By Andrew Johnson

Frank Tanana was known nationally as the fireball pitcher who teamed with Nolan Ryan in the 1970s to form one of the best strikeout combinations in baseball.LSJ Logo incert

But Tiger fans came to know and love him in the later part of his career, after he had lost his sizzling fastball, but learned how to get batters out other ways.Eye on the D

One of Tanana’s finest moments as a Tiger was the final regular season game in 1987, when he pitched a complete game shutout, allowing Detroit to beat Toronto 1-0 and clinch the American League Eastern Division title.

“That is the primo moment for me,” said Tanana, who appeared at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park on Friday as part of the West Michigan Whitecaps’ “Tiger Fridays” series. “I never pitched in the World Series, but that is about as close to the atmosphere as I could get.

“It was the last game, on national TV with a sellout crowd in Tiger Stadium. I pitched a lot of ball games but that one is the one I look back on and say is my highlight game.”

While Tanana didn’t start his career with the Tigers, Tanana, a Michigan native, was more than happy to join Detroit in 1986 after being traded from the Texas Rangers.

“To get traded really was a big career boost, (the Tigers) really had a great team,” he said. “As a kid growing up liking baseball you want to play for the hometown team. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. To get that opportunity to pitch for the Detroit Tigers in a big league game was great.”

Tanana was a rarity when he came up with the California Angels, pitching alongside strikeout king Nolan Ryan while throwing heat of his own. But a shoulder injury limited his fastball over the years and forced Tanana to fine-tune his pitching strategy.

“When I was younger I could practically tell guys what was coming and throw it by them, but then I hurt my arm in the late 70’s and changed my style,” said Tanana. “After the change it was about pitching to spots and believing.”

After his stint in Detroit, Tanana moved on to pitch for the New York Mets before finishing his career in 1993 as a New York Yankee. Tanana retired with a 240-236 record, a 3.66 ERA, and 2,773 strikeouts, putting him at 21st on the all-tine career strikeout list.