December 1, 2014
Watching the Lions on Thanksgiving Day evokes many memories - especially when they whip up on a team like they did the Bears last week. Throughout the years, no matter how good the Lions were, they could always count on being on national television on Thanksgiving Day. As a matter of fact, until fairly recently, they were the only game on the holiday - a source of great frustration for other teams throughout the league. So much so, that both William Clay Ford Senior and Junior had to go to the league to fight to keep the game in Detroit. With the advent of first the afternoon and most recently, the night game, the pressure for the Lions to rotate the game has waned. And well it should! It was the Lions who created the tradition some 75 years ago, when it television didn't control the football schedule and along with it the huge sums of money. It was the Lions who maintained the holiday traditions over the years - so much so that many metro Detroiters build there day around both the parade and the Lions game. Speaking of the parade, when the Lions played in Pontiac, a little bit of the tradition of watching both events in person slipped - but now with Ford Field only steps away from the Woodward Avenue parade venue, the tradition has expanded to include both again. Matthew Stafford's outstanding performance also evokes memories of Barry Sanders and his tremendous Thanksgiving Day games, and Herman Moore chomping on one of John Madden's turkey legs. I'm sure the Joe Schmidt generation of Lions fans would have their memories of Bobby Layne leading the team on a last minute drive. Thank goodness the Fords had the vision and leadership to fight to keep the game here. In all of sports, it is one of the grandest traditions.
November 13, 2014
Of all the things I do as executive director of the Hall of Fame, none is more enjoyable than the honor of informing our new inductees of their election. This year was not exception - but especially for inductee Aleta Sill. A former professional bowler, Aleta owns a bowling pro shop in Farmington, not far from where I live. As much as I enjoy speaking to the inductees giving them the good news on the phone, I've never had the pleasure of telling anyone in person. So with Aleta, I decided to stop by her shop and surprise her with the news. On a recent Saturday, I stopped by her shop in Farmington to deliver the good news in person. After introducing myself and letting her know she was part of the 2015 Class of Inductees -her first reaction was priceless. To say that she was incredulous is to understate her reaction. Surprise, doubt and ultimately joy were the succession of expressions she displayed - it was wonderful to watch! When she heard the other members of her class - she was dumbfounded again! On top of all this, she was a having a tough day, and this news helped make it one of her most memorable. When we announced the class up in East Lansing with Aleta and Tom Izzo in attendance - she was once again in awe of being with the coach. Then, in as classy an act as you are likely to see, Tom made Aleta feel at ease and important during the interview period. In short, this experience got the induction process off to a thrilling start!!
September 21, 2014
With all the place kicking issues the Detroit Lions have suffered through in the early parts of the 2014 season, it makes one appreciate even the very rare era that ended with the retirement of Jason Hanson. A member of our 2014 Class of Inductees last February, Hanson joined with fellow Hall of Fame member Eddie Murray to provide the Lions with 33 seasons of kicking excellence. So good were these two, they often were the lone bright spot on otherwise dismal Lion teams. There heroics often went unnoticed when the team struggled through one disappointing season after another. Their consistency and high talent level was never more apparent than when we watched the early season struggles of the Lions kickers - which included weak efforts that we never saw during the Murray/Hanson era - even on their worst days. I'm not sure we ever truly appreciated how good they were from long range - even though Hanson has the most field goals from 50 yards and further in league history. Both of them had a very high rate of success in both field goals and extra points - fans considered them automatic! Watching the floundering kicking game that cost the Lions at least one game if not two only reinforces the tremendous legacy left by our Hall of Fame kicking duo - Murray and Hanson.
September 15, 2014
One interesting thing about the follow up careers of our Hall of Fame members is seeing how many have gone on into the world of broadcasting following their playing careers. In last week's blog, I mentioned Jim Brandstatter and Dan Dierdorf as they work together for the first time in the University of Michigan broadcast booth. Recently, HOFer Jack Morris was a guest announcer joining Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast team. The former Tiger hurler has been working on the Minnesota Twins broadcasts for the last several seasons, and speculation is rampant that this was a tryout for a possible slot on calling the Tiger games next year. Rumors have it that the Fox Sport folks are looking to get a pitcher's viewpoint on their telecasts, and in my opinion, Morris did a very good job. He was insightful, interesting and even funny while doing a good job of meshing with Mario and Rod. Morris has come a long way from his days as the rather surly, sarcastic pitcher during his days with the Tigers. When he was inducted into the HOF, he used his speech as a way to apologize to the media for the way he treated them during his time in Detroit, and basically said he is looking forward to his new career in broadcasting. Based on his recent stint, it appears to me that he has done a good job in re-creating himself as a member of the media. Now we'll see if FSD makes any move for next year.
