Thursday, December 31, 2015

Our Losses in 2015

I did obituary posts for some of these, but not all.

January 1: Mario Cuomo, 82, former outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system, Governor of New York 1983 to 1994, father of current Governor Andrew Cuomo.

January 3: Allie Sherman, 91, one of the 1st lefthanded quarterbacks in the NFL, for the Philadelphia Eagles, later an assistant coach on the New York Giants' 1956 NFL Championship, head coach of their team that reached the 1961, '62 and '63 Championship Games, but lost them all, later a studio analyst for CBS Sports.

January 4: Stu Miller, 87, 1958 National League ERA leader, 1961 NL saves leader, 1962 Pennant winner with San Francisco Giants, 1963 American League saves leader, 1966 World Champion with Baltimore Orioles, in 1967 gave up Mickey Mantle's 500th career home run. Named to Orioles' team Hall of Fame.

January 4: Hank Peters, 90, legendary baseball executive, built Orioles' 1983 World Champions.

January 4: Stuart Scott, 49, ESPN anchor, after a public battle with cancer.

January 7: Jethro Pugh, 70, defensive tackle won 1971 and '77 NFL Championships with the Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowls VI and XII), but probably best known for getting blocked by Jerry Kramer to give Bart Starr room to score on a quarterback sneak to win the 1967 NFL Championship for the Green Bay Packers in the "Ice Bowl."

January 7: Jean-Paul Parise, 67, NHL All-Star, his overtime goal sent the Islanders into the next round of the 1975 Playoffs, eliminating the Rangers, also starred for the Minnesota North Stars, father of NHL All-Star (and former New Jersey Devil) Zach Parise.

January 9: Roy Tarpley, 50, starred for the Dallas Mavericks, but banned from the NBA for continued violations of their drug policy. Sued the NBA, claiming his addiction was a disability and thus he couldn't be fired under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit was settled out of court, so we still don't know if such a suit is viable. His health was likely compromised even though he eventually stopped using drugs.

January 16: Ray Lumpp, 91, played for the Knick teams that reached the 1951 and '52 NBA Finals.

January 23: Ernie Banks, 83, Hall of Fame shortstop and 1st baseman for the Chicago Cubs. 500 Home Run Club. Number 14 retired. All-Century Team.

January 25: Bill Monbouquette, 78, All-Star pitcher, mainly for Boston Red Sox, threw no-hitter in 1962, briefly with Yankees in 1968.

January 27: Rocky Bridges, 87, All-Star 3rd baseman, member of Brooklyn Dodgers' 1951 close-call team and 1952 Pennant winners, an original Los Angeles Angel in 1961.

January 27: Al Severinsen, 70, pitcher for the Baltimore team that lost the 1969 World Series to the Mets.

January 27: Charlie Williams, 67, pitcher the Mets traded to the Giants for Willie Mays in 1972.

February 1: Ann Mara, 85, widow of Wellington Mara and thus matriarch of the New York Giants football team.

February 1: Udo Lattek, 80, managed Bayern Munich to 6 Bundesliga (German soccer) titles and Borussia Mönchengladbach to 3 others, also won the 1974 European Cup (the tournament now called the UEFA Champions League) with Bayern.

February 2: Dave Bergman, 61, 1st baseman, won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1977 and the Detroit Tigers in 1984.

February 7: Dean Smith, 83, from 1962 to 1997 coached the University of North Carolina to 17 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season basketball championships, 13 ACC Tournament wins, 11 NCAA Final Fours and the 1982 and 1993 National Championships, winning more games than any coach before him (879), and also coaching the U.S. team to the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal.

February 9: Ed Sabol, 98, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a "contributor," and it was a pretty important contribution, as he founded NFL Films. Without that, much of the league's visual history might have been lost. If not for NFL Films, we might not have Major League Baseball Productions or the NBA and NHL equivalents.

February 9: Claude Ruel, 76, defenseman whose playing career was ended at age 20 by an eye injury, coached the Montreal Canadiens to the 1969 Stanley Cup.

February 10: Don Johnson, 88, journeyman pitcher who debuted with the Yankees in 1947, although didn't last long enough to get on the World Series roster. One of the last 100 veterans of both World War II and Major League Baseball.

February 11: Ray Hathaway, 98, pitched for the Dodgers in 1945, won 5 Pennants as a minor-league manager.

February 11: Jerry Tarkanian, 84, controversial coach led the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) to the National Championship in 1990 and nearly again in 1991.

February 12: Alison Gordon, 72, became MLB's 1st full-time female beat writer in 1979, covering the Toronto Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from then until 1984.

February 15: Wendell Kim, 64, became the 1st Korean-American to wear a MLB uniform, with the Pennant-winning Giants in 1989. Also coached with the Red Sox.

February 18: Jerome Kersey, 52, All-Star helped the Portland Trail Blazers reach the 1990 and '92 NBA Finals.

February 19: Gary Woods, 60, outfielder who hit the 1st home run in Blue Jays history in their snow-strewn 1977 opener, later a big-league scout.

February 21: Frank Bathgate, 85, played 2 NHL games, both with the Rangers, alongside his brother, Hall-of-Famer Andy Bathgate.

February 24: Gary Sittler, 62, defenseman played 5 games in the WHA in 1974-75 with the Michigan Stags, younger brother of Hall-of-Famer Darryl Sittler.

February 26: Earl Lloyd, 86, became the 1st black player to appear in an NBA game with the 1950-51 Washington Capitols, won the 1955 NBA Championship with the Syracuse Nationals, elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

February 28: Alex Johnson, 72, outfielder, played on ill-fated 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, traded to St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Groat and future broadcasters Bill White and Bob Uecker, 1970 AL batting champion with California Angels, moodiness led him to multiple trades, including time with the Yankees during their 1974-75 Shea Stadium exile.

February 28: Ed Modzelewski, 86, running back led the University of Maryland to an undefeated season in 1951, served in the Air Force during the Korean War, won NFL Championship as a rookie with the 1955 Cleveland Browns. His brother Dick Modzelewski played for the giants.

February 28: Anthony Mason, 49, All-Star played on the early 1990s Knicks, including in the 1994 NBA Finals.

March 1: Jeff McKnight, 52, jack of all trades and master of none for the troubled early 1990s Mets, died from leukemia.

March 1: Minnie Miñoso, Chicago White Sox legend, outfielder who should be in the Hall of Fame even if he wasn't the 1st black Hispanic player in the majors, Number 9 retired.

March 2: Dave Mackay, 80, rugged defender who led Edinburgh-based Heart of Midlothian (a.k.a. "Hearts") to the Scottish league title in 1958. He also led Middlesex-based (not in North London until 1965) Tottenham Hotspur to the 1961 League and FA Cup Double, "Spurs" to another FA Cup in 1962, the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963, another FA Cup in 1967. He managed Derby County to the 1975 League title, and also won 2 Egyptian league titles with Cairo-based Zamalek.

March 13: Al Rosen, 91, member of the Cleveland Indians' 1948 World Champions and 1954 Pennant winners, 1953 AL MVP when he nearly won the Triple Crown, executive who built the 1978 World Champion Yankees, the 1986 NL West Champion Houston Astros and the 1989 NL Champion Giants.

March 23: Nick Peters, 75, covered the MLB Giants for their 1st half-century in San Francisco, elected to the sportswriters' wing of the Hall of Fame.

March 27: Rod Hundley, All-Star with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, reaching the NBA Finals in 1959, '62 and '63, "Hot Rod" was later a Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Utah Jazz.

March 31: Chuck Bednarik, 89, center and linebacker was a waist-gunner on a World War II bomber, "last of the sixty-minute men," starred on 1949 and 1960 NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

April 1: Eddie LeBaron, 85, 5-foot-7 quarterback may be the only player revered by fans of the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, All-Pro for 1950s 'Skins, member of their Ring of Fame, 1st quarterback for expansion Cowboys in 1960.

April 1: J.D. Smith, 82, All-Pro running back for the 1950s 49ers.

April 4: Elmer Lach, 97, Hall of Fame center for the Canadiens, won Stanley Cups in 1944, '46 and '53, won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1945, and the Ross Trophy as leading scorer in 1945 and '48, the last surviving member of the "Punch Line" with Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Hector "Toe" Blake, Number 16 retired.

April 5: Lon Simmons, 91, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the MLB Giants, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco 49ers.

April 6: Art Powell, 78, receiver was an original New York Jet (then called the New York Titans) in 1960, was a 4-time AFL All-Star for them and the Oakland Raiders, named to the AFL's All-Time Team.

April 6: Dollard St. Laurent, 85, defenseman won the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1958, '59 and '60, and with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961, making 4 straight Cups, but with 2 different teams.

April 10: Jim Mutscheller, 85, one of the 1st true tight ends, All-Pro helped the Baltimore Colts win the 1958 and '59 NFL Championships.

April 10: Lauren Hill, 19, Mount St. Joseph University basketball player was stricken with brain cancer, became an advocate for research before her death.

April 16: Lee Remmel, 90, saw every game the Green Bay Packers played for 62 years, first as a sportswriter, then as the team's official historian, was elected to their Hall of Fame. One of the few journalists to have covered each of the 1st 49 Super Bowls.

April 17: Jaroslav Holík, 72, hockey player won World Championship with Czechoslovakia in 1972, father of Devils star Bobby Holík.

April 20: Bob St. Clair, 84, Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s, they retired his Number 70.

April 25: Jim Fanning, 87, 1st general manager of the Montreal Expos in 1969, managed them to NL East title in 1981, the only one the now-Washington Nationals won in Montreal. (MLB officially counts strike-shortened 1981, but not strike-ended 1994.)

April 26: Bill Valentine, 82, former AL umpire, 1st ump to throw Mantle out of a game (in 1954 for arguing a called 3rd strike), umpired the 1965 All-Star Game, was behind the plate for Satchel Paige's last game when he became MLB's oldest player (59) in 1965, and for Tony Conigliaro's beaning in 1967.

April 26: Marcel Pronovost, 84, Hall of Fame defenseman won the Stanley Cup with the 1952, '54 and '55 Detroit Red Wings and the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs, won 3 more Cup rings as a scout for the Devils.

April 27: Gene Fullmer, 83, Middleweight Champion of the World for 4 months in 1957, and again from 1959 to 1962.

May 12: Bill Guthridge, 77, longtime assistant to Dean Smith at North Carolina, succeeded him as head coach, led them to the Final Four in 1998 and 2000.

May 14: Earl Averill Jr., 83, catcher, son of a Hall-of-Famer, an original 1961 Angel, in 1962 tied a MLB record by reaching base in 17 straight plate appearances.

May 15: Garo Yepremian, 70, Cyprus native kicked the winning field goal in the longest game in NFL history, putting the Miami Dolphins over the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day 1971. Helped Dolphins win 1972 and '73 NFL Championships, but nearly ruined their undefeated season with a botched field goal attempt late in Super Bowl VII.

May 21: Fred Gladding, 78, notoriously poor hitter even by pitchers' standards (1-for-63, or .016), but is Tigers' all-time winning percentage leader, led NL in saves in 1969 with Houston Astros, mentioned in Jim Bouton's Ball Four.

May 22: Marques Haynes, 89, Hall of Fame basketball player for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1947 to 1953 and again from 1972 to 1979, ran his own team, the Harlem Wizards.

May 26: Walter Byers, 83, executive director of the NCAA from 1951 to 1988.

May 27: John Siegal, 97, a 2-way end for the Chicago Bears, the last survivor of their 1941 and 1943 NFL Championship teams.

May 30: Lennie Merullo, 98, shortstop was the last surviving player from the Cubs' last World Series appearance in 1945.

June 3: Clarence "Bevo" Francis, 82, in 1954 played for Rio Grand College, an NAIA school, and scored 113 points, a single-game record that stood for 58 years, was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors, but chose to get a real job, which, in those days, may have paid more.

June 14: José Ely de Miranda, a.k.a. Zito, 82, midfielder starred for Santos, winning the Copa Libertadores alongside Pelé in 1962 and '63, and the 1958 and '62 World Cups with Brazil (also alongside Pelé). With his death, Pelé and Mario Zagallo are the last living members of the '58 World Cup winners.

June 17: Nelson Doubleday Jr., 81, descendant of Army General (but not inventor of baseball) Abner Doubleday, head of Doubleday publishing house, co-owner of Mets from 1980 to 2002, including the 1986 World Championship, the 1988 NL East title, the 1999 Wild Card berth and the 2000 Pennant.

