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Former major league outfielder Champ Summers dies

Oct 11, 2012, 8:20 PM EDT

Champ Summers - 1982 Topps

Champ Summers, who played for six major league teams in an 11-year career that ended in 1984, died Thursday after a 2 1/2-year battle with kidney cancer, his wife told the AP.

Summers had a truly unusual career. After serving in Vietnam, he was signed at 25 and reached the majors for the first time at 28. He somehow stuck around and saw time in every year from 1974-78, even though he hit .205/.284/.318 with eight homers in 352 at-bats during the span.

In 1979, however, the 33-year-old Summers busted out, hitting a remarkable .291/.401/.556 with 21 homers in 306 at-bats. Almost all of that production came after he was traded from Cincinnati to Detroit and reunited with manager Sparky Anderson in May. His .957 OPS was a better mark than any of the three MVP winners (Don Baylor in the AL, Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell tied in the NL) amassed that year.

He followed it up with another nice year for the Tigers in 1980, hitting .297/.393/.504 with 17 homers in a career-high 347 at-bats. And then, as soon as it came, it was gone. Summers hit .255/.339/.358 with three homers in 165 at-bats during the strike-shortened 1981 season. The Tigers traded him to San Francisco afterwards, and he hit just five more homers in parts of three seasons.

So, even though Summers played 11 seasons, more that two-thirds of his 54 homers came between 1979 and 1980. As did more than half of his RBI and even 11 of his 15 career steals.  He hit .294 those two years and .220 the rest of the time.

Summers was 66 years old. He’s survived by his wife and stepchildren.

  1. adenzeno - Oct 11, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    RIP

  2. thebadguyswon - Oct 11, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Always remembered him because he had the same birthday as my Dad. Rest in peace, Champ.

  3. mrrooch - Oct 12, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    One of the best baseball names of all time. RIP.

  4. Detroit Michael - Oct 12, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    The bleacher crowd loved him in Detroit. Condolences to his family.

  5. willclarkgameface - Oct 12, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    RIP.

    Fuck cancer. I’m so tired of hearing stories about how people succumb to this every damn day. It’s 2012 and so much money has been dumped into research and study and we STILL can’t get it right.

    The cynic and conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that the health companies along with the government want people to be sick to keep the health care industry fueled. I don’t think I’m too far off the boat on that one, but yeah, it does sound kinda sketchy.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      I hear what you are saying Will. I have often wondered about this myself.
      Of course…if it were true…cigarette smokers wouldn’t be treated like common criminals (like they are in today’s world.)

  6. ezwriter69 - Oct 12, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    One of the VERY few big leaguers to serve in the Nam… Agent Orange gets another one. He was also the key instigator of one of the few truly frightening violent fights in MLB against the Braves, he literally charged the Braves dugout going after Pascal Perez, NO fear in Champ. His name Champ, btw, came after his Dad looked at him after he was born and said “he looks like he’s gone ten rounds with Joe Louis.”
    Godspeed Champ.

  7. stlouis1baseball - Oct 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    RIP Champ.

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