Mike Ilitch

From BR Bullpen

Michael Ilitch Sr.
born Michael Ilievski

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

A former minor league player, Mike Ilitch owned the Detroit Tigers from 1992 until he passed away in 2017.

The son of immigrants from Macedonia, infielder Ilitch played four summers of minor league ball from 1952 to 1955. After baseball, he and his wife founded the Little Caesars pizza chain in 1959. He purchased the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL in 1982, and under his leadership, the club won four Stanley Cup titles. In 1992, he bought the Tigers from rival pizza mogul Tom Monaghan. He also owned a number of landmark buildings in Detroit, MI, including the Fox Theater, the Joe Louis Arena and the Motor City Casino. He was also very active in efforts to revitalize Detroit's downtown after the city was ravaged by riots, economic difficulties and population flight.

When he bought the Tigers from Monaghan, the franchise was in a sorry state, as its former owner had made some disastrous personnel decisions in trying to squeeze another championship from a team that was getting on in years. It took over a decade to turn things around, the key move being the decision to hire Dave Dombrowski as team President in 2001. During his first decade as owner, his most important move was overseeing the building of Comerica Park to replace the aging Tiger Stadium; the Tigers moved into their new home in 2000. Dombrowski took over as General Manager as well in 2002, and while the Tigers hit rock-bottom in 2003, losing an American League-record 119 games, they soon became a winning squad, reaching the World Series in 2006. Once they became good, the Tigers remained good for a long stretch, returning to the World Series in 2012 and reaching the American League Championship Series in 2011 and 2013 while winning the AL Central Division title four straight years. However the ultimate prize, a World Series championship eluded Ilitch. With Dombrowski's contract coming to an end while he was expecting a significant raise, and the Tigers struggling in 2015, he decided to take a new direction by releasing Dombrowski from the last few months of his contract and promoting Assistant GM Al Avila to the top spot.

Ilitch passed away before the start of spring training in 2017. Under the succession plan he had drawn up, he was succeeded as the Tigers' principal by his son Chris Ilitch, who already held the titles of President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and had become increasingly involved in the company's baseball activities over the last years of his father's life.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jason Beck: "Tigers owner Ilitch passes away at 87", mlb.com, February 10, 2017. [1]
  • Jason Beck: "Commissioner: Ilitch was 'best of baseball': Manfred speaks kindly of late owner, says Tigers are in good hands", mlb.com, February 16, 2017. [2]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Ilitch had mammoth impact on Tigers, Motown: 'What he has done for this franchise, and for Detroit, is immeasurable,' Avila says of late owner", mlb.com, February 10, 2017. [3]
  • John Gallagher and Bill McGraw: "Detroit Red Wings, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch dies at 87", USA Today Sports, February 10, 2017. [4]

Related Sites[edit]