June 17: John David Crow, 79, running back for Texas A&M was the only Heisman Trophy winner coached by Bear Bryant (he had none at Alabama), All-Pro for the Chicago and St. Louis Cardinals (was with them when they moved in 1960), coached under Bryant at Alabama, later returned to A&M as athletic director, restoring their scandal-ridden program to respectability.

June 21: Darryl Hamilton, 50, good-hitting outfielder whose career including the Mets' 2000 Pennant, killed in a murder-suicide.

June 22: Dick Stanfel, 87, guard won 1952 and '53 NFL Championships with the Detroit Lions.

June 23: Harvey Pollack, 93, played basketball in Philadelphia for Simon Gratz High School and Temple University, statistician for the Philadelphia Warriors from 1946 to 1962 and the Philadelphia 76ers from 1963 until his death, making him the last remaining active original NBA employee, was the official scorer for Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962 and handed him the piece of paper with "100" written on it in the famous postgame photo, coined the term "triple-double."

June 27: Kal Segrist, 84, infielder had brief appearance with Yankees in 1952, Texas Tech's longest-serving head baseball coach.

June 28: Wally Stanowski, 96, All-Star defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, won Stanley Cups in 1942, '45, '47 and '48.

June 29: Josef Masopust, 84, soccer midfielder who led Dukla Prague to 8 league titles and 3 Czechoslovak Cups (including League and Cup "Doubles" in 1961 and 1966). He also took part in Dukla's American tours in 1961, '62, '63 and '64, playing in New York each time. He led Czechoslovakia to 3rd place at the 1st European Championship in 1960 and the Final of the 1962 World Cup, losing to Brazil in Chile. He won the Ballon d'Or as World Player of the Year in 1962, and was named the Czech Republic's all-time greatest player in a UEFA poll in 2003. He later managed both Dulka and the Czech national team.

July 2: Charlie Sanders, 68, All-Pro tight end for the Detroit Lions, they retired his Number 88.

July 8: Ken Stabler, 69, quarterback of the 1976 NFL Champion Oakland Raiders, the 1st lefthanded quarterback ever to win an NFL title (in Super Bowl XI), probably the greatest lefty QB until Steve Young came along.

July 12: Mahlon Duckett, 92, 2nd baseman was the last surviving member of the Negro Leagues' Philadelphia Stars, winning a Pennant in 1934.

July 12: Buddy Lively, 90, pitcher for Cincinnati Reds, one of the last 100 MLB & WWII vets.

July 17: Bill Arnsparger, 88, defensive coordinator under Don Shula on the 1968 NFL Champion Baltimore Colts and the 1972 and '73 NFL Champion Miami Dolphins, head coach for the NFL Giants 1974 to 1976, head coach at Louisiana State, defensive coordinator for 1994 AFC Champion San Diego Chargers.

July 19: Rinaldo "Rugger" Ardizoia, 95, pitched in 1 MLB game, for the 1947 Yankees, was the last surviving member of the Pacific Coast League's Mission Reds.

July 26: Leo Reise Jr., 93, son of an original 1926-27 New York Ranger, his making the Detroit Rangers in 1945 made them the 1st father & son to both play regular-season games in the NHL, played in 4 NHL All-Star Games, won Stanley Cups with Wings in 1950 and '52, traded to Rangers, making the Leo Reises the 1st father & son to both play regular-season games with the Rangers. (Lester Patrick's emergency goaltending appearance in the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals and his sons Lynn and Murray playing later allowed them to precede the Reises on both counts.)

July 31: Billy Pierce, 88, 7-time All-Star pitcher, member of the 1959 Pennant-winning "Go-Go White Sox" and the 1962 Pennant-winning Giants. Number 19 retired by the White Sox.

August 1: Enrique "Hank" Izquierdo, 84, part of the Cuban pipeline for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise, played for their close-call team of 1967, later a longtime minor-league manager and scout. Ironically, considering his name means "left," he was a catcher, and there have been very few lefthanded catchers.

August 2: Jack Spring, 82, pitcher was another original 1961 Angel.

August 3: Mel Farr, 60, Pro Bowl running back for the Detroit Lions, along with teammate Lem Barney sang backing vocals on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Brother Miller and sons Mel Jr. and Mike also played in the NFL.

August 9: Frank Gifford, 84, running back was the 1st great tailback in the University of Southern California tradition, then starred with the Giants, including their 1956 NFL Championship, later became the 1st man elected to a sport's Hall of Fame as both a player and a broadcaster. I recently found out that Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs was the 2nd -- and each wore Number 16 for his team, and had it retired by them.

August 15: Bud Thomas, 86, shortstop played 14 games for the 1951 St. Louis Browns, 1 of the last 20 surviving players for that team (1902-53).

August 22: Lou Tsioropoulos, 84, member of the University of Kentucky basketball team that won the 1951 National Championship, Number 16 retired, won 1957 and '59 NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics.

August 24: Cumming "Cummy" Burton, 79, right wing for the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a cousin of 1930s star Larry Aurie and thus was allowed to be the only player in team history other than Aurie to wear Number 6, later a sportscaster.

August 24: Ronald "Chico" Maki, 76, right wing played for Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks in 1961.

August 27: Darryl Dawkins, 58, thunderous dunking center for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, reached the NBA Finals with the Sixers in 1977.

August 28: Al Arbour, 82, defenseman won Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in 1954, the Blackhawks in 1961, and the Maple Leafs in 1962, coached the Islanders to their 4 straight Cups from 1980 to 1983, coached and won more games than anyone in NHL history except Scotty Bowman (who coached him on the St. Louis Blues' Cup Finalists of 1968, '69 and '70), his 1,500 games led to a banner with 1500 standing in for a retired number banner for the Isles, Hall of Fame.

September 5: Gene Elston, 93, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Houston Astros.

September 6: Barney Schultz, 89, knuckleballing reliever, helped Cardinals win 1964 World Series, despite giving up a walkoff homer to Mantle in Game 3.

September 8: Joaquín Andújar, 62, pitcher won 1980 NL West title with Houston Astros and 1982 World Series with Cardinals, but best known for his epic meltdown in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

September 8: Tyler Sash, 27, safety was a member of the Giants' 2011 NFL Champions, winning Super Bowl XLVI, but left the NFL due to substance abuse issues and died from an accidental mixing of prescription drugs.

September 12: Alex Monchak, 98, played 19 games at shortstop for the 1940 Philllies, one of the last 100 MLB & WWII vets, coached under Chuck Tanner in Chicago, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, including with the 1979 World Champion Pirates.

September 12: Ron Springett, 80, goalkeeper for Yorkshire club Sheffield Wednesday, was England's starting goalie in the 1962 World Cup, also selected for '66 and won a winner's medal but didn't play.

September 13: Moses Malone, 60, Hall of Fame center led the Houston Rockets to the 1981 NBA Western Conference Championship and the 76ers to the 1983 NBA Championship, Number 24 retired by the Rockets, Number 2 retired by the Sixers.

September 16: Bob Cleary, 59, member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team that won the Gold Medal on home ice, beating the Soviet Union along the way -- in 1960 in Squaw Valley, California, not in 1980 in Lake Placid, New York.

September 17: Milo Hamilton, 88, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves, where he called Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career home run, and also for Astros.

September 19: Todd Ewen, 49, right wing won Stanley Cup with 1993 Montreal Canadiens, later made well-regarded coaching videos, committed suicide after years of battling depression.

September 22: Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, 90, the only veteran of both MLB and D-Day, 3-time AL MVP, the only 10-time World Series winner, the greatest catcher who ever lived, the only man to manage both the Yankees and the Mets to Pennants (in 1964 and 1973, respectively), Number 8 retired by the Yankees, All-Century Team, quote machine and all-around wonderful guy. His legend ain't over even now that it's over.

September 28: Carlos Diaz, 57, reliever pitched with the Mets in 1982 and '83.

October 2: Harold Schacker, 90, pitcher was the oldest living Jewish former MLB player, 1 of the last 100 MLB/WWII vets, and 1 of the last 13 living Boston Braves (1871-1952).

October 4: Neal Walk, 67, the player the Phoenix Suns chose when they lost the coin flip for the right to select Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the 1969 NBA Draft, also an original member of the 1974-75 New Orleans Jazz, Number 41 retired by the University of Florida.

October 7: Harry Gallatin, 88, 7-time NBA All-Star, reached 1951, '52 and '53 NBA Finals with the Knicks, later played on the Pistons' 1st team in Detroit in 1957-58 and coached the Knicks in 1965-66.

October 8: Lindy Infante, 75, among the coaches fired after the Giants lost the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" game in 1978, but was offensive coordinator for 1981 AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals and for 1986 and '87 Cleveland Browns teams that nearly reached Super Bowls, later head coach of Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts.

October 9: Dave Meyers, 62, forward won National Championships at UCLA in 1973 and '75, named Most Outstanding Player of 1975 NCAA Tournament, played with Milwaukee Bucks, sister Ann Meyers was also a UCLA basketball star.

October 10: Garry Hancock, 61, outfielder was one of the backups who had to fill in for the injury-plagued 1978 Red Sox as they failed to hold off the Yankees, whose reserves kept them in the AL East race.

October 11: Dean Chance, 74, 1964 Cy Young Award winner with Angels, pitched 1967 finale for Twins against Red Sox, took lead into 6th inning but was beaten.

October 15: Neil Sheridan, 93, appeared as a pinch-hitter in 1 game and a pinch-runner in another for the 1948 Red Sox, 1 of the last 100 MLB/WWII vets.

October 17: Howard Kendall, 69, midfielder on Liverpool-based Everton's 1970 Football League Champions, managed them to the League title in 1985 and 1987, the FA Cup in 1984, and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1985.

October 19: Fleming Mackell, 86, center won the Stanley Cup with the 1951 Maple Leafs, also reached the Finals with the 1957 and '58 Boston Bruins.

October 25: Philip "Flip" Saunders, 60, head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, and Washington Wizards, and was coach of the T-Wolves again when he died of cancer.

October 29: Luther Burden, 62, guard played for the Knicks from 1976 to 1978.

October 30: Norm Siebern, 82, 3-time All-Star outfielder helped the Yankees win the 1956 and 1958 World Series.

October 30: Mel Daniels, 71, won ABA Championships with the Indiana Pacers in 1970, '72 and '73, closed his career with the 1976-77 New York Nets, later coached the Pacers in 1988.

November 11: Scotty Stirling, 86, GM for the Raiders in their AFL days and the ABA's Oakland Oaks, also an executive in the NBA with the Knicks, the Golden State Warriors, and for 27 years with the Sacramento Kings, later claimed to be the inventor of fantasy football, saying he regretted not copyrighting the idea.

November 12: Márton Fülöp, 32, Hungarian goalkeeper for several English teams, including Tottenham, had to retire due to cancer.

November 16: Bert Olmstead, 89, left wing won Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in 1953, '56, '57 and '58, and with the Maple Leafs in 1962.

November 21: Ken Johnson, 82, pitched no-hitter but lost game for 1964 Houston Colt .45's (Astros).

November 26: Guy Lewis, 93, Hall of Fame basketball coach at the University of Houston, reached the Final Four in 1967 and '68 with Elvin Hayes, and in 1982, '83 and '84 with Hakeem Olauwon and Clyde Drexler, but never won a National Championship.

November 28: Gerry Byrne, 77, left back starred for Liverpool F.C., winning the League title in 1964 and 1966 and the FA Cup in 1965, named to England's team that won the 1966 World Cup but didn't play in the tournament.

December 1: Jim Loscutoff, 85, bruising forward for the Boston Celtics, won NBA Championships in 1957, '59, '60, '61, '62, '63 and '64, wore Number 18 but asked that it not be retired, so is representing on the Celtics' retired number banners by "LOSCY," they later retired 18 for Dave Cowens.

December 8: Gustavo "Gus" Gil, 76, Venezuelan infielder was a member of the ill-fated 1969 Seattle Pilots, as mentioned in Ball Four.

December 10: Dolph Schayes, 87, forward led the Syracuse Nationals to the 1955 NBA Championship, later coached them as they moved to become the Philadelphia 76ers in 1963, elected to the Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, father of All-Star Danny Schayes.

