Sparky Anderson Passes Away

My baseball consciousness arose in the mid-80’s, and Sparky was Tiger baseball.  I consider myself fortunate.

I’d love for some of you to share your favorite Sparky memories.

Nobody’s Perfect

The title of the post comes from Armando Galarraga himself in discussing the blown call by Jim Joyce which cost Galarraga a perfect game. That says it all doesn’t it? It speaks to the game, to the call, to everything. There’s no getting around the frustration in this one. A game in which pretty much everyone feels awful when it is done.

Galarraga was sublime in his composure throughout the evening. He never wavered, commanding all of his pitches. He barely even threatened to walk a batter, only once getting to 3 balls in a plate appearance. That he threw a complete game in 88 pitches is a feat in and of itself. When Austin Jackson made a terrific running play on Mark Grudzielanek‘s shot leading off the 9th inning, Galarraga merely grinned slightly. But never was that composure more evident than in Galarraga’s immediate reaction to the call and in the aftermath.

As for Joyce, he’s devastated as well though it is little consolation to most fans. Detroit sports writer Dave Hogg, @stareagle on Twitter, interviewed Joyce after the game. He tweeted some of Joyce’s quotes:

Joyce said he didn’t know if he would try to talk to Galarraga. “I don’t know what to do. I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

“Biggest call of my career, and I kicked the s**t out of it.”

“I don’t blame the Tigers for anything that was said. I don’t blame one person a bit.”

“If I were Galarraga, I would have been the first one in my face, and he didn’t say a word to me.”

The firestorm around instant replay has been launched as have calls for reversals, scoring decision changes, and Bud Selig overruling Joyce’s call and awarding Galarraga a perfect game. Only the former has a real chance of happening. The latter would set precedents that MLB likely isn’t eager to pursue.

As for my thoughts on instant replay, I don’t know right now. I haven’t been a big proponent of it. Joyce was asked about instant replay and on this we agree tonight: “He was asked about it and said that he was having trouble thinking about anything beyond what he had just done.”

That’s the shame of it all. We’re talking about the wrong things because Jim Joyce screwed up. We should be weaving story lines about Galarraga starting the year in the minors. And Alex Avila calling a perfect game in just his 46th game behind the dish. Instead at best we can think back to Milt Wilcox and Jerry Hairston in 1983, and at worst we’ll curse Joyce’s name and talk about what he took from Galarraga and the fans. One day we can even look back and view this game as the catalyst for expanded use of instant replay. But it will never feel right or good.

Congratulations Armando. You did everything you could, and you did it with the utmost class and composure.

Ernie Harwell information

Here is a compilation of Ernie Harwell related articles, videos, and information about ceremonies and remembrances. The above picture was taken by current Tigers broadcaster and former radio partner of Harwell, Dan Dickerson shortly after the news filtered out last night.

Ceremonies

The funeral and memorial will be a private affair. However, there will be a public viewing taking place at Comerica Park on Thursday May 6th. The viewing begins at 7 a.m. at Gate A. It will last as long as it takes and complimentary parking is available in Lots 1, 2, and 3.

To further the endowment of the Ernie Harwell Collection at the Detroit Public Library and to fund partial college scholarships, please send memorial donations to the Ernie Harwell Foundation c/o S. Gary Spicer, 16845 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe, MI 48230.

The team will wear uniform patches for the remainder of the season and a flag will be raised at Comerica Park prior to the May 10th game against the New York Yankees.

In light of the news of Ernie Harwell’s passing, MLB Network will re-air Harwell’s interview on “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” tomorrow, Wednesday, May 5 at 4:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. CT.

Multimedia

Below is an audio clip of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price both announcing, and coming to terms with the news during the first inning of last night’s game. It was painful, poignant, and touching. Dan and Jim had to experience their grief over the air, live. A terrific job by both.

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Commentary

Do right by Sparky

The support has always been there, but with Sparky Anderson in town again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1984 team there is a new sense of urgency. It is time to get Sparky’s name on the wall at Comerica Park.

Tom Gage wrote about it last week. Ian Casselberry wrote about it yesterday. Both expressed the case wonderfully and I don’t have much to add – except that after seeing Sparky speak to the crowd Monday night this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Continue reading Do right by Sparky

Ernie Harwell and the moment

When it was announced that Ernie Harwell would be a trip to Comerica Park to address the fans my first instinct was that I should look into tickets. I hemmed and hawed and after reading a wonderful article by Tom Gage I decided that I simply had to be in the stadium that Wednesday night. I don’t know that I’ve ever described myself as melancholy before, but that was an apt description that day. During lunch I found a single ticket in the second row on StubHub and I pulled the trigger. I’d be in the park for Ernie’s Thank You/Farewell.

