Rozema grew up not far from Gerald Ford's house in Grand Rapids, where his father worked in a refrigerator plant. Neither of his brothers nor his sister has ever left Grand Rapids, and Rozema decided against attending Eastern Michigan University, 130 miles away, after signing a letter of intent, because he was afraid he would be homesick. After Rozema graduated from high school in 1974, the San Francisco Giants drafted him, but he says, "They didn't enthuse me by selecting me in the 23rd round and offering me no money to sign."
Bob Sullivan, a Tiger scout and his summer-league coach, feared that Rozema might remain in Grand Rapids with his siblings, who devoted most of their time to riding motorcycles. So while Rozema was spending a semester at Grand Rapids Junior College, Sullivan persuaded Detroit to draft him. The Tigers picked Rozema in the fourth round of the January 1975 draft and gave him a $2,500 bonus.
Then 18, Rozema came to his first spring training wearing shoulder-length hair, white spikes his mother had given him for Christmas and his brother's yellow glove. "That was the only glove I had," he says. "In winter ball, the fellows hid it. Then as soon as I bought a new one, the yellow glove reappeared." Even before that, he had coated his spikes with black dye—they turned out gray—and cut his hair.
Now Rozema is trimming everyone else. His only flaw, says Tiger Manager Ralph Houk, is a tendency to overthrow once he has a win in sight. "He starts trying to blow the ball by the hitters in the late innings," says Houk, who realizes the risk for a pitcher with so little velocity.
Of late Rozema may have licked even that fault. In the ninth inning of a recent game against the Twins, he led 4-2. A Minnesota runner was on first and Rod Carew was at the plate. Carew had one of the Twins' six hits. More significantly, baseball's best hitter had been unsuccessful in four other at bats, making outs on pitches he later called "garbage." When Rozema reared back and slipped him a changeup, Carew hit a game-ending grounder to Tito Fuentes at second.
Rehashing the defeat, Minnesota Manager Gene Mauch called Rozema "lucky." "I wish all my players were still in high school," he said, "because when they were 18 years old they'd have hit the devil out of that pitching."
Last week Rozema again defeated the Twins, although this time he did need a bit of help. He got it when teammate Tim Corcoran hit a pinch home run in the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie. Which is another example of why disrespectful opposing managers better change their views. It seems that even when Rozema is not as befuddling as usual he comes out smelling like a rose.