December 11: John Williams, 53, like fellow NBA All-Star Rod Hundley nicknamed "Hot Rod," starred for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

December 13: Phil Pepe, 80, longtime Yankee beat writer for the World-Telegram & Sun and the Daily News. One of the best writers on the subject of baseball, he also published several books.

December 14: Glen Sonmor, 86, left wing played 28 for the Rangers from 1953 to 1955, later coached the Minnesota North Stars to the 1981 Stanley Cup Finals, became a broadcaster for University of Minnesota hockey, awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in America.

December 17: Hal Brown, 91, pitcher was briefly a Yankee in 1962, a member of the Orioles' team Hall of Fame.

December 19: Dickie Moore, 84, Hall of Fame left wing won Stanley Cup with Canadiens in 1953, '56, '57, '58, '59 and '60, set record of 96 points in 1958-59 season (stood for 7 years), Number 12 retired, later ran the construction company that preserved the Montreal Forum and converted it into a shopping mall and movie theater.

December 19: Jimmy Hill, 87, midfielder for London soccer team Fulham, rebuilt Coventry City as manager, worked to abolish English football's maximum wage, longtime media personality in the game.

December 20: George Burpo, 93, briefly pitched for the Reds in 1946, 1 of the last 100 MLB/WWII vets.

December 23: Don Howe, 80, right back for West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, played for England in the 1958 and '62 World Cups, assistant coach helped Arsenal win the 1971 League and Cup Double, managed West Brom, returned to Arsenal as assistant coach on their 1979 FA Cup winners, managed them 1983 to 1986, assistant coach for England at World Cup in 1986, '90 and '98.

December 26: Jim O'Toole, 78, pitched for Reds' Pennant winners in 1961, member of their team Hall of Fame, ended his career after being cut by Pilots in 1969, as stated in Ball Four.

December 27: Dave Henderson, 57, All-Star outfielder, his home run powered the Red Sox to victory in the classic Game 5 of the 1986 AL Championship Series against the Angels, his home run put the Sox ahead in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, nearly making him the greatest hero in Red Sox history, but then... Helped A's win 3 Pennants and the 1989 World Series.

December 27: George "Meadowlark" Lemon, 83, perhaps the most famous of all the Harlem Globetrotters, played for them from 1955 to 1980, formed his own team, Meadowlark Lemon's Bucketeers, became an ordained minister, Hall of Fame.

December 29: Frank Malzone, 85, 6-time All-Star and 3-time Gold Glove 3rd baseman for the Red Sox in the 1950s and '60s. He was in the press room at Fenway Park when Bucky Dent hit that home run, and Phil Rizzuto told Bill White, "I let out three Holy Cows, and I thought Frank Malzone was gonna bite me on the ankle!

December 30: Doug Atkins, 85, on the short list for the title of greatest defensive end in football history. Went to the University of Tennessee, who can claim as their all-time greatest DEs Doug Atkins and Reggie White. Selected to 8 Pro Bowls and the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team. Won NFL Championships with the Cleveland Browns in 1954 and the Chicago Bears in 1963. Closed his career with the New Orleans Saints, who, unlike the Bears (he wasn't with the Browns for long), retired his Number 81. Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

This is a test

This is a test, to see if I can now write blog posts on my new smartphone, which I couldn't do on my old one.

Test Result: Successful.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How to Be a New York Football Fan In Minnesota -- 2015 Edition

This Sunday, the New York Giants will travel to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Vikings. After coming back from 28 points down to the undefeated Carolina Panthers yesterday, only to lose on a last-play field goal, the Giants must win their last 2 games, and then hope that the Washington Redskins lose at least 1 of their last 2, to make the Playoffs.

But the Vikings also need to win to solidify their Playoff position. The winner of this game might not be in, but the loser will most likely be out.

Before You Go. The Vikings do not play in the Metrodome anymore, and even if they did, you would only have been indoors for 4 hours at most. So you should consult the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press websites for their forecasts. They're predicting mid-20s for Sunday afternoon, and mid-teens for evening. Bundle up!

Minnesota is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Vikings are averaging 52,427 fans per home game. That is dead last in the NFL. But that stat is misleading, since having to groundshare with the University of Minnesota while their new stadium is built on the site of the Metrodome means they have the smallest stadium in the NFL. That 52,427 is a sellout. So getting tickets will be tough.

Vikings tickets are among the least expensive in the NFL. In the lower level, the 100 sections, seats on the sidelines are $130 and in the end zone $90. In the upper level, the 200 sections, sideline seats are $112, in the end zone $60, and at the top of the end zone $35.

Getting There. It’s 1,199 road miles from Times Square in New York to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis (the spot where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in the opening sequence of her 1970-77 CBS sitcom), and 1,196 miles from MetLife Stadium to TCF Bank Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

If you order early, you could get a round-trip flight from Newark to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for a little over $600. More likely, you'll have to pay at least $800. When you get there, the Number 55 light rail takes you from the airport to downtown in under an hour, so at least that is convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 3 buses a day between Port Authority and Minneapolis, all with at least one transfer, in Chicago and possibly elsewhere as well. The total time, depending on the number of stops, is between 26 and 31 hours, and costs $462 round-trip, although it can be dropped to $398 with advanced purchase. The Greyhound terminal is at 950 Hawthorne Avenue, at 9th Street North, just 3 blocks from Nicollet Mall, 2 from the Target Center arena, and from there just across the 7th Street overpass over Interstate 394 from Target Field.

Train? An even worse idea. Amtrak will make you leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time, and then the Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will leave at 2:15 PM and arrive in St. Paul (not Minneapolis) at 9:53 PM. From there, 730 Transfer Road, you’d have to take the Number 16 or 50 bus to downtown Minneapolis. And it’s $569 round-trip.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities, with Exit 235B being your exit for the University of Minnesota area, and Exit 233A for downtown Minneapolis.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, and half an hour in Minnesota. That’s 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago and halfway across Wisconsin, and accounting for traffic in New York, the Chicago suburbs and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. Like the baseball Twins, who arrived at the same time (1961), and the subsequent NBA Timberwolves (1989) and NHL Wild (2000), and the departed NHL North Stars (1967-1993), the Vikings are called "Minnesota," because they didn't want to slight either one of the "Twin Cities."

Well, these "twins" are not identical: They have different mindsets, and, manifesting in several ways that included both having Triple-A teams until the MLB team arrived, have been known to feud as much as San Francisco and Oakland, Dallas and Fort Worth, Baltimore and Washington, if not as much as Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Minneapolis has about 400,000 people, St. Paul 300,000, and the combined metropolitan area about 3.7 million, ranking 15th in the U.S. -- roughly the combined population of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island -- or that of Manhattan and Queens. Denver is the only metropolitan area with teams in all 4 sports that's smaller. And, despite being the smaller city, St. Paul is the State capital.
The State House in St. Paul

"Minneapolis" is a combination of the Dakota tribal word for water, and the Greek word for city. It was founded in 1867 with the name St. Anthony Falls, and, of course, St. Paul, founded in 1854, is also named for an early Christian saint. In Minneapolis, Hennepin Avenue separates the numbered Streets from North and South, and the Mississippi River is the "zero point" for the Avenues, many (but not all) of which also have numbers.

Each city once had 2 daily papers, now each is down to 1: Minneapolis had the Star and the Tribune, merged in 1982; St. Paul the Pioneer and the Dispatch, merged into the Pioneer Press and Dispatch in 1985, with the Dispatch name dropped in 1990. Today, they are nicknamed the Strib and the Pi Press.

The sales tax in the State of Minnesota is 6.875 percent. It's 7.775 percent in Minneapolis' Hennepin County, and 7.625 percent in St. Paul's Ramsey County. Bus and Light Rail service is $2.25 per ride during rush hours, $1.75 otherwise.

Going In. TCF Bank Stadium, designed to look like the old red-brick horseshoe college football stadiums of the 1920s, is on the campus of the University of Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from most of Minneapolis, 3 miles due east of Nicollet Mall and the homes of the Twins and T-Wolves. The official address is 420 SE 23rd Avenue.

Coming from downtown, you would take the Green Line light rail to Stadium Village stop. If you're going by light rail, you're most likely going to enter via the open west end of the horseshoe. If you're driving, you'll be taking I-94 back across the river, to Exit 235B, and probably parking at the enclosed east end of the stadium. Parking can be had for as low as $5.00. This being Big Ten country, tailgating is encouraged.

The stadium opened in 2009, allowing the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to play home games on campus as they did at Memorial Stadium from 1924 to 1981. Their alumni were sick of playing in the cold, so when the Metrodome opened for the Twins and Vikings in 1982, they wanted in (figuratively and literally). But, even during winning seasons (which have been few and far between since the 1960s), attendance was lousy. So an on-campus facility was built. Unlike most football stadiums, due to solar and wind patterns, the field is laid out east-to-west, and is made of FieldTurf.
Before moving in for the 2014 and '15 seasons, the Vikings played a home game there in 2010, following a snow-caused collapse of the Metrodome roof. The Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears, and it turned out to be Brett Favre's last NFL game. It's also hosted an outdoor game for UM hockey, and this coming February 21, it will play host to the Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks. It hosted a match between soccer teams Manchester City of England and Olympiacos of Athens, Greece.
Memorial Stadium, a.k.a. "Old Memorial," seated 56,000 people, and was across University Avenue from where the new stadium now stands. The McNamara Alumni Center and the University Aquatic Center are on the site. The Vikings had played a home game at "Old Memorial" in 1969, due to a conflict with a Twins Playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium.

Across Oak Street from the new stadium's west end, on opposite sides of 4th Street, are the University's basketball and hockey homes. The Gophers play their basketball games at Williams Arena, a classic old barn built in 1928. The 1951 NCAA Final Four was held there, with Kentucky beating Kansas State in the Final.

Across 4th Street from Williams is Mariucci Arena, home of the hockey team that has won National Championships in 1974, '76, '79, 2002 and '03. Named for John Mariucci, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks' 1938 Stanley Cup winners who coached the Gophers. The arena was built in 1993, after the team previously played hockey at Williams.

Legend has it that 4th Street is the "Positively 4th Street" used as the title of a song by former UM student Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, although, as is often the case with Dylan songs, there is no mention of the title in the songs. Whether the "friend" who's "got a lot of nerve" was a fellow UM student, I don't know. It's also been suggested that the 4th Street in question is the one in New York's Greenwich Village.

Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their stadium to have lots of good food, in particular that Midwest staple, the sausage. They don't disappoint.

Named for UM's Gopher mascot, Goldy's Grill stands include hot dogs, bratwurst, burgers, chicken tenders, and... cheese curds. A little touch of Montreal -- poutine in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? I hope not!

The open west end has Jax Cafe, including burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, cheesesteaks, chili, clam chowder and "Buffalo chips." I hope that means potato chips with Buffalo-chicken-style seasoning! The west end also has Famous Dave's barbecue and Dino's Gyros. The stadium also has Subway, Maui Wowie and ice cream stands.

Team History Displays. There is no display at TCF Bank Stadium for the Vikings achievements. They will wait until the new stadium opens to display mentions of their 1969 NFL Championship (losing Super Bowl IV); their 1973, 1974 and 1976 NFC Championships (losing Super Bowls VIII, IX and XI); their 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2000 NFC Central Division Championships; and their 2008 and 2009 NFC North Division Championships.

Nor are their 6 retired numbers mentioned. Of the 6, 4 are from their Super Bowl teams: 10, quarterback Fran Tarkenton; 53, center Mick Tinglehoff; 70, defensive end Jim Marshall; and 88, defensive tackle Alan Page. They also retired 80 for 1990s receiver Cris Carter, and 77 for 1990s offensive tackle Korey Stringer, who suffered heatstroke and during during training camp in 2001.

At the Metrodome, the Vikings had a Ring of Honor. Presumably, this will be put in place at U.S. Bank Stadium. There are currently 21 individuals honored:

* From the 1960s, but not making it to the 1969 title: Tarkenton.

* From the 1969 NFL Championship: Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, running back Bill Brown, offensive tackle Ron Yary, defensive end Carl Eller, safety Paul Krause, head coach Bud Grant, general manager Jim Finks, and medical adviser Fred Zamberletti. Interestingly, Joe Kapp, the starting quarterback on this team, has not been honored.

* From the 1973 and 1974 NFC Championships: Tarkenton (who was traded to the Giants and traded back to the Vikings), Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, Brown, Yary, Eller, Krause, Grant, Finks, Zamberletti and running back Chuck Foreman.

