DETROIT (WWJ) – Today is not just October 18, it’s a special day here in Michigan — Willie Horton Day!
For the 14th consecutive year, the state of Michigan is celebrating Willie Horton Day on Oct. 18, recognizing the seven-time All-Star for his humanitarian efforts in the city and the state. The date of the honor also coincides with Horton’s birthday.
Horton, who serves as a Special Assistant to Tigers Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Al Avila, received this honor in 2004 when former Governor Jennifer Granholm permanently declared October 18 of each year to be known as Willie Horton Day.
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 2,208 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 baserunning 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.