Archive for May, 2010
Somewhere, sometime in the history of the baseball world, it was deemed that the 4th of July holiday should be the benchmark to determine whether your team had a snowball’s chance in Hell of waving the pennant at the end of the season.
Not sure why July 4th. Why not Flag Day, June 14? Seems appropriate; the pennant is sometimes called the “flag.’
Labor Day is cheating; there’s less than a month left, so that’s hardly a step out onto the limb.
Even the All-Star Break, in mid-July, is considered less sexy as a milestone than Independence Day.
I suppose Independence Day makes sense, in a way; the goal is to be in first place, independently, when the last pitch is thrown.
So it was determined: the team leading its division on July 4th is the odds-on favorite to be leading it when all is said and done.
Somewhere, sometime this postulate was devised.
Postulates, though, have exceptions.
For in this 2010 baseball season, you won’t have to wait until July 4 to declare the following to be true.
The American League Central Division will boil down to two teams and two teams only—and neither of them are the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, or Kansas City Royals.
The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers will be duking it out all summer for Central supremacy.
This is going to be a doozy, my friend. Consider yourself warned.
The Central Division, once again, isn’t much this year. Aside from the Twins and the Tigers, the teams in it are baseball challenged. You have the Twins, the Tigers, and three also-rans. It’s like you have the Democrats and the Republicans, and then you have the Independents, the Libertarians, and in the Royals’ case, the Whigs.
If your team doesn’t play in Minneapolis or Detroit, it’s playing out the string—before Memorial Day.
But if you’re a fan of the Twins or the Tigers, hunker down.
This is going to be a tug of war of the highest magnitude. Neither team is good enough to run away and hide from the other.
Now, it must be emphasized that a proper pennant race used to be the ones that the Dodgers and the Giants played out with so much dramatic flair, back in the day.
Those weren’t pennant races, they were battles of attrition.
Whether they played in New York or in California, Dodgers-Giants was the ultimate baseball rivalry, because unlike Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants meant that every year, both of those teams were going to be good.
Starting in the 1950s and plowing through the ‘60s, Dodgers-Giants was the most consistent of all the rivalries. The Red Sox were down in many of the years when the Yankees were winning American League pennants during the same time frame—down more often than not, actually.
It all started in 1951, when the Giants came back from the dead—over 15 games back at one point—to overtake the Dodgers thanks to Bobby Thomson’s mildly dramatic home run.
These were teams who spat venom at one another. They’d almost take turns, it seemed, winning the National League. Only, you didn’t actually win the NL Pennant in those days—you leased it.
It was in the throes of yet another bitter, nasty Dodgers-Giants tussle when, in the heat of the ’65 race, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal bludgeoned Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat—cracking big John on his melon several times before being pulled away.
Now THAT’S a rivalry!
The Tigers and Twins of 2010 might not engage in such barbaric behavior, but these teams aren’t friends.
Buckle up, folks. Make sure your tray is in the upright position. This one’s going to be turbulent.
The Twins have the better offense; the Tigers have the better bullpen. The Twins have Justin Morneau; the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera. The Twins have well-respected manager Ron Gardenhire; the Tigers counter with grizzled Jim Leyland.
This race won’t be determined on talent, though. In fact, the next time these two play, they ought to eschew the game and just dump a path of burning coals from home plate to second base.
Whoever has more players willing to walk those coals, barefoot, wins the division.
Don’t laugh; that’s the kind of mentality it’s going to take to call yourselves Central Division Champions.
Really, Twins-Tigers is becoming a nice little Hatfields-McCoys thing in baseball.
It started in 2006, when the Twins came from way behind to yank the division right from under the Tigers’ noses on the last day of the season. That time, the Wild Card was there to catch the Tigers, like one of those gigantic trampolines the fire department uses.
There was a new chapter written last season, when the Twins again came from way behind to yank the division right from under the Tigers’ noses. Even the last day of the season didn’t settle the issue; a 163rd game was needed. No Wild Card to save the Tigers that time.
I hope you’re loaded up with Pepto-Bismol and bicarbonate of soda at home. Make sure you have plenty of refills on your blood pressure meds.
This Twins-Tigers thing in 2010 is going to just about kill you, I’m certain.
They’re going to be so close to each other all summer, one will know what the other had for lunch. You won’t be able to get anything thicker than a credit card between them.
It’s going to be like this from now until the end, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Oh, someone will edge in front by a few games, beating their chest as the king of the hill. Then the other will yank them by the ankle and down they’ll go.
It’s going to be a back-and-forth, I got it-you take it sort of affair. Morneau will get as hot as a firecracker and the Twins will jump on board his shoulders for a week or two. Then Cabrera will see that and raise it a sawbuck.
