When I was a kid, I pretty much cared only about baseball. And I loved the Detroit Tigers — especially the 1968 version. They were all heroes, but was my favorite player the sublimely smooth Al Kaline, “Stormin’ Norman” Cash, Willie “The Wonder” Horton, or “Roly Poly” Mickey Lolich? Nah. I idolized Ray Oyler. I even inscribed his name on my lovingly oiled glove.
I’m sure most of you are wondering, “Ray who?” Not many folks recall the weak-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop. His paltry career batting average was .175 … but damn, could he snag a hot grounder up the middle! He’s also forgettable because he didn’t get much playing time in that magical ’68 playoff run. When then-Tigers manager Mayo Smith yanked Oyler and inserted Mickey Stanley (a center fielder!) in the lineup at shortstop for the World Series, I hated Mayo. Well, for a while … until his gambit paid off and the Tigers won it all.
Questioning a baseball manager’s decisions is more than a tradition; it’s a birthright. The modern-day rabid sports-talk radio fan’s ire largely tends to target Jim Leyland, the subject of Lynn Henning’s profile.
Alas, contrary to my 11-year-old self’s mindset, life’s not always about baseball. But second-guessing isn’t relegated to sports. Some other “managerial decisions” are having a huge impact on life in Detroit and beyond — from the action (or inaction) on Belle Isle to how the Detroit Future City initiative will be acted upon. At press time, Gov. Rick Snyder was pondering a decision, too: who to name as an emergency manager for Detroit — a decision that will likely affect those weighing a run for mayor or City Council, and much more.
Whatever the governor decides, Detroiters will soldier on. Some will take things into their own hands — like the volunteers of People for Palmer Park or organizations like the Greening of Detroit. And when decisions are made, folks like WDET-FM’s Craig Fahle will be there to ask the tough questions.
Enough about serious issues. We also take a whimsical look at spring fashion, check out the competitive spirit surrounding Detroit’s Hair Wars, talk to a stylist who played a “hair-raising” part in the new Oz movie, then settle back for a juice break with the folks from Drought.
But sometimes it is all about baseball. We also check in with the Detroit Mower Gang and the Navin Field Grounds Crew, volunteer groups who work their tails off to help keep local parks a bit more neat and trim — so the next Ray Oyler (or maybe a Don Kelly fan?) has a place to take his or her well-oiled glove out to play. Perhaps one day in the future, one of those kids will think back to that magical 2013 Tigers season and remember screaming at the TV that time Jim Leyland decided to pull Justin Verlander for a relief pitcher.
Let’s Play Ball!