DETROIT – For the ninth consecutive year, the state of Michigan will recognize one man’s ability to overcome obstacles and achieve a lifetime of success when “Willie Horton Day” is celebrated on Thursday, October 18. Willie is the fourth person in Michigan history to be given a day, with the third being Rosa Parks.
Horton, who serves as a Special Assistant to Tigers President, CEO & General Manager David Dombrowski, received this honor in 2004 when former Governor Jennifer Granholm signed House Bill No. 5200, which permanently declared October 18 of each year to be known as “Willie Horton Day.” The legislature chose to recognize the seven-time all-star for his humanitarian efforts in the city and the state. The date of the honor also coincides with Mr. Horton’s birthday.
The youngest of 21 children, Horton was born on October 18, 1942 in Arno, Virginia. At the age of nine, Horton’s family moved to Detroit. By 13, he was turning the heads of area baseball scouts and on August 6, 1961, he became a member of his hometown team when he signed his first professional contract with the Tigers after an outstanding career at Detroit’s Northwestern High School.
His 18-year big league career included 14 seasons with the Tigers and he was an important part of the 1968 World Championship team. A lifetime .273 hitter, Horton had 1,993 hits, 325 home runs and 1,163 RBI over 2,028 games.
Among the many honors he has received in his lifetime, Horton’s uniform number 23 was retired and a statue in his likeness was unveiled by the Tigers on July 15, 2000 and stands among the Tigers Hall of Famers. On August 6, 2004, Detroit Northwestern High School named their newly constructed baseball and softball fields as the Willie Horton Baseball and Softball Diamonds. A monument in Horton’s honor was installed at the fields in 2005.
On June 14, 2006, the Army honored Willie with one of the highest Military awards given to a civilian, the Order of Saint Maurice. He was the first professional athlete to earn the honor and his loyal support and distinguished contributions have been ongoing for many years to our Military.
Horton remains active in the community, working in partnership with Don Bosco Hall to host the annual Willie Horton Batting for Kids event at Comerica Park. The event allows youth ages 7-14 the chance to showcase their skills in throwing, batting and base running on the field at Comerica Park. Winners are honored each year in a pregame ceremony.
Additionally, Horton sponsors a $5,000 scholarship that is awarded annually to a high school senior from his alma mater, Detroit Northwestern High School.