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The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists
By Mike Stone
By Art Regner
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Format:ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 16, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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List topics include:
What were the most lopsided trades in local sports history?
Who were the most overrated athletes to play in our town?
What local athlete had the best appearance in TV or film?
What was the most heartbreaking loss in local sports history?
What was the greatest single play in local sports history?
Who are our team’s most hated rivals?
Plus dozens of “guest” lists contributed by famous local sports and entertainment celebrities.
Not only does Detroit host major pro sports teams — the Lions (NFL), the Red Wings (NHL), the Tigers (MLB), and the Pistons (NBA) — the area also includes prominent college sports programs such as the University of Michigan. Detroit’s fans are some of the most educated and fanatical in the country, thanks to the work of long-time commentators Mike Stone and Art Regner.
Dedicated to my parents Lewis and Sandra Stone, and my sister Lisa Stone Falasco, for supporting my obsession with sports from an early age (although my mom wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer). To my lovely and talented wife Cyndi for putting up with me, my job, and my Bruce Springsteen obsession; I love you very much. To my darling, beautiful twin daughters Jessica and Marissa, who give me more happiness than they know. I also want to thank Bernie Smilovitz for bringing me to Detroit in 1986, Mitch Albom for allowing me to co-host “The Sunday Sports Albom” from 1988-1994, and Bob “Wojo” Wojonowski for being the best radio partner a guy could have. And thanks to the listeners of WDFN for over 14 years of support.
This book is dedicated to the people of Detroit and Michigan. Without their support and enthusiasm we could not have written The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists.
I moved to Michigan in 1986, and since my arrival I have witnessed many incredible sports moments. In that time, the area has experienced multiple Stanley Cups, NBA titles, collegiate championships, a surprising trip to the World Series and Barry Sanders. I have been blessed by world-class events such as a Super Bowl, Ryder Cup and even a Wrestlemania. After spending the first 28 years of my life on the East Coast before moving here, I am convinced Detroit is the most well-rounded sports area in the country. I was asked to find a co-author for this book. I chose Art Regner. The choice was easy. He is a lifelong Michgander, he is passionate and he is a helluva writer. Although as our editor Mike Regan, publisher Greg Jones, and many of Art’s radio co-hosts throughout the years will attest, punctuality is not his greatest strength. That aside, we hope you will find this book both informative and somewhat humorous.
The lists cover the obvious, from the best players for each team to the worst draft choices of our teams. The lists also delve a bit into non-sports as well. (We had to have a list of best Coneys, for example). Thanks to many friends in the media, front office, and the athletes themselves. We have lists ranging from Matt Millen’s favorite Three Stooges episodes and Joe Dumars’ favorite Sanford and Son episodes to Chris Osgood’s hardest shots to face.
These lists are obviously not definitive. Yes, there are omissions (sorry Wayne County, Macomb County, Port Huron, Kalamazoo and the Upper Peninsula, among others). And they are debatable. And it is with debate in mind that we bring to you The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists.
As you read this book, there is one thing to keep in mind: this is a launching pad. Let the debate, and hopefully the not-too-heated discussions, begin. When Michael Stone (Stoney) first asked me if I was interested in this project, I immediately flashed back to the first time I met Stoney. It was after Gary Moeller’s Monday media luncheon that Michigan has during the football season. I was working for Channel 2 and Stoney was at Channel 4. He introduced himself and told me if there was anything he could do for me just ask. I was stunned. Working at Channel 2 was the worst experience of my professional career. I was extremely turned off by television, but Stoney changed that by a simple act of kindness. Michael Stone is a true friend. It was easy to say “yes” to him, however, this was a difficult book to write.
Detroit has been a “Sportstown” for so long that trying to include all of the great athletes, moments, personalities, and traditions was more than we ever imagined. There is so much sports history in the Motor City that we tried to create a tapestry of why Detroit and the state of Michigan are completely devoted to their teams, city, and state. It was a daunting task and one that will forever remain incomplete. That is the true beauty and attraction of sports. It is a constant. Each era is uniquely defined and each era can make a case of why it had the best teams and athletes. In the end, we’re all from the same sports melting pot. It doesn’t really matter about the era you identify with, the teams you root for, or your favorite athletes. It’s about a city and state that can lay claim to some of the greatest teams, athletes, traditions and athletic achievements to ever be chronicled in the annals of athletic competition.
