Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 1991 · Page 41
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 41

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Sunday, March 3, 1991
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SUNDAY, MARCH I), 1991 THE DETROIT NEWS 7E Harwell: Mays shapes up 'Orenthal' From page IE Orenthal's mom and dad were separated and when he needed disci-, pline, his dad came home to deliver , it. He dreaded facing his father. His . mother picked him up at the juvenile ' home and brought him home. He ' waited in his room for the inevitable beating from his dad. Soon, he dozed off. When he woke, he heard voices downstairs in the living room. He went down the steps. To his amazement, there stood Willie Mays, his hero. He had no idea why Mays was there ... It seemed like a miracle. Mays was at his peak then. He was the Giants. People were always talking about Willie. Orenthal had gone to his first game, at Candlestick Park, when he was 10 years old. His ; Uncle Hollis took him, and Orenthal couldn't take his eyes off Mays. Mays even hit a home run that afternoon. Orenthal began to imitate Willie. He was his hero almost a god to him. And here was Mays in Orenthal's "living room. Why? Uncle Hollis, it seems, had spoken to a man named Lefty Gordon, who was a youth counselor. Gordon had contacted Mays and told him about this fine young athlete who was on the verge of getting into deep trouble. So Mays came to help. And he helped in his own way no lecture,, no teaching. He simply asked Oren-. thai to spend the afternoon with him. He went to the dry cleaners, then to a store to buy something. They went to the house of a friend of Mays where a banquet was being planned. And Willie took Orenthal to his San Francisco home. After three hours, Willie took Orenthal back to his home. To the relief of Orenthal, his dad was not there. In fact, his father never again whipped him. Mays made Orenthal realize a dream. He helped him turn his life around. Orenthal knew that Mays, his hero, was a real person, a true human being, and that there was a chance for him. It was the pivotal afternoon in Orenthal's life . . . and he has never forgotten it. The story could have a terrific climax if I told you that young Orenthal, the super teen-age athlete, grew up to play center field for the Giants. But that wouldn't be true. No, but he did excel in another sport football. Orenthal's full name: Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson. Comebacks have always been a part of baseball. And my favorite comeback story is about a favorite Tiger, John Hiller. Hiller was probably Canada's most valuable export to the Tigers. He pitched sandlot ball in Scarborough, Ontario, and was signed by the great Tigers scout Cy Williams. Cy saw him pitch one game and offered John $400 a week. Cy also threw in a pair of spikes and an old glove. Hiller snapped at the offer. John came through the minors and first joined the Tigers in 1965. The manager then was Charlie Dres-sen. Dressen put Hiller into his first game to pitch to one batter Chicago's Gene Freese. Hiller zipped three high fastballs past Freese and struck him out. When John came back to the dugout, Dressen said: "Gee, I didn't know you could throw that hard. Hiller said later that he really wasn't a hard thrower, but that first appearance had him all pumped up. Then, just six years into his Tigers career, in 1971, John thought his baseball days were over. He was only 27 years old in January 1971 when he suffered a massive heart attack. He spent five weeks in the hospital. His doctors said that he would never play baseball again. In April 1971, Hiller had surgery. Doctors removed seven feet of his intestines and cleared his arteries. By November he was running, swimming and exercising when he could. He quit drinking and smoking and vowed to defy all those experts who told him he'd never pitch again. The Tigers were concerned about Hiller and his health. First they brought him back as their batting practice pitcher. Then Manager Billy Martin gave him a chance to pitch. Billy took left-hander Les Cain and Hiller to the bullpen. Cain was trying to come back after arm trouble; Hiller, after his heart attack. Billy said to the two of them: "I'll watch you guys warm up here in the bullpen, and I'll pick one to stay on the team and release the other one." He selected Hiller. And in July 1972 Hiller was pitching again in the big leagues. He went on to become the best relief pitcher in Tigers history. His best seasons were 1973 and '74. In '73 he was 10-5 with 38 saves at that time an American League record. The next year he notched 17 victories and was picked for the A.L. All-Star squad. After the 1980 season, Hiller retired. Hiller's 15-year career, all with the Tigers, was a good one, and now he's helping young, hope-to-be Tigers pitchers as he coaches them in the minors. There is a lot John can . r i'J t - I DALE G. YOUNG The Detroit News ; Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell at Marchant Stadium. tell them about pitching technique; but he can impart even more to those youngsters about fighting back against all kinds of odds. Back in the '70s, a lady on Long Island wrote a letter to New York sportswriter Dick Young. Here's the way the letter went: "The youngest of my six children is a boy named Jerome. He is 7 years old. Right now he is in the baseball-card phase. The other day he came to me and said he had two brothers in his cards but they play on different teams. I asked their names and he said Downing. "In all my years as a baseball fan, I couldn't recall any mention of Al Downing having a brother in the big leagues. I asked my son to show me the cards. "He produced one of Al Downing, the other of Brian Downing and he said, 'See, they are brothers, their last names are the same.' "I looked at them and said to him, 'No, they couldn't be brothers because one is black and one is white.' He studied them very carefully, and then, puzzled, he said, 'Oh, I never noticed that, but can't they be brothers anyway?' "I just thought Jerome's innocent eyes would be a wonderful way for all of us to see the world." People all over the world remember him as a man who made millions laugh. Detroiters remember him as a man who grew up in Toledo and came to this city many times as a performer. He was also the owner of the Kansas City team in the American Association, a one-time