* From the 1976 NFC Championship: Tarkenton, Foreman, Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, Yary, Eller, Krause, Grant, Zamberletti and linebacker Matt Blair.

* From the 1980s: Grant, Zamberletti, Blair, defensive end Chris
Doleman, linebacker Scott Studwell, safety Joey Browner and
coach Jerry Burns.

* From the 1990s: Zamberletti, Carter, Stringer, guard Randall
McDaniel and defensive tackle John Randle.

* Thus far, no one has been inducted from the 2000s, although
Zamberletti is still with the organization.

Tarkenton was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest
Football Players in 1999. He, Page and Randy Moss were
named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

 Since the Vikings are not the primary team at TCF Bank Stadium, they don't have a big team store there, just a few stray souvenir stands. Their main Team Store is, ironically, on the site of their first stadium, at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Whether that store or any of the stands sells horned helmets, the team's symbol and long the symbol of the original Vikings, even though they never actually wore them, you'd have to go to find out.

With an uneven history that, as yet, doesn't include a World Championship, there aren't many books about the Vikings. But that history does include an NFL Championship. Pat Duncan wrote about it in Last Kings of the Old NFL: The 1969 Minnesota Vikings. Star-Tribune columnist and 1500 ESPN radio host Patrick Reusse and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar combined in 2010 to write a 50th Anniversary retrospective, Minnesota Vikings: The Complete Illustrated History.

As for DVDs, the NFL's official History of the Minnesota Vikings came out in 2001, so it only goes up to the team's 40th Anniversary. In 2009, the NFL released Minnesota Vikings: 5 Greatest Games. Except none of the 5 are from their 1970s glory days, which is inexcusable due to the vast library of NFL Films.Instead, they chose a Playoff win over the San Francisco 49ers from the 1987 season, a Playoff win over the Arizona Cardinals from the 1998 season, a Playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys from the 1999 season, Adrian Peterson's NFL record 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers in a 2007 regular season game, and the 2008 Division title clincher against the Giants.

During the Game. Because of their Midwest/Heartland image, Vikings fans like a “family atmosphere.” Therefore, while they don’t especially like the Giants, they will not directly antagonize you. I would advise against saying anything complimentary about the Green Bay Packers, the University of Wisconsin, the Dallas Stars (the hockey team that used to be the Minnesota North Stars) or Norm Green (the owner who moved them).

For many years, a man in a traditional (if historically inaccurate) Viking costume showed up at games at Metropolitan Stadium. In 1994, Joseph Juranitch, born the same year as the team, 1961 -- ironically, in Milwaukee, territory of their arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers, but grew up in Ely, Minnesota -- took up the mantle, calling himself Ragnar the Viking.
I'm not going to tell him that Vikings don't ride motorcycles.

His contract was not renewed for the 2015 season, but he still makes public appearances in costume. He is a security officer for a Twin Cities high school. He was replaced by the foam-costumed Viktor the Viking.
Seriously? Is this guy really an upgrade on Ragnar?

The Vikings hold auditions for the National Anthem, instead of having a regular singer. Their fight song is "Skol, Vikings" -- "Skol" being a variation on "Skål," a Scandinavian word meaning "good health," in effect a toast, equivalent to the Gaelic "Sláinte," the Spanish "Salud," the Italian "Salute," the German "Prost," the Hebrew "L'chaim" or the Slavic "Na zdrowie." "Skol, skol, skol" is also the main fans' chant.

And, in case you're wondering, Minnesota (and, to a lesser extent, the neighboring States of Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota) have a large concentration of people of Scandinavian descent (Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Icelandic), which is why the team was named the Vikings. Just as the Boston basketball team was named the Celtics in honor of Boston's Irish heritage. And teams in places with Native American influence have been named the Kansas City Chiefs and the Florida State Seminoles. But nobody's ever had the guts to name a team in a city with a large Italian population the Philadelphia Paisans or the Chicago Godfathers. There's no New York Jews, L.A. Chicanos or San Francisco Chinamen, either. Nor should there be. Although "New York Mensches" would be complimentary.

After the Game. Minneapolis is a relatively safe city, and the UM campus even more so. As long as you don't go out of your way to antagonize anybody, you should be all right.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I’m sorry to say that listings for where they tend to gather are slim. O'Donovan's Irish Pub, in Minneapolis at 700 1st Avenue North at 7th St., downtown, is said to cater to football Giants fans. Jet fans are said to go to the Lyndale Tap House, at 2937 Lyndale Avenue South, but that's 2 1/2 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. Number 4 bus.

Another restaurant that may be of interest to New York baseball fans is Charley's Grill, at 225 3rd Avenue South at 2nd Street.  It was popular among visiting players from other American Association cities when they came to play the Millers and the Saints. Legend has it that, when the Yankees gathered for spring training in 1961, they were trying to figure out which restaurants in the new American League cities were good, and someone who'd recently played for the Denver Bears mentioned Charley's. But Yogi Berra, who'd gone there when the Yanks' top farm team was the Kansas City Blues, said, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." Well, someone must still be going there, because it's still open.  (That Yogi said the line is almost certainly true, but the restaurant in question was almost certainly Ruggiero's, a place in his native St. Louis at which he and his neighbor Joe Garagiola waited tables.)

Sidelights. Minnesota’s sports history is long, but very uneven. Teams have been born, moved in, moved around, and even moved out. But there are some local sites worth checking out.

* Site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and U.S. Bank Stadium. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, the NFL’s Vikings from 1982 to 2013, and the NBA's Timberwolves in their inaugural season of 1989-90, that infamous blizzard and roof collapse in 2010 brought the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes to the front burner, and it finally led to action. Until then, there were threats that the Vikes would move, the most-mentioned possible destinations being Los Angeles and San Antonio.
The Twins won the 1987 and 1991 World Series at the Metrodome – going 8-0 in World Series games in the Dome, and 0-6 in Series games outside of it. The Vikings, on the other hand, were just 6-4 in home Playoff games there – including an overtime defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 14-2 in the regular season.
From October 19, 1991 to April 6, 1992, the Metrodome hosted 3 major events in less than 6 months: The World Series (Twins over Atlanta Braves), Super Bowl XXVI (Washington Redskins over Buffalo Bills), and the NCAA Final Four (Duke beating Michigan in the Final). It also hosted the Final Four in 2001 (Duke won that one, too, over Arizona).

In May 2012, faced with the serious possibility of the Vikings moving without getting a suitable stadium, the Minnesota State legislature approved funding for a new stadium for the Vikings, to be built on the site of the Metrodome and on adjoining land.

In a piece of poetic justice, just as the damn thing was (with considerable ballyhoo) built and completed ahead of schedule and under budget, so did the demolition take place. The people of Minnesota seemed to be proud of its having been built on the cheap and on time, but it served its purpose, to keep the Twins and Vikings from moving for a generation, and now replacement stadiums are achieving the same purpose.

Billy Martin, who hated the place, had the best word on it, though the awkward wording of it may have been inspired in part by his pal Yogi Berra: "It's a shame a great guy like HHH had to be named after it." (Billy's first managing job was with the Twins, at the Met in 1969.)

U.S. Bank Stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2016 NFL season. It will host Super Bowl LII in February 2018, and the 2019 NCAA Final Four. 900 South 5th Street at Centennial (Kirby Puckett) Place. Metrodome station on Light Rail.
Construction is moving along well.

* Target Field. Home of the Twins since 2010, it gives Minnesota's baseball team its 1st true ballpark after a half-century of waiting, rather than the Bloomington ice tray and the Homerdome. The official address is 1 Twins Way, along 3rd Avenue N., between 5th and 7th Streets. It has its own stop on the light rail system.

* Mall of America and sites of Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center. In contrast to their performance at the Metrodome, the Vikings were far more successful at their first home, while the Twins were not (in each case, playing there from 1961 to 1981).
The Vikings reached 4 Super Bowls while playing at The Met, while the Twins won Games 1, 2 and 6 of the 1965 World Series there, but lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shutout by Sandy Koufax. (So the Twins are 11-1 all-time in World Series home games, but 0-9 on the road.) The Vikings were far more formidable in their ice tray of a stadium, which had no protection from the sun and nothing to block an Arctic blast of wind.

In fact, the Met had one deck along the 3rd base stands and in the right field bleachers, two decks from 1st base to right field and in the left field bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. Somebody once said the stadium looked like an Erector set that a kid was putting together, before his mother called him away to dinner and he never finished it. At 45,919 seats, it had a capacity that was just fine for baseball; but at 48,446, it was too small for the NFL.

Prior to the 1961 arrivals of the Twins and Vikings, the Met hosted the Minneapolis Millers from 1956 to 1960, and 5 NFL games over the same stretch, including 4 “home games” for the Packers. (Viking fans may be sickened over that, but at least University of Minnesota fans can take heart in the University of Wisconsin never having played there.)

The experiments worked: The Met, built equidistant from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the southern suburb of Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints (at 1000 N. Snelling Avenue in the city of St. Paul, also roughly equidistant from the two downtowns), struck out, and was used as a practice field by the Vikings before being demolished in 1981.

The NHL’s Minnesota North Stars played at the adjoining Metropolitan Sports Center (or Met Center) from 1967 to 1993, before they were moved to become the Dallas Stars by owner Norm Green, earning him the nickname Norm Greed. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981 and 1991, but never won the Cup until 1999 when they were in Dallas.

The Beatles played at Metropolitan Stadium on August 21, 1965 -- making 1 of only 3 facilities to host an All-Star Game, a Finals and a Beatles concert in the same year. (The others were the Boston Garden and Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964.) Elvis Presley sang at the Met Center on November 5, 1971 and October 17, 1976.

8000 Cedar Avenue South, at 80th Street -- near the airport, although legends of planes being an issue, as with Shea Stadium and Citi Field, seem to be absent. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, have been preserved. A 45-minute ride on the Number 55 light rail (MOA station).

* Site of Nicollet Park. Home of the Millers from 1912 to 1955, it was one of the most historic minor-league parks, home to Ted Williams and Willie Mays before they reached the majors. With the Met nearing completion, its last game was Game 7 of the 1955 Junior World Series, in which the Millers beat the International League Champion Rochester Red Wings. A few early NFL games were played there in the 1920s. A bank is now on the site. Nicollet and Blaisdell Avenues, 30th and 31st Streets. Number 465 bus.

* Site of Lexington Park. Home of the Saints from 1897 to 1956, it wasn’t nearly as well regarded, although it did close with a Saints win over the arch-rival Millers. The site is now occupied by retail outlets. Lexington Parkway, University Avenue, Fuller & Dunlap Streets.

* Xcel Energy Center and site of the St. Paul Civic Center. Home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild since their debut in 2000, and site of the 2008 Republican Convention that nominated John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President. (The GOP met in Minneapolis in 1892, renominating President Benjamin Harrison at the Industrial Exposition Building at 101 Central Avenue SE. It was torn down in 1940, and condos are on the site now.)

The place is a veritable home and hall of fame for hockey in Minnesota, the most hockey-mad State in the Union, including the State high school championships that were previously held at the Civic Center.

That building was the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1977. The Fighting Saints had played their first few home games, in late 1972, at the St. Paul Auditorium. Elvis sang at the Civic Center on October 2 and 3, 1974, and April 30, 1977. The Civic Center is also where Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox filmed the video for Bruce’s song “Dancing In the Dark.” 199 Kellogg Blvd. West. at 7th Street.

* Target Center. Separated from Target Field by I-394 and 2nd Avenue, this arena has been home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves since the team debuted shortly after its 1989 opening. The T-Wolves have only made the Western Conference Finals once, and are probably best known as the team Kevin Garnett and GM (and Minnesota native) Kevin McHale couldn’t get over the hump, before Garnett went to McHale’s former team, the Boston Celtics.

The Minnesota Lynx also play here, and have become the WNBA’s answer to the San Antonio Spurs, winning league titles in odd-numbered years: 2011, 2013 and 2015. 600 N. 1st Avenue at 6th Street.

* Site of Minneapolis Auditorium. Built in 1927, from 1947 to 1960 this was the home of the Minneapolis Lakers – and, as Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 Lakes” (11,842, to be exact), now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. (The old Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden said his team and the Lakers should switch names, due to L.A.'s "West Coast jazz" scene and the Great Salt Lake: "Los Angeles Jazz" and "Utah Lakers" would both make more sense.)

