Thursday, November 8, 2007


Mickey Lolich thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame.

Well, he's wrong. Nice career. Quite the gamer and quite the personality, but if he's Hall of Fame worthy, so are about thirty or forty other guys I could name. At some point you have to shut the door lest the place become ridiculous.

But I'll always have a place in my heart for Lolich. Partially because my parents knew who he was. They weren't baseball fans, but they were from Detroit and even casual fans knew about the 1968 World Series hero. Just hearing them talk about any ballplayer made whoever it was loom larger in my mind than his production probably warranted.

Also, as some may know, Lolich ran a donut shop in Lake Orion, Michigan for many years after he retired. One Saturday in 1984 my Dad drove my brother and me there in order to meet him. When we got there, the woman behind the counter said that Lolich was out. As soon as she said it, our faces fell. Seeing this, she quickly added "actually, he just stepped out to run an errand, and I'm sure he'll back any moment." She went into the back for a minute as we got donuts, and then came back out.

About 20 minutes later Mickey Lolich walked in with a big smile on his face, came right over to where my brother and I were, and said "you must be the guys lookin' for me!" He was great. He signed our cards and shot the breeze with us for a long, long time, stopping only occasionally to acknowledge a new customer entering the place. He said he was more proud of his 1968 World Series home run than he was of his three wins because "I won a bunch of games. I only hit the one home run."

He also had a lot of mildly negative things to say about Rusty Staub, the guy he was traded for after the 1975 season. The one I remember was that, according to Lolich, Staub would use new batting gloves for almost every at bat, and because of that people thought he was a prima donna. I don't know if that's true or even uncommon, but Lolich seemed animated about it even though he had been retired for five years at that point. Given that, aside for 38 games at the end of the 1979 season, Staub and Lolich were never even in the same league together, I can only guess that the whole batting glove business was something he first heard from his teammates on the Mets.

That stuff aside, he seemed like a really nice guy. He said that Kaline was always friendly, and that you couldn't say that about most of the superstars back then. He said that everyone gave Oyler good-natured crap for being unable to hit his weight. Jim Northrup had the best sense of humor on the team. The younger players were kind of in awe of Eddie Matthews, but it was obvious he was washed up when he came over, which made everyone kind of sad. Everyone loved Gates Brown. You get the sense that he could have gone on for hours, but eventually my Dad, realizing that we were monopolizing Lolich's time, said it was time to go.

In hindsight it was obvious that he was at home relaxing that Saturday morning and only came in to the shop because a couple of kids showed up asking for him. He didn't have to do that, nor did he have to spend as much time with us as he did. Because he did, however, I will always have good thoughts about Mickey Lolich.

Even if I don't think he's a Hall of Famer.

(link via BTF)

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