Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich, left, and retired sports writer Tom Gage discuss their book, “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series,” and answer questions from the crowd at Grosse Pointe South High School Sept. 7.

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich, left, and retired sports writer Tom Gage discuss their book, “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series,” and answer questions from the crowd at Grosse Pointe South High School Sept. 7.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Mickey Lolich recalls 1968 World Series win

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 10, 2019

 Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich meets with fans and autographs copies of the book “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series.”

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich meets with fans and autographs copies of the book “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series.”

Photo by Sarah Purlee

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — When Mickey Lolich played his first baseball game at the age of 11, he didn’t even have a mitt.

The youngster had to borrow a left-handed glove from another player.

But that first game — at a park in the Portland, Oregon, neighborhood in which he grew up — proved he had the athleticism and moxie to make it all the way to the major leagues.

On Sept. 7, the former Detroit Tigers pitcher talked about his baseball career to a crowd of approximately 200 baseball fans — some sporting Tigers shirts — at Grosse Pointe South High School. The Grosse Pointe Public Library put on the program. Lolich, who pitched for the Tigers from 1963 to 1975, including when the team won the World Series in 1968, spoke alongside retired Detroit News sports writer Tom Gage.

Lolich and Gage, of Grosse Pointe City, wrote the book “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series,” which was published in 2018. Copies were for sale with a chance to get autographs. The pair also took questions from the audience.

“It’s been a delight to write the book,” said Gage, who has covered more than 5,000 Detroit Tigers games since 1976. “Even if the Tigers are as down as they are right now, we all have our memories of Detroit.”

Lolich has “had a great career,” Gage said. “He threw more than 40 shutouts. I believe Mickey Lolich is a (Baseball) Hall of Fame candidate.”

Lolich, an only child, opened his presentation talking about how he used to throw dirt clumps on the concrete wall of an industrial laundry building as a kid. He also remembered tossing figs at the local city bus as it drove by to pass the time.

The West Coast native, who played one season with the New York Mets and two years with the San Diego Padres at the end of his career, was a left-handed pitcher. However, he’s right-handed. Lolich told Saturday’s crowd about a motorcycle falling on him when he was a toddler. The mishap broke his collarbone and left arm. He had to wear a cast for several weeks, and when the cast came off, the little guy did exercises to build up his left arm.

“The more you throw, the stronger your arm gets,” said Lolich, who turns 79 Sept. 12 and at one time could pitch at 96 mph. The star pitcher said that when he was in high school, scouts would visit the school, sit in the stands and watch him play.

When an audience member asked about Tiger Norm Cash, Lolich smiled.

“What a wonderful person he was,” Lolich recalled. “He was a team leader in his own way.”

That camaraderie, along with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, brought the Detroit Tigers a World Series win on Oct. 10, 1968. They defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

“We’d done it, by God,” Lolich wrote in the book. “We had won the World Series. It was 4:06 p.m. There was joy in Tigertown.”

When asked what his favorite moment of the World Series was, Lolich — who received the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in ’68 — said, other than winning, it was the home run he hit in Game 2.

“I was not a very good hitter,” he admitted. “I was lousy.”

So when Lolich stepped up to bat in the third inning and quickly had two strikes against him, he decided he “was going to swing at the next white thing that went by.”

He did and ran to first base when the first-base coach said to him, “It’s out of here. You just hit a home run.”

He joked with the crowd about it.

“I’m never going to hit another home run,” he said. “It’s too damn far to run.”

During his career, Lolich said the toughest batter he went up against was Cesar Tovar, who played for the Minnesota Twins at the time.

“He’d always hit a line drive to right field,” Lolich said. “I could not get him out.”

However, during Lolich’s last game with the Tigers in ’75, the star athlete stood on the pitcher’s mound and eyed the hard-hitting Tovar. He finally struck out Tovar by yelling out the pitches he was going to throw and then changing them.

Fans still remember the roar the Tigers made when they won the series in ’68. Ron Carloni, who attended Saturday’s presentation with his wife, Donna, was in the U.S. Air Force and on leave from Vietnam as the World Series was underway.

His uncle, a maitre d’ at Roma Cafe in Detroit, which many of the Tigers players frequented, got many team members to sign a baseball for Carloni. He also scored tickets to Game 5 at Tiger Stadium in Corktown for his nephew.

“It was such a great experience to be at the World Series,” Carloni said. “Detroit was amazing.”

Carloni was on a commercial airliner heading back to Vietnam when Detroit clinched the Series. The pilot announced the news during the flight.

“The city went wild,” Donna Carloni said. “It was after the (1967) riots. This was so good.”

Grosse Pointe Farms resident Ernie Rudnick was 18 years old when the Tigers became the champs in ’68.

“That was my team,” he said.

Rudnick, who got an autograph, enjoyed Lolich’s presentation.

“It was terrific,” he said. “He did absolutely great. He could be a stand-up comedian.”

Rudnick was at the game in ’68 in which the Tigers won the pennant. He ran onto the field and stole player Don Wert’s helmet. He took it to the World Series and had Wert and sportscaster Ernie Harwell sign it.