Justin Verlander will equal a Tigers win every five games for a month, and fans in Detroit will feel like they have everything figured out.
And they will be wrong.
I tell you, it’s going to be a doozy.
You don’t need to wait till July 4 to figure that one out.
The fireworks have already begun.
Maybe you’ve seen the billboards, or read it in the newspaper. (Does anyone read newspapers anymore?)
By billboard, you’ll notice it by the three big, fat zeroes under the words Tuition, Room, and Board.
Eastern Michigan University, my haunts circa 1981-85, is doing something no Michigan university has done in some 25 years.
It’s holding its rates of tuition, room and board flat for the 2010-11 school year, from the current year.
They’re calling it the “Big, Fat Zero” campaign.
This after one of the smallest rate hikes in the state last year—just 3.82 percent.
“We recognize how desirable an affordable, quality college education is,” EMU President Sue Martin said. “I applaud the Board of Regents for taking this necessary risk.”
The “risk,” of course, is financial on EMU’s part. A zero percent increase means you can’t count on additional dollars in the budgeting process.
Not unless you increase enrollment.
See how that works?
What’s “Big, Fat Zero”? EMU students and staff “spell it out” for you
President Martin’s university is banking that a zero percent increase across the board, combined with a tiny increase last year, will make EMU more attractive to not only incoming freshmen, but current students as well, so that they’ll continue their education at Eastern.
As it stands now, an in-state student taking 30 credit hours for the school year will pay roughly $8,300 for tuition, room and board. That’s not too bad these days.
EMU is also making news with an aggressive fundraising campaign—no doubt encouraged by their “Big Fat Zero” initiative—that aims to raise $50 million.
It’s called “Invest, Inspire,” and here’s how they’re describing it on the university’s website:
EMU is seeking $50 million in philanthropic support from alumni and friends, businesses and foundations, parents and employees. This support will allow EMU to sustain its current excellence while also adding new resources, key capital projects and programs, through its endowment. In other words: In the face of shrinking resources and state funding, this support will endow EMU’s future.
So how does Eastern propose to raise $50 million?
Answer: they don’t have to—they’ve already raised over $34 million.
You heard me.
If you go to the campaign’s page on the EMU website, you’ll see an odometer-looking thing. The university is less than $16 million away from its goal.
And they just kicked off the campaign about a month ago—on April 19, 2010.
All this, of course, makes an old EMU alum like me pretty proud.
Now, about that football program…
Zero, you see, was also the EMU win total in football last year.
The home of Michael Ilitch has become an historic landmark for high-profile departures.
It was almost 20 years ago—June, 1990—when Ilitch, the Red Wings owner, placed a phone call he dreaded making.
On the other end of the line, Jacques Demers was summoned to the Ilitch pad.
Shortly after Demers arrived, two grown men had a good cry.
Ilitch had bad news for Demers, who had then just completed his fourth season as Red Wings coach.
They call it the “ziggy” in Detroit. Our word for canning a coach. You can thank the old Lions coach, Joe Schmidt, for its creation.
Schmidt rendered a self-ziggy in January, 1973—the loser of a power struggle in the Lions’ front office with GM Russ Thomas.
Inside Ilitch’s home on that June day in 1990, the ziggy wasn’t self-inflicted at all.
Ilitch, ever the gentleman and consummate professional, could have told Demers over the phone that he was being released. He could have delivered the news via his agent. He could have mailed a certified letter—no e-mail or text messaging in those days.
Ilitch would have none of that. He had made a very difficult decision about a man who he adored, and so he was going to break that news in person, mano-a-mano.
Jacques Demers said he’d never forget the courtesy Ilitch gave him, the day the owner fired him as Red Wings coach.
Ilitch had a relationship with Demers that never was replicated with any other Red Wings coach, before or since. Just four years prior to the 1990 meeting at his house, Ilitch and his lieutenants had bent the rules in order to poach Demers from the St. Louis Blues. They’re still crying about it in St. Louie.
But in 1990, two years removed from Final Four status and after having missed the playoffs completely in 1989-90 (still the last time the Red Wings missed the post-season), Ilitch had come to the hardest decision—to that point—he ever made as Red Wings owner.
So he told Demers, in person, that the Red Wings were letting him go. Bryan Murray was pretty much already hired as Jacques’ replacement.
Demers’s respect for Ilitch, already off the charts, grew even greater in the wake of how Demers’s cashiering was handled.
Twenty years after that teary meeting, another took place in the Ilitch home.
Steve Yzerman—Stevie Y, forever a Red Wing—was telling the owner, practically a father figure, that he was accepting the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offer to be their new GM.
