Dave Rozema had a colorful career. A free-spirited changeup artist, the Grand Rapids, Michigan native debuted with the Detroit Tigers in 1977 — one year after Mark “The Bird” Fidrych took baseball by storm — and while injuries soon took their toll, he started off with a bang. In a whirlwind rookie season, Rozema worked 218.1 innings, and went 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA.
He wasn’t averse to having fun, nor was he immune from trouble. Rozema was involved in multiple fracases, both on and off the field. On one occasion he emerged, in the words of Royals outfielder Willie Wilson, looking a lot like Rocky Raccoon.
This interview — originally intended for a book project that has remained on the back burner — was conducted in 2010, at Tigers fantasy camp in Lakeland, Florida.
David Laurila: How did you come to sign with the Tigers [in 1975]?
Dave Rozema: “I was drafted in the fourth round, but it was in the January [secondary phase]. In the summer draft, I hadn’t been drafted until the 27th round [by San Francisco], so I wasn’t really that good. I had been offered a full ride to Eastern Michigan, along with Bob Owchinko and Bob Welch, but I decided to go to Grand Rapids Community College. I wasn’t a big scholar; my grades weren’t that good.
“[Tigers scout] Bob Sullivan asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to play baseball?’ I went, ‘Yeah.’ He went, ‘I’ll get you a few bucks. Detroit. Fourth round.’ My heart said I wanted to play pro ball, so I signed.”
Laurila: Your first professional season was in Clinton, Iowa, with Jim Leyland as your manager. Read the rest of this entry »