September 5, 2014
As the executive director, I'm always on the look out for connections with our Hall of Fame members. As the new local football seasons begin, the broadcast teams for the Lions, UM and MSU have a distinct Michigan Sports Hall of Fame flavor. Beginning with the Lions, the pre-season television broadcasts included HOF members Herman Moore as part of the play-by-play team, and Charlie Sanders as the halftime host. In addition, Tom Leyden, who served as overall host of the games, is one of our Induction Event emcees, and play-by-play man Matt Shepard joined us as a celebrity at our recent golf event. On the radio side, newly inducted color commentator Jim Brandstatter joins Dan Miller, who also serves as one of our Induction Event emcees. In addition to his Lions' duties, this season Brandy debuts as the UM play-by-play replacement for another HOFer, Frank Beckmann, who retired following last season. Joining Brandy in calling the Wolverine games is another HOFer, Dan Dierdorf. Following his retirement from calling network NFL games, Dierdorf joins Brandy as the color commentator. For the Michigan State Spartans heard on the Spartan Sports Network, Hall of Famer George Blaha calls play-by-play and Will Tieman, who serves as the pre, post and half-time show host, also hosted the first ever radio broadcast of our Induction Event last February. It's great to see so many HOF ties to our local football coverage!
June 6, 2014
While the Detroit Tigers are currently on a very challenging downslide, and fans are obviously very disappointed and concerned, this is a very important test of first year manager Brad Ausmus. When the team was on a roll to start the season, and reached a high-water mark of 14 games over .500 with a 7 game lead over their next closest Central Division opponent, it was much easier for Ausmus. But now, with the team in its first serious funk since he took over the helm from Jim Leyland, we will see just how good a decision Dave Dombrowski made in choosing Ausmus, with no prior managerial experience, to lead this team. It was a risk - especially coming on the heels of the successful managerial run by the wily Leyland, but Ausmus, a former Tiger catcher, overwhelmed Dombrowski during the interview process. But now, with the team in at tailspin, it will become evident if Ausmus can rally his team, make the right decisions, and most importantly show leadership skills that can help lead them back to where they were three weeks ago. Right now, it's more than making out a lineup card or pulling a struggling pitcher - it's setting a tone that inspires his team to believe in themselves. It's no small task - we'll see if Ausmus is up to it.
April 9, 2014
Unbelievable Red Wings Make Playoffs Again!
In what has become one of the most challenging seasons in the incredible run of success for the Detroit Red Wings, they have clinched a playoff berth for the 23 consecutive season. In today's age of salary caps and planned parity, this feat is nothing short of stunning. In a recent conversation I had with longtime Wings Executive Vice President and Hall of Fame member Jimmy Devellano, he said that if the Wings can make the playoffs this year, despite the incredible streak of injuries, it would be a greater accomplishment than winning the Stanley Cup. While I'm sure Jimmy was exaggerating a bit, it none the less shows what a great accomplishment this season has been. When Hall of Famers like Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman were the stars, before the salary cap, GM Ken Holland had an open checkbook from owner and Hall of Fame member Mike Ilitch to stock the bench with superstars like Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, Brett Hull and Dominik Hasek. However with the hard cap now in place, the Wings brain trust has to rely on drafting and signing of free agents to keep the team competitive. That challenge, combined with the incredible rash of injuries suffered this season, makes the playoff run this year even more impressive.
Of course, winning another Stanley Cup is another story.....
