Longtime baseball executive Bill Lajoie, whose eye for talent helped build the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1984 World Series championship, died Tuesday. He was 76.
The key to that Tigers team’s success was not Lajoie’s general manager moves, however. It was the work he had put in the previous fifteen or sixteen years as a Tigers scout, head of scouting, assistant GM and vice president of baseball operations. During those years he found and signed Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish. As GM his trade for Willie Hernandez prior to the 1984 season sealed the deal, however.
After leaving Detroit, Lajoie worked for the Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Braves and Brewers in various capacities.
As I write this, I have in front of me my 1979 Tigers yearbook. Pages 4-6 features team ownership and front office staff. Lajoie is pictured there along with 30 other random executives. He’s one of maybe three or four who look like they were born in the 20th century. I know very little about the Tigers’ front office of that era, but knowing who Lajoie and his staff were responsible for brining in to Detroit — and knowing how tradition-bound the team was under owner John Fetzer — it’s not hard to imagine that Lajoie was the first one in the office each day, the first one who had a computer desk and all of that.
Maybe that’s just fancy on my part and Lajoie was a fuddy-duddy. But he was responsible for the most comprehensive overhaul the Tigers ever experienced, and for helping put together a team against which all future Tigers teams will be measured.