Monday, December 11, 2017
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FSScover4x6dpi72Fantastic Sports Stuff  

by Bob Henige

From the Author

 

My maniacal obsession with sports started early in my life.  As a child, I constantly cuddled up in the dining room to the only radio in the house to listen to the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, Wolverines, and Spartans.  The radio was barely audible so as not to disturb the other family members watching our only television in the adjoining living room.  Today, we have six TVs with dozens of sports channels and no one would think of listening to a sporting event on the radio anywhere but in a car.

 

I am a homer.  I’m consumed by Detroit teams.  I root for American League teams to beat National Leagues squads.  I want the Big Ten to beat everyone else.  Even when the home teams stink, I still can’t help but cheer for them.  While I bad-mouth the Lions constantly, I still get upset, swear, and sulk when I watch them lose on TV.

 

As an eleven-year-old, I kept score of over a hundred Tiger games in 1961 and I’ll bet maybe only a half-dozen of them were televised.

 

In 1962, I giggled as I listened to the Thanksgiving broadcast of the Lions sack Bart Starr countless times and defeat the mighty Packers, 26-14.  It was Green Bay's only loss of the season as they won the NFL championship.

 

I listened to Rick Mount score a zillion points and defeat the Wolverines.

 

I loved Tiger Stadium.  It was Al Kaline throwing out a runner from the right field corner; a beach ball bouncing out of the center-field bleachers onto the field of play; a high fly ball ricocheting off the overhang in right field turning a routine fly ball out into a home-run; a long drive caroming off the center field flagpole that was in the field of play; and sitting in an infield box seat in the lower level, sunk below the field, so close to the action.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared a game at this field of memories with my son, Tim, on the final weekend before the old ballpark on The Corner closed.

I cringe as I recall Ara Parseghian cowardly ordering the Notre Dame offense to take a knee to run out the clock with the score tied in the 1966 “Game of the Century” against the Bubba Smith and George Webster led Spartans.

 

I remember Willie Horton's throw to Bill Freehan to cut down Lou Brock at the plate in the miracle 1968 World Series title one year after the riots.

 

The 1968 Tiger team is my all-time favorite sports team.  Nine players played over ten seasons in Motown and five of them spent their entire career here.  Kaline and Horton are part a small group of five players whose number was retired by the Detroit ball club.  It was a home grown team, with most of the primary players competing during my journey from child to young man from 1962 to 1970.

 

I went nuts when Earl Morrall didn’t see a wide-open Jimmy Orr in the end zone.  Damn those freakin' white shoes!!

 

I can still hear “Bingo” echoing through Cobo Hall when Dave Bing, the future mayor of Detroit, sunk a sweet jump shot for the Pistons.

 

In 1969, I was a naïve, eighteen-year-old fan who really believed Bo could lead the Wolverines over Woody’s undefeated and number-one ranked Buckeyes.

 

I remember the upper deck at Olympia being on such a severe angle that it felt like you’d fall onto the ice if you stumbled forward.

 

I grew up knowing it was your civic duty to hate the Maple Leafs and every team from Chicago.

 

I smile when I think of Vinnie’s “007” championship-clinching, line-drive shot in Portland in 1990.  I loved the Bad Boys.  After all, I’m from the Motor City.

 

I get a smug look on my face when I recall a Tampa Bay defensive back look like a drunk falling off a bar stool when he ran up to try to tackle Barry Sanders.  Barry gave him a hip move and a head fake and the professional defensive player stumbled forward as his mind and body went limp.  No one, and I mean no one, could excite a crowd or a TV audience like Barry.

 

I close my eyes and laugh when I visualize The Captain’s laser shot in the second overtime that beat a befuddled Jon Casey, 1-0, in the seventh game of the 1996 Western Conference semifinals.  Casey had been brilliant, stopping the first 39 shots on goal.

 

I shake my fist in the air and nod approvingly as I recall Darren McCarty mopping the ice with what’s-his-turtle’s-name in the famous brawl against the Avalanche in 1997.

 

I love watching the replay of Magglio’s walk-off homer clinching the 2006 ALCS and the American League pennant.  And, I shake my head when I recall the Tigers' loss in the 2006 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, which may have featured the two worst teams that ever played each other in the Fall Classic.

 

I bite my lip when I recall the ball grazing Brandon Inge’s jersey and the ump calling it a ball in the nauseating loss to the Twins in the one-game playoff for the 2009 Central Division Championship.  I was so sick of hearing that the Twins "play baseball the right way" that year - even though I admired them for doing it.

 

I cherish the fact today’s Tigers have the best starting pitcher and best hitter in baseball.

 

I am grateful I have seen the Lions become relevant and play meaningful games, even if for only one season.

 

I love the past and its memories, but I embrace today’s sports world.  While I long for the time when an athlete stayed with one team, I realize that his ‘loyalty’ was because there was no free agency and it wasn’t fair to the players.  While some of my favorite memories as a child were listening to sports on the radio, I love the fact I can record the television broadcast of any event related to a Detroit sports team on my DVR.  U-verse forever, baby!

 

A couple of years ago, I was contracted to write close to a hundred sports entries for a hard-copy, Wikipedia-like publication of Michigan-related subjects called the Michigan Companion.  The facts I came across became the driving force for this endeavor.  I’ve tried to look past a statistic and add extra meaning to it.  A simple sports fact can be a great story.

 

Fantastic Sports Stuff (FSS) is, in many ways, a story-book for the Michigan sports nut.

 

This is what FSS is all about.

 

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Interview with Bob Henige from the Warren Public Library

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