January 16, 2014
The Jim Caldwell era begins for the Detroit Lions this week, and the naming of the new coach calls to mind just how unique one of our members of our class of inductees is. During the search for a new coach, much has been written about the long drought since the Lions have even approached being called a champion. The last time the Lions have been able to proudly display an NFL championship banner was 1957. It's hard to comprehend just how much has changed since that long ago championship season. The Soviet Union has fallen, the Cold War ended, communism has been greatly diminished and the Japanese have wrested control of the auto industry. No fewer than 10 Presidents have called the White House home, and computers and cell phones rule our world. 2014 Inductee Dorne Dibble has lived through these changing times and stands as one of the last living members of that 1957 championship team. The native of Adrian and MSU All-American continues to enjoy watching football, but is quick to recall those winning years. Playing both offensive and defensive end, Dorne recalls the exploits of such stars as Bobby Layne, Yale Lary , Doak Walker and all the other Lion champs. Only time will tell if Jim Caldwell will help lead the Lions back to the promised land, but Dorne Dibble will be hoping and waiting to once again celebrate a Lions championship reign!! You can join Dorne and the rest of the 2014 Class of Inductees at the 58th Induction Event on Friday, February 28th at the Max Fisher Music Center in downtown Detroit. Tickets are available right here on our Michigan Sports Hall of Fame website.
May 8, 2012
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, asset of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame is our tremendous roster of inductees. The recent heavily-hyped debut of Washington National 19 year old phenom Bryce Harper brings to mind a young budding superstar who came to the majors at the same tender young age. Tiger legend Al Kaline was just 19 when he played his first full season in Detroit in 1954. Born and raised in Baltimore, he actually made his debut for a handful of games at age 18 the previous year. In 1955, he set a Major League standard that remains unmatched today when he became the youngest player to ever win a batting title at 20. Of course, the glare of the media spotlight on the young Kaline is only a miniscule percentage of what Harper is facing in his first year in the big leagues. However, some things never change, and the impact of a player making such an impact at such a young age remains rare in the game. Equally special players like Ken Griffey come to mind when thinking about players who succeed at such a young. Of course, Kaline went on to forge a career that landed him not only in our Hall, but also the Baseball Hall of Fame among many other honors. We will watch with great interest the progress of young Mr. Harper, and hope for his sake he doesn’t wilt in the glare of such an intense spotlight. Should he need to consult the baseball history book for inspiration on how to handle such a challenge, studying the quiet manner in which Kaline went about his business for his entire 22 year career could provide quite a valuable lesson.
April 17, 2012
One of the things we are most proud of with the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame is the annual All-Star On-line Auction we began in 2011. One of the keys to the auction items is the opportunity to meet and spend time with our greatest asset - our Hall of Famers. Packages range from golf outings, lunches, dinners, behind-the-scenes tours and game experiences.
While some of the greatest members of our Hall including Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Joe Schmidt, Joe Dumars, Willie Horton and Dick Enberg have supported this program, we also have packages with some of the great names in local sports involved. Recently, we were proud to host just such an event the Red Wings Brain Trust dinner. For the second consecutive year, Wings GM Ken Holland, head coach Mike Babcock and former Wing legend and special advisor, Chris Chelios. To say that this was a rare opportunity to hear first hand the thoughts of some of the greatest minds in hockey is an understatement. The stories shared by all three were compelling, as well as non-stop. All articulate and thoughtful, the three kept the four auction winners enthralled with tale after tale of not only on-the-ice stories, but off the ice as well. One of the most telling features of the evening is that despite the playoffs looming, none of the three were in a hurry to leave and posed for photos. We thank the efforts of all three, as well as the auction winners!!!
November 7, 2011
One of the proudest groups of our Michigan Sports Hall of Fame membership is our high school coaches and two of the greatest names are Al Fracassa and John Herrington. Fracassa has been the head football coach at Brother Rice since the late 1960's and Herrington has headed up the Farmington Hills Harrison squad since it's inception in 1969. Since then these two legendary leaders and coaches have won over 20 state titles between them, and have sent dozens of players on to great success in the collegiate and professional football ranks.
As luck would have it, they faced off in the state playoffs last Friday, November 4 in the District finals at the home field of Harrison and it promised to be an epic battle. Harrison was undefeated and had rolled through their schedule winning every game by a large margin. Uncharacteristically, the Warriors were one of the few teams to make the playoffs with a 5-4 record. Once they met on the field, all records were thrown out, and Fracassa led his team to a shocking rout of the Hawks. It was a classic match-up between two of the greatest names in the history of high school football and we are proud to call both of them members of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
September 30, 2011
On the heels of another successful Induction Event, it's interesting to see how many Michigan Sports Hall of Fame members are involved with the exciting end to the MLB season. With the Tigers, HOFers Al Kaline and Willie Horton have been instrumental in supporting Dave Dombrowski and his staff, as they have prepared a tremendous team for playoff competition. Of course, HOF member and team owner Mike Ilitch could not be prouder.
