Ranking the Saddest Goodbye's for the Last 10 Years of Detroit Sports

Matt SheehanAnalyst IJune 1, 2012

Ranking the Saddest Goodbye's for the Last 10 Years of Detroit Sports

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    Thursday morning turned out to be just what Detroit fans were fearing ever since a press conference regarding Red Wing's captain Nicklas Lidstrom was announced: After 20 seasons wearing the winged wheel, Lidstrom is entering a well-deserved retirement.

    As many Detroit fans figured, it was a sad day when the news was officially handed to the media, but its not a feeling the Motor City isn't used to. Every sports city deals with the occasional 'goodbye' to hometown heroes, and Detroit fans have definitely had their share of farewells in the past decade.

    So grab some tissues and get your memories ready Detroit because these are the 10 saddest goodbyes in recent memory.

10. Curtis Granderson

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    It wasn't an emotional retirement and we still see him at Comerica Park once every blue moon, but seeing Granderson slip out the Old English "D" was hard for many Tiger fans.

    Even though Granderson was in Detroit for a mere six years, he still left his mark in the Motor City. With his child-like enthusiasm and resume packed with highlight reel plays, it was no wonder why he was such a lovable player.

    But unfortunately for the fans, love only goes so far. It's still a business, and the Tigers shipped him off to New York in a deal that ultimately got them Austin Jackson.

    Jackson holds his own in the Tiger's lineup and fanbase, but when that trade went down, everyone from Tiger Nation knew he had traits that would be irreplaceable.

9. Ben Wallace

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    Now if you lived in Detroit, you looked at Ben Wallace's farewell one of two ways: bitter or heartbreaking.

    No matter what the feeling was, it wasn't pleasant seeing "The Fro" head to Chicago after he dominated the paint at The Palace for so long.

    The "Fear the Fro" campaign during the 2004 title run swept the Metro-Detroit area, and thus afro-wig sales skyrocketed. It was even more iconic than Rip Hamilton's mask.

    But the love for the defensive menace wasn't mutual as he left in 2006, leaving hearts broken and wigs rendered useless.

    He's back now, but I think it's safe to say the dial on the hype machine for Wallace isn't anywhere near the setting it used to be on.

8. Scotty Bowman

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    This man won games. It's as simple as that. That is why seeing the greatest coach in hockey history leave Hockeytown was a hard sight to see.

    In his nine-year tenure with the Wings, Bowman won three Stanley Cups, including back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. He won his third title in 2002, and proceeded to walk away from coaching the only appropriate way: as a winner.

    Seeing Bowman leave hockey after the cup was an expected move, but it was still difficult for Wing's fans to say goodbye to the man that led Detroit back to hockey supremacy.

7. Joel Zumaya

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    This picture perfectly sums up the final years of Joel Zumaya's unique career: agony and pain.

    Zumaya was the most exciting Tiger to step on the mound since Mark Fidrych. Zumaya threw so hard it was a letdown whenever he didn't hit triple-digits on the radar gun.

    Unfortunately his fast arm got injured even faster, causing himself to be in the middle of the fastest flameout in Detroit sports memory.

    That quick rise and fall was what made Zumaya's farewell even harder to watch since he had so much potential. His reliable arm, entertainment factor and fan-friendly persona made his release from the team a sad chapter in the history of the Detroit Tigers.

6. Brandon Inge

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    If you look up the definition of "bittersweet" in the dictionary, you would find Brandon Inge's release from the Tigers.

    Personally, I thought that Brandon Inge's stay in Detroit was a year too long. He couldn't hit if you pitched a balloon to him, but it was still heartbreaking to see him leave. It was that surreal "oh man, it's really over now" kind of feeling.

    Inge's fanbase was mainly a result of his generosity to the city of Detroit. For example, he gave more than $100,000 to Mott's Children's Hospital and spent many hours with the patients there. Inside the stadium he was known as a lovable teammate and even showed class by treating the grounds crew to a dinner after every season.

    So was cutting him the right choice? Probably, but sometimes even the right moves hurt the most, and many Inge fans are still feeling that wound.

5. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez

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    In 2003, the Tigers racked up 119 losses. I don't know about you, but I think that is the one AL record that you never want to have. It's embarrassing, and, my goodness, it scares away any free agent on the market.

    Unless you are Ivan Rodriguez. In that case, you are more than ready to hop on board.

    Sure, "Pudge" took a nice salary in Detroit, but he also won the hearts of the Tiger Faithful by taking on the challenge of turning around this team.

    What made him a fan favorite, however, wasn't his willingness to help the Tiger's, it was the fact that he succeeded in doing so. Within three years, he helped the Tigers go American League worst to American League champion. It took the man less than a presidential term to transform Hockeytown into Baseballtown, thus turning him into a hometown hero.

    The party was brought to a somewhat unexpected halt when he was traded to New York for Kyle Farnsworth, but that didn't stop Detroit's Tiger spirit. That passion for baseball still runs rampant in the area today, and a good portion of that is thanks to Pudge.

4. Nicklas Lidstrom

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    And now we land on the man of the hour, Nicklas Lidstrom.

    Lidstrom was referred by some of his teammates as "The Perfect Human," but that wasn't merely because of his pure talent on the ice. Sure, Lidstrom retired as one of the league's best defenders at the age of 42, but it was his ability to lead the team and carry himself that earned him the utmost respect he deserves.

    Since Lidstrom is taking his great defensive skills and seven Norris Trophy's with him, it will be interesting to see how the Wings fill the void with his absence. One thing is for sure though: They will not find themselves another Nicklas Lindstrom.

3. Chauncey Billups

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    If I have just one Pistons memory for the rest of my life, it will be Mr. Big Shot coming up in the clutch and leading the team to the title in 2004.

    Billups was a leader, a warrior and a flat out winner. If anyone in Detroit didn't like him, they simply weren't a true fan.

    Unfortunately, general manager Joe Dumars dealt Billups away in 2008 for Allen Iverson, and most fans note that trade as the dagger to the Pistons' winning ways.

    Seeing the team crash and burn into the bottom tier of the NBA showed basketball fans how important Billups really was to the team, and that is enough reason to still be disappointed about his departure.

2. Steve Yzerman

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    In 1983 the Red Wings took a chance on an undersized 18-year-old hockey player to be the face of their franchise.

    That gamble won them three Stanley Cups and a member of the community that resembled everything Detroit stands for: hard work and grit.

    "Stevie Y" came in when Joe Louis Arena was half-full (staying optimistic) and left it filled to the top nearly every night. He suffered an eye injury that came inches from causing blindness, and he still came back to play for his team (like a boss).

    When he stepped off the ice and stepped into retirement every citizen of Hockeytown was deflated. It was an expected and deserved move after such a illustrious career, but it was still hard to watch the captain leave after 23 years of greatness.

1. Ernie Harwell

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    Two years have passed since the voice of summer passed away, and radio waves in Metro Detroit haven't been the same since he retired in 2002.

    Although I never met Mr. Harwell, I have heard nothing but stories of great encounters from people who were fortunate enough to meet him. He was a true gentlemen, and his golden voice and exceptional broadcasting skills are what he will be remembered for as well.

    Ernie Harwell's passing is number one on the list because he created thousands of memories for more than three generations of Tiger fans. The sad truth is that we will never hear his iconic voice again, but the fact that Detroit had the chance to enjoy him for more than 40 years makes us one lucky city.

    Thank you for the memories, Ernie. Detroit misses you.