The night was somber in so many ways. It was a celebration of the greatest generation and World War II veterans. A celebration, but hardly a party. A time to honor those that were there and remember those that weren’t.

Plus there is something about late season games. The park just feels different. There is a little chill in the air, the park darkens more quickly than at the height of summer, and the end of summer as dictated by baseball’s 162 game season is palpable. The anticipation and build up that fans feel starting in February is coming to a close and the thought of a long cold winter looms. The setting was appropriate for the greatest Tiger of them all to once again step-up to the microphone.

Continue reading Ernie Harwell and the moment

The Harwell Round-Up

The downside of going to the game is less time to write about what happened. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Ernie was perfect as always and instead of being sad to see and hear him for what would likely be the last time, I was just thrilled to be a part of it. Ernie just makes things better, even the saddest of days. With that said, here’s some links and videos from around the internets.

(if you’re reading this in an RSS reader, the video embeds and such won’t appear)

Harwell’s address to the media:

The speech to the fans(h/t Bless You Boys):

MLB.com has the video of the video tribute (not embeddable).

The Tigers players and Rusty Kuntz talk about Harwell’s address.

The text of the speech to the fans.

Saluting Ernie

It won’t be a ceremony but Ernie Harwell will appear at Comerica Park on Wednesday night to thank the fans, the media, and the team. There are plenty of seats available, and even if you don’t buy a ticket head down and hang out on the fence and stand and applaud long and loud for one of the true treasures not only in baseball, but in the entire state of Michigan and beyond.

Harwell will also appear at the Detroit Lions game on Sunday at Ford Field serving as an honorary captain.

And that’s that for Tiger Stadium

The news came down yesterday that despite valiant attempts by many to save her, Tiger Stadium was going to finally come down. Surprisingly I felt very little when I heard the news.

I think a combination of things were in play. First and foremost the corner just hasn’t looked right since the majority of the stadium was stripped away last summer. I drive by on a fairly regular basis and it just wasn’t the Tiger Stadium I had memories of.

The plans for maintaining the field and part of the stadium were noble, and quite frankly I would have been thrilled to see it come to fruition. But like so much else, the timing wasn’t there with the downturn in economy. That could have been avoided perhaps if it weren’t for the decade of nothingness since the last game was played.

I’ll continue to drive by the place, and it will just be another empty lot in Detroit. But I was there for the last game and I have the memories of my first game. Plus, I had my chance to say good bye to her.

George Kell Passes Away

George Kell’s Hall of Fame plaque (elected, 1983)

George Clyde Kell
Philadelphia A.L. 1943-1946, Detroit A.L. 1946-52, Boston A.L. 1952-54,
Chicago A.L. 1954-56, Baltimore A.L. 1956-57
Premier A.L. third baseman of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Solid hitter and sure-handed fielder with strong, accurate arm. Batter over .300 nine times, leading league with .343 in 1949. Led A.L. third basemen in fielding pct. 7 times, assists 4 times and putout and double plays twice.


Sad news for the Tigers family today with the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell. Kell of course was the Tigers third baseman for a spell in the 40’s and later became an institution as a broadcaster. In addition to his broadcasting work, he was largely responsible for bringing Ernie Harwell to Detroit after the two had met in Baltimore.

I grew up watching Kell and Al Kaline on the WDIV broadcasts and his southern drawl is etched into my memory. I remember the way he’d say “They’re gonna wave him home!” with a runner coming around third. Or the way he’d say even mundane phrases like “and the Tigers’ll be in Arrrrrrlington on Tuuuuuesday night.” At a press event at The Henry Ford museum I had to chance to speak with Mr. Kell for a few moments, and just hearing his voice made me feel a little bit warm. Rest in Peace Mr. Kell.

UPDATE: Just got this info from Fox Sports. They will be airing some Kell related programming tomorrow night. Also some quotes from Mario Impemba and John Keating.

On Wednesday (7:30 & 10:00 pm) and Sunday (12:30 & 4:00 pm), FOX Sports Detroit will re-air its 2005 half-hour special titled “FSN Basement: All-Star Edition,” featuring interviews with George Kell and Al Kaline, each recalling their numerous All-Star Game appearances, memories of playing for the Tigers and their years working together in the television booth.


Mario Impemba, Tigers play-by-play announcer, FOX Sports Detroit –

“Growing up in Detroit, Mr. Kell had a big impact on my desire to become a broadcaster. He had a unique voice that featured a smooth southern charm. People knew they were watching Tigers baseball when they heard George’s voice every summer.”

