DETROIT — Recently, the Holy Redeemer Alumni held a fundraising event that celebrated an exceptional Detroit autumn of almost 50 years ago. The 1968 World Series and Detroit Tigers were the subjects of honor and team members, Mickey Stanley and Mickey Lolich were the special guests.
The Junction and Vernor Avenue intersection bisects Southwest Detroit and has seen many changes over the years. Originally, with a demographic of Lithuanian, Polish and Irish immigrant diaspora, it has now morphed into a Hispanic hotbed celebrating the rich Mexican culture. This is all centered around and anchored near Holy Redeemer Grade School and Christo-Rey High School.
Chairman of the festivities, Dan Clinton along with great support from the school’s principal, Sr. Mary Beth Kiley IHM, put on a benefit dinner for Holy Redeemer Grade School. Sr. Kiley said, “It takes over $3,000 for each child to attend Holy Redeemer Grade School. That is quite a burden for families.” Co-Principal, Sr. Elizabeth Fleckenstein IHM, added, “This dinner benefits our tuition assistance program.”
Clinton highlighted the great support given to the dinner from the ailing Dan Ewald and saluted two Michigan Avenue anchor institutions, Slows B Q for donating the food and Nemo’s Tavern for donating the beverages. The event was held in the old but very storied Holy Redeemer Gymnasium.
“If these walls could only talk, I can picture big Bill Chmielewski in 1960, running up and down this very basketball court and pulling down another rebound,” said former collegiate baseball umpire Rich Runchie. Chmielewski, a Holy Redeemer High School product went on to star for two seasons at the University of Dayton. He was named MVP in the 1962 NIT tourney at Madison Square Gardens in New York.
Lively stories referencing iconic basketball games at Patton Park, classic baseball and softball contests at Clark Park and hockey competitions at St. Hedwig’s outdoor rink were likewise discussed. Furthermore, the great football challenges and rivalries that Holy Redeemer had in CYO and Detroit Catholic League high school play highlighted the reminiscing.
Mickey Lolich was best known for his performance in the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals when he earned three complete-game victories, including a win over Bob Gibson in the climactic Game 7. Lolich was named World Series-MVP for his performance. Lolich revealed how he kept his “rubber arm” lively for so long. He also talked about his only home run of his career. It was off Nelson Briles of the St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of the 1968 World Series. “It was a high fastball and I want to remind you, I was a right handed batter. I only throw lefty. I do everything else right handed. It went out on a line drive to leftfield.”
Lolich further added with a chuckle, “I would never hit another homerun……..because……..it was too far to run.” The audience roared with laughter and approval and gave the husky lefthander an ovation of respect.
In discussing the “Great Gamble” by manager Mayo Smith of putting Mickey Stanley at shortstop to replace the light hitting Ray Oyler and also get Al Kaline into the lineup for the World Series. Stanley said, “We clinched the pennant early in September and we were in Oakland and Mayo called me up to his room. He told me of his plan. He already asked some of the other players what they thought and they agreed. So I had six games at short to get ready. I had never played the position before. I felt bad for Oyler, our superb fielding shortstop but he got into some series games for defense. Oyler really helped me. We road together to Tiger Stadium and talked over situational play. I must have taken 10,000 grounders in practice. I must say I was nervous.”
Lolich added with a big smile, “In the first game, in the bottom of the first inning in St. Louis, the hitter was Lou Brock. With the first pitch, it was a high hopper to Mickey at short; he fielded it clean and threw to (Norm) Cash at first base and the rest was history.”
The 1968 baseball anecdotes provided by Stanley and Lolich kept the audience howling and applauding. It was living history that was being presented. This was primary history being related, the best and purest form of history. It was wholesome baseball recollections personified. Both Lolich (1982) and Stanley (1994) were inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Students Hector Tierrablanca, Chris Perales, Jazmin Zamueio and Sonia Vazquez were celebrated for their recent academic achievements. They got a lively and robust ovation. Sr. Kiley added, “We hope to maintain an academically sound curriculum to prepare students for high school, all in a multicultural and challenging environment. We now have a Robotic Lab and S.T.E.M. curriculum.