posted by Writer on May 17

iu-2A Tribute to atheletes who have passed on from the scene.

Al Kaline died last month. He played right field for the Detroit Tigers for 22 years, batted .297 lifetime, had over 3,000 hits and slugged 399 homers. 

A Hall of Famer who was a class act. When the Tig’s offered him a contract for a hundred grand he refused it. He said it was too much money and he didn’t deserve it.

Such humility is rare.

No one patrolled right field at Tiger Stadium like Kaline did. Some called it “Kaline’s Korner.”iu-10

Tiger Stadium, like Wrigley, Fenway, and Yankee Stadium, was one of the “Green Cathedrals” of Major League Baseball. 

I enjoyed watching games from the right field corner. Back in the day we paid two bucks for those seats. Some days you slipped the usher a five spot and by the 4th inning and he’d move you over to the box seats. That is, if one was empty.

The “Tig’s” in their pearly white uniforms with the “Old English D” on that green carpet will be forever etched in my memory.

We always thought they’d be there: Kaline, “Stormin Norman” Cash; Gates Brown; Willie (The Wonderful) Horton; Mickey Lolich and Dick MacAuliffe.

Now, many have faded away and they’re just a distant memory.

I can still smell the aroma of steamed hotdogs, beer, roasted peanuts and cigar smoke blended together on a hot, summer night in the Motor City.

It was a wonderful time and I’am fortunate to live in such a city with a rich sports tradition.iu-11

A radio was on wherever you went with Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane calling the play-by-play. As kids, we’d fall asleep listening to Ernie’s voice while the Tig’s were on one of their west coast road swings.

I can still see “Grampa Tellarico” sitting on his front porch next door smoking his huge stogie, his transistor and an iced-cold Stroh’s on the porch next to him.

At times, I’d see him lean over while in his chair, puffing on his cigar, to listen to whatever it was Ernie had to say.

Erine’s voice was always blaring throughout the old neighborhood.

The Tigers brought a lot of healing to Detroit in ’68 because the city was almost destroyed during the ’67 riots. They beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the World Series.

The Pennant Race of 1967 was one of the best in MLB History, going down to the last day of the season. Unfortuantely, the Tigers dropped the second game of a double header to the Angels and finished one game behind the Red Sox.

The riots started in late July after Detroit Po-Leece raided what was called a “Blind Pig” back then.

A “Blind Pig” was an illegal, after hours gambling and drinking joint. The festivities ended in the morning capped with the usual fistfight, stabbing or shooting.

However, on that day the riots began and the city went through a horrific week of violence.

“Grampa Tellarico” was on his front porch in those days listening to Ernie and Ray while the old neighborhood could see the West Side burning from 8 Mile Road (The Tigers had to play most of their games on the road that season).

The violence cost 43 people their lives, injured thousands, and left the city looking like a smoldering war zone after the Wart Hogs had been through on one of their sorties.iu-10

Beloved Detroit Free Press columnist Joe Falls, another Detroit icon, summarized the impact of the ’68 Tigers:

My town, as you know, had the worst riot in our nation’s history in the summer of 1967, and it left scars which may never fully heal. . . . And so, as 1968 dawned and we all started thinking ahead to the hot summer nights in Detroit, the mood of our city was taut. It was apprehensive. But then something started happening in the middle of 1968. You could pull up to a light at the corner of Clairmount and 12th, which was the hub of last year’s riot, and the guy in the next car would have his radio turned up—‘McLain looks in for the sign, he’s set …here’s the pitch…’ It was a year when an entire community, an entire city, was caught up in a wild, wonderful frenzy.” (1)

The Tigers and Al Kaline played a huge role in healing the racial divide that year.
You had to be there to appreciate what was done.
(1) How The Detroit Tigers Helped Heal a City; by Chris Edwards, The Drive Magazine,
Mike Curtis – One of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history who should be enshrined in Canton.
Curtis made his name while playing for the Colts in Baltimore. iu-13
He was “an intense, hard-hitting linebacker who led the Baltimore Colts to victory in Super Bowl V and once tackled a drunken fan who ventured onto the field.”
He was called “Mad Dog” by his teammates for his fearsome hits and reckless abandon on the football field. (2)
Curtis is the definition of what “Old Time Football” was like.

Rest in peace, Mike Curtis. One of the game’s most legendary non-Hall-of-Famers. Ferocious on the field, a gentleman off the field.” (3)

(2) WSB-TV2, Atlanta; (3) Jim Irsay, Baltimore Colts Owner
Tom Dempsey – He was a kicker for a number of NFL teams back in the day and held the record for the longest field Goal, 63 yards, for 46 years.
The interesting thing about that record was because Dempsey had a handicap, he had half-a-foot on the foot he kicked with.
The best way to describe it was that it looked like a block (See photo below).iu-15Anyway in 1970, he made his famous kick and who do you think it was against?
Yep, none other than the Deeeee-troit Lions. I remember that day like it was yesterday and the Saints stunk the place out in those days.
A former Detroit quarterback by the name of Bobby Lane is said to have “put a curse” on the Lions when they traded him.
Since that time the Lions haven’t done anything notworthy.
My dad told me Lane was a great quarterback who led the Lions to a number of NFL championships before the Super Bowl era.
In fact, pop’s said Lane led the team down the field drunk better than our modern QB’s do sober.
Just once before I die, I’d like to see the Lions win the Lombardi Trophy.
I ain’t holding my breath.

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