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Former Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan dies at 79

Detroit Tigers

Former Detroit Tiger great Bill Freehan has died. He was 79.  

Freehan was a cornerstone of the great Tigers’ teams of the 1960s and early 70s. 

An 11-time all-star catcher, he guided pitchers Mickey Lolich and Denny McClain to their MVP success in the 1968 season and World Series championship.

"Bill Freehan was one of the greatest men I’ve ever played alongside, or had the pleasure of knowing," says former teammate Willie Horton, "He was one of the most respected and talented members of the organization through some difficult yet important times throughout the 1960s and 70s."

Freehan spent his entire 15 year major league career behind the plate as the Tiger’s perennial all-star catcher. But he’s not in the Hall of Fame.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says Freehan has not gotten the credit he deserves playing an under-appreciated position.

“The position wears your body out so much that hitting numbers are usually not as good as those for first base, third base and so on,” says Bacon.

As a boy, Bacon idolized Freehan. Bacon does not recommend meeting your childhood idols later in life. But he says Freehan was an exception.

“Just a sweet, kind-hearted man, not egotistical, confident, no braggadocio to that guy,” says Bacon.

After his playing days with the Tigers, Freehan went on to coach in the Tigers’ minor league system and at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. 

Freehan spent the final years of his life in hospice care with Alzheimer’s disease.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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