It’s a safe bet that the eyes of Mike and Marian Ilitch and Yzerman were far from dry.
But Yzerman, who has learned so much from so many within the Red Wings organization, proved that he learned something from the old man owner.
Yzerman could have taken the less uncomfortable path to deliver his news, just as Ilitch could have, when he fired Jacques Demers.
Yzerman had made a big decision in his own right, and so it would have to be delivered in person—even more impressive considering all the ways people can be gotten ahold of in this digital age.
No e-mails. No texts. No hurried-through calls from a cell phone.
In person. Face-to-face. Man-to-man.
That’s the only way Steve Yzerman would have it. Reports say that Ilitch wasn’t the only one Yzerman met in person, saying goodbye.
Yzerman wasn’t raised by Mike Ilitch or the Detroit Red Wings.
But this is where he became a man.
Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at SEA (5/25-26); OAK (5/28-30)
So what happened?
The Tigers’ mastery over National League teams took a bit of a hit.
Since 2006 especially, the Tigers have done amazingly well in interleague play. They’ve treated NL teams like redheaded stepchildren, annually.
But the magic ended in Los Angeles over the weekend, where the Dodgers took two of three from the Bengals. Included in the trio of games was another Dontrelle Willis implosion.
Overshadowing the games, to a degree, was the tragic news of the death of former big league pitcher Jose Lima, dead of an apparent heart attack Sunday morning at age 37.
It was morbidly fitting that Lima should pass away when he did, with the Tigers in L.A. to play the Dodgers—both former teams of Lima’s.
The news was even more shocking considering that Lima attended Friday’s Tigers-Dodgers game and was acknowledged with a big ovation between innings.
On the field, the Tigers got washed out on Monday, lost to the White Sox on Tuesday, and steamrolled over the A’s in Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday. Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman led the way, each pitching magnificently.
Then came the speed bump at Dodger Stadium.
Hero of the Week
If Bonderman is back, the Tigers will be in the hunt with the Minnesota Twins for AL Central supremacy all summer.
That’s not to put all the pressure on Bondo, but a healthy, productive Bonderman makes the Tigers’ rotation immensely better.
Seeing Verlander and Bonderman be wet blankets to the A’s offense on back-to-back days was heartwarming—evoking memories of 2006.
You expect great things from JV, but Bonderman has been another story, coming back from surgery and rehabilitation on his right arm/shoulder.
Bondo went six innings, giving up just three hits and one run. He struck out eight.
Bonderman is now 2-2 on the season with a very acceptable 4.43 ERA. He has 37 Ks in just over 40 innings. Opponents are hitting just .239 against him. He’s only surrendered two homers all season.
He might—just might—be back.
Whether he’s back or not, Bonderman is MMM’s Hero for last week, mainly because of the hope his season is providing.
He’s the world’s oldest 27-year-old. The goal is for him to be a young 28.
Goat of the Week
I Twittered shortly after Dontrelle Willis’s outing in Los Angeles ended.
“It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion,” I rapped out.
This is simply what we’ll have to expect from the D-Train every five days: smooth sailing, and then sudden horror.
Willis was holding his own against the Dodgers on Friday night, shutting them out, when his wildness reared its head in the fourth and fifth innings.
Suddenly, batters were being walked and hit, and three runs crossed the plate. The Dodgers never looked back after that.
Watching Dontrelle Willis pitch is like turning the crank on a giant Jack-in-the-Box; you know the scary clown head is going to pop up—you just don’t know when.
Upcoming: Mariners, A’s
I think MLB should make the Tigers honorary members of the Wild West.
Seems like the only teams they play anymore are from up and down the Pacific Coast.
If you’re not sick of the Mariners and A’s by now, you will be by the end of this week.
The Tigers’ foray against teams who play three hours behind them continues this week.
The Mariners will be first up, in Seattle—already the Tigers’ second visit to the Emerald City this season, and it’s not yet Memorial Day.
The Tigers will have to go at it with the M’s minus All-World first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who will be with his wife for the birth of their next child. This means Ryan Raburn will likely play 1B.
Who will bat cleanup? I suspect Magglio Ordonez will, with someone like Raburn moving up to third in the order.
Cabrera will be back in time for the holiday weekend, when the A’s visit for four games.
But back to the Mariners.
At first blush, it would appear that RF Ichiro Suzuki is having another Ichiro-type year. He’s batting .354, after all.
But Ichiro has only scored 21 runs, and he’s already been caught stealing six times—after being caught just 13 times in 2008 and 2009 combined. He has just nine RBI, which for even him is low.
