Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business reports that Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch died at Harper University Hospital on Friday afternoon. He was 87 years old.
Ilitch got his start with the Tigers in 1952 as an infielder for the affiliated Jamestown Falcons of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He worked his way up to Single-A Charlotte, then-affiliates of the Washington Senators, before an untimely knee injury forced him to abandon his minor league career for a more lucrative path.
While he’s perhaps best known for founding Little Caesars Pizza in 1959, Ilitch enjoyed great success in the MLB and NHL circuits after acquiring the Detroit Red Wings in 1982 and the Tigers in 1992. He was responsible for moving the Tigers from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park in 2000 and saw the club through five postseason runs, albeit none that ended with championship titles. His venture with the Red Wings reaped even bigger rewards, as the team clinched four Stanley Cups from 1996 through 2007 and sustained a 25-year playoff streak.
His son, Christopher Ilitch, issued a statement following his father’s death:
My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family. […] He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends. Together my family and the company celebrate the tremendous man he was, and we will continue to work hard to uphold his remarkable legacy. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with him to nurture and grow our businesses, but mostly, I’m grateful to have called him my Dad.
Our thoughts go out to the Ilitch family and the Tigers’ organization during this time.