By: Bill McAllister
Champ Summers, who played for the Tigers from ’79-’81, died Thursday after a 2 1/2 year battle with kidney cancer. Summers, whose real first name was John, had a pretty interesting path to the Major Leagues.
Summers served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and after his tour of duty attended Southern Illinois University where he played basketball and baseball. But it wasn’t until he was discovered playing in a men’s softball league that his MLB career began. He ended up playing for six teams in his eleven year career; Oakland, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Detroit, San Francisco and San Diego. His best years as a pro were definitely with the Tigers where he hit 38 of his lifetime 54 home runs. Sparky Anderson thought Champ would be a good DH and for the most part, he was.
But I have to say, my greatest memory of Champ Summers was not in a Tiger uniform but was in fact in a San Diego Padres uniform. In 1984, incidentally the year the Tigers and Padres faced each other in the World Series, Summers was involved in the biggest baseball brawl I’ve seen to this day. It was in August and the Padres were in Atlanta to play the Braves. Atlanta pitcher Pascual Perez plunked the Padres Alan Wiggins in the back with the very first pitch of the game. All day long it was one brush back after another with Perez being hit or narrowly missed every time he came to the plate. Perez had enough and was running around with his bat as if it were a weapon. Summers had enough and went after Perez in the Braves dugout where he was intercepted by the Braves Bob Horner. Champ was then tackled by Horner and two Braves fans! There had to have been at least 3 separate brawls throughout that game. It was crazy.
Click HERE to see the video.
Summers struck out in his one at-bat against his former team in the World Series, which turned out to be his last major league at-bat.
Champ Summers died in Ocala, Florida at age 66.