Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Fantastic Sports Stuff
by Bob Henige



Fantastic Sports Stuff (FSS) is a collection of rare and fascinating sports stories and facts, thought-provoking statistical analysis, great photos, and entertaining sports trivia questions, mostly about Michigan sports.  The unique format of FSS entertains beyond expectation.  An entry can start with the amazing 1961 season in Major League Baseball and pretty soon you're reading about the 1899 Cleveland Spiders' abysmal 20-134 record that resulted in baseball's banishment of syndicate ownership.  Another entry can discuss baseball's first bidding war that occurred in the early 1900s when the American League became a major professional baseball league and end up with a short bio of Nap Lajoie and the origination of the baseball sani.  FSS takes a simple sports statement and blends it into several related stories, facts, and trivia questions.  I hope you find the format entertaining.


FSS contains over 500 pages of terrific features with over 150 stunning sports images, including vintage pictures of Willie Horton in his 1959 Northwestern High School uniform, Casey Stengel as a Toledo Mud Hen manager, George "Papa Bear" Halas in a New York Yankee uniform, and many of the all-time Detroit sports greats like Gordie Howe, Barry Sanders, Steve Yzerman, and Ty Cobb.  The book also contains 1935 and 1968 World Series programs and tickets, classic sports cards, an image of the program from the Pistons' 1960 NBA playoff game played in the Grosse Pointe High School gym, and a spectacular historical collection of the ballparks on The Corner.


The entries include:


In 1906, pro football legalized the forward pass to save lives.  There were 18 deaths attributed to college and high school football the previous year.  The entry examines the development of the "projectile pass" and the early programs that embraced it.


The average number of 40+ home run MLB hitters is about two per season except during the steroid era (1996-2006) when MLB averaged almost 12 per year for 11 years.  Sammy Sosa had 3 seasons with over 61 dingers and did not lead the MLB in homers in any of the seasons.


The birthplace of professional hockey was Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The entry explores the rise and fall of the IPHL and the establishment of professional hockey in Canada as a direct result of the IPHL.


Through statistical analysis, FSS validates Verlander's and Cabrera's MVPs and delves into Trout's WAR accomplishment (21st best ever in MLB history).  It also examines the MVP award during Triple Crown Winner seasons.


Starting with Jackie Robinson's NL MVP in 1949, African Americans were named the NL MVP in 16 of the next 21 years.

The origination of the Winged-Wheel logo and the establishment of "Tigers" team name (purchased the rights from the Detroit Light Guard-which exists today).

The Portsmouth Spartans (Detroit Lions) became an NFL franchise by selling $100 shares and forming the Portsmouth National Football League Corporation. The entry explores their earlier days, their success and eventual failure due to the Great Depression, their participation in the first NFL championship game that was played in a hockey stadium (1932), and their eventual move to Detroit to become the Lions.


A sixteen-year-old Willie Horton blasted a home run into Tiger Stadium's upper deck right-center bleachers in the 1959 Detroit City High School Championship.


The offensive statistics of Detroit Tigers Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito compare favorably to those of the more famous New York Yankee sluggers Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.


Steve Yzerman was rated the best fourth-overall draft choice in the history of the NHL.


There is an entry that asks the question: "Imagine No Barry, Bo, Stevie, Gordie, and Cobb." All of the aforementioned individuals came really close to not becoming part of our rich sports history.  It includes a fascinating story with quotes from Frank Selke, Jr., about his dad, Frank Selke, Sr., not drafting Howe from the Wings because of his friendship with Jack Adams (Wings GM at the time).


The 1968 Detroit Tigers are the only team to bat as low as .235 and still win a pennant and lead their league in runs scored.  The entry also examines the "year of the pitcher" and the effect of lowering the mound the following season.  Runs increased 20% per team and homers went up over 30% per team.


Much, much more.


Interview with Bob Henige from the Warren Public Library




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