Lou Whitaker manned second base for twenty years in Detroit. He finally retired in 1995 leaving a hole in the lineup. The following season, Tiger management stole Damion Easley from the California Angels. Easley developed into an All Star second baseman. He had his finest campaign in 1998 when he made the All Star team and knocked in 100 runs.
Damion Easley played five seasons in California. His claim to baseball immortality came on September 6, 1995 when he made the final out in the fifth inning of Cal Ripken’s 2,131st consecutive game. The next season, the Angels traded Easley to Detroit for pitcher Greg Gohr. The pitcher made 15 appearances in 1996 for California and never played in the majors again. Easley played twelve more seasons including seven in Detroit.
Easley enjoyed a solid 1997 campaign. The second baseman batted .264 with 22 home runs, 72 RBI, 97 runs, 37 doubles, 28 stolen bases and .833 OPS. He set career highs in runs, steals, walks, OBP, and OPS. The season represented Easley’s coming out and marked the first time he played regularly.
Whitaker’s successor caught baseball’s eye in 1997. The next year, he was honored with a trip to the All Star game. Most of his numbers were not appreciably better in 1998. He batted .271 with 84 runs, and .810 OPS. Easley did set career highs in hits (161), doubles (38), slugging (.478), total bases (284), home runs (27), and RBI (100). The RBI total is particularly notable. Easley knocked in 684 runs in his career and averaged 65 a season. According to the Detroit Tigers official website, Easley and Charlie Gehringer are the only Tiger second basemen with 100 RBI seasons. Gehringer did it seven times.
The 100 RBI man participated in the 1998 Home Run Derby at Coors Field. The American League defeated the National League 53-29 with Ken Griffey Jr. winning the overall crown. Easley knocked just two balls out of the park in the competition. However, he did not finish last overall. Atlanta’s Chipper Jones managed just one home run.
Easley’s 1998 performance tantalized fans, but he never duplicated 1998. In 2000, the Tigers moved to Comerica Park. The change in venue hurt Easley’s power. He did hit for the cycle in 2001, but his Tiger career ended with his release in 2003. Easley remained in the major leagues as a utility player for six more seasons.
It is hard to replace a player many feel belongs in the Hall of Fame. Damion Easley took over second base in Detroit after Lou Whitaker’s retirement. Easley enjoyed a nice seven year run with the Tigers. His best season came in 1998 when he drove in 100 runs, won a Silver Slugger, and made the American League All Star team.