Still, he’s the king of the multi-hit game, and despite what I just quoted, I don’t relish it when he’s in the batter’s box.
The A’s have a popgun offense that was totally overpowered by Verlander and Bonderman last week. They’ll see them again on Sunday and Monday, if the rotation holds as is.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next Monday!
From the moment Steve Yzerman sat in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena that day in early July, 2006, you knew this time would come.
As Yzerman reflected on his 22-year playing career—every second of which was spent with the Red Wings—as he spoke of what it would be like to not have to lace up skates and put himself through physical Hell to get through another season, you knew this time would come.
The Red Wings eased Yzerman into the front office, a move that was as academic as moving yourself from the table after dinner.
They gave him a vice president’s title, but it was no joke. It wasn’t a ceremonial nod. This wasn’t Gordie Howe, circa 1971, when the Red Wings of the Bruce Norris ownership gave what Gordie called the “mushroom treatment.”
“They put me in a dark office, opened the door occasionally and dumped blank on me,” Gordie famously said.
Mike Ilitch is no Bruce Norris—thank God. When he promoted Yzerman, it was with a purpose. He was seamlessly moved from the rank and file to management. Then he started learning the ins and outs of running an NHL team from up high.
You could do a whole lot worse than to learn from the likes of Kenny Holland, Jim Nill, and Jimmy Devellano—the front office Goliaths who’ve been running the Red Wings for about 15 years now.
It was like interning in government and being surrounded by Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.
Yzerman watched. He learned. He kept his mouth shut—which for him is as natural as breathing—and his eyes and ears open.
You knew this time would come.
You just knew, when Yzerman switched from hockey sweater to Armani suit, that someone would, one day, try to poach him from the Red Wings.
You knew it especially when he was named the director of hockey for Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics. You knew it when he started to display, unsurprisingly, the adroit skills of putting together a hockey team from scratch.
You really knew it when Team Canada skated away with Olympic Gold, despite a rocky road to glory.
It was just a matter of time, when others would notice.
That time has come.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, an unremarkable franchise that, for all its unremarkableness, nonetheless stumbled onto a Stanley Cup six years ago, is courting Yzerman, reports say.
The Lightning wants Stevie Y to be their new GM, the scuttlebutt is.
This isn’t the brass ring of GM jobs. It’s beneath Yzerman, frankly, to go to work for a team that didn’t exist until 1992—when he was starting his 10th season as a player.
Going from the Red Wings—as solidly run of a franchise as any in pro sports—to the Lightning is like stopping midway through a lobster dinner and switching to Spam.
It’s beneath Yzerman to work for such a Mickey Mouse franchise, which needs three home dates to fill its arena, in a city that is as much of a hockey hotbed as Hades.
Someone of Yzerman’s stature deserves much more than being the GM of the Tampa Bay Freaking Lightning.
Yet, as much as this pains me to say it, he ought to take the job.
If Yzerman truly wants to run his own team—and he’s been on record more than once saying that he does—then he’s going to have to go somewhere else. There’s no opportunity for that in Detroit.
Holland ’s not going anywhere. Nill is the GM-in-waiting, anyway.
Yzerman ought to go to Tampa Bay precisely because it’s an insignificant franchise.
If the Lightning dropped off the face of the NHL Earth tomorrow, no one would notice, or miss them.
It’s a can’t-lose situation for Yzerman.
If he succeeds, great. If he fails, then what the hey—it’s the Lightning.
He’ll get another chance, no matter what happens in Tampa .
I suspect Yzerman is considering the Lightning job—possibly quite seriously.
He hasn’t dismissed the notion out of hand.
His latest remark was hardly a denial, when asked about the prospects of leaving an organization that’s been his hockey life for 27 years.
“My response is the same, and that is no comment,” Yzerman coyly said the other day.
If he wasn’t mulling it over, he’d have given an unequivocal “no.”
Yzerman’s mulling it over. It’s not a small decision.
His wife, Lisa, and their three daughters have only known Detroit as home, as a family. The oldest girl, Isabella, is 16. As the father of a high school sophomore, I know how popular it would be to announce a move from friends at that tender age of a girl’s social development.
Yzerman will forever have the Winged Wheel emblazoned on his chest. No matter how many jobs, no matter how many years go by, Yzerman will be a Red Wing. It’s what he is. Any GM job he takes will be what he does.
But it’s not easy to leave an organization that drafted you, nurtured you, and provided you with a lifetime’s worth of thrills and chills and spills—for 27 years.
Yzerman could do the polite thing, and continue to work for the Red Wings. There’s plenty more he can learn and do wearing a suit.
But he’ll never be the GM here.