Top Ten Draft Steals in Detroit Sports History :: Stoney
Making a good pick in the draft is not the easiest thing in the sports world to do, even if you have one of the top selections—as Matt Millen and Randy Smith have proved so often. But Detroit sports teams have found some great players with picks from almost every round in drafts. So many, that cutting this list to 10 proved extremely difficult. As a result, obvious ones like Barry Sanders and Isiah Thomas were not included, because, let’s face it, any jackass could have made those picks. This list is limited to diamond-in-the-rough picks from later rounds or guys who were brought in from unlikely places to play a big role in Detroit sports.
10. Lou Whitaker, Tigers, 1975, fifth round, 99th overall. The Tigers first three picks of the 1975 draft were Les Filkins, John Murphy and Bob Grandas. A free copy of the sequel to this book will go to anyone who knows who those guys were. But the club’s fifth rounder became the 1978 Rookie of the Year. He went on to play 19 seasons with the Tigers, gaining five All-Star game selections and three Gold Gloves while combining with Alan Trammell to form the longest-running double-play combination in MLB history.
9. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings, 1999, seventh round, 210th overall. The Red Wings waited three years for the Swede to join the team, but the wait was worth it. Zetterberg was runner up for 2002-03 Rookie of the Year, with 22 goals and 22 assists. For the 2005-06 campaign, he took a giant step up to 39 goals and 46 assists. Zetterberg has remained at about that level since, establishing himself as one of the best players in the world. He usually comes up big in the playoffs as well.
8. Vladimir Konstantinov, Red Wings, 1989, 11th round, 221st overall. Former scout Neil Smith fell in love with Konstantinov during the 1987 World Junior Championships when he noted that Vlad was the only Russian not to back down from Canada in a bench-clearing brawl. The Vladinator’s crushing hits and aggressiveness quickly made him a fan favorite here as he helped the Wings pick up a pair of Stanley Cups. Unfortunately, he is best remembered for the limousine accident that ended his career in 1997. But he enjoyed an amazing career before that, especially for an 11th-round pick.
7. Jack Morris, Tigers, 1976, fifth round, 98th overall. He may have been an a-hole to many, but there is no disputing the fact that Jack Morris was the best Tigers starting pitcher since Mickey Lolich. Morris owned the 80s, winning 111 games between 1982-87. In the 1984 championship year, he went 19-11 and threw a no-hitter in Chicago. He won all three of his starts in the postseason, giving up just five runs and 18 hits. He left the Tigers as a free agent after the 1990 season.
6. Joe Dumars, Pistons, 1985, first round, 18th overall. With Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson already on the team, many wondered why GM Jack McCloskey would select another guard in the first round, especially one from a small school named McNeese State. Few wondered after seeing him play. Joe was a six-time All-Star, a four-time All-NBA Defensive Team member and the NBA Finals MVP in 1989. He finished his career as the Pistons’ second all-time leading scorer and second in assists. He gained entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
5. Lem Barney, Lions, 1968, second round, 34th overall. The unknown cornerback from Jackson State turned into one of the greatest Lions of all time. In his first game, he picked off a Bart Starr pass and returned it for a touchdown. He went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing with a spectacular 10 interceptions, including three in one quarter of the last game of the season. Over the course of his great career, Barney gained seven Pro Bowl selections and snagged 56 interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
4. Sergei Fedorov, Red Wings, 1989, fourth round, 74th overall. The Wings basically helped smuggle him away from Russia while he was playing for his country at the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle. Sergei became an immediate hit in Detroit, scoring 31 goals and 79 points as a rookie. He would score at least 30 goals every year through the 1996-97 season, except for one season cut short by a work stoppage. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player with 56 goals and 120 points for the 1993-94 season. He is currently the Wings’ fourth leading goal and points scorer and second all time in playoff scoring.