Down in Arizona, HOFers Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell have led the Diamondbacks into the playoffs in Gibby's first full year at the helm. It is likely that he will win the NL Manager of the Year for his efforts only adding to his resume!! It will be interesting to see if his success as Gibby's bench coach helps Tram get another shot at managing somewhere in the near future.
On another HOF front, we have been honoring some of the best and brightest high school student athletes with our Tomorrow's Winners award for over a decade. This week, when the Cleveland Indians were in town, a former awardee made an appearance before his hometown crowd. Zach Putnam, a graduate of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, was a star pitcher for the University of Michigan Wolverines before being drafted by the Indians. We wish him the best of luck!!
September 19, 2011
In looking back at our 55th Induction Event held last Thursday in Novi, I can truly say that this was one of our best ever!! Not only was the ceremony truly memorable, but the receptions were tremendous. We offered our guests a rare display of championship trophies including the Detroit Piston's World Championship Trophy, the 1997 U-M Football National Championship Trophy, the U-M Softball NCAA National Championship Trophy and the 2010 MSU Big Ten Trophy. It was remarkable to see so many people having their photos taken with this hardware. My favorite image was Piston Bad Boys Rick Mahorn and James Edwards posing for fan photos with the trophy a truly rare experience. All of the Inductees were very courteous and cooperative with the guests and media alike.
During the Induction Ceremony, one of the most memorable aspects was all of the interaction between the inductees. Recalling their favorite memories, they shared stories about each other as well as their memorable careers. For instance, Lloyd Carr had personal experiences with each of the other inductees except for John Spring. Especially humorous was his story about recruiting Jerome Bettis and finally being turned down in favor of Notre Dame by his mother. Following the expected U-M "love fest", Carl Banks jokingly asked fellow MSU grad Carol Hutchins to stand up as a proud Spartan. Greg Meyer shared a story about how during his education at U-M; he actually had a job as Bo Schembechler's janitor. Later, when he was working in the development office at UM, he worked with Lloyd Carr driving around the state raising money and joked that he was his chauffeur. MC Frank Beckmann told the story about how when Hutch was a newly named head softball coach, one of her duties was to mow the lawn and in one unfortunate incident, drove the mower into the outfield fence!
More recollections from the 55th Induction Event to be coming soon...
August 22, 2011
It's amazing to me how far the reach of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame members can stretch. Coming up this weekend is an example of how our HOF members can reach so many young lives. Beginning this Thursday is the 7th Annual Big Day Prep Showdown at Rynearson Stadium on the Campus of Eastern Michigan University. High School football teams from all over the state will meet in what has become the traditional start of the season. Started by HOF Board of Trustee Member Dave Beachnau, this year the Prep Showdown will feature games with both Brother Rice and Farmington Hills Harrison. The legendary coaches of these two programs Al Fracassa and John Herrington are both honored Michigan Sports Hall of Fame members. With over 20 state championships between these two coaches, they have sent countless players on to some of the top college football programs as well as the professional ranks. The lives they have touched through their coaching efforts number in the thousands. In addition to being two of the most successful coaches in the history of high school football in our state, they are also two of the nicest and classiest people you would ever want to meet. They support our HOF events and activities, and are always available to help in any way in which they are asked. They even appeared together on Channel 7 last week with Tom Leyden, another HOF supporter, to help promote the Prep Showdown. We are proud to be able to call both coaches distinguished members of our Hall of Fame, and we wish them both the best of luck in the upcoming season.
Don't forget our upcoming 55th Induction Event on Thursday, September 15 at the Suburban Collection Showplace. Visit our website at michigansportshof.org for complete information. Hope to see you there.
August 15, 2011
With only a little over a month to go, everyone involved with the Hall of Fame are getting very excited about the 55th Induction Event scheduled for Thursday, September 15 at the Suburban Collection Showplace. For the second consecutive year, we are returning to Novi and the elegant Diamond Event Center as the host site for our reception and ceremony. Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson and Detroit Mayor and Hall of Fame member Dave Bing will once again serve as our honorary co-chairmen.