If that’s what he wants, then he ought to leave. He ought to take the Tampa job.
But why not wait, you might ask. Why not see if something better, frankly, comes along?
It might. And it might not.
You think just because he’s Steve Yzerman, that he can write his own ticket?
It doesn’t always work that way.
How privileged we’ve been in Detroit . We’ve gotten to see Yzerman grow up twice.
We saw him as an 18-year-old rookie and laughed and cried with him for 14 years before that first Stanley Cup—the best one—in 1997. We saw him as a grizzled 37-year-old as he lifted Cup number three in 2002. We gasped as he went down like he’d been shot when a puck struck him square in the eye in 2004.
Now we are seeing him cutting his teeth as an executive.
The Lightning job isn’t much. But it’s there, apparently, if he wants it. By all accounts, Yzerman is the Lightning’s frontrunner. He might be the only runner.
It’s not much of a GM’s job. But he ought to take it.
You just knew this time would come.
Who is Brennan Boesch and why is he being mean to American League pitchers?
Boesch, pronounced “BOSH,” as in the pro basketball behemoth, wasn’t called up by the Tigers, he was unleashed.
For several seasons, Tigers fans have cried for a hefty lefty in their batting order.
Now here comes Boesch, 25, as if dropped from the heavens.
Boesch is a California kid, where they play baseball 12 months out of the year. It’s no wonder that so many of our greatest American ball players have come from the Golden State; they can break out the gloves and bats in January and only pause for meals.
What Boesch is doing to the American League is nothing short of ridiculous.
Boesch showed up a few weeks ago, when Carlos Guillen began his annual trip to the DL.
This is supposed to be a hard game. Ted Williams, no less, has called hitting a baseball the most difficult feat in all of sports.
“They give you a round bat, a round ball, and tell you to hit it square.”
It’s a job where they put you in the Hall of Fame if you’re successful 30 percent of the time. Sometimes they’ll sneak you in for less than that.
Boesch has traipsed to the plate for 82 official at-bats and he has 29 hits. That’s a 35.4% success rate. So where’s he going, the Super Duper Hall of Fame?
It’s not just that Boesch is getting hits at a robust clip. He’s treating the baseball as if it took his dog away.
Boesch takes his round bat, swings at the round ball, and hits the ball square. We’re talking four right angles worth of square.
They ought to check the cover of the ball after Boesch hits it, because it just might need re-lacing. If you listen closely, you can hear it scream in pain.
Or maybe that’s the pitcher.
I haven’t seen a raw rookie come to Detroit and hit the baseball with this kind of ferocity since, well, I don’t know if I’ve EVER seen it.
Boesch is a 6’6″ beach bum from Santa Monica. He went to Cal University. He grew up watching the Dodgers. At age five, he says, he knew he wanted to be a big league ballplayer.
That was when he was 4’5″.
He calls Brett Butler one of his idols, which is funny because he could fit Brett in his back pocket and take him out every once in a while to look at him.
Boesch hits righties, which you would expect. But he’s all but laughing at lefties.
The percentages of baseball say that lefty vs. lefty is supposed to be a distinct advantage for the pitcher.
Boesch has six hits in 13 at-bats against southpaws, including a monster home run. That’s a .462 batting average.
So much for your percentages.
Now, let’s pause for a dose of reality.
Will Brennan Boesch keep this up? Will he still be in the rarified air of .354 when, say, September rolls around?
I don’t know—he’s 6’6″ and 210 pounds. YOU tell him no.
Boesch was drafted in the third round by the Tigers in 2006, which means that 80+ players were selected ahead of him, which either means that he’s a diamond in the rough, or that baseball’s scouts and GMs had their heads between their butt cheeks for almost three rounds.
How do you miss a guy with the height and weight of a power forward, who swings a left-handed stick, and who played baseball in California, where you can’t exactly hide?
Tigers manager Jim Leyland inserted Boesch fifth in the order when the kid arrived, behind Miguel Cabrera—essentially taking Guillen’s place.
I mocked the decision.
Put a rookie behind an MVP candidate? Where’s the protection in that?
Boesch is protecting Cabrera better than a 24/7 bodyguard.
The Tigers’ lineup, from 1 thru 5, is beginning to look like poison.
Things get started with another rookie who’s thumbing his nose at the big leagues, Austin Jackson—A-Jax. Then you have Johnny Damon with his 2,500 hits, followed by Magglio Ordonez, who won the batting title three years ago. Then comes Cabrera, who’s making pitchers curl into the fetal position, sucking their thumbs.
Followed by Brennan Boesch, whose last name ought to be a verb.
“He Boesched that ball into the gap!”
