SBD/April 6, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Tigers Owner Ilitch Talks Big Contracts, Trying To Win World Series

Ilitch said his actions show what winning World Series would mean to him
Tigers and Red Wings Owner MIKE ILITCH "remains focused on a few dreams he has not yet achieved -- including a World Series crown," according to Mitch Albom of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. In a Q&A, the 82-year-old Ilitch "patiently and cheerfully discussed everything from his hopes for a World Series title to his thoughts on mortality." The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: Do you ever get sticker shock with player contracts -- like the one you just gave PRINCE FIELDER?
Ilitch: It's big numbers. Initially, they're unrealistic numbers. But if you want stars, you gotta pay the price. ... And fans want to see stars. They come out to see stars.

Q: Does the gamble still make you nervous?
Ilitch: Well, there's the business side and there's the instinct side. The business side tells me (Fielder's contract) might be a bit lengthy -- he'll be 36 at the end of it -- but my instincts tell me, "Go ahead, Mike." And I follow my instincts.

Q: Isn't that a little strange, they're gonna be with you for eight or nine years, all that money, and you're just meeting them for the first time?
Ilitch: Yeah. That's the risk. I'm thrilled to be getting (players) with such outstanding records. But ... I'm always prepared for a bust. If I couldn't handle it, I wouldn't dive in.

Q: Of all the players in both sports that you've signed, is there one that was the biggest bust?
Ilitch: (Pause.) Nobody jumps to mind.

Ilitch: Oh, that was a farce. That was an embarrassment. ... That was by far the worst one I was ever involved with.

Q: Some say that, because of your age, you're pulling out all the stops to win a World Series now -- and that's partly behind moves like Fielder's contract.
Ilitch: Yeah, there's truth to that. I want to do everything in my power to get the best shot, because time is running out. No use kidding myself.

Q: With STEVE YZERMAN's new career in Tampa, do you ever look back and feel badly that he wasn't able to stay with the Wings?
Ilitch: Yeah. ... When he came to tell us he was gonna leave, in that room right there, he said, "Where's Mrs. Ilitch?" And I said, "She's in the back. She can't handle this. She'll start to cry." I could see it kind of jolted him, it was that emotional. It was a shock because we all thought he was gonna stay here. But then things changed. He decided he wanted to be a GM.

Q: What about your new hockey arena?
Ilitch: It's gonna get done. ... It's gonna be downtown. I don't know if I'll see it built, but it'll get done. Definitely in the next few years. We've invested a lot of money in it already.

Q: Can you put into words what a World Series championship would mean to you?
Ilitch: I don't want to make a big deal of it. But I think, by my actions, it's pretty obvious (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/5).
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