Big Ten Takes the Field

Band...Take the Field! by Paul McKenney

Band…Take the Field! by Paul McKenney

Big Ten college football returns to the Great Lakes State this weekend as the Michigan State Spartans kick off their 2020 college football season on Saturday at noon against Rutgers in Spartan Stadium. The University of Michigan Wolverines will Minneapolis for a 6:44 PM date with the Minnesota Golden Gophers

Paul shared this photo with me, writing “Since long before my freshman year at Michigan Law, the P.A. announcer began after the traditional Band….Take The Field!” This fall for the first time since the Band initially performed at football games in 1898, the Band did not take the field in Ann Arbor in September. They’re back & here’s hoping that season is without incident!

You can see more of Paul’s work at McKenney’s Light.

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Go inside the Lion’s Den with the 2020 Detroit Lions

Season Finale by Mark Swanson

Season Finale by Mark Swanson

Pride of Detroit writes that one of the best video series the Detroit Lions have been producing over the past few years is their “Inside the Den” documentary (video below):

In year’s past, the video series has done their best to mimic popular HBO series “Hard Knocks” to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at training camp and the personal lives of certain Lions players. Despite all of the disruptions this offseason from COVID-19, the series is continuing this year, and on Thursday night, Episode 1 of the series dropped.

This year, the series may be more interesting than in previous seasons, seeing as media coverage of the team is severely limited right now. Episode 1 focuses heavily on the team’s preparations for the COVID-19 virus, the players arriving at the team facility for the first time this offseason, media day, head coach Matt Patricia making his appearance on “Good Morning Football,” and, of course, the Lions finally taking the field for conditioning drills and practice.

It’s really a pretty enlightening episode. From watching all of the preparation the team is doing to keep the facility safe—including spraying down pads between reps for players—to seeing signs just about everywhere in the facility indicating which personnel are allowed where.

Mark took this photo at Ford Field at the final game of the 2019 season. See more in his awesome Detroit photo album.

Here’s the video:

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Play Ball! Detroit Tigers start the season today

Comerica Park, Detroit by Kevin Povenz

The Detroit Tigers open the season against the Cincinnati Reds TONIGHT at 6:10 PM at Great American Ballpark. The home opener (at an empty Comerica Park) is Monday night. It will definitely be a strange season (with a 16 team playoff), but I for one welcome a slice of summer that’s been missing.

Kevin took this photo last summer. See more in his Landscape album on Flickr.

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Remembering Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych courtesy Mark Fidrych Foundation

Mark Fidrych reminded you of your childhood, no matter how old you were when he pitched. This was his charm, his curse, his legacy. He personified athletic innocence.
-Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press

I’m a lifelong Detroit Tiger fan & without question one of the most magical summers was the summer of ’76 when The Bird tore up the majors with his talking to the ball, mound grooming antics en route to a 19-9 season, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors (and finishing runner-up for the Cy Young), and leading the league in ERA.
 
He died unexpectedly 11 years ago today, and it still hurts to lose a bright light light like him so young. My dad had a Michigan sports show on TV that year, and I actually got to meet Mark. I don’t remember what he said to me, but I do remember how clear & in the moment he was and above all, what a truly nice human being he was.

More about this weird and wonderful character can be found at BaseballReference.com’s page for Mark Steven Fidrych and definitely watch this interview with Fydrich for a look at this Detroit Tiger original!

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Remembering Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline

Detroit Tigers Al Kaline takes a swing

Al Kaline takes a swing courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame

“I owe everything to baseball. Without it, I’d probably be a bum.”
-Al Kaline

Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers Detroit Tigers and all of us lost #6 Al Kaline. From his playing days in the 50s & 60s to a broadcasting career that spanned decades, “Mr. Tiger” was a fixture, bringing dedication and a simple love of the game in good times and bad.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame entry for Al Kaline says in part:

The 18-year-old Kaline came to the Tigers in 1953 directly from high school, having never spent a day in the minors, and by the next season established himself as one of the game’s bright new talents. By 1955, at age 20, he became the youngest player to win a batting title when he hit .340. That same year the youngster became only the fourth American League player to hit two home runs in a single inning.