The Lakers won the National Basketball League Championship in 1948, then moved into the NBA and won the Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In fact, until the Celtics overtook them in 1963, the Minneapolis Lakers were the most successful team in NBA history, and have still won more World Championships than all the other Minnesota major league teams combined: Lakers 5, Twins 2, the rest a total of 0. (Unless you count the Lynx, who make it Lakers 5, everybody else 5.)

They were led by their enormous (for the time, 6-foot-10, 270-pound) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasses, not goggles, on the court) Number 99, George Mikan. The arrival of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season pretty much ended their run, although rookie Elgin Baylor did help them reach the Finals again in 1959. Ironically, the owner of the Lakers who moved them to Los Angeles was Bob Short – who later moved the “new” Washington Senators, the team established to replace the team that moved to become the Twins.

Elvis sang there early in his career, on May 13, 1956. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center was built on the site. 1301 2nd Ave. South, at 12th Street. Within walking distance of Target Field, Target Center and the Metrodome.

* Minnesota United. Currently playing in the new version of the North American Soccer League, this team will join Major League Soccer in either the 2017 or 2018 season. They currently play at the 10,000-seat National Sports Center in Blaine, 18 miles north of Minneapolis, but plan to move to a 20,000-seat stadium to open in downtown St. Paul in 2018.

* Museums. The Twin Cities are very artsy, and have their share of museums, including one of the five most-visited modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center, at 1750 Hennepin Avenue. Number 4, 6, 12 or 25 bus. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at 2400 3rd Avenue South. Number 17 bus, then walk 2 blocks east on 24th Street. The Science Museum of Minnesota is at 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul, across from the Xcel Center.

Fort Snelling, originally Fort Saint Anthony, was established by the U.S. Army in 1819, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet, to guard the Upper Midwest. It served as an Army post until World War II. It is now a museum, with historical demonstrations based on its entire history, from the post-War of 1812 period to the Civil War, from the Indian Wars to the World Wars. 101 Lakeview Avenue in St. Paul, across from the airport. An hour’s ride on the Blue light rail.

Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don’t win. Governor Harold Stassen failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948, and then ran several more times, becoming, pardon the choice of words, a running joke. Senator Eugene McCarthy opposed Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic Primaries in 1968, but lost his momentum when Robert Kennedy got into the race and LBJ got out, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote.

Vice President Walter Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State but
Minnesota in his loss to Ronald Reagan. In the 2012 election cycle, the moderate former Governor Tim Pawlenty and the completely batty Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ran, and neither got anywhere.

Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, which put a price on his head, a price it was unable to pay off.  In 1948, while running for the U.S. Senate, he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention, supporting a civil rights plank in the party platform, a movement which culminated in his guiding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Senate as Majority Whip. He ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1960, but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected LBJ’s Vice President in 1964.

He won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair. He returned to the Senate in 1970, and ran for President again in 1972, but lost the nomination to George McGovern. He might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed, as cancer killed him in 1978 at age 66. His wife Muriel briefly held his Senate seat.

Not having been President (he's come closer than any other Minnesotan ever has), he has no Presidential Library, but there is the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, only a short walk from the Dome that would be named for him. Hubert and Muriel are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue. Number 6 bus.

The tallest building in Minnesota is the IDS Center, at 80 South 8th Street at Marquette Avenue, rising 792 feet high. The tallest in the State outside Minneapolis is Wells Fargo Place, at 30 East 7th Street at Cedar Street in St. Paul, 472 feet.

Nicollet Mall is a pedestrians-only shopping center that stretches from 2nd to 13th Streets downtown. At 7th Street, in front of Macy's, in roughly the same location that Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards threw her hat in the air in the opening to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a statue of "Mare" doing that. It was the first in a series of statues commissioned by TV Land that now includes Jackie Gleason outside Port Authority, Henry Winkler in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in Raleigh, Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem, Massachusetts and Elvis in Honolulu. However, the show had no location shots in Minneapolis.

The sitcom Coach, which aired on ABC from 1989 to 1996, was set at Minnesota State University. At the time, there was not a real college with that name. But in 1999, Mankato State University was renamed Minnesota State University, Mankato; and in 2000, Moorhead State University became Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

The University of Minnesota was originally a model for the school on the show, but withdrew its support: Although some game action clearly shows the maroon and gold of the Golden Gophers, the uniforms shown in most scenes were light purple and gold. In one Season 1 episode, the Gophers are specifically mentioned as one of the Screaming Eagles' opponents, suggesting that Minnesota State might have been in the Big Ten. Show creator Barry Kemp is a graduate of the University of Iowa -- like Wisconsin, a major rival of the Gophers -- and most of the exterior shots you see of the campus were filmed there. In addition, the main character, Hayden Fox, was named after then-Iowa coach Hayden Fry. No scenes were actually shot in Minnesota, not even Hayden's oft-snowy lake house.

St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd. It's a half-hour ride from downtown on the Number 94 bus (named because most of its route is on I-94).


Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of sports travel guides: Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks, about his 1985 trip to all 26 stadiums then in MLB; and Big Ten Country, about his 1988 trip to all the Big Ten campuses and stadiums. (Penn State, Nebraska, and soon-to-be members Rutgers and Maryland were not yet in the league).

The Metrodome was the only stadium that featured in both books, although if either were updated to reflect current reality, it would feature in neither. In Big Ten Country, Wood said, “Now, don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like Minneapolis. How can you not like Minneapolis?... No, Minneapolis is lovely. It’s the Metrodome that sucks!”

Thankfully, the Metrodome is gone, the Vikings will soon play in a new stadium on the site, the Twins also play in a new stadium that actually feels like a ballpark, and, from what I understand, Minneapolis and St. Paul are still terrific cities, including for sports. A Giants or Jets fan should definitely take in a game against the Vikings there.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How to Be a Devils Fan In Detroit -- 2015-16 Edition

This Tuesday night, the New Jersey Devils will play the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Since 1995, the Wings have won 4 Stanley Cups, the Devils 3. The Chicago Blackhawks also have 3. The Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings have 2. All the other teams have 1 or none -- including the big squadoosh carried since 1994 by the New York Rangers.

Detroit calls itself "Hockeytown." Maybe in America -- and, being right across the river from Canada, they do get a lot of Canadians coming through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and over the Ambassador Bridge -- but Montreal and Toronto probably think of the term as a joke.

By American standards, no other city comes close. Not New York. Not Boston. Not Chicago. Not the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Before You Go. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press (or "Freep") websites should be consulted before you decide whether to go. While the game will be indoors, you will be spending some time outdoors. Friday, both day and night, is forecast in the 40s. Most likely, you'll be staying overnight if you go, so let me add that Saturday's weather is set to be in the 50s, but with the likely addition of rain. But Detroit's placement in the Midwest snowbelt probably will not be a problem on this trip.

Since the July 1967 race riot, Detroit has become known as a city of poverty, crime, decay, and poor city services, the kind of place where even Batman would fear to tread. The legendary comedian Red Skelton once said, "In Detroit, you can go 10 miles and never leave the scene of the crime." It's no wonder the RoboCop film series was set there.

There was a Nike commercial a few years back, in which young basketball players were seated, yoga-style, in front of a TV screen, on which their "master," a fat black man with a turban and sunglasses who looked nothing like an athlete, was dispensing wisdom. At the end, after the Swoosh logo was shown, the camera went back to one of the students, who asked, "But, Master, what if we behave badly?" And the Master lowered his shades, looked over them, and said, "You go to Detroit." This was in the early 1990s, when the Pistons had begun to fall from their 1989-90 "Bad Boys" championship teams, and going to Detroit was not a good option in any sport -- indeed, the only Detroit team doing well at the time was, strangely, the Lions, who were then a perennial Playoff team thanks largely to Barry Sanders.

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I'm so bad, I vacation in Detroit." I have. I'm not saying I'm "bad," or a "hard man," just that I went. I wanted to see a game at Tiger Stadium before it closed, and I did. Newark had a race riot 2 weeks before Detroit's. In May 1999, I saw Detroit, and I realized just how far back Newark had come, by seeing how far Detroit had not.

In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the 4th-largest city in America, after New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, with over 2 million people just within the city limits. "White flight" after the '67 riot has led to the Detroit metropolitan area having roughly the same number of people it had then, about 5.3 million, but within the city limits the number has dropped from over 2 million to just 680,000. The suburbs are beautiful, but the city itself is a hole, and good men (and a few bad ones) have busted their humps trying to get it back on its feet.

One of the good men who's tried is Mike Ilitch, probably the most famous American of Macedonian descent, who runs Little Caesar's Pizza, and owns the Tigers and Red Wings. He rebuilt the city's historic Fox Theater, put Little Caesar's headquarters in the building above it, and had Comerica Park built across the street. He, and many others, including Pistons Hall-of-Famer turned major area businessman Dave Bing, who served a term as Mayor, are trying, they really are. But Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, has ordered a State takeover of Detroit's finances. Apparently, he didn't learn the lesson of Hugh Carey, New York's Governor in 1975, who found another way to get New York City's finances back on their feet. In Detroit's case, as in every other place in which it's tried, austerity hasn't worked.

As for you, the potential visitor, the fear of crime should not keep you away. As with Yankee Stadium during the depth of New York's crime wave from the late 1970s to the early '90s, the arena is probably the safest, best-protected place in town.

I should also note that Detroit is a border city. The Detroit River, connecting Lakes Huron and Erie, is one of the few places where you can cross from north to south and go from America to Canada. Windsor, Ontario -- the closest thing to a "South Detroit," making that line in the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" problematic -- is considerably safer, and, like Detroit itself, has a gambling casino. If you want to visit, you'll need to bring your passport. You can use either the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge.

Tickets. In spite of Detroit's reputation for crime and poverty, and the team's reputation for ineptitude, the Red Wings averaged 20,027 fans per game last season -- a sellout of one of the NHL's largest arenas. Getting tickets will be difficult, and you may have to go to a ticket exchange.

The Wings can afford to have tickets that are not nearly as expensive as some other big clubs charge. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $138 between the goals, $119 behind the east goal and $108 behind the west goal. In the upper level, the 200 sections, seats go from $56 to $106 between the goals, $45 to $106 behind the east goal, and $35 to $106 behind the west goal.

Getting There. Detroit is 616 land miles from New York, and it's 603 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Joe Louis Arena. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Except... Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is 22 miles southwest of downtown. A taxi to downtown will set you back a bundle. There is a bus, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) bus Number 125, that goes directly from the airport to downtown, but it will take an hour and 20 minutes.

Also, do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza had a girlfriend, played by a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly (using her real voice, you'd never recognize her as W&G's Karen), and he had to accompany her to a funeral in her hometown of Detroit? "It's kind of an expensive flight," George said. This was not just George being his usual cheap self: At the time, over 20 years ago (wow, it's been that long), it was expensive, more expensive from New York to Detroit than it was to the further-away Chicago.

It's actually cheaper now, but not by much: A check of airline websites shows that, while flights can by had for a little over $500 round-trip, most will be more like $1,300 -- and you'll have to change planes, in either Philadelphia, Charlotte or Chicago. That's right, you might have to overshoot Detroit to go to Detroit.

Too rich for your blood? The news gets worse: There is no good way to get to Detroit, and that's got nothing to do with the city's reputation. Forget the train. The only Amtrak route in and out of Detroit is to and from Chicago, which in the opposite direction.

To make matters worse, you'll have to go to New York's Penn Station instead of Newark's. The most direct route is the Lake Shore Limited, formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station. It leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Terminal in Toledo at 5:55 every morning. From there, you have to wait until 6:30 to get on a bus to Detroit's Amtrak station, arriving at 7:35. The station is at 11 W. Baltimore Avenue, at Woodward Avenue, 2 1/2 miles north of Comerica, so walking there is not a good option; the number 16 or 53 bus would take you down Woodward.

In reverse, the bus leaves Detroit at 9:45 PM, arrives in Toledo at 10:50, and then you have to hang around there until the Lake Shore Limited comes back at 3:20 AM, arriving back in New York at 6:23 PM. Total cost: $382. A lot cheaper than flying, but a tremendous inflammation in the posterior.