3. Dennis Rodman, Pistons, 1986, second round, 27th overall. A key part of the Bad Boys two championship teams, “The Worm” was named to five straight NBA All-Defensive first teams and led the league in rebounding with a staggering 18.7 a game in 1992 and then again in 1993 by averaging 18.3 per. He started acting strange after he left the next season. But he still played well in San Antonio and Chicago, where he averaged at least 15 rebounds per game in three seasons and picked up three rings. He belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
2. Joe Schmidt, Lions, 1953, seventh round, 85th overall. He revolutionized defensive football, becoming one of the first players to play middle linebacker and the first to star as one. His career totals: 13 seasons, 10 Pro Bowls, 10 All Pro selections, two NFL titles and a co-MVP award in 1960. Schmidt also became a member of the 1950s All-Decade Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings, 1989, third round, 53rd overall. No argument—this is the best draft pick in Detroit sports history. Lidstrom ranks as the best defenseman in team history and, some might argue, the best player in Wings history after Gordie Howe. He made All Rookie in 1991-92 and just kept getting better. The accolades tell the story: five Norris Trophies, nine All-star selections, three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL Finals MVP (the only European to claim that award). His leadership and skill are so respected that he was named as the Wings’ captain after Steve Yzerman.
Nine Worst (Non-Lions) Draft Picks in Detroit History :: Stoney
Drafting players is certainly not a science, or many of Detroit’s general managers would have flunked the course. Even great GMs like Joe Dumars and Jimmy Devellano occasionally fail. But here are the nine worst picks by all the city’s pro GMs. Why nine? Well, to be fair, we gave the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings three slots each. Why no Lions? Because, as in most “Worst” categories, they deserve their own list. To be considered awful enough to gain entry onto this list, a pick had to be a first-rounder (with non-first-rounders relegated to Dishonorable Mentions). Also, since baseball had multiple drafts from 1966-1987, the Tigers got a reprieve until the 1987 draft. Other than that, the main criterion for making the list is performance, or rather lack thereof—and the quality players still available on the draft board when the lousy selection was made.
Dishonorable Mentions: Tigers—Bill Henderson in 1987 (with Craig Biggio still available), Matt Wheatland in 2000 (with Chase Utley still available), Greg Gohr in 1989 (Mo Vaughn and Chuck Knoblauch were still on the board); Red Wings—Yves Racine in 1987 (with Joe Sakic still available), Terry Richardson in 1973 (Rick Middleton was still on the board); Pistons—Antoine Carr in 1983 (could have had Clyde Drexler), Greg Kelser in 1979 (with Sidney Moncrief still on the board).
9. Keith Primeau, Red Wings, 1990, third overall. Primeau eventually became a very good player. But his playoff failures frustrated the club and he was never as physical as Detroit fans wanted. Some even thought he was soft because he owned an extensive collection of Mickey Mouse artifacts. He was traded right before the 1997 season.
Still on the board: The choice of Primeau was not horrific, until you consider that Jaromir Jagr and Mike Ricci were still available.
8. Leon Douglas, Pistons, 1977, fourth overall pick. The 6-foot-10 center was a dominant player and consensus All-American at Alabama. His NBA career was a bit different. He averaged just nine points and seven rebounds per game as a Piston, then finished out his NBA career with three forgettable years as a Kansas City King.
Still on the board: Adrian Dantley and a guard from Baylor named Vinnie Johnson. But at least we ended up getting both later through trades.
7. Mike Foligno, Red Wings, 1979, third overall. He scored 36 goals in his rookie year and had another year-and-a-half of very good play for the Red Wings before being sent to Buffalo. He finished his career with a very respectable 355 goals. So why is he on this list? Check it out.
Still on the board: Mike Gartner and Ray Bourque. Gartner scored 708 goals in his illustrious career and Bourque turned out to be one of the greatest defensemen of all time, winning five Norris Trophies.
6. Rodney White, Pistons, 2001, ninth overall. After only playing one year at UNC-Charlotte, the 6-foot-9 forward just was not mature enough to handle the grind of the NBA. White played in only 16 games and rarely showed anything before being shipped to Denver.
Still on the board: Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker or Gilbert Arenas.
5. Fred Williams, Red Wings, 1976, fourth overall. You expect results when you have the fourth overall pick in a draft. The Red Wings got Fred Williams instead. He played in just 44 games, scoring two goals, as a rookie and never got another sniff of the NHL. To put it kindly, Fred Williams was a colossal bust.
Still on the board: Not the greatest crop of draft eligible players in 1976, but St. Louis got Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter, who combined to score 692 goals in their NHL careers—or 690 more goals than Fred Williams scored.
4. Scott Moore, Tigers, 2001, eighth overall. Drafting a shortstop right out of high school is pretty much a crapshoot. And the Tigers certainly got themselves some crap with Scott Moore. In his first three years of minor league baseball, Moore offered zero reminders of his schoolboy greatness, then was traded to the Cubs.