Offensive consistency became Kaline’s hallmark over the years, hitting at least 20 home runs and batting .300 or better nine times each. A superb defensive outfielder with a strong throwing arm, he also collected 10 Gold Glove awards. In the 1968 World Series, Kaline’s only appearance in the Fall Classic, he batted .379, hit two home runs and drove in eight to help Detroit knock off the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

“You almost have to watch him play every day to appreciate what he does,” said veteran pitcher and former Tigers teammate Johnny Podres. “You hear about him, sure, but you really can’t understand until you see him. He just never makes a mistake.”

By the time Kaline’s 22-year big league career ended in 1974, the lifelong Tiger and 18-time All-Star had collected 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and a .297 career batting average.

“People ask me, was it my goal to play in the majors for 20 years? Was it my goal to get 3,000 hits someday? Lord knows, I didn’t have any goals,” Kaline once said. “I tell them, ‘My only desire was to be a baseball player.’”

Read more in the Hall of Fame and please share memories or links to articles you enjoyed in the comments!

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Closed for Opening Day

Empty Comerica Park

Empty Comerica Park by Andrew McFarlane

Today was supposed to be the home opener of the Detroit Tigers but of course that’s not happening. I’ve been living just a few blocks away, and I can’t begin to describe the impact of having every one of the cities amazing venues either empty or being repurposed as emergency healthcare & food delivery locations.

The economic impact to those who work there or rely on crowds of fans of sports & music to survive is frightening, and the loss of one of the beating hearts of a city that still shows up every day, even when our teams aren’t at their best is really putting a hole in my heart this morning. Stay strong everyone.

PS: Shirley is still happy.

Me, Shirley & the Comerica Cats

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Farewell, Jud Heathcote

Jud Heathcote, photo courtesy MSU Basketball

“Michigan State has lost one of its icons today. And yet nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. Spartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote.”
~MSU Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Legendary Michigan State University basketball coach Jud Heathcote has passed away at the age of 90:

George M. (Jud) Heathcote coached the Michigan State men’s basketball team from 1976-95, guiding the Spartans to 340 victories, three Big Ten titles, nine NCAA Tournament berths and one national title during his 19 seasons in East Lansing.

Heathcote is the second-winningest coach in MSU history with a record of 340-220 (.607), including a 14-8 (.636) mark in the NCAA Tournament. His overall record was 420-273 (.606) over 24 seasons, including five years at Montana.

In his third season in East Lansing, Heathcote led Michigan State to its first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1979 and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1978 and 1979. During those two seasons, Heathcote had the opportunity to coach one of the game’s greatest players, All-American Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who propelled the Spartans to a 51-10 record in his two seasons at MSU.

A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1978 and 1986), Heathcote coached seven All-Americans (Johnson, Gregory Kelser, Jay Vincent, Sam Vincent, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and Shawn Respert) and 22 NBA players. Five of his players won the Big Ten scoring title a total of six times. During Jud’s tenure, MSU had at least one player among the first-team All-Big Ten selections in 12 of his 19 years.

Prior to his retirement, Heathcote ensured that the future of Spartan basketball would be in good hands. In 1990, he promoted assistant Tom Izzo to associate head coach, and fought for Izzo to be named his successor.

Read on for more and please share articles about him that you enjoyed in the comments!

Here’s a brief video on Heathcote from CBS Sports…

Even Wally Pipp didn’t get Wally Pipped!

via “Everything You Know About Wally Pipp Is Wrong” on Absolute Michigan…

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Wally Pipp’s Final Resting Spot, photo by PPWWIII

True confession: My father was a veritable baseball encyclopedia good enough for a scholarship at Yale whose love of the game kept him around baseball and me steeped in it. That said, though I learned the story of Wally Pipp at a young age, it was all wrong.

