals shown below for Summers are for his full 1979 season, with the Tigers and Reds).

Rk Player OPS+ PA SLG G Year Age Tm AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP OPS Pos
1 Ted Williams 190 390 .645 113 1960 41 BOS 310 56 98 15 0 29 72 75 41 .316 .451 1.096 *7
2 Oscar Gamble 188 327 .609 100 1979 29 TOT 274 48 98 10 1 19 64 50 28 .358 .456 1.065 D79
3 Jim Thome 182 340 .627 108 2010 39 MIN 276 48 78 16 2 25 59 60 82 .283 .412 1.039 *D
4 John Lowenstein 176 384 .602 122 1982 35 BAL 322 69 103 15 2 24 66 54 59 .320 .415 1.017 *7/9
5 Cliff Johnson 171 339 .584 107 1977 29 TOT 286 46 85 16 0 22 54 43 53 .297 .407 .991 7D32/9
6 Mickey Mantle 170 393 .538 108 1966 34 NYY 333 40 96 12 1 23 56 57 76 .288 .389 .927 *8/7
7 Rico Carty 163 339 .549 104 1969 29 ATL 304 47 104 15 0 16 58 32 28 .342 .401 .951 *7
8 Ken Phelps 162 371 .549 117 1988 33 TOT 297 54 78 13 0 24 54 70 61 .263 .402 .950 *D/3
9 Ryan Klesko 158 381 .608 107 1995 24 ATL 329 48 102 25 2 23 70 47 72 .310 .396 1.004 *7/3
10 Jim Spencer 157 336 .593 106 1979 32 NYY 295 60 85 15 3 23 53 38 25 .288 .367 .960 *D3
11 Chick Hafey 157 394 .590 103 1927 24 STL 346 62 114 26 5 18 63 36 41 .329 .401 .990 *79/8
12 Merv Rettenmund 156 385 .544 106 1970 27 BAL 338 60 109 17 2 18 58 38 59 .322 .394 .938 897
13 Cy Williams 155 384 .568 107 1926 38 PHI 336 63 116 13 4 18 53 38 35 .345 .418 .986 *9
14 Tony Clark 154 393 .636 130 2005 33 ARI 349 47 106 22 2 30 87 37 88 .304 .366 1.003 *3/D
15 Champ Summers 154 364 .556 117 1979 33 TOT 306 57 89 14 2 21 62 53 48 .291 .401 .957 *9D3/7
16 Al Bumbry 154 395 .500 110 1973 26 BAL 356 73 120 15 11 7 34 34 49 .337 .398 .898 *79/D8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/11/2012.

Summers closed out his career with the Giants and Padres, finally making the post-season in San Diego’s pennant year in 1984. Champ’s final major league appearance came in that season’s World Series, striking out against former Tigers teammate Jack Morris.

 

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