Former Tigers shortstop Eddie Brinkman, whose good humor and love of baseball made him a cherished figure in the game, died Tuesday. He was 66.
His death was announced by the Chicago White Sox, whom he served as a coach and scout for 18 years.
The cause of death wasn't announced, but Brinkman had been in poor health for several weeks.
Brinkman joined the Tigers for the 1971 season in the eight-player trade that sent controversial Tigers ace Denny McLain to the Washington Senators.
The deal was a one-sided win for the Tigers. It also brought them right-hander Joe Coleman, who averaged 21 wins in his first three Detroit seasons, and strong-armed Aurelio Rodriguez, who served as the Tigers third baseman for several seasons. McLain won 14 games in his career after he left Detroit.
For his four Tigers seasons, Brinkman was something of an iron man at shortstop. He played at least 151 games there each season from 1971 through 1974. In 1973, he played at short in all 162 games and also made the All-Star team for the only time in his career.
"As a shortstop, he wasn't what you would call smooth," said Dan Ewald, who covered the Tigers for the Detroit News during Brinkman's time with the club. "But he got all the balls somehow. It didn't look like a picture. But he got to them and made the throw.
"He was always in control of the situation. If you've got a shortstop who isn't aware of everything, you've got a problem. Eddie had control of the situation. That's why he was better than his raw physical talent.
"He enhanced his ability by anticipating. He was a very solid, smart shortstop. He wasn't flashy or flamboyant."
In 1972, as the Tigers won the AL East, Brinkman won the Gold Glove as the AL's best defensive shortstop.
Brinkman, a right-handed batter, never hit higher than .237 in his four Tigers seasons. But in the final one, 1974, he rose up and hit 14 homers -- the only time in his career he was in double figures.
After the 1974 season, the Tigers traded Brinkman (about to turn 33) to St. Louis in a three-way deal that also included San Diego. The Tigers got San Diego slugger Nate Colbert, who lasted only a few months with Detroit.
"He was a great teammate to everybody," Ewald said. "He was just a good person to be around in the clubhouse.
"He was a fantastic pinochle player. He'd play on the team flights with Gates Brown, Joe Coleman and me. He was a competitor at that, too. He'd count tricks, and one time, that made Gates throw the cards at him. Eddie was smart."
On the night the Tigers clinched the 1972 AL East title, the public caught Brinkman's fun-loving, uninhibited side in a way the FCC wouldn't have condoned. During that night's clubhouse celebration, Brinkman emphasized what a great group of guys the Tigers were by using an expletive on live TV.
"He loved the baseball life," Ewald said. "He loved the game. He loved being around ballparks. He felt his best at them."