TV baseball announcer, and a tremendous baseball fan. I knew the great movie comedian Joe E. Brown as a warm human being, and a friend to many especially the servicemen of World War II. Many years ago, I asked Joe what was his one most memorable moment in show business. Joe told me of a time he was entertaining troops in the South Pacific. He had lost a son in that war, and the servicemen meant something special to him. Here's the way Brown told it: "I was up at 3 in the morning and went with some guys on a bombing mission. I came back, hopped on another plane and flew 500 miles to entertain about 2,500 soldiers. There was a homemade stage just a few boards on top of oil drums. "I did pantomime and routines and old jokes. I was on more than an hour. I was dead tired. I begged off doing any more. But they kept applauding. They wouldn't let me stop. "I explained how tired 1 was, told them they'd heard everything I'd perfected in a lifetime of show business, but they wouldn't give up. "Finally a youngster about 19 yelled out: 'Hey, Joe, can't you tell us some dirty stories?' " "When that kid shouted, the entire jungle must have heard it. There was complete silence. And that silence stunned me. But I recovered and I spoke directly to that kid. "And here's what I told him: 'Son, I want your applause. A comedian like me lives on applause and laughter. I want your laughs more than you ever want me to make a laugh. But if telling a dirty story is the price I have to pay for your laughter, I don't want it. I've never done an act I couldn't do in front of my mother, and I never will.' "When I said that" (and remember this is Joe E. Brown talking), "when I said that, these soldiers rocked that jungle with more applause than I'd ever heard anywhere in my whole lifetime in show business. "And that's the applause I could never forget." MONDAY: From Chapter Three, Diamonds in the Rough, segments on Ty Cobb. Excerpted from Ernie Harwell's Diamond Gems, by Ernie Harwell, edited by Geoff Upward. Copyright 1991, Momentum Books Ltd., 210 Collingwood, Suite 106, Ann Arbor. Telephone (313) 995-3339. $17.95. Available in bookstores beginning this week. Carey: It's the last season of an 'all-consuming way of life' From page 1E he'd be the one to replace his friend in the booth. They were a team, and as a team in separate and unrelated decisions they will exit. The time will come all too soon for their last outs and their final innings. It will be an emotional time for both, so these are days to savor most. As Carey goes about his job at Marchant Stadium, it seems as if the clock isn't ticking at all. : "I'm wistful," he said, "but I'm really not thinking about it yet as my final year because there isn't time to think about it. "It's a seven-days-a-week job down here. It is for you; it is for me. So I'm not looking at it that I won't be at Marchant Stadium ever again in the first week of March." Carey is heading into his 19th year as a play-by-play announcer for the Tigers. He has seen good teams, great teams, bad teams and sad teams. And he still vividly recalls his first ' spring training. "It was 1973, and I was doing the Pistons' games as well as putting in a full shift at the station (WJR)," he said. "I remember coming down for opening day of the full squad. I was able to come down for five days, just to observe. Fred Scherman led them out of the clubhouse with a charge 7 r I DALE G. YOUNG The Detroit News Paul Carey (above) says Ernie Harwell, his 18-year partner, "doesn't need to practice. I do." through the gate, and that was impressive. But I don't think they've done that since. The clubhouse door opens, but now they just walk out to calisthenics." From the way spring training starts, to the intensity with which it is conducted, times have changed but so has the time frame of selecting a broadcaster. The Tigers will have a full year to consider replacements for Harwell and Carey. Chances are the successors will know a lot sooner than Carey did, back in 1973, that the Tigers had chosen him. "I found out at 5 o'clock in the afternoon on Feb. 1," he said. "I was doing the 6:15 show, getting it ready, and I got a call from Jim Campbell. "Jim started off sounding gloomy. He told me they had made a decision about who'd be working with Ernie on the Tiger broadcasts and he said, T have to tell you . . . it's going to be you.' "That's how he put it, but the way he led into it, I thought there was no way I was going to get the job. I knew I was in the running because I'd gone back for a second interview, and they had narrowed it down to five candidates. "This had never been a goal of mine," Carey said. "I thought it was unattainable. I'd gone on vacation in January, but when I got back, somebody said I should turn in an audition tape. I hadn't done any play-byplay for baseball, so I made up a mock tape with crowd noise. I did lineups for a game with the Rangers in Arlington. I still have the tape someplace. "I read in a couple of commercials and submitted it, but I was surprised when I got called in to talk to Campbell. "Once I got down here, I was doing baseball for the first time, but Ernie was in midseason form. That took some getting used to. He doesn't need to practice. I do." Carey and Harwell aren't alike in their styles. Carey doesn't even claim to have one. "I don't have a good memory for stories and anecdotes," he said. "I need to write things down. I need to take notes. I need to come out with a steno pad before every game with notes to fall back on. "Others can grab a story out of their head. I can't. I don't think my style has changed over the years.;! don't think I have a style. !; "But I know one thing that has happened. Because I've always been a Tiger fan, I'd get mad, and sometimes it showed through if they lost or umpires made what I felt was a bad call. Now I don't get as high or as low about things that happen las when I started out." As for retirement, Carey is looking forward to it, but with a degreeof caution. "The problem is that I tend not to do much of anything during baseball season except baseball. It really is an all-consuming way of life. If you have . any free time at all, it's to take care of household matters." Carey hopes to travel with his wife, Nancy, but hasn't made any plans. '"' ;.....,- - v, yzzi i i .irv MjsHBi iimimnsA in u iff mmin imiuw I IS I II I III Ex till Jee) l.rwm Hymn? 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