Pitchers Tanana and Avery enter 'Hall'
Frank Tanana (left) and Steve Avery gather for a photo near their new Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame plaques at Jackson Field in Lansing. The two said they are friends, and occasionally play golf together. Photo by Larry Hook
By Larry Hook
Adviser of The Lookout
Frank Tanana and Steve Avery, two successful left-handed Major League pitchers from Michigan, were inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, July 9.
The induction ceremonies took place at Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, before the Lugnuts’ game against the Great Lakes Loons.
Tanana and Avery participated in the ceremonial first-pitch activities before being officially inducted into the Hall. Lugnuts Broadcaster and Media Relations Specialist Jesse Goldberg-Strassler led the ceremonies.
“It’s a reward for a lot of hard work,” Tanana said of his induction into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame. “The Good Lord kept me healthy for all those years. I loved the game, had wonderful health, tremendous parents, coaches and guys I played with. It’s quite an honor.
“(There have been) a lot of ballplayers that played baseball in the state of Michigan. To be voted as one of the top players certainly is quite a thrill.”
Avery said he was also thankful to be an inductee.
“It’s a great honor, and to go in with Frank, it’s even better,” Avery said. “I grew up watching him. (I was a) big Tigers fan.
“It’s exciting. Not many people from Michigan make it to the big leagues, just (because of) our weather and all that. So to be able to do that is just a really special accomplishment. I’m really proud of that.”
Tanana, now 69, was born in Detroit and starred as a prep at Detroit Catholic Central in Novi. He was drafted 13th overall by the California Angels in 1971.
Tanana was an All Star in 1976, 1977 and 1978 for the Angels, teaming up with Nolan Ryan to form one of the most potent one-two pitching punches in baseball history.
His best season was 1976, when he was 19-10 with a 2.43 ERA and 261 strikeouts for the Angels.
Tanana pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 1985 to 1992, compiling a 96-82 record in eight seasons. He said the greatest moment of his playing career came when he won the final game of the 1987 season to clinch the Eastern Division title for the Tigers.
“We ended up winning 1-0,” Tanana said. “We needed to win it to clinch the division. I pitched nine innings of shutout ball, which I never did back in those days. By far that was the highlight of my career.”
In all, Tanana played 21 years in the Major Leagues, from 1973 to 1993, and logged a 240-236 career win-loss record and a 3.66 ERA.
Avery, 52, was born in Trenton, Mich. He played high school ball at John F. Kennedy High School in Taylor. In 1988 at JFK he was named Michigan’s “Mr. Baseball,” going 13-0 with an 0.51 earned run average and 196 strikeouts in 88 innings, while also hitting .511 at the plate.
Avery was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Braves in 1988. Three years later, in 1991, he was named Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series, going 2-0 and pitching 16 1/3 scoreless innings.
In 1995, Avery helped the Braves win their first-ever World Series title. He was the winning pitcher in game five of that series.
Avery played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, from 1990 to 1999 and again in 2003. He wrapped up his career with his hometown Detroit Tigers in ‘03, going 2-0 in 19 relief appearances.
Avery mentioned two of his favorite career highlights.
“I’m always a big team guy, so winning the World Series in ’95 was just a special occasion,” Avery said. “We had lost two of them previous to that, and then to finally get over the hump and win it was exciting.
“Personally, in ‘91, being 21 years old and winning the NLCS MVP and going to our first World Series was special, too.”
The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame is in its eighth year of existence. Its purpose is threefold: to honor the state’s baseball heroes of yesterday; celebrate the national pastime today; and inspire baseball fans and ballplayers of tomorrow.
The new members join the 22 others inducted since 2015: Jim Abbott, Bill Freehan, Charlie Gehringer, Ernie Harwell, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser, Alan Trammell, John Smoltz, Pat O’Keefe, Larry Tuttle, Kirk Gibson, Ty Cobb, Derek Jeter, Dave Keilitz, Willie Horton, Ron Oestrike, Javier Cavazos, Drew Henson, Bob Miller, the 2003-06 Homer High School baseball team, the 1959 Hamtramck Little League team and the Page Fence Giants of the 1890s.
Biographies, accomplishments and photos of the inductees can be found at www.michiganbaseballhall.org.