How about Greyhound? Yeah, ride a bus for 14 hours to Detroit, there's a great idea. (Rolleyes.) Actually, having done it, I can tell you that it's not that bad. Two Greyhound buses leave Port Authority every day with connections to Detroit. One is at 5:15 PM, and arrives at 7:20 AM, with a 1 hour and 35 minute stopover in Cleveland in the middle of the night (but you won't have to change buses, in case you want to stay on the bus and sleep). The other leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and you will have to change buses in Cleveland, arriving 6:50 AM and leaving 7:50, arriving at 11:25 AM. Despite having to change buses, this one is actually faster, taking 13 hours and 10 minutes, as opposed to the single through bus ride, taking 14 hours and 5 minutes.

Compared to most of Detroit, the bus terminal, at 1001 Howard Street, is relatively new and quite clean. It was just about within walking distance of Tiger Stadium, which really helped me in 1999. It's also not a long walk to Ford Field, but I wouldn't recommend this. Better to take a cab, especially if you're getting a hotel. Round-trip fare: $180 if you make an advanced purchase, $276 if you're buying at Port Authority. So Greyhound is also far cheaper than flying, possibly cheaper (and definitely not much more expensive) than Amtrak, and less of a pain than Amtrak.

If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important -- though it is for "How to Be a Yankee Fan in Chicago" and some other cities.

In Ohio, you'll take I-80's Exit 64, and get onto Interstate 75 North, known as the Fisher Freeway in Detroit. This will take you into Michigan. Take Exit 47 for Clark Avenue. Make a right on Clark, and, almost immediately, a left on Fort Street. Follow Fort Street past the Ambassador Bridge into downtown, finally making a right on Rosa Parks Blvd., which will make a left-hand curve into Jefferson Avenue. The JLA/Cobo complex will be ahead, with the Wings' arena on your right, and a parking deck is to the left.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 3 hours in Ohio and an hour in Michigan. That’s 10 hours and 15 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and in the Cleveland suburbs, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Detroit, it should be about 12 hours.

I strongly recommend finding a hotel with a good, secure parking garage, even if you're only staying for 1 game.

Once In the City. The city, and its river, were founded in 1701 as Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit du Lac Erie (Day-TWAH, strait of Lake Erie), by Antonie de La Mothe Cadillac, for whom the downtown Cadillac Square and the brand of car was named.

Detroit's centerpoint, in culture and in terms of address numbers, is the Woodward Fountain, where Woodward, Michigan and Gratiot Avenues come together, with Cadillac Square just off to the east. Woodward is the East-West divider.

Once having over 2 million people, making it the 4th-largest city in America, Detroit now has just 680,000 people within its limits. But the metropolitan area has over 5.6 million. The suburbs are nearly all-white; the city itself, nearly all-black. If there is another city on the planet that is so segregated, I'm not aware of it. The sales tax in the State of Michigan is 6 percent, and does not go up in either the County of Wayne or the City of Detroit.

Detroit is a weird city in some ways. It often seems like a cross between a past that was once glorious but now impossible to reach, and a future that never quite happened. (That observation was once made about the remaining structures from New York’s 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Astrodome in Houston.) Art Deco structures of the 1920s and ‘30s, such as the Penobscot Building (the tallest building outside New York and Chicago when it opened in 1928, the tallest in Michigan until 1977) stand alongside abandoned, boarded-up or chained-up stores.

But alongside or across from them, there are glassy, modern structures such as the Renaissance Center, shown in the photo above: A 5-tower complex that includes, at its center, the 750-foot tallest building in Michigan (the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere), and, in one of its 4 outer towers, the headquarters of General Motors (although the RenCen was originally financed by Ford).

Downtown also has the Detroit People Mover, a monorail system that is part of the suggestion of Detroit trying to get from 1928 to 2028 while jumping over the difficult years in between. Like the Washington and Montreal Metro (subway) systems, the company running it prides itself on the artwork in its stations. It has a stop called Times Square, but it won’t look anything like the one in New York. It has a stop called Bricktown, but it won’t look anything like Brick Township, the sprawling Jersey Shore suburb off Exits 88 to 91 on the Garden State Parkway. The Grand Circus Park and Broadway Street stations are both 3 blocks from Comerica Park.

It’s cheap, only 75 cents, and it still uses tokens, although it also accepts cash. Be advised, though, that it stops running at midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it runs until 2:00 AM. Bus fare is $1.50.

Going In. Parking at the main deck is comparatively cheap, starting at $8.00. This is a far cry from parking at Tiger Stadium, which usually had people boxed in, resulting in tremendous traffic jams both before and after the game (and, every bit as much as the crime and the condition of the stadium, was why the Lions wanted to get out and built the Silverdome). It also involved local kids being willing to "Watch your car, Mister?" for a small fee. Translation: "If you pay me $5.00, I'll make sure nobody damages your car. If you don't pay me, I'll make sure somebody, namely myself, does."

The address of Joe Louis Arena, until recently, was 600 Civic Center Drive. It was recently changed to 19 Steve Yzerman Drive. Joe Louis Arena has its own stop on the People Mover. So, based on that, and on references I found to traffic around the arena on game nights being nightmarish, leads me to suggest parking your car at your hotel and using the People Mover.
A "cheat" recommended by a Detroit sports blogger: Park for free at the Greektown Casino, play the cheapest slot machine you can find (so they know you gambled, and didn't just use them for parking), and then take the People Mover to The Joe.

The arena's West Entrance was recently renamed the Gordie Howe Entrance, with a statue of "Mr. Hockey" inside. The East Entrance retains its original name. Many people complain that the stairs at these entrances are very steep, and at certain areas on the outside of the arena, are breaking apart.
Mr. Hockey and his statue

To make matters worse, it's the same model as the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum: One level of concourse for two levels of seats. There's also not enough bathrooms, resulting in very long lines, and a drop in atmosphere at the starts of the 2nd and 3rd periods, as many fans haven't made it back in time. So get to the arena early and use the bathroom before puck-drop.

In addition to Howe, the arena also has a statue of its namesake, the Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949, who was born in Alabama but grew up in Detroit.

The rink is laid out east-to-west, with the south side bordering the Detroit River. The Wings attack twice toward the east goal -- hence, the more expensive tickets on that side.
"The Joe" is also, even more so that Boston's TD Garden with its Beanpot Tournament, the capital of American college hockey. Every year since it opened in 1979 -- the Olympia did so from 1965 to 1978 -- in the week between Christmas and New Year's, it hosts the Great Lakes Invitational, with the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Upper Peninsula-based Michigan Tech participating every season.

The 4-team selection has been rounded out by nearby schools such as Western Michigan, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State; Midwestern powers like Wisconsin and North Dakota (but never, as yet, Minnesota); and even New Jersey's Princeton. Michigan, the defending champion, has won it 16 times, Michigan State 12, and Michigan Tech 10. Northern Michigan, of Marquette in the State's Upper Peninsula, will be this season's 4th participant. It also alternates hosting the Big Ten hockey tournament with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home of the Minnesota Wild.

The Joe was home to the Detroit Drive of Arena Football from 1988 to 1993. They won as many league championships in 5 seasons as the Lions have won in over 80: 4, in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992. In fact, they made the ArenaBowl every season of their existence. The Joe also hosted the ArenaBowl in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993. So what happened? Mike Ilitch, who also owned the Red Wings (and still does), sold the Drive so that he could buy the Tigers. The Drive were moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, played 1 more season, and folded.

The Joe also hosted the 1980 Republican Convention, which nominated Ronald Reagan for President. Think about it: An arena named for a black heavyweight champion who knocked out a symbol (however unwillingly) of fascism, in a mostly-black city, with heavy union presence in the metropolitan area (it was, after all the hometown of the United Auto Workers and Jimmy Hoffa), hosting the Republican Convention. Then again, the Democrats held their last Convention in Jesse Helms' North Carolina...

The Joe was built next-door to Cobo Center, which was named for Albert E. Cobo, Mayor from 1950 to 1957. Its centerpiece, a building originally known as Cobo Hall, has been Detroit’s major convention center since its opening in 1960, and, following the rejection of a plan to demolish it and put a new Pistons-Red Wings arena on the site, it recently underwent a renovation and expansion.

It includes a 12,000-seat arena that was home to the Pistons from 1961 to 1978, the Michigan Stags of the World Hockey Association in the 1974-75 season, and a convention complex that includes the city’s famed annual auto show. It is known for some legendary rock concerts, including the KISS album Alive! and area native Bob Seger's Live Bullet. Unfortunately, it may be best known for the January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. 600 Civic Center Drive at Jefferson Avenue. Each arena has its own station on the Detroit People Mover.

Food. When I visited Tiger Stadium in its final season, 1999, it had great food, including the very best ballpark hot dog I've ever had. Since they're owned by Little Caesars mogul Ilitch, and before that were owned by Domino's Pizza boss Tom Monaghan, food is taken very seriously by the club. This is, after all, Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. One would hope that the same would be true of the Red Wings.

Unfortunately, as with entrances and bathrooms, there aren't enough concession stands. To make matters worse, the Wings' website stinks, and so does the one for Olympia Entertainment, which owns The Joe and other venues. As hockey teams go, they're a big club (only Montreal and Toronto, really, are bigger), but with their website, they think small.

Fortunately, I've seen recommendations from a local sports blogger. Since Ilitch owns the team, there's a Little Caesar's stand. The blogger says, "One suggestion: Do not place it on your lap while eating in the seats. You will sweat while eating, no joke. Eat at one of the standing, circular counters in the concourse. You cannot miss them. Besides typical stadium food (hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, etc.), there’s also a Buffalo Wild Wings (Section 126) and Hockeytown Grill (126), where chicken sandwiches and burgers are served."

This blogger also recommends Mike's Inside Scoop (named for Ilitch, perhaps?) at Section 112, and sub-recommends cherry-dipped, soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones and banana splits.

Team History Displays. The Red Wings display more banners than any other NHL team. Their Stanley Cup banners are at the Arena's east end, the other championship banners in the middle, and the retired number banners at the west end.

While the Montreal Canadiens (24) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (13) only display their Stanley Cup banners, the Wings also display Conference and Divisional Championships and President's Trophy wins:

Stanley Cup, 11: 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

Campbell/Western Conference, 6: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008 and 2009. (Their Finals appearances prior to the Cup's semifinal round being renamed the Conference Finals in 1982 aren't counted as such, and they have not yet won their Conference since being moved to the Eastern.)

Division, 19 (either finishing 1st overall in the NHL regular season or 1st in the Divisional Play era), 19: 1934, 1936, 1937, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

President's Trophy (for best record in the NHL regular season), 6: 1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The Cup banners are white with red lettering, while the others are red with white lettering.

Officially, the Wings have retired 7 uniform numbers. From their 1950s Cups, they retired the Number 1 of goaltender Terry Sawchuk, and the numbers of all 3 members of "The Production Line": Right wing Gordie Howe, 9 (who, as I said, has a statue outside the west entrance); left wing Ted Lindsay, 7; and center Sid Abel, 12. When Abel retired in 1952, their main center became Alex Delvecchio, and this new member of the Production Line eventually had his Number 10 retired.

From their 1990s-2000s Cups, they've retired the Number 19 of center Steve Yzerman and the Number 5 of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. These banners are red with white lettering. Yzerman's Number 19 banner has a Captain's C on it.
Not officially retired is the Number 6 of 1930s right wing Larry Aurie, supposedly retired when he hung up his skates in 1939. The current argument is that it's because he's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Well, then explain why Number 4 hasn't been retired for 1950s defenseman Red Kelly, the 1st-ever winner of the Norris Trophy for best defenseman, in 1954. Or Number 2, worn by 1940s defenseman Jack Stewart and 1990s defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov. Or Number 3, worn by 1950s defenseman Marcel Pronovost (a former Devils scout). Or Number 8, worn by 1930s center Syd Howe (no relation to Gordie). Or Number 14, for our old pal Brendan Shanahan.

Also not officially retired is the Number 16 of Vladimir Konstantinov, who was paralyzed in a car crash in the aftermath of the 1997 Stanley Cup win. Neither 6 (with 1 exception, for Aurie's cousin Cumming "Cummy" Burton) or 16 has ever been given out to another Wings player.

As I said, the west entrance is named for Gordie Howe, and has a statue of him inside.

In 1998, The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players included Howe, Abel, Lindsay, Sawchuk, Kelly, Delvecchio, Stewart, Yzerman, 1940s defenseman Bill Gadsby, 1960s forward Norm Ullman, and 3 players running out the string by helping the Wings win the 2002 Cup: Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek and Chris Chelios, a Detroit native and, aside from Howe, the oldest player in NHL history.