Of course, once you get past the first five Tigers hitters, you can make hay again with your earned run average. But 1 thru 5 might Boesch the ball better than any in baseball.
The Tigers are in Los Angeles this weekend to play the Dodgers, Boesch’s team of choice as a youngster.
He says he wants to meet the legendary Vin Scully.
I have to think that the feeling is mutual.
The UAW turns 75 this month.
It’s true. The United Auto Workers union was founded in Detroit in May 1935. It was first born under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
Seems that the AFL’s focus was primarily on craft unions at the time, and some within were getting restless. Then union leader John L. Lewis, at the AFL’s 1935 convention, created a splinter group of industrial unions and called it the Committee for Industrial Organization—the original CIO.
After just one year, the AFL suspended the unions within the CIO, so Lewis and his people—including the new UAW—formed the “new” CIO, the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
It wouldn’t be until 1955 when the CIO would rejoin with the AFL, forming the aptly named AFL-CIO.
But back to the UAW.
The UAW was one of the first major unions that was willing to organize African-American workers, which is no surprise when you consider that one of its early stalwarts became a Civil Rights leader.
Walter P. Reuther was his name, and he died 40 years ago this month in a small plane crash near Pellston, Michigan.
May is a big month in UAW history, because it doesn’t end with the formation of the UAW and the death of Reuther, the former union president who put the UAW on the map politically.
May is also the anniversary month of “The Battle of the Overpass.”
Haven’t heard of it? Well, let me tell you a little story…
It’s 1937. There’s an issue at Ford Motor Company between the UAW and management. The union wants an $8/hour, six-hour workday. Ford prefers the existing $6/hour, eight-hour day.
The UAW wanted its $48 per day in quicker fashion.
Reuther, along with fellow union leaders Bob Kanter, Richard Frankensteen and J.J. Kennedy, gathered on the pedestrian overpass over Dearborn’s Miller Road at Gate 4 of the Rouge Complex.
They were going to pass out leaflets pumping their idea of what a workday should be.
The distribution was to take place around 2:00—at shift change time, so as to maximize the number of passersby.
Ford management didn’t like this.
So along came some goons from Ford’s Service Department, an internal security force—and they took the word “force” literally.
As photographers snapped pictures of Reuther et al, the Service Department goons advanced. Disregarding the photogs, the goons attacked the labor leaders, beating them brutally.
Frankensteen got the worst of it. His jacket was pulled over his head and he was kicked and punched incessantly. Reuther was tossed down the steps of the overpass.
Big mistake—for the Ford people.
One of the photographers who didn’t have his plates broken or confiscated was Scotty Kilpatrick, from the Detroit News.
Kilpatrick snapped several pics of Reuther and the boys getting their butts kicked. And he had the wherewithall to hide them under the backseat of his car after being chased to the vehicle. He handed over useless other plates from his front seat to the Ford goons.
Kilpatrick’s photos were splashed all over the country, even finding their way on the pages of the New York Times.
(From left): Bob Kanter, Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, and J.J. Kennedy prepare to pass out leaflets on the pedestrian overpass near Gate 4
Moments later, Frankensteen fights for his life against goons from Ford’s internal security force (both photos: Scotty Kilpatrick, Detroit News)
The images of Ford’s security people beating up union leaders didn’t do the automaker any favors. Though not photographed, some of the beating victims were even women, who had arrived thinking they were going to help pass out leaflets. Instead, the goons beat them up, too. Nice guys.
The other result was that Kilpatrick’s photos were so compelling that it was deemed that a Pulitzer Prize should now be awarded for photography—and Scotty Kilpatrick was the first winner.
Despite Henry Ford’s assertion that the UAW would organize his company “over my dead body,” the fallout from Battle of the Overpass would lead to Ford Motor Company bedgrudgingly signing a contract with the UAW within three years.
It all happened on May 26, 1937.
Now you know.
What Will Joe Do?
They’re going to have another of those NBA Drafts next month. Another day where a bunch of man-children’s souls are sucked into the darkness of pro sports. The NBA allows the nation’s teenagers to get drafted. Someday, someone will stop them.
But that day is far from being here. So it is that the Pistons will, with the No. 7 overall pick, take their chances on a likely-to-be immature, underdeveloped project. Heaven forbid you draft a senior. Heaven forbid a player stay in college that long, period.
There isn’t going to be, at No. 7, a cure-all player. No panacea will be ripped from a college campus and plopped into the laps of the Pistons in Auburn Hills.
The ping pong balls didn’t cooperate, nor did one of the U.S. mint’s coins.