Our class of inductees this year features several homegrown talents including legendary University of Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr, NFL superstar Jerome Bettis and MSU and NFL star Carl Banks. Joining them in the class of eight inductees are UM softball coach Carol Hutchins, long distance runner and the last American to win the Boston Marathon Greg Meyer, NFL Hall of Famer and Detroit Lion star Dick LeBeau, longtime world champion fastpitch softball pitcher John Spring and the late Catholic League coaching legend Ron Thompson.
Our evening will begin at 5pm with a private VIP reception honoring not only the inductees, but also our Hall of Fame members and special invited guests and sponsors. At 6 pm, we will open the doors to all of our ticket holders for an elegant strolling supper featuring food and dessert stations. We will also host a terrific silent auction featuring sports collectibles, autographed items and game used pieces.
At 7:30, we will begin the Induction Ceremony that will take place in our specially created theater and will be led by our Master of Ceremonies and Hall of Fame member Frank Beckmann. We will also feature the announcement of the winners of the Dave Bing Scholarships for Achievement and Leadership and we will present the Wright & Filippis Courage award to a very deserving recipient.
Tickets are available at our website and more announcements will be forthcoming. We hope you will join us for a great evening of networking and sports entertainment!!!
April 15, 2011
In my work with the Hall of Fame, one of the greatest joys is to work directly with the Hall of Famers. We had a great opportunity for this on Opening Day as we helped support the fund raising event for the Winning Futures mentoring organization at the Gem Theater. As part of the Hall of Fame's support, we invited several Hall members to attend, visit with guests, sign autographs, and generally be Hall of Famers! Ray Scott, Frank Tanana, Ray Lane, Greg Kelser and Frank Beckmann all attended and helped make the event more special for the 800 plus guests! Ray did a great job of serving as our HOF spokesman, and helping with the live auction. It was fun watching the HOFers interact as well as they are friends from over the years.
Following the event, we invited the Hall members to attend Opening Day as our guests and Ray Scott, Ray Lane and Frank Tanana all took advantage. I had the good fortune to be able to spend some time at the game with them and what a treat!! Just listening to them tell their stories of past memories, mutual friends and even shared experiences made me fell like the most fortunate person in the ballpark!! Seeing the Hall of Famers interact and genuinely enjoy each others company made me proud of our organization, and look forward to the next opportunity to allow them to gather together!!
January 27, 2011
Just in time for the dead of winter, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame is heating things up with an exciting new exhibit that will be on display at the Detroit Historical Museum now through April 3rd. This first-of-its-kind exhibit offers sports fans an opportunity to experience the mission of the Hall of Fame through this compelling display of classic photos, unique artifacts, vintage audio and video displays as well as thrilling stories of memorable victories and championships.
Dubbed "Sudden Death, Walk-Offs and Buzzer Beaters Detroit's Great Sports Comebacks", the exhibit will also feature stories of some of the greatest wins in the long and storied history of the Tigers, Wings, Pistons, Lions, Wolverines and Spartans. Who can forget Steve Yzerman's goal in double overtime to beat the St. Louis Blues in 1996 to set the stage for the Stanley Cup win the following season?
How about the Tigers remarkable comeback in the 1968 World Series against the Cardinals, or the Vinnie Johnson's shot to clinch the second consecutive NBA crown with .007 left on the clock in Portland? Who could forget the pass, and the radio call by Bob Ufer, of the John Wangler to Anthony Carter touchdown connection to allow U-M to win the last second homecoming game?
These are just a few of the memories that will be evoked by visiting the exhibit. In addition, there is a tribute to the stadiums and arenas that we grew up with - including Tiger Stadium memorabilia on display for the first time.
There is also an exciting display dedicated to many championships won by our local teams dating all the way back to 1935. Plus you'll see additional exhibits on our partnership with the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame, boxing and Olympic sports.
Also featured is a tribute to Artist Doug West and some of his most memorable works of sports art including a larger than life reproduction of the new HOF piece "Our MVPs."
We have attempted to capture positive messages of teamwork, persistence, faith and other encouraging elements will invite visitors to take home a feeling of inspiration relevant to their lives, especially during our state's economic comeback journey.
For a great dose of nostalgia, or just to warm up a cold winter afternoon, visit the Hall of Fame exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum now through April 3rd.
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