Former Cleveland Indians shortstop Tom Veryzer died on Tuesday after suffering a stroke at his home in Long Island, New York. Veryzer, who was the Indians’ starting shortstop from 1978 through 1981, was 61 years old.
Veryzer was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Tigers in 1971 and made his major league debut with that team on August 14, 1973. He played for the Tigers through the 1977 season. That winter Veryzer was traded to the Indians in exchange for outfielder Charlie Spikes. The Indians got the better of that trade, as Spikes would go on to play only ten games for the Tigers that season before the club released him. Veryzer, on the other hand, was the Indians’ everyday shortstop for four seasons, appearing in 566 games for the Tribe. In January of 1982, the Indians traded Veryzer to the New York Mets for pitcher Ray Searage. Searage never pitched an inning for the Indians, and Veryzer closed his career with one season for the Mets and two seasons for the Chicago Cubs. On September 30, 1984, he appeared in his last game, going 1 for 3 in a 2-1 Cubs victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
During his tenure with the Indians, Veryzer was not known for his bat, hitting .251 as a member of the Tribe, with very little power. But in that era, teams didn’t expect much offensive production from the shortstop position. Veryzer kept his starting job for four years due to his defensive play. Although his defensive numbers with the Indians don’t look great when using modern sabermetrics, Veryzer had a reputation as a solid, if unspectacular, shortstop. When Len Barker threw his perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 15, 1981, Veryzer was at shortstop. He recorded three assists in that game, including the first two batters Barker faced.
Sportswriter Joe Posnanski, who grew up as an Indians fan in the 1970s, wrote a touching blog post about Veryzer, one which is well worth your attention. The photo above comes from the Cleveland Press Collection of the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University (my employer). Click here to see it and other photos of Veryzer from the Press Collection.