Category Archives: in memory

RIP Al Kaline

colored pencil drawing of young Al Kaline with tiger striped background

Al Kaline, drawing by Samara Pearlstein

It’s April 2020. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Opening Day has come and gone without any baseball– in fact, there are no major sports of any kind being played right now. The Tigers were not very good last year, but it turns out that even not very good baseball is better than no baseball at all.

And now we have to say goodbye to the man who confusingly introduced battery chemistry to so many young Detroit fans, the man who played his entire career in Detroit, who spent so many years after retirement dedicated to the team and its players, Mr. Tiger himself.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kaline. We’ll miss you.

Jim Northrup, Nov 39, 1939- Jun 8, 2011

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

RIP, Silver Fox.

Sparky Anderson, Feb 22, 1934 – Nov 4, 2010

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

RIP, Mr. Anderson.

Jose Lima, 9/30/1972 – 5/23/2010

Jose Lima was animated. He was loud, unmissable, a presence on the mound and off of it. He was completely bonkers and didn’t particularly care who knew it.

Jose Lima was never as good with the Tigers as he was in the National League. But he was always good for a dance, often on the mound, and if there was ever a need for a pitcher to sing, Lima was there. He spoke his mind, for good or ill. He declared his pitching outings to be Lima Time, to the delight of fans following his team and the irritation of fans following his opponents. He drove his catchers bonkers, but then they could hardly keep from laughing too (as Brandon Inge can attest).

Jose Lima played almost 5 seasons with the Tigers. He was sometimes exasperating, almost always entertaining. He was 37 years old.

Ernie Harwell, Jan. 25, 1918 – May 4, 2010

illustration by Samara Pearlstein, quote by Mr. Harwell

RIP, Mr. Harwell. You magnificent voice, you magnificent human being.

RIP the Bird

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Mark ‘the Bird’ Fidrych was one of the most awesome personalities to ever wear the Olde English D. His tenure with the team was short– he pitched in 20+ games only once, in his rookie year– but intense, with an All Star trip and Rookie of the Year honors coming together in that 1976 season. He was second in Cy Young voting that year with a 2.34 ERA and a 19-9 record. People flocked to the ballpark specifically to see him.

Injuries cut his career short after that, but he remained in the collective Detroit Tigers consciousness, in part because his sudden rise to prominence was such a captivating story, and in part because he was awesomely crazy. He was famous for getting down on all fours and grooming the pitcher’s mound with his hands. He would talk to the ball during his starts. He also had glorious hair (a look that you will note is coming back into baseball fashion today).

The Bird was originally from Northborough, Massachusetts, and returned there after his baseball career had ended. He had a farm and a truck– in fact, he so loved the truck that that was how Massachusetts people who lived in his area described him. “Hey, didja know, Mahk Fidrych lives ’round heah, he has a truck, yanno.” Precisely what he did with the truck (towing? hauling?) was never made clear to me, but people were very emphatic about the truck itself. He would occasionally show up at Fenway when the Tigers were playing, which is where I saw him.

It is no stretch to say that it is unlikely we will see someone like the Bird in Detroit again anytime soon. He may not have been with the Tigers for very long, but the mark he made on the imagination of Tigers fans even long after his career had ended is indelible.

Today the Bird was found dead at his home in Northborough. Early reports indicate that he died while working on his truck. He was 54.

ETA: I suggest a memorial to one of the best things about him– his ability to bring fun to a sometimes deeply (some would say ‘overly’) serious sport. Baseball is, after all, a game, and it’s SUPPOSED to be fun; Fidrych understood that.

So, tomorrow, go out and do a little something ‘willfully eccentric’ (thanks for the phrase, commenter Matt). Talk to your car. Groom the seat of your office chair with your hands. Change pens because the old one doesn’t have enough great ideas in it. Smile at yourself a little, and think of the Bird.

RIP George Kell

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

George Kell was a Tigers TV announcer from 1959 to 1996, a period of 37 years that covered three Division titles, two Detroit World Series, and hundreds of Tigers players. If you watched the Tigers at all during those years, you heard him calling the games and reminiscing about the Tigers teams of old.

He played 15 seasons himself in the Majors, including a little over six seasons with the Tigers. He went to the All Star game five times as a big cat, and in 1949 he hit .343 to beat out Ted Williams for the batting title. Never a big slugger, Kell was an excellent defensive third baseman for most of his career and batted over .300 nine times.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. On his plaque he’s wearing the Olde English D.

Former Detroit Tigers player and broadcaster George Kell passed away today. He was 86.

about a Tigers fan

I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.

As most denizens of the Tigers blogosphere by now are unfortunately aware, we lost a great fan the other day. Brian Bluhm, known to many on the MotownSports message board as estrepe1, was a student at Virginia Tech, and was killed in the shooting.

Lynn Henning has an article up; it’s a good, albeit painful, read.

The internet is a powerful thing for college students, many of whom for the first time find themselves at a remove from their usual ‘communities’. I’m a baseball fan in the art school; many days the only way I can have an intelligent conversation about baseball is with someone online. Brian was a Tigers fan in Virginia. The internet was his way of stretching his Tigers-fan legs.

And stretch them he did. It’s tough to be any kind of fan and be removed from the rest of your fanbase, but Brian was that kind of fan that feels such removal more keenly than others: the rabid fan. He didn’t just enjoy baseball, he loved baseball with a consuming passion… and it’s not a leap for someone who only knew him “on the internet” to say that. Why else would he spend hours in front of a computer, talking to people scattered across the country and the world, most of whom he never expected to meet in person, discussing things like Andrew Miller’s ETA and Carlos Guillen’s contract? Any rabid sports fan recognizes that kind of behavior. It’s a labor of love.

It’s hard to describe to someone who isn’t a member of these online communities, but there is a true sense of, well, community, and any loss therein is painful to all. Brian was so integral a member of MotownSports that it’s hard, nearly impossible, to imagine the place without him. A new topic of discussion would come up– someone would get traded, someone’s bat would heat up, someone would throw a good game– and soon enough estrepe1 would be chiming in with his opinion. It’s something to look for when you first come to a new thread. Scan down it to see what the regulars have to say. Sometimes they’ll say something you agree with, sometimes not, sometimes they’ll say something that’ll make you roll your eyes or laugh. Regardless of what’s written, it’s good to know that those voices are there. It’s a comfort, in a way.

The untimely removal of one of those voices is jarring. It seems stupid, maybe, to feel genuine sorrow for someone you never knew in person, but community is community. That’s part of being a fan, right?

Brian was a fan. He was one of our fans. He loved the Tigers even from afar, loved them enough to want to talk about them all the time, think about them a lot, see what other people were thinking about them. He was a Curtis Granderson fan. He was intelligent and funny, and he knew so much about the Tigers that his opinions carried a lot of weight among many intelligent fans.

So now Brian’s friends and family are left to deal with his absence, and all our thoughts go out to them. And there are many more people, scattered all across the country and the world, who go about their business with a heavier heart, grieving for a member of a community we all belong to, even if we’ve never met.

Because division rivals are people too.

RIP, big guy.