Still on the board: Cole Hamels, Jeff Francis, Kahalil Greene, Jeff Francouer, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Matt Cain, just to name a few. Oh, and to make matters worse, the Milwaukee Brewers had the pick right before the Tigers and chose Prince Fielder.
3. Matt Brunson, Tigers, 1993, ninth overall. Another fine high school shortstop, Brunson never even got a chance to suck in Detroit because he sucked so thoroughly in the low minor leagues. The only thing that Brunson showed he could do was run, stealing 50 bases for Fayetteville in 1994, which was fitting since he essentially stole the signing bonus money he got from the Tigers.
Still on the board: Billy Wagner, Tori Hunter, Derek Lee and Jason Varitek all would have looked good in the Olde English D.
2. Matt Anderson, Tigers, 1997, first overall. The Tigers had a rare first overall draft pick and needed everything, including starting pitching. But they were right in the middle of their penny-pinching era and must have figured that a relief pitcher would sign for less than a starter. So they chose Rice University closer Anderson. He did become a fan favorite with his 100-mph fastball. But he never lived up to the hype. Then in May of 1992, Anderson injured his arm in, I kid you not, an octopus-throwing contest.
Still on the board: Lance Berkman and Tory Glaus, among others.
1. Darko Milicic, Pistons, 2003, second overall. The ultimate “what if” pick. The ultimate reach. The one major negative on Joe Dumars’ record during his reign as General Manager. The ultimate bust. The Darko pick remains extraordinary in a number of ways, all of them bad.
Still on the board: This is where the full horror of the Darko pick becomes apparent. Instead of Darko, the Pistons could have chosen Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Josh Howard, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa or, oh, yeah, some guy named Dwayne Wade.
Ten Worst Detroit Lions Draft Picks :: Stoney
Throughout their pathetic history, the Detroit Lions have consistently made lousy draft picks. In fact, they’ve made some of the worst picks of any team in any league. To keep this list from filling up the rest of the book, it’s been limited to the worst 10 picks from the first two rounds.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Eddy (1966, second round, 24th overall); Walt Williams (1977, second round, 42nd overall); David Lewis (1984, first round, 20th overall); Pat Carter (1988, second round, 32nd overall); Terry Fair (1998, first round, 20th overall); Bob Bell (1971, first round, 21st overall); Ernest Price (1973, first round, 17th overall); Mark Nichols (1981, first round, 16th overall.); Stockar McDougle (2000, first round, 20th overall); Chuck Long (1986, first round, 12th overall).
10. John Ford, 1989, second round, 30th overall. The wide receiver told the Detroit media that he modeled his game after Jerry Rice, but he was more like Donna Rice—politician Gary Hart’s infamous bottle-blonde mistress. At least he was honest. Ford had five catches in his first and only year in the NFL, then followed Donna Rice into oblivion.
Could have picked instead: Darryl “Moose” Johnston or Wesley Walls.
9. Juan Roque, 1997, second round, 35th overall. Roque was the first of Bobby Ross’s many poor offensive line picks. Yeah, injuries hampered him. But Roque was just a bad player. He only managed to get into 17 games before being cut, much to the relief of the quarterbacks he was supposed to be protecting.
Could have picked instead: Tiki Barber, Sam Madison, Marcellus Wiley or Darren Sharper.
8. Kalimba Edwards, second round, 35th overall, 2002. A disappointment to say the least, the DE boasted great speed and did pile up 6? sacks his rookie year. But Kalimba was basically a non-factor for the rest of his six years here.
Could have picked instead: Antwaan Randle-El, Andre Gurode, LeCharles Bentley or, oh, yeah, some guy named CLINTON PORTIS. Oy!
7. Lynn Boden, 1975, first round, 13th overall. Although he started in 49 games in his four seasons as a Lion, the o-lineman was mediocre at best on a team already overloaded with mediocrity. He became the 1970s symbol of Lion draft futility.
Could have picked instead: something tells me Russ Francis, Louie Wright or Hollywood Henderson would have worked out better.
6. Aaron Gibson, 1999, first round, 29th overall. Bobby Ross had a good plan: use the draft to build an offensive line for Barry Sanders. But trading up to get this guy was a colossal mistake. Gibson was fat, lazy and injury-riddled. His only impact came at the training camp buffet line.
Could have picked instead: Michigan’s Jon Janzen or Virginia defensive lineman Patrick Kearney.
