DETROIT (WWJ) — The passing of Mike Ilitch has been met with both sadness and admiration by many in Metro Detroit.
For many Detroit fans, Ilitch’s free-wheeling ways in pursuit of championships for the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings was cause for admiration. But his love of the city of Detroit, beyond his life as a sports owner, also came through.
Other local team owners, local politicians and business owners alike all praised Ilitch on Friday.
In a statement, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said, “Mike Ilitch was more than just a shrewd, successful businessman. He was a Detroiter through-and-through. Whether he was making pizza, building successful sports and entertainment franchises or supporting youth organizations in our city, ‘Mr. I’ helped to bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to our city and attract millions of dollars of investment.”
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also commented, “Mike Ilitch stood as a powerhouse in so many ways across Michigan, and we are a better state today because of the positive differences he made in our communities. He was passionate about the city of Detroit and served a critical role in the city’s comeback, investing time, effort and resources to help craft a better vision for Detroit.”
Even former President George W. Bush — who used to own the Texas Rangers — had something to say about Ilitch’s passing.
As the owner of the Tigers and Red Wings, Ilitch never held back when it came to trying to put a winning product on the field. That was evident by how he gave out huge contracts to star players on the Tigers.
Tigers general manager Al Avila issued a statement on Friday, “I’ve never seen a man more dedicated to this community and to baseball than Mr. I. What he has done for this franchise, and for Detroit, is immeasurable. He was always there to give us whatever we needed because he wanted greatness and happiness for all of us – especially the fans. Mr. I was truly one of the great ones. He was a friend and an inspiration and he will be deeply missed.”
Others also threw their support behind the Ilitch family after the news broke around 6:30 p.m.
“Mike Ilitch was far more than a model owner of the Tigers franchise, the team he loved all his life and played for as a minor leaguer,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “He was also a fierce believer in his home city of Detroit, and the role that the Tigers and sports played in contributing to civic pride and renewal.”
“On behalf of the Martha Ford Family and the Detroit Lions, we extend our deepest and most sincere sympathies to the Ilitch Family and to the Red Wings, Tigers, Little Caesars and Olympia Entertainment organizations on the passing of Mike Ilitch,” Detroit Lions President Rod Wood said. “Mr. Ilitch’s many positive contributions to our city and region will be everlasting and will greatly impact future generations of our community. His leadership of the Red Wings and Tigers truly set a standard of excellence.”
Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982 and the Tigers in 1992. He, along with his wife, recently donated $40 million to Wayne State University for a new business school.
“Mike Ilitch was a heroic figure who made enormous contributions to Detroit,” Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “It was inspiring to speak with him, and to see firsthand his commitment to his family and to making a difference in the community. His impact will be felt for generations to come. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ilitch family.”
A moment of silence was held a both Joe Louis Arena and the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday night out of respect for Ilitch.
The family will honor Ilitch at a private funeral service. An opportunity for members of the public to pay their respects is also being planned. Details will be announced as soon as they are finalized.