A new MLB season begins in earnest today but a special one in the life of Wildcat baseball great Bill Gilbreth (’69) is celebrated in the Winter-Spring 2017 issue of ACU Today magazine.
“A Tiger in My Hometown” is my recollection of a trip last June to Detroit with Gilbreth and Dr. Gary McCaleb (’64), vice president of the university. It commemorated the 45th anniversary June 25, 2016, of Gilbreth’s MLB debut as a hard-throwing left-hander from Abilene and ACU.
Gary and I hatched this plan for several months last year, revealing it to Gilbreth on a trip one spring night to a Texas Rangers game in Arlington. The Tigers were gracious hosts for our weekend trip in June, thanks to Elaine Lewis, the club’s vice president for community and public affairs.
Bill was reunited with former teammates Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Gene Lamont, and other members of the 1971 staff. He was a special guest at the annual meeting of the Mayo Smith Society, where former teammate and 1968 World Series MVP Mickey Lolich was the speaker at a luncheon attended by about 200 fans at the Hockeytown Cafe.
He saw the house he and his wife, Phyllis (Collier ’69), once rented from fellow Texan and teammate Norm Cash. He visited with longtime Detroiters and former Wildcat baseball players Eric Vaughn (’92), Randy Rodriguez (’80) and Cory Rodriguez (’79), and found his commemorative paver on the Walk of Fame at Comerica Park.
Perhaps the best memory was being the last current or former player to stand on the mound at the historic site of Tiger Stadium. That revered piece of real estate on the corner of Michigan and Trumbell avenues has now been completely razed so the Willie Horton Field of Dreams, part of an urban youth sports complex, can rise instead.
Many thanks to mlive.com freelance photographer Mike Mulholland for his excellent work documenting Bill’s return trip to Motown.
Be sure to read the 10 additional pages of Bonus Coverage in our online edition, where extra images and stories reside. See the viewer above.