5. Joey Harrington, 2002, first round, third overall. Some rank him as the Lions’ worst all-time pick because of how far back he set the organization. But at the time, Joey Harrington filled a general need for a new quarterback. Problem was he did not meet the specific need for a West Coast offense quarterback for coach Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense. In fact, GM Matt Millen made the pick against the wishes of the coaching staff. Harrington’s chronic inaccuracy, perceived lack of toughness and perpetual optimism made him an easy target for disgruntled fans.
Could have picked instead: Quentin Jammer or Dwight Freeney.
4. Charles Rogers, 2003, first round, second overall. Fans were cautiously optimistic when the Lions took Rogers. Optimistic because they had seen Rogers’ dynamic receiving ability when he played up the road at Michigan State. Cautious because they were also familiar with all of the off-field issues that came with the temperamental wide receiver. Rogers did catch two TDs in his rookie season opener against Arizona. Then strange injuries and strange, drug-fueled behavior took over his career. This wasted waste of talent was such a malcontent during the 2006 training camp that the Lions released him. He tried to earn a tryout in 2007, but could not even motivate himself to get in shape to run a decent 40 time. To the end, he blamed everyone but himself for his failures.
Could have picked instead: Andre Johnson.
3. Andre Ware, 1990, first round, seventh overall. Wayne Fontes was so wowed by this Heisman Trophy winner’s pre-draft workout that he used his top pick in the draft to get him, even though the Lions already had a QB in Rodney Peete. Ware connected with guys on the other team for INTs more often than with his teammates for TDs. Appropriately, when owner William Clay Ford called to congratulate Ware for his first start, he accidentally dialed Erik Kramer instead.
Could have picked instead: Richmond Webb, Emmitt Smith or Shannon Sharpe.
2. Mike Williams, 2005, first round, 10th overall. A senseless pick, even by the Lions’ standards. Matt Millen ignored the fact that he had taken WRs with early picks in the previous two drafts, that Williams had not played football in a year and that he was perpetually overweight. But after two seasons that featured as many drops as catches, even Millen could no longer ignore that Mike Williams was a flat-out bust. He traded him to Oakland before the 2007 season for a fourth-round pick—and had to add Josh McCown to the deal to get that much.
Could have picked instead: Shawne Merriman two picks later.
1. Reggie Rogers, 1987, first round, seventh overall. A great player in college, Rogers was a bust for the Lions both on and off the field. He played in just 11 games as a Lion, recording one sack. He is best remembered, unfortunately, as a murderer. In October of 1988, a drunken Rogers drove through a red light and slammed into another car, killing three local teenagers. After being sentenced to prison, he returned to the NFL with Buffalo in 1991 and finished out his putrid career with Tampa Bay in 1992.
Could have picked instead: Jerome Brown and Rod Woodson.
Ten Old-School Draft Failures by the Lions
Years before Matt Millen was even born, the Lions mastered another way to screw up the NFL draft. Instead of applying their current strategy of wasting high picks on head cases and drop cases, the team drafted budding superstars, then let them go to other teams. Employing this strategy, the Lions stocked the rosters of their rivals with some of the best players in NFL history. Here are ten of the great ones that got away.
10. Jack Kemp. The QB out of southern California spurned the Lions in favor of Pittsburgh, then Buffalo. He made seven Pro Bowls in the 1960s. He almost became Vice President, too.
9. Gerry Philbin. The Lions didn’t put in much of an effort into signing the defensive end after drafting him in 1964. But, what the heck, he was just their third-round pick and an imminent Pro Bowler. Insulted by the Lions lowball tactics, Philbin went to New York, where he anchored the left side of the Jets’ d-line for a decade and helped them win the Super Bowl four years later, gaining the first of his two All-Pro selections in the process.
8. John Hadl. The Lions first-round pick in 1962 was more impressed that the AFL’s San Diego Chargers had designated him as their third-rounder. The QB made the first of his six Pro Bowls two years later and would go on to throw for over 33,000 yards and 244 TDs in his fine 16-year career.
7. Pete Retzlaff. The Lions drafted the combination receiver/back in 1953, then cut him. But, hey, who needs a guy who would go on to win five Pro Bowls selections, an NFL title and the 1965 Bert Bell Award as the NFL’s top player? And just remember: cutting Retzlaff freed up space on the roster for Gene Gedman and Jug Girard.
6. Mac Speedie.
- On Sale
- Dec 16, 2008
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Running Press