From “The Georgia Peach” to “The Bird”…From “the house by the side of the road” to “Sock it to ‘em, Tigers” to “Bless You Boys”…Stars and their nicknames, catchphrases and expressions – all have evoked eras and moments that have helped shape the rich, colorful history of baseball in Detroit.
It was another longstanding tradition that gave rise to the Detroit Baseball Dinner. Decades ago, it was customary for the Detroit Baseball Writers to gather for dinner and conversation with Tigers management and assorted players at the end of January, as a sort of unofficial beginning to the baseball season. It was a time of year that held great anticipation for baseball lovers, along with the first glimmer, after the long Michigan winter, of the impending arrival of spring.
Times change – and by the new millennium, the Tigers-media dinner had run its course. But the thought of people getting together on a cold winter night to bask in the glow of friendship, good food and their shared love of baseball lived on in the minds of many, including Detroit News sports writer Lynn Henning.
Believing that a sports town with Detroit’s heritage should have a winter baseball dinner open to all, Henning organized the first Detroit Baseball Dinner in February, 2002, at which time he met Bill MacAdam, whose business acumen has been at the center of the dinner’s growth. MacAdam subsequently founded The Detroit Baseball Society and worked as its first president.
The Dinner quickly became a fixture on Detroit’s baseball calendar and was targeted for either of the last two Saturdays in January. The date coincides with TigerFest, enabling much of the Tigers’ front office (and often the manager or a particular player) to attend.
Indeed, The Detroit Baseball Dinner has been regularly graced by a Tigers cast led by general manager Al Avila, and in previous years by Dave Dombrowski. Assistant GMs John Westhoff and David Chadd are regulars, as well as Ron Colangelo, and assorted staffers. Jim Leyland has been a past dinner guest, while the team's current skipper, Brad Ausmus, is expected to attend this year's dinner. All have said (candidly) that they enjoy this group and evening because of the ambience, warmth and knowledge of a sophisticated baseball audience, and the superb food, drink, and friendship this January evening embodies. Guests can also count on appearances from a past or current Tigers player, which this year will be Bill Macadam Tenth Man Award winner Andrew Romine.
Beginning with the 2012 Dinner, a “Tenth Man Award” was created to recognize a Tigers utility player whose contributions became indispensable to the past year’s team. Don Kelly was given the award in 2012 for his accomplishments during the 2011 season, and again in 2014 for the role he played on the 2013 team. Quintin Berry was honored at the 2013 Dinner for his breakout 2012 season. On years when a Tenth Man Award is not merited, the Dinner has chosen to recognize a past Tigers great with the Tigers Legend Award, which in its first presentation in 2015 was given to the great centerfielder from the 1960s and early ‘70s, Mickey Stanley.
The Detroit Baseball Dinner gave birth to The Detroit Baseball Society, which hosts year-round activities, including a summer dinner and trips to Spring Training and out-of-state ballparks in which the Tigers play. The Detroit Baseball Society welcomes new members. Those interested can contact current president, Steve Clarfelt, at email@example.com or at 248-701-4800.
Photo Credit: Robin Buckson / The Detroit News Photo Credit: Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
It is the winter Dinner, however, with its warmth and ambience, that has become an exceptional experience for those who love baseball – and people. Days before spring training and its Florida sunshine brings to Michigan’s north a measure of hope and elation, The Detroit Baseball Dinner boosts our spirits and brings together those whose relationship with the greatest of games is as much a calling as a pastime.