It was a tough time in the sports world of a city that was already used to tough times. The football team had been completely irrelevant since before the Super Bowl era, the basketball team played nowhere near the city (and still doesn't today) and the hockey team, which was once at the top of the league, had faltered and become known as the "Dead Wings."
Businessman and former U.S. Marine Mike Ilitch, a Detroiter who had been a huge sports fan, purchased the "Dead Wings" in 1982 and was determined to send them back to their glory days. Thirty years and four Stanley Cups later, here we are.
Ten years after purchasing the Red Wings in 1982, Ilitch, a former baseball player himself, purchased the Tigers. The Stanley Cups have been great for Mike, his family, and the city of Detroit; however, his biggest dream of all has yet to come true: a World Series ring.
Ilitch's success with the Red Wings has not been mirrored by the Tigers, as this is only the third time the team has been to the playoffs since Ilitch took over twenty years ago. The Red Wings, conversely, have made the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons. However, since the team's magical 2006 run to an American League Championship, Ilitch has been opening up his checkbook more and more often, signing big names like Gary Sheffield and Miguel Cabrera.
By inking star first baseman Prince Fielder this offseason to a massive contract, the 82-year-old made one thing clear: he wants a ring, and he wants it now.
The Tiger team that he has built now is capable of contending for years to come, but they need to get it done right away.
After the Tigers knocked off the Yankees, Ilitch, along with general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland, accepted the American League Championship Trophy in front of a 45,000-person crowd at Comerica Park. As many times as Ilitch has been a part of similar celebrations with the Red Wings and once with the Tigers in 2006, something was different this time.
Leyland and Dombrowski took turns holding him up. He had trouble speaking. The man who had brought so much joy to a city swallowed by darkness that has always rallied around its sports teams was in the worst shape of his life.
The next morning, all sorts of news stories concerning Ilitch's health flooded in from all sorts of newspapers, online media, and television news stations.
As stated before, the Tigers are built to be a contender for a while, but they may not have all the time in the world.
This man has turned the Motor City into Hockeytown, funded countless charities for children and veterans, made it possible for you to get a great "Hot-N-Ready" pizza for five dollars (come on, you know you love Little Caesar's) and has shed so much light on this city that is criticized too often by others.
Time to make his lifelong dream come true.