The name of Wally Pipp conjures visions of shirkers, slackers and layabouts and the stars who get a chance to shine when they take the inevitable day off. Most sports fans know the story of how on June 2, 1925 New York Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp was given the day off for a headache, and Lou Gherig played 1st for the next 2,130 consecutive games until “The Iron Horse” retired due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease. Tom Brady “pipped” Drew Bledsoe years ago, and Dak Prescott did the same to Tony Romo last season.

I read a whole lot about this confusing tale, but the article Wally Pipp’s Career-Ending ‘Headache’ by Snopes founder David Mikkelson is quite simple a tour de force of the twists and turns in one of our biggest American sports legends that has been told and retold in print and screen. There’s a ton to read including the newspaper clippings and I recommend you do so, but let’s skip to Mikkelson’s conclusion:

After winning three straight American League pennants between 1921-23, the Yankees finished a couple of games off the pace in 1924 as the Washington Senators captured their first flag ever. New York expected to regain the top spot in 1925, but that was the year Babe Ruth’s excesses finally caught up with him.

…With Ruth either missing or too weak to play effectively, and some key players slumping … New York tumbled to a dismal seventh-place finish (in an eight-team league) in 1925. With his team already near the bottom of the standings and eleven games under the .500 mark at the beginning of June, manager Miller Huggins decided to shake up his line-up and replace some of his slumping veterans with younger players. Contemporaneous news accounts leave no doubt that Wally Pipp did not sit out the game on 2 June 1925 with a headache; he was deliberately benched by a manager who had charge of a team that was playing poorly and who opted to sit down some of his older players to give others a try.

In the case of Wally Pipp there was no inopportune headache, no “delightful and romantic story” — just a case of a slumping player who lost his job to an up-and-comer and never got it back. But his replacement was the stuff of legend (the indestructible ballplayer finally felled by a fatal disease), and so he became part of a legend that mixed fact and fiction and grew so large even some of the participants came to believe in its fictional aspects.

Via Mental FlossBleacher Report, and Wikipedia, I can report that Pipp was raised in Grand Rapids, was hit in the head with a hockey puck as a child that he attributed his headaches to, and played his first pro baseball for (seriously) the Kalamazoo Celery Champs. Pipp was one of the best first basemen of his era, hitting .281 with 90 HRs, 997 RBI and 1,941 hits. After retiring in 1928, Pipp played the market, wrote some radio scripts and books including as Babe Ruth’s ghostwriter, and did a pregame baseball show for the Detroit Tigers. He worked in a Michigan plant that made B-24 bombers during WWII and worked as a sales exec for the Rockford Screw Products Corporation. Mental floss concludes: Pipp went from playing first for the Yankees to peddling screws and bolts—and he loved it. Armed with the gift of gab and endless baseball stories, Pipp spent the rest of his life selling wares to Detroit’s auto hotshots. He passed away in 1965. (at the age of 71)

View the photo from Woodlawn Cemetery in Grand Rapids background big and see more in PPWWIII’s slideshow.

Remembering Mike Illitch of the Detroit Red Wings & Tigers

hockey-tigers-mike-illitch

Let’s Go RED WINGS!!, photo by Cori Conz

Mike Illitch, owner of Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Tigers has passed away. I could link to a lot of articles, but I think the tweets about Mike Illitch are the most powerful things I’ve seen. Here are some I like and please share your own comments.

View Cori’s photo bigger and see more in her I LOVE DETROIT slideshow.

More Red Wings and more Tigers on Michigan in Pictures.

Time to Roar: Detroit Lions return to the playoffs

Sorry. This was supposed to post this morning but somehow didn’t. Can we count this as the Lions’ big disappointment and win tonight??

matthew-stafford

Matthew Stafford, photo by Brook Ward

The Detroit Lions take the field at 8:15 PM tonight vs the Seattle Seahawks, who are 8 point favorites. This is the Lions’ first playoff appearance since January of 2015 when they were totally jobbed by the officiating crew. While I’m tempted to invite speculation on just how they will “Lions” this one, I am enough of a fan to leave it at “Go Lions!”

View Brook’s photo background big, see more in his Sports From My Perspective slideshow, and view & purchase photos on his website.