Aurie and left wing Herbie Lewis were chosen for an All-Star Team to oppose the host Toronto Maple Leafs in the Ace Bailey Benefit Game in 1934. Goalie Normie Smith, defenseman Ebbie Goodfellow, and center Marty Barry were chosen for the team that opposed a combined Canadiens-Maroons team at the Montreal Forum in the Howie Morenz Memorial Game in 1937. Goodfellow and Syd Howe were chosen for the team that opposed the Canadiens at the Forum in the Babe Siebert Memorial Game in 1939. Lindsay, and defensemen Jack Stewart and Bill Quackenbush were chosen for the 1st official NHL All-Star Game in 1947, as the rest of the NHL took on the defending Champion Leafs in Toronto.

Defenseman Gary Bergman, left wing Red Berenson and right wing Mickey Redmond were chosen for Team Canada against the Soviet Union in the 1972 "Summit Series." And from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Mike Ramsey and Dave Silk went on to play for the Wings.

Stuff. Not enough entrances/exits, not enough bathrooms, not enough concession stands... The Joe doesn't have much in the way of souvenir stands, either. You may be better off going to a suburban mall, or to Hockeytown Authentics, a store owned by Olympia Entertainment. 1845 E. Big Beaver Road in Troy, next to the Troy Sports Center, 19 miles north of downtown. Car only.

One item sold at The Joe that may be of interest is a funny hat: The Wingnut, a foam red wingnut, with its "tails" marked "left wing" and "right wing." Not as cute as the Green Bay Packers' Cheeseheads, but every bit as manly as those Giants and Jets hard hats.

DVD collections for the 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 Cup wins are available, as is Detroit Red Wings: A Celebration of Champions -- NHL Original Six Series. As yet, though, no "Greatest Games" series for them.

Dr. John Finley and Wings legend Gordie Howe wrote Hockeytown Doc: A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories from Howe to Yzerman. Specifically about their 1950s team that won 4 Cups in 6 seasons, New York's own "Hockey Maven," Stan Fischler, wrote Motor City Muscle: Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk and the Championship Detroit Red Wings -- published in 1995, after the Devils beat the Wings in the Finals, leaving Wings fans with what one of them called "The 40-Year Itch." About the 1995-2009 Wings Dynasty, Darren McCarty published My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star.

Charles C. Avison wrote Detroit: City of Champions, telling of how the city produced champion after champion in the Great Depression and World War II: The Tigers winning Pennants in 1934, '35, '40 and '45; the Lions debuting in 1934 and winning the NFL Championship in 1935; the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37 and '43; and Joe Louis winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1937 and keeping it until his first retirement in 1948. Back then, Detroit was a city where anything was possible.

The 1930s was also the era when Detroit radio station WXYZ debuted 3 legendary fictional characters: The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet (said to be related), and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Now WXYT, SportsRadio 1270, it celebrated its 90th Anniversary this past October.

During the Game. The Red Wings have nasty rivalries with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche, but you do not have to worry about wearing Devils gear in Joe Louis Arena. Wings fans may have long memories, but they're over 1995.

When the visiting team's players are announced, Wings fans will shout, "Who cares?" When I first heard this on TV before Game 1 of the 1995 Finals, I thought they were, instead of booing and/or hissing, shouting, "Boo, hiss!" I chuckled. My respect for them went way down when I found out it was the far less witty, "Who cares?" Still, though, it beats following a player's name with, "!"

Karen Newman sings the National Anthem. The Wings' goal song is "Hey Hey Hockey Town" by Michigan native Robert "Kid Rock" Ritchie.

During Playoff games only, hanging from the roof is a big purple balloon shaped like an octopus, named Al the Octopus, after Al Sobotka, The Joe's building operations manager, who drives the Zamboni, and whose job it is to pick up any octopi that fans throw onto the ice, a reflection of a tradition that began in 1952, since there were then only 2 Playoff rounds, 8 wins to win the Cup, 8 legs on an octopus. Since it now takes 16 wins, there are 2 Als hanging from the rafters.
This one, obviously, is not hanging from the rafters.

Although, officially, you can be thrown out of the arena for doing it, if the Wings are winning late, Sobotka will pick the octopus up off the ice by hand, and swing it around by the legs over his head, driving the crowd wild.

After the Game. With Detroit's rough reputation, I would recommend not hanging around downtown after a night game. If you want a postgame drink or meal, you're better off sticking to your hotel.

Nevertheless, there are some recommendations from local fan websites. The Anchor Bar at 450 W. Fort Street (not to be confused with the Buffalo bar of the same name, which invented Buffalo wings 50 years ago this week), Cobo Joe's at 422 W. Congress Street, and Post Bar at 408 W. Congress Street. Post Bar is described as the best post-game Red Wings bar, and a place where the players sometimes drink. Cobo Joe's is said to be the local home of expatriate Jet fans.

Giants gather at the Town Pump Tavern, 100 W. Montcalm Street at Park Avenue, 2 blocks from Comerica Park. Harry's Detroit Bar is also said to be a Giants' fan haven. It's right over the Fisher Freeway overpass from Comerica and the Town Pump, at 2482 Clifford Street, near the famous Cass Tech High School. Be warned, though, that over the freeway is not an area to traverse at night. Cheli's Chili Bar is owned by Chelios, at 47 E. Adams Avenue, across Witherell from Comerica and thus a short walk from Ford Field.

If your visit to Detroit is during the European soccer season, which is now in full gear, most of the better choices to watch games are in the suburbs. Thomas Magee's is the home pub of the Detroit branch of the U.S. national team fan group, the American Outlaws. 1408 East Fisher Service Drive, in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, a 5-minute walk from Comerica Park and Ford Field. SMART Bus 34 to Gratiot and Russell.

Sidelights. For all its problems, Detroit is a great city, not just a great baseball city or even a great sports city. Check out the following – but do it in daylight:

* Detroit Events Center. Soon, much of the information above will be out of date, as the Wings are moving. Their new arena, which will probably have a corporate name early in its history, will seat 20,000, and is scheduled to open in time for the 2017-18 season, meaning the rest of this season and 2 more will be played at The Joe.
Artist's rendering. Construction hasn't come far enough
to look like it's a sports arena being built.

(UPDATE: On April 28, 2016, surprising no one, the name of the building was given the name of Mike Ilitch's pizza company: The Little Caesars Arena.)

In addition to the Wings, it will host the Great Lakes Invitational, rotate with the Xcel Energy Center as host of the Big Ten hockey tournament, and has already been lined up to host 2018 NCAA Tournament basketball games. 2501 Woodward Avenue at Henry Street, across Interstate 75 from Comerica Park and Ford Field. Speaking of which...

* Comerica Park and Ford Field. Home to the Tigers since 2000, the team has seen the good (Pennants in 2006 and '12), the bad (a nosedive that cost them the American League Central Division title in 2008), and the ugly (losing an AL record 119 games in 2003) at Comerica Park. The official address is 2100 Woodward Avenue, but Woodward does not border the park; Witherell, Montcalm and Brush Streets, and Adams Avenue, do. The Lions have mostly been terrible at Ford Field, whose address is 2000 Bursh Street.

The area around Comerica Park (named for a Midwest-based bank) and Ford Field (named for the automaker), at the northern edge of downtown Detroit, is called Foxtown, after the Fox Theater, which, as I said, Tigers/Wings/Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch had restored.

Ford Field hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006, won by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of Detroit native Jerome Bettis; and the 2009 NCAA Final Four, the only one ever held in the State of Michigan, won by North Carolina, overcoming a "home-court advantage" for Michigan State in the Final. Appropriately, for a city on the U.S.-Canadian border, it hosted a match between the U.S. and Canada soccer teams on June 7, 2011. The U.S. won.

* Site of Tiger Stadium. The first ballpark on the site was called Bennett Park, after Charlie Bennett, a catcher for the NL’s Detroit Wolverines, who didn’t play there. Bennett Park opened in 1896, for the Detroit team in the Western League, which became the American League in 1901. However, the team we know as the Tigers (so named because the orange stripes on their socks evoked not just tigers but the teams at New Jersey’s Princeton University, also called the Tigers) are officially dated from 1901.

After the 1911 season, the wooden Bennett Park was demolished, and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, opening on April 20, 1912 (the same day as Fenway Park in Boston) and named Navin Field, after Tiger owner Frank Navin. He died in 1935, and his co-owner, Walter Briggs, expanded the place to its more familiar configuration in 1938, renaming it Briggs Stadium. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer renamed it Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers played there from 1912 to 1999, and the NFL's Lions did so from 1938 to 1974. The Tigers won the World Series while playing there in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; the Lions won the NFL Championship while playing there in 1952, 1953 and 1957. (The '52 Championship Game was played in Cleveland against the Browns; the '53 and '57 editions, also against the Browns, at Tiger Stadum.) In addition, early NFL teams the Detroit Heralds played there in 1920 and '21, and the Detroit Panthers in 1926.

A youth baseball field is on the site now. Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, 1 mile west of Cadillac Square down Michigan Avenue (U.S. Route 12). Number 29 bus from downtown.

* Site of Olympia Stadium. From the outside, it looked more like a big brick movie theater, complete with the Art Deco marquee out front. But "The Old Red Barn" was home to the Red Wings from 1927 to 1979, during which time they won the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37, '43, '50, '52, '54 and '55.
In 1950, they hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and Pete Babando's overtime winner defeated the Rangers. In '54, they had another overtime Game 7 winner, as "Tough Tony" Leswick hit a shot that deflected off Doug Harvey, the great defenseman of the Montreal Canadiens. (In hockey, the shooter is still credited; in soccer, this would have been officially listed as an "own goal" on Harvey.)
A rare color photo of a Wings game at the Olympia

The Olympia was also home to the Pistons from 1957 to 1961, the Falcons in the NBA's inaugural season of 1946-47, and the site of some great prizefights, including Jake LaMotta’s 1942 win over Sugar Ray Robinson – the only fight Robinson would lose in his career until 1952, and the only one of the 6 fights he had with LaMotta that LaMotta won.

Elvis Presley did 2 shows there early in his career, an afternoon and an evening show on March 31, 1957. (If you think that's a lot for one day, he did 3 shows at the Fox Theater on May 25, 1956.) He returned to the Olympia on September 11, 1970; April 6, 1972; September 29 and October 4, 1974; and April 22, 1977.

The Beatles played there on September 6, 1964 and August 13, 1966. (However, it was in the Detroit area -- specifically, on the University of Michigan's radio station in Ann Arbor -- that a disc jockey started the 1969 rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. In a 1989 interview, Paul said, "'Paul is dead'? I didn't believe that one for a minute.")

It was the neighborhood, not the building, that was falling apart: Lincoln Cavalieri, its general manager in its last years, once said, "If an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia." It was not a nuclear attack, but an ordinary demolition crew, that took it down in 1987. The Olympia Armory, home of the Michigan National Guard, is now on the site. 5920 Grand River Avenue, corner of McGraw Street, on the Northwest Side. Number 21 bus. If you’re a hockey fan, by all means, visit – but do it in daylight.

* University of Detroit Stadium. Also known as Titan Stadium, this was the Lions' first home, from 1934 to 1937, until what became Tiger Stadium was double-decked. The Lions played and won the 1935 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Giants.

The previous NFL team in the city, the Detroit Wolverines, play there in their lone season, 1928. Built in 1922 and seating 25,000, the University's suspension of its football program in 1964 doomed it, and it was demolished in 1971. The school, now known as the University of Detroit Mercy (it's a Catholic school), has since put a new, multipurpose, artificial turf field on the site. 3801 McNichols Road at Birchcrest Drive. 016 Bus.

* Silverdome. Originally Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, this stadium was home to the Lions from 1975 to 2001 (after which they moved back downtown to Ford Field), and very nearly became home to the Tigers as well, before owner John Fetzer decided to commit himself to Tiger Stadium. Heisman-winning running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders ran wild for the Lions here, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992 – unless you count hosting Super Bowl XVI, 10 years earlier, the beginning of the San Francisco 49er dynasty led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.

The Pistons, playing here from 1978 to 1988, had a little more luck, reaching the NBA Finals in their last year there. It seated 80,000 for football, set an NBA attendance record (since broken) of 61,983 between the Pistons and Boston Celtics in 1988, and 93,682 for a Mass by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

In 1994, it hosted 4 World Cup matches, including 1 by the U.S. and 1 by eventual winner Brazil. It hosted 2 games by the U.S. national soccer team, in 1992 win over Russia and the 1994 World Cup draw against Switzerland. Elvis had his biggest crowd ever at the Silverdome, 60,500, on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1975.

