The Tigers take time every year to celebrate the contributions of the Negro Leagues to the game of baseball. This year marked the 13th annual celebration where fans were given the opportunity to pay tribute to the "stars" of the past.
Second Annual Legacy Luncheon
Comerica Bank and the Detroit Tigers held a special luncheon in the Tiger Club at Comerica Park to honor 1984 World Champion Lou Whitaker as the recipient of the 2015 Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award. Additional special guests included Detroit High School Baseball players from Cass Tech, Martin Luther King, Renaissance, Communication & Media Arts and Mumford High Schools. As well as former Detroit Tigers players Willie Horton, Jake Wood, Dan Petry and Dave Rozema, Fox Sports Detroit Broadcasters Rod Allen, Craig Monroe and Mario Impemba, daughters of former Negro Leagues player and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Norman "Turkey" Stearnes. Andrew Humphrey, meteorologist for Local 4 WDIV, served as the host of the Legacy Luncheon.
"Stars come out to Shine"
The ninth annual Detroit Stars Singing Competition kicked off the weekend festivities. The top 12 finalists from earlier competitions took the stage at Comerica Park in front of celebrity judges to showcase their vocal abilities.
This year's panel of judges included Lee Thomas, an entertainment reporter for FOX 2 WJBX, Stephen Tulloch, starting linebacker for the Lions, and former Tiger Lou Whitaker. The singing competition was intense as the judges evaluated contestants on vocal ability, showmanship, crowd response and song selection. Lynn Dillard was named this year's winner and received a grand prize of $2,000 and the opportunity to perform the national anthem prior to a future Tigers game.
Honoring the Tradition
The weekend celebration continued as the Detroit Tigers paid homage to African Americans and their numerous contributions to the game of baseball during the annual "Passing of the Bat" ceremony on-field at Comerica Park. The bat symbolizes the history of African American contributions in baseball as it passes through the hands of past, present and future generations of African American ball players. This year's ceremony celebrated former Negro Leagues player Walt Owen, Tigers alumni Willie Horton, Jake Wood and Lou Whitaker, current Tigers player and Coach Rajai Davis and Dave Clark and high school standout Nick Plummer of Brother Rice High School.
On Saturday, April 25, the Detroit Tigers held a round table discussion and a Q&A session featuring former Negro League Players. Hosted by WWJ Newsradio 950's Greg Bowman, 8 former Negro Leagues players participated in an interactive discussion with fans to chronicle their career highlights and to share intimate stories about the Negro Leagues. In addition to the players, Negro Leagues historian, Louis Manly (President of the Michigan Chapter of Negro leagues Baseball Players) and Dick Clark (co-author of Black Baseball in Detroit) participated in the round table discussion.
Continuing a Rich Legacy
The Tigers presented 1984 World Champion Lou Whitaker with the 2015 Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award during a special pre-game on-field ceremony. The ceremony also included a presentation of a testimonial resolution to Lou Whitaker by Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. The Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award was first presented to former Tiger and 1968 World Champion, Gates Brown in 2009. Additional recipients of the award include: Jake Wood (2010), Earl Wilson (2012), Larry Herndon (2013) and Bill Bruton (2014).
Whitaker was also honored by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the game that night.
In 1998, Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, authorized the creation of the Diverse Business Partners program, an economically driven business initiative established to cultivate new and existing partnerships with minority- and women-owned businesses, by increasing opportunities for minorities and women to participate in the procurement activities of Major League Baseball. Larry Brinker, Sr., CEO of Universal Glass and Metals was presented the 2015 Jackie Robinson Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner award (MVDBP) during an on-field, pregame recognition. As the 2015 MVDBP, Larry Brinker, Sr. was honored by throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
Universal Glass and Metals is a subsidiary of the Brinker Group which is recognized for providing best in class performance, experience and quality workmanship on a full range of commercial contracting services. Universal Glass and Metals provides a full service glass and glazing contractor recognized for producing high performance systems and timely service. The Detroit Tigers has partnered with Universal Glass and Metals since the days of Tiger Stadium.
On June 26th, the Detroit Tigers welcomed 60 individuals to Comerica Park to be sworn in as American citizens on the field. The oath was administered by Judge Paul Borman through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the United States Department of Justice. The new citizens and their family members received complimentary tickets courtesy of the Detroit Tigers to enjoy America's Favorite Pastime after officially becoming citizens of the United States.
To pay tribute to the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the Detroit Tigers partnered with Comerica Bank and Major League Baseball to host two screenings of the movie "42" for students Detroit Edison Public School Academy and athletes from Don Bosco Hall. Following the film, students participated in Q & A sessions and a panel discussion. Participating students received a "42" patch courtesy of MLB.