The Pistons lost a coin flip at the end of the season with the Philadelphia 76ers, and it apparently cost them the No. 2 overall pick. The ping pong balls put the Pistons where, mathematically, they suspected they’d be: seventh.
So now it’s up to Pistons president Joe Dumars to turn water into wine.
He’s been less-than-miraculous in that area over the years.
The beauty of pro basketball is that, since one new player represents 20 percent of your on court presence, improvement can come in a hurry.
The evils of the NBA Draft say that, unlike the NFL’s, first round picks are hardly guaranteed starting positions and a legitimate shot at success. If you’re not a Top 5 pick, the odds take a nosedive that you’re going to be an impact player. Sometimes.
Dumars is the rare president/GM, in that he’s now being given the chance to do a second rebuild.
The first came in 2000, when Dumars officially took over the Pistons’ front office and inherited a mess. He had himself a superstar (Grant Hill) who wanted out, and a questionable coaching situation. There were precious few talented players on the roster outside of Hill.
A few trades and free agent signings later, plus the hiring of Rick Carlisle as coach, and the Pistons were back on the map.
Rebuild No. 2 is just beginning, and this time the mess is of Dumars’s own making.
But like I said, Joe D is a rarity; not too often in this win-now society in which we live does a GM get the chance to even stick around long enough for a second rebuild. Usually they’re canned somewhere in the middle of the first one.
Yet here Joe Dumars is, ten years and six coaches later, with a roster full of shrimps and the big men he does have play like shrimps.
The Pistons haven’t had a center who could score with men guarding him since Bill Laimbeer. And Bill was most comfortable 15-20 feet (or more) away from the basket.
Don’t come at me with Rasheed Wallace, who isn’t a true center.
They haven’t had a low post threat with the ball since Mark Aguirre, and Mark was a shrimp, too.
If you want the awful truth, the Pistons haven’t had a true center to whom they could toss the ball in the post and make something happen since Bob Lanier—and Bob last played here in 1980.
Yet the Pistons have won three championships since then, playing with perimeter-happy big men and being served by guard play par excellence—and a bench that was among the league’s best, both in the Bad Boys days and in 2004.
Today the Pistons are a bunch of crooked jump shooters with no affinity for defense or rebounding. It’s a team lacking heart, leadership, and anyone taller than 6’10″ who can insert the basketball into the hoop.
No one plays close to the rim, except for Ben Wallace, who just happens to be the least talented man on the team. But he’s the hardest worker, which has kept him in the league for over a decade.
To this hodgepodge Dumars will add two players from this year’s draft—the Nos. 7 and 36 overall picks. The pie in the sky hope is that those youngsters will somehow invigorate a stale bunch and the relative newcomers—guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva—will rebound from lousy seasons and the whole unit will start to come together.
Yeah, and they used to hope that New Coke would take the nation by storm.
Forgive my lack of confidence in Dumars presently. He’s on a bad streak that’s now in its fourth year. It’s as if the soul he sold to the Devil early in his tenure is now a marker that Satan himself is calling.
Joe D needs a great draft in the worst way. He also needs a whole bunch of “ifs” to come true.
If Dumars has a plan left in him, now would be a wonderful time to break it out.
Oh, she’s gorgeous, as you would expect—but this time Miss USA looks a little different.
That’s because she’s Arab American.
Rima Fakih of Dearborn wears the crown today, chosen over 50 other contestants at yesterday’s pageant in Las Vegas.
She’s 24, of Lebanese descent, and a graduate from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business management.
And did I say gorgeous?
Fakih works in marketing at the Detroit Medical Center, and she’s got the Arab American community atwitter.
“This is unbelievable,” gushed Rami Haddad of Livonia. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t express my feelings.”
“This is the real face of Arab Americans,” said Zouheir Alawieh of Dearborn. “Not the the stereotypes you hear about. We have culture. We have beauty. We have history, and today we made history. She (Fakih) believed in our dreams.”
I had no idea the Arab American community would be so agog about one of theirs winning Miss USA, but I must say—I’m proud of them.
Good for them, because they haven’t exactly had the best of images around these parts in the past, oh, eight years, eight months, and six days—if you get me.
I’m proud of them because they wanted this not to give us all the bird, but to feel more like they belong. What better way to do that than to hold up one of your brethren as Miss USA, for goodness sakes?
Rima Fakih is beautiful and smart and has a bright future and she’s Miss USA. The fact that she’s of Lebanese descent is secondary.
Some will disagree with me. They’ll look past her beauty and see the dark hair and the olive skin and the name and they’ll sneer.
She’s Arab!! She’s not one of us!!
Fine. You’ll not change those minds, no matter how hard you try.
And there’s this.
