2017-02-16 / Sports

Fat Guy Corner

Mr. I was a special man


Jeff Day — Sports Columnist Jeff Day — Sports Columnist The passing of Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch, last Friday night was a sad moment for the city of Detroit. Ilitch is the man who started a Little Caesars franchise in Garden City in 1959 with his wife, Marian, and turned it into the biggest pizza empire in the world. The slogan “Pizza, Pizza” is forever etched in the memories of all of us.

Mike Ilitch, known to many as “Mr. I” to his employees and members of his sports teams, was a one-of-a-kind man. He built his own empire and was not a silver-spooned millionaire. He made it through hard work and determination. He brought the city of Detroit back with some pride and made the Detroit downtown area fun to attend. He was a businessman who loved the city of Detroit and the two major sports teams he owned. Mr. I. bought the Detroit Red Wings in 1982 for a smooth $8 million. The Red Wings are now valued at a smooth $625 million, give or take a few million, according to Forbes.com. from November of 2016. I would say it was a highly profitable purchase!

The Red Wings won four Stanley Cups during the Pizza Man’s ownership. They also made the playoffs in 30 of the 34 years Mr. I. owned the club. The Detroit Red Wings fans should be very, very thankful for his ownership.

Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1992. He played minor league baseball for the Tigers but a bum knee pretty much ended his playing career. When he bought the Tigers, it was very special to Mike Ilitch and he wanted to bring a World Series championship to Detroit so bad. However, don’t get me wrong here, but he owned the Tigers during some very terrible Detroit Tigers baseball teams. The drive for the World Series came when he signed big-named players like Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Prince Fielder and others. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 2006 and 2012, only to come up short in the Fall Classic both times. I know manager Jimmy Leyland has stated many times how bad he wanted to win a World Series for Mr. I. Mike’s son, Christopher, stated “He loved the four Stanley Cups but he would have traded one of those for a World Series Championship.” Let’s not forget that Mike Ilitch also brought back Ernie Harwell after he was fired by previous ownership.

He also built Comerica Park when numerous fans wanted to stay at

Tiger Stadium and look what a beautiful ball park Comerica Park is. I loved Tiger Stadium, too, but it was old and had to go.

Some are asking if the passing of Mike Ilitch will bring change to the

Tigers or Red Wings?

I say, let’s hope not. It looks like Christopher Ilitch is in charge and I hope he can do the tremendous job his father did on and off the sporting world. R I P, Mike Ilitch.

Pigskin withdrawal

This past week without football was a strange one indeed for me. I went to a golf dome and hit golf balls. Hey, golf season is right around the corner; I hope it is anyway.

The college basketball season is winding down for Michigan State and Michigan. I would say both teams are in scramble mode. That describes my golf game, too. Both are scrambling to make the NCAA Big Dance. The Wolverines and Spartans split the season between the two schools. The Spartys are sitting at 15-10 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten play. The Spartans have six games left with three road games and three home games. I feel as though a 3-3 record will get them into the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans should get in due to the tough schedule they play and their NCAA Tournament resume.

This is by far one of coach Izzo’s weakest teams. The Michigan Wolverines have six games left, however, four of those are road games. If the Wolverines can go 4-2 they are an absolute lock to get in the tourney. I am not sure 3-3 will do it as they sit at 6-6 in Big Ten play and 16-9 overall. Let’s be honest, the Big Ten is not a strong conference as it normally is. The conference is loaded with .500 basketball teams. I think Thursday night’s game at home against the Wisconsin Badgers is a huge one for Michigan. If the Wolverines pull off the upset it might propel them to a good finish. thefatguy@mihomepaper.com

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