John Keating, TIGERS LIVE host, FOX Sports Detroit —

“One of the highlights of my broadcasting career was our trip to interview George at his home in Swifton, Arkansas…. just to talk baseball and his place in Detroit’s sporting history. He was gracious and warm to those of us who were still involved with the Tigers. He still watched every Tigers game and enjoyed it with no regrets about stepping away from the broadcast booth. To those of us who grew up with George and Al and Ernie and Paul Carey, they shaped the standard for broadcasting sports in our town. It is less of a ‘bright and sunshiny day’ in Michigan.

Junkballing: Zach Miner, Tiger Stadium, and injured shortstops

Zach Miner starts again

The question of the 5th starter has been answered – for now. Zach Miner will take the spot formerly occupied by Eddie Bonine and before him Dontrelle Willis. Miner had some struggles with control out of the pen this year. But in two “stretch-out” starts for Toledo he has posted a 12:2 strike out to walk ratio in 8.1 innings. I’m in favor of giving Miner a shot, but I think there will be a pretty quick switch if he starts running every count full and walking people.

Is Tiger Stadium saved?

There have been deadline extenstions, and votes to keep some parts, and votes to knock the whole thing down. But now the Daily Fungo points to a news release on Carl Levin’s web site that there is $4 million earmarked for Corktown preservation and redevelopment. Presumably this is the money that the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy is hoping to obtain to save a portion of the stadium.

Injured middle infielders littered throughout the system

When the Tigers traded away their stud centerfield prospects middle infield became the organizational position of strength. Instead it’s become the organizational position of DL stays and ibuprofen. Edgar Renteria is battling a hamstring injury that he reagravated tonight.

Cale Iorg, the Tigers big time bonus pick from last year just hit the DL for Lakeland. His keystone partner Scott Sizemore has missed a big chunk of the season with a broken bone in his hand. Danny Worth, another draft pick from last year who has been a defensive whiz for Erie is now missing time. And high ceiling shortstop Audy Ciriaco just went on the DL for West Michigan.

And while they are health now, both Ramon Santiago and Mike Hollimon missed time this season due to separated shoulders.

It must be something they are putting in the water at second base.

And the walls, come tumbling down

I haven’t written much about the demolition of Tiger Stadium, mostly because I haven’t had a lot to add to the discussion. There are many who feel it’s an eye sore and that there’s been enough time for something to happen. There is talk of moving on to spur development and revitalization. I guess there’s probably some truth to that, maybe. I just look at all the abandoned buildings and empty lots in Detroit and I guess I don’t understand why one more hulking mass can’t be there. At the same time I’ve pretty much resolved myself to the fact that it is going to be gone in a matter of time.

I had the chance last fall to walk around the field a little bit and head into the Tigers dugout. The place was beat up, and it was sad to see it in its current state. But it helped to get that one last glimpse of the place and to say good bye.

If you want the same chance, or at least a chance to peer inside you better head down to the corner quickly. The walls are coming down.

For now it is just the outfield walls as there is a last ditch effort by the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy to save the areas from first to third base, including the clubhouses and press box. Gary Gillette who sits on the board of the conservancy is optimistic that something can be done by the August 1st deadline but there is a lot of inertia to overcome.

If you’re interested in learning more about the efforts to save the old park, visit SaveTigerStadium.org

On a related note, Paul DePodesta recently reminisced about the stadium on his blog.

1968 Tigers Celebration

Tonight the Tigers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s a jersey giveaway and opportunities to get autographs from members of the ’68 team. Details are below:

On Tuesday, the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a commemorative 1968 Tigers 40th Anniversary replica road jersey, courtesy of FSN Detroit and the Detroit Medical Center.

Fans will have an opportunity to meet their favorite 1968 Tigers, as members of the team will be signing autographs on the main concourse behind sections 125, 140 and 151 as well as the 300 level concourse behind section 324 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Players and coaches scheduled to attend include: Jim Price, Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Wayne Comer, Bill Freehan, John Hiller, Mickey Lolich, Tom Matchick, Dick McAuliffe, Denny McLain, Daryl Patterson, Mickey Stanley, Dick Tracewski, Jon Warden, Don Wert, Hal Naragon and Bill Behm.

The tribute will continue with a special “Year of the Tiger 1968” video feature on the scoreboard. The video will be followed by an on-field, pre-game ceremony to recognize the members of the 1968 team. In addition to all of the pre-game festivities, one member of the 1968 team will throw the ceremonial first pitch.

In addition, a new book about the ’68 team was compiled by a number of SABR members and is titled Sock it to em Tigers. Brian Borawski was a contributor and has more details about the book.