When asked how she felt about winning Miss USA, Fakih said—and I’m not making this up—”Ask me after I’ve had a pizza.”
Now THAT’S an American girl!
At La Pita Restaurant in Dearborn, they had a viewing party—not knowing who would win, of course. Well, apparently the place went bonkers when Fakih came out on top.
Some of her supporters wore t-shirts that bore this quote, from Rima Fakih herself.
“It’s beauty that captures your attention, personality which captures your heart.”
Red, white and blue decorations dotted the La Pita banquet hall.
They read, simply, “USA.”
Last Week: 5-2
This Week: CWS (5/17-18); at Oak (5/19-20); at LAD (5/21-23)
So what happened?
A slap in the face of the East Coast bias when it comes to its death grip on big league baseball.
The Tigers entertained baseball’s two Goliaths last week—the Yankees and the Red Sox—and they sent both teams out of town with a spanking.
First was a nifty 3-1 series win over the Yankees, which featured not one but TWO shutouts of the Yanks’ mighty bats.
Then the Tigers came back and took the last two games from the Red Sox after dropping Friday night’s opener.
Take that, ESPN! And Ken Burns!
The Tigers showed that teams sometimes can play a good brand of baseball outside of the Bronx and Beantown, contrary to urban myth.
The good week leaves the Tigers 14-5 at Comerica Park, which is suddenly a House of Horrors for visiting clubs.
Hero of the Week
First, an apology.
A few weeks ago, on “The Knee Jerks” podcast I co-host with Big Al Beaton, I mocked manager Jim Leyland and took him to task for simply inserting rookie OF Brennan Boesch in the No. 5 hole left vacated by injured Carlos Guillen.
Why is he (Leyland) putting a rookie behind MVP-candidate Miguel Cabrera, I fussed.
I fuss no more.
Boesch is MMM’s Hero because whenever he hits the baseball, the cover threatens to tear away from the core.
Boesch is driving in runs in Cabrera-like fashion, and his left-handed stick is giving the Tigers as good a 1-thru-5 batting order as any team in baseball.
Boesch is hitting .380 with 19 RBI in 71 ABs. He went 4-for-6 in Saturday night’s win over Boston. He already has two triples.
So wonderful has Boesch been that when Carlos Guillen returns from his injury, Guillen will play 2B, just so Leyland can keep Boesch, 25, in the lineup.
Sorry for all the fuss.
Goat of the Week
Tie: Max Scherzer and his battery mates.
Last week, MMM was getting annoyed with Scherzer because his starts were beginning to resemble crash landings. Friday, Scherzer stunk up the joint again and was optioned to Toledo to get his act together.
The men catching Scherzer and the rest of the staff are wearing MMM’s patience thin, too.
Gerald Laird and Alex Avila, combined, make one Adam Everett.
I don’t expect Johnny Bench, but these guys are making me long for Vance Wilson.
I won’t disclose Laird’s and Avila’s batting averages before notifying their next of kin.
More Tigers rallies this season have ended or stalled with the bats of Laird and Avila than with anyone else on the roster, by far. They may as well be lugging fire hoses up to the plate, the way they’re dousing potential big innings.
The Tigers need more, offensively, from their catchers than what Lairavila are giving them. And I have just won the Understatement of the Year Award.
Upcoming: White Sox, A’s, Dodgers
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies! It’s Brother Leyland’s Traveling Salvation Show!
The Tigers once again will criss-cross the country more than a presidential candidate on the last leg of a campaign.
It starts in Motown with a couple quickies against the stumbling, limp noodle bats of the Chicago White Sox. Then it’s on to Oakland for two with the A’s, then since the American League is running out of Left Coast teams for the Tigers to visit, the Dodgers welcome our Bengals this weekend.
As usual, all will occur sans a day off. Heaven forbid.
The White Sox offense is Paul Konerko and…waiting for Paul Konerko to come up again.
Konerko has 13 home runs, but the rest of the White Sox’s offense is horrendous. Their team BA is .230. They have just 152 runs (4.1 per game) and 279 hits (7.7 per game).
The A’s have lost five in a row, are 18-20, and they’re no offensive juggernaut, either. No one on the A’s has hit more than four homers. The team BA is .248.
The Dodgers are another story.
They’re red hot—winners of seven straight. And they boast OF Andre Ethier, who’s leading the majors in hitting (.392), and who has 11 HR, 38 RBI, and who has scored 25 runs.
Ethier is 18 for his last 40 with 12 RBI.
He’s a little warm.
Fun fact: He’s on the DL, but the Dodgers have 40-year-old catcher Brad Ausmus on their roster, the former Astro/Tiger/Astro/Tiger.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next Monday!