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Dave Rozema

Dave Rozema

Position(s):
P
Born:
August 5, 1956
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-11-1977 with DET

After leading the Southern Association with a 1.57 ERA at Montgomery in 1976, Rozema was TSN AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year with the Tigers in 1977, going 15-7 with a 3.10 ERA. The 15 wins would be a career high for the slender finesse pitcher, as he found himself working mostly in long relief by 1980. Rozema missed most of 1982 after tearing cartilage and ligaments in his left knee in a fight with the Twins ' John Castino, and he didn't pitch in the 1984 postseason for the Tigers.

Early years and 1977 rookie season

Rozema was originally drafted out of high school in June 1974 by the San Francisco Giants in the 22nd round of the amateur draft, but did not sign. He played for Grand Rapids Community College in 1974 and was drafted in January 1975 by the Detroit Tigers.

In 1976, Rozema played for the Montgomery Rebels in the Tigers' farm system and led the league with a 1.57 ERA. The Rebels were 86-51 in 1976 and won the league championship.

Rozema debuted in the major leagues at age 20 with the Detroit Tigers in 1977. On April 21, 1977, he shut out the Boston Red Sox, 8-0, for his first major league win. In his rookie season, Rozema was 15-7, finished 8th in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award and finished among the league leaders with a 3.09 ERA (7th in the AL), a .682 winning percentage (.682), 16 complete games (8th in the AL), a 138 Adjusted ERA+ (5th in the AL), and a 2.71 strikeout to walk ratio (6th in the AL).

Rozema finished fourth in the 1977 Rookie of the Year voting behind Eddie Murray, but he was selected as The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year. He was part of a phenomenal group of rookies with the 1977 Tigers that also included Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Steve Kemp.

Middle years: 1978-1981

After a promising rookie year, Rozema never won more than nine games in a season. In 1978, he finished with a 9-12 record, 11 complete games and an Adjusted ERA+ of 124. In 1979, he again had an above-average Adjusted ERA+ of 124, but he started only 16 games and had a record of 4-4. In 1980 and 1981, Rozema's ERA fell off to a rate only slightly better than the league average, as he won six games (1980) and five games (1981).

The 1982 karate kick and reputation as an all-time Tigers character

Rozema got off to a tremendous start in 1982, compiling a 3-0 record and an ERA of 1.63 (Adjusted ERA+ of 248) in his first eight games. In a televised game against the Minnesota Twins on May 14, 1982, a bench-clearing brawl erupted after Twins pitchers hit both Chet Lemon and Enos Cabell. Rozema came running out of the dugout and attempted to deliver a flying karate kick to the Twins' John Castino. Rozema missed and tore eight ligaments in his knee and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. He had knee surgery the next day and was put on the disabled list for the rest of the 1982 season.

In October 2006, Sports Illustrated selected Rozema as one of the "10 Greatest Characters in Detroit Tigers History". His selection was based on (1) the "karate kick" misfire, (2) a subsequent injury the same year in which Rozema fell on a flask in his back pocket and needed 11 stitches in his hip, (3) an incident in which he shoved a bar glass into the face of Alan Trammell resulting in 47 stitches near Trammell's eye, (4) missing a team bus when he overslept after judging a wet T-shirt contest, and (5) using Brillo pads to wash his new car.

On July 9, 2008, the minor league team in Rozema's home town, the West Michigan Whitecaps, gave away an unusual promotional item, "Dave Rozema Karate Kick Bobbleleg" figures. These figurines were highly coveted; the lines outside the game to be one of the first 1,000 people into the stadium were larger than usual.

Later years: 1983-1986

Rozema came back from the injury in 1983 with an 8-3 record and 3.43 ERA in 105 innings pitched.

Rozema played on the 1984 Tigers team that won the World Series. Rozema started 16 games for the 1984 Tigers, compiling a 7-6 record and 3.74 ERA in 101 innings pitched but did not appear in the post-season.

On December 27, 1984, Rozema signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in a contract for a total of $500,000 to $600,000. He appeared in 34 games for the Rangers in 1985 (all but four in relief) and had a 4.19 ERA in 88 innings pitched. After compiling a 5.91 ERA at the start of the 1986 season, Rozema was released by the Rangers on May 6, 1986. He was signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox on May 20, 1986, but did not play.

His last game in Major League Baseball was on April 30, 1986. For his career, Rozema had 60 wins, 53 losses and a 3.47 ERA.

Life after major league baseball

In the early 1990s, Rozema pitched for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association and London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League in London, Ontario, Canada.

On December 22, 1985, Rozema and his former teammate Kirk Gibson married sisters, JoAnn and Sandy Sklarski in a double ceremony at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

In 2003, Crain's Detroit Business reported that Rozema was working as a salesman for Disposal Management LLC of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, selling the company's services to waste generators in the Detroit area.

Rozema is currently part of the popular Detroit Tiger Fantasy Camps and pitches batting practice to fans at Comerica Park. Baseball fans of all ages get the chance to hit under the lights at Comerica Park against a former big league pitcher. The first session of 2010 was so popular a second session was added.

Rozema can still be seen around the Detroit area on gamedays, where you may find him tailgating, rubbing elbows with fans, and beating them in bagtoss.

Resources:

Wikipedia, BAseball Library

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