It hosted a Don King-promoted boxing card in January 2011, and in August 2010 hosted a friendly between Italian soccer giant A.C. Milan and leading Greek club Panathinaikos – appropriate, considering the area’s ethnic makeup. In 2013, the roof was deflated as an energy-saving measure, and it was decided that, if a new tenant is found, a new roof will be put in as part of renovations.

In March of this year, the owners announced that they would be auctioning off the contents of the facility, including seats and fixtures. In October, it was announced that the building would be demolished over the winter, and that the land would be turned over to Oakland County, Michigan for mixed-use development.

1200 Featherstone Road, Pontiac. Getting there by public transportation is a pain: The Number 465 bus takes an hour and 25 minutes, and then you gotta walk a mile down Featherstone from Oakland Community College. So if you didn't drive in (or rent a car at the airport), unless you have to see everything on this list, or if you're a Lions fan living in New York who has to see it one more time, or if you're a soccer nut on a pilgrimage to all World Cup sites, I'd suggest skipping it.

* The Palace. Home to the Pistons since 1988, they won the 1989, 1990 and 2004 NBA Championships here, and almost won another in 2005. The Detroit Shock won 3 WNBA Championships here, and, as a result, every time a title is won, the address changes: Currently, it’s “Six Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326.” However, the Shock moved to Tulsa in 2010, so unless the NBA tries again with a new WNBA team, only the Pistons (theoretically) will be able to change the address to "Seven Championship Drive."

Unfortunately, the 22,000-seat building’s best-known event isn’t a Pistons title or a rock concert, but the November 19, 2004 fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands, becoming known as "the Malice at the Palace." Even the WNBA had a rare brawl there, between the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008. Lapeer Road and Harmon Road, Auburn Hills, off I-75. Don’t even think about trying to reach it by public transportation: You’d need 2 buses and then a half-hour walk.

One idea for the Silverdome was to make it the home of a Major League soccer team. That won't happen now. Detroit is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a Major League Soccer team. Detroit City FC plays in the 4th tier of American soccer, at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, a 7,000-seat high school football stadium, 5 1/2 miles north of downtown. Number 10 bus. The closest MLS team to Detroit is the Columbus Crew, 204 miles away. However, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry may complicate that. The next-closest team, Toronto FC, may be preferred by Detroiters.

* Motown Historical Museum. As always, I’m going to include some non-sports items. Detroit is generally known for 3 good things: Sports, music and cars. The Motown Historical Museum is the former Motown Records studio, which company founder Berry Gordy Jr. labeled “Hitsville, U.S.A.” His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, now runs it, and it features records and costumes of performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., on the North Side. Number 16 bus.

* Henry Ford Museum. The centerpiece of the nation’s foremost automotive-themed museum is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Henry Ford himself established the museum: “I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition.”

It contains the fascinating, including early cars and bicycles, Henry Ford’s first car (his 1896 "Quadricycle"), Igor Sikorsky’s prototype for the helicopter, the bus Rosa Parks was riding in when she refused to give up her seat to start the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a Buckminster Fuller “Dymaxion house.” It also contains the macabre, with the chair Abraham Lincoln was supposedly sitting in when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington (the theater owner was no relation to Henry); and the chair, and the rest of the car as well, that John F. Kennedy was definitely sitting in when he was assassinated, the back seat of in the 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine he was riding in through downtown Dallas.

Next door to the museum is Greenfield Village, which Ford imagined as a kind of historical park, a more modern version of Colonial Williamsburg – that is, celebrating what was, in 1929 when it opened, considered modern American life, including a reconstruction of the Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory of his good friend Thomas Edison. Ford and Edison were both friends of rubber magnate Henry Firestone (whose tires certainly made Ford’s cars easier to make), and Firestone’s family farm is reconstructed on the site.

Please note that I am not excusing Henry Ford’s control-freak attitude toward his employees' private lives, nor his despicable anti-Semitism, nor his failed union-busting in the 1930s. To be fair, he did give his black auto workers the same pay and benefits as his white ones. But I am recommending the museum. It's a tribute to the role of technology, including the automobile, in American life, not to the man himself. Oakwood Blvd. and Village Road. Number 200 bus to Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Blvd., then a short walk down Oakwood.

* Greektown Historic District. Although Detroit is famed for its Irish (Corktown, including the site of Tiger Stadium) and Italian communities, and has the largest Arab-American community of any major city, its best-known ethnic neighborhoods are Greektown and the Polish community of Hamtramck. New York’s Astoria, Queens has nothing on Detroit’s Greektown, which not only has some of the country’s finest Greek restaurants, but also the Greektown Casino, which is at 555 E. Lafayette Street, at Beaubien Street. Greektown Station on the People Mover.

* Hamtramck. Pronounced “Ham-TRAM-ick,” this city is actually completely surrounded by Detroit. When the Dodge Brothers (who later sold the car company bearing their name to Chrysler) opened an auto plant there in 1914, it became a hub for Polish immigration. However, the Polish population of the city has dropped from 90 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today. And Arabs and South Asians have moved in, making it Michigan’s most internationally diverse city. Nevertheless, if you want the best kielbasa, kapusta, golumpkis and paczkis this side of the Oder, this is the place to go. Hamtramck Town Shopping Center, Joseph Campau Street and Hewitt Street. Number 10 or 34 bus.

* Mariners’ Church. On my 1999 visit to Detroit, I discovered this church by accident, walking past it without realizing it was there until I saw the historical marker. Every March, it holds a Blessing of the Fleet for every person and ship going to sea. Every November, it holds a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have lost their lives at sea within the past year.

The most famous of these ceremonies was for the 29 men lost on the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Built and homeported in Detroit, the Big Fitz was commemorated by Gordon Lightfoot, whose 1976 song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” mistakenly, but poetically, called the church “The Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.” (Edmund Fitzgerald himself was the president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, which invested in the ship's construction, because it was heavily invested in the ore industry.)

170 E. Jefferson Avenue, at Randolph Street, across from the Renaissance Center. If you're going to visit the church, be careful, because Randolph Street empties into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

* Spirit of Detroit. In front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, the city hall named for the 1974-93 Mayor, stands a marble monument with a bronze statue of a kneeling man, the seals of the City of Detroit and Wayne County, and a Biblical inscription, from 2nd Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is that spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." In his left hand, the 26-foot-high kneeling figure holds a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays, to symbolize God. The people in the figure's right hand are a family group.

The statue was dedicated in 1958, 4 years after the Municipal Center opened. In recent years, a large jersey has been placed over it when the Tigers, Pistons or Wings have been in their sport's finals. (As yet, this has never been done for the Lions, who haven't been to an NFL Championship Game since 1957, 9 seasons before they started calling it the Super Bowl.) 2 Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue.

* Monument to Joe Louis. Erected in 1986, on a traffic island at the intersection of Woodward & Jefferson, it is a 24-foot-long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high pyramidal framework. Since it is a monument to Louis, the great black heavyweight champion, the arm and fist are black bronze.

* Colleges. The University of Michigan is 44 miles west of downtown Detroit, in Ann Arbor.  It is possible to reach it from Detroit by bus, but it will take 2 hours: You can take the 851 bus to the airport, and transfer there to the 787.

Gerald Ford was President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977, and was a graduate of (and an All-American football player at) Michigan in the 1930s. His Presidential Library, and a School of Public Policy named for him, are on the Ann Arbor campus, at 1000 Beal Avenue. However, he is the only President whose Library and Museum are separated, and his Presidential Museum is in his hometown of Grand Rapids, at 303 Pearl Street NW, 158 miles northwest of Detroit. You'll need Greyhound if you want to visit Grand Rapids.

Michigan Stadium is at 1201 S. Main Street at Stadium Blvd. "The Big House" has hosted UM football since 1927. Its peak attendance is 115,109 for Michigan's 2013 win over Notre Dame. This past year, it set new records for highest U.S. attendance for soccer (109,318 for Manchester United beating Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup), and for highest attendance anywhere on the planet for hockey (105,491 for the NHL Winter Classic, the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Detroit Red Wings).

Adjacent is Crisler Arena, named for Herbert "Fritz" Crisler, the UM football coach from 1938 to 1947, who, in another connection between Princeton University sports and the State of Michigan, had previously coached Princeton's Tigers, and brought his "winged" helmet design with him, making Michigan's "maize and blue" helmets among the most famous in college football. Elvis sang at Crisler Arena on April 24, 1977. The other sports facilities, including Yost Arena (hockey) and Fisher Stadium (named for Ray Fisher, who pitched for the Yankees in the 1910s before they got good and then coached at Michigan, including Charlie Gehringer), are adjacent.

Michigan State University is 88 miles northwest of Detroit, in East Lansing, adjacent to Lansing, the State capital.  Greyhound runs 4 buses a day from Detroit to East Lansing, at 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, 2:20 PM and 7:40 PM, and it takes about 2 hours. Two buses go back to Detroit, at 3:40 and 5:55 PM. $38 round-trip.

Spartan Stadium, formerly Macklin Field, is at 325 W. Shaw Lane at Red Cedar Road, which is named for the river that bisects the MSU campus. Jenison Field House (the old basketball arena, where Magic Johnson starred on their 1979 National Champions), Breslin Events Center (their new arena), and Munn Arena (hockey) are a short walk away, at Kalamazoo Street & Birch Road.

UPDATE: According to an October 3, 2014 article in The New York Times, UM has a decided, though not overwhelming, advantage in fans in the Detroit area. Only around the State capital of Lansing do you get an edge for MSU.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in Michigan at Wings Stadium (a minor-league hockey arena, now named Wings Event Center) in Kalamazoo on October 21, 1976 and April 26, 1977; and the Saginaw County Event Center (now the Dow Event Center) in Saginaw on April 25 and May 3, 1977.

Home Improvement.  The 1991-99 ABC sitcom is easily the best-known TV show to have been set in Detroit, with Tool Time's studio being in the city and the Taylors' house in the suburbs, possibly in Bloomfield Hills. But, as far as I know, there were no location shots, not even in the episode in which the Taylors got to see the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game from a Silverdome skybox. So if you're looking for the Taylors' house, you're not going to find it -- if there was ever a house, not just a studio set, it was likely in or around Los Angeles. Other shows set in or around Detroit have included Martin, Freaks and Geeks, Sister, Sister, and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Several films have been set, but not necessarily filmed, in Detroit. Axel Foley, Eddie Murphy's character in the Beverly Hills Cop films, was a Detroit police detective, but most of the film, including the Detroit scenes, was shot in Los Angeles. While RoboCop was set in Detroit, it was filmed in Dallas. (And you thought "Dallas sucks" was just a sports chant.)

Billy Crystal's movie about the 1961 home run record chase, 61*, used Tiger Stadium as a stand-in (with computer-generated help) for the original Yankee Stadium (since the 1973-76 renovation left it looking very little like it did in 1961). Other recent movies set in Detroit include Eminem's Roman à clef, 8 Mile; and Clint Eastwood's retired autoworker vs. gangs film Gran Torino.

* Windsor. Across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario. Most Americans know it for Caesar's Windsor, one of 4 casinos in the area.  Like its namesakes in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it has a Roman theme. It may be only 2 miles from downtown Detroit, but because it's in Canada, where they have things like sensible gun laws and national health care, it may feel like the other side of the world (if not Rome itself). And, because it's in Canada, you'll need a passport.

377 Riverside Drive East. There is bus service available -- less for Michiganders wanting to gamble, more for Windsorites wanting to go to Red Wings games and concerts -- and you can contact Transit Windsor at

The Wings' first home was actually in Windsor: They played their first season, 1926-27, at the Border Cities Arena, which still stands, and is now named Windsor Arena. Like a lot of old arenas (this one was built in 1924), it looks like a barn, and so is nicknamed The Barn. It seats only 4,400 people in its current configuration, but it still hosts the University of Windsor hockey team. Its longest-term tenant, the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, now play elsewhere. 334 Wyandotte Street East, at McDougall Street.

A visit to Detroit does not have to be a scary experience. These people love hockey. And, while they don't necessarily like the Yankees, they don't have a problem with Devils fans. They love hockey more than most Americans do, and their city should be able to show you a good time.