Jim Northrup passed away yesterday in Holly, Michigan, and the baseball world lost a legend in his own right. Dubbed the ‘Grey Fox’, Northrup was born, attended college, played baseball, and passed on all in the Great Lake State of Michigan. He was born in the farming town of Breckenridge, and attended Alma College where he was a five-sport athlete. Not only did he play baseball, but was the quarterback for the football team, played basketball, ran track, and was on the golf team. His first love was baseball, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1961 after turning down offers to play football for the Chicago Bears and New York Titans. Northrups best season with Detroit was in 1968, when he hit four grand slams in the regular season and one in the playoffs. He also helped the Tigers win the 1968 World Series over the Cardinals with a two-run triple of Bob Gibson in game 7. He patrolled the outfield of Tiger Stadium with fellow great Al Kaline, Mickey Stanley, and Willie Horton. His playing time increased during the ’68 Series when Stanley was moved to play shortstop. Northrup also played a short time with the Expos and Orioles, but retired after the 1974 season. The kids and I were lucky we were able to meet him last year at a baseball card show downstate. He looked so different from his baseball card at this time, I don’t think Lily and Trevor realized they were meeting the same guy. Northrup was so nice to them, though, and loved talking baseball with his fans. His playing days were well before my time, but as a fan of baseball and the Tigers, meeting him as a real thrill.
I understand this is hardly breaking news at this point, but the passing of Ernie Harwell took place while I was on the road, and this is my first chance to post since. I’m not going to waste time going over Harwell’s great career as a broadcaster, because baseball fans are well aware of his exploits in and out of the booth. Like most Tigers fans, though, we grew up with Ernie on the radio. He was as much a part of the team as any of the players. Sometimes more so, as he was just always there. Enie was broadcasting games well before I was even born, so for so long he was all that I ever new when it came to listening to the Tigers. That’s an easy way to take thing for granted, though. I never had the chance to meet him, but my dad did and was able to get his autograph. There has been no one like him since, nor will there ever be again. Baseball lost a legend, but the world lost just a really good person. Thanks for the memories, Ernie.
Top photo property of MIB
Bottom photo courtesy of the Detroit Tigers