WINNETKA — Like many boys playing Little League baseball, Bob Adams had childhood dreams of making it to "The Show."
For all but a select few, dreams stay dreams.
Adams lived his.
Now 44 years old and the owner of a construction firm in the Antelope Valley, Adams reflects on what was a short-but-sweet major-league stay as the highlight of his athletic life.
An All-City Section football and baseball player at Canoga Park High in the late 1960s, Adams has many fond memories of his days as a high school sports star, but nothing tops his experience as a big-league ballplayer.
Adams spent six years in the Detroit Tigers' organization. His major league career consisted of 15 games with the Tigers in 1977.
In 24 at-bats, Adams had six hits, including two home runs.
He hit both homers in historic Tiger Stadium--the first against Milwaukee Brewer pitcher Bill Travers.
"It was my third time up in the majors and my first hit," Adams said during an interview at Winnetka Park, where he played in Little League. "It was incredible. It really felt great."
Adams' second home run came against the Angels' Frank Tanana, a young, hard-throwing left-hander who at the time led the league with a 2.54 earned-run average.
Tanana, who pitched 17 seasons in the American League, transformed into a junkball specialist after shoulder surgery.
Smacking one of Tanana's pitches out of the ballpark ranks among the highlights of Adams' career.
"That game was on television so a lot of my friends and relatives back here saw it," Adams said. "I got a lot of phone calls that night. It was great."
Adams was drafted by the Tigers out of UCLA in the third round. He started as a third baseman and outfielder, but after 1 1/2 seasons the Tigers promoted him from Class A to triple A because they needed a catcher.
"A scout said he had seen me catch as a junior in high school, so they asked me to catch," Adams said.
He went back to third and the outfield when Lance Parrish came along. Parrish, a perennial all-star, spent 10 of his 13 major league seasons with the Tigers.
In 1978, only a few months after his memorable major league homers, Adams was sent back to the minors.
A year later, he was released from Detroit's triple-A club.
"It was hard to leave baseball after six years," Adams said. "My feelings were hurt a bit because no one seems to want you, or at least they don't want you as much as you want them. A couple of double-A teams called, but I didn't want to go back down."
Although it ended abruptly, Adams recounts his professional baseball experience in positive terms. Making it to the big leagues was a goal he strived for all along, even though he was best known as a football player at Canoga Park High.
As a junior fullback in 1968, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound Adams led the Hunters to the City Section championship and was selected City player of the year. In the title game he scored five touchdowns and rushed for more than 300 yards.
"He was a man among boys," said Jack Mathieson, Adams' football coach at Canoga Park. "He's probably the best athlete that ever went to Canoga Park. I feel fortunate to have had a guy like Bobby play for me."
Adams played three different positions on the baseball team and was an All-City outfielder as a sophomore in 1967, when he batted .423 and Canoga Park won the West Valley League title.
His junior baseball season was spent as a catcher, but he moved to shortstop as a senior after Biff Pocoroba took over behind the plate. Pocoroba became an All-City player and later spent 10 years with the Atlanta Braves.
"Bobby was the big man on campus," said former Simi Valley High baseball Coach Mike Scyphers, one of Adams' Canoga Park baseball teammates. "We really looked up to him for leadership and guidance. I remember him as a big, strong guy."
Doug MacKenzie, Canoga Park's former longtime baseball coach, says it was easy to recognize Adams' talent even when he struggled early on.
"I used to do all the pitching during baseball tryouts and we'd get about 150 boys trying out," MacKenzie said. "I'd give every boy 10 pitches and then I'd give them 10 points for running speed, form and hitting.
"When Bobby came up as a 10th-grader he never made contact on any of his pitches, but I gave him the 10 points anyway because I could see he had good form and potential. Boy, am I glad I did."
Adams wasn't drafted out of high school, but several major colleges--UCLA, USC and Notre Dame among them--recruited him as a football player.
"I told every football coach I talked to that I was going to play baseball too," Adams said. "Baseball is what I really wanted to do. It was always my first choice."
Adams played football for UCLA as a freshman, then quit to focus on baseball.
As a sophomore he received honorable mention on the All-Pacific 8 Conference team. He had a .226 career batting average for the Bruins.