Thursday, June 09, 2011

On the passing of Jim Northrup...

Jim Northrup's triple off menacing St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Bob Gibson in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series was the biggest hit in Tigers' history.
Nothing else comes close.
It capped a comeback from a three games to one deficit, and sealed a world championship that greatly helped heal a torn and divided Southeastern Michigan the year following the Detroit riots.
But Northrup was more than just one hit, or a terrific ball player on excellent Tiger teams during the 1960s and early 1970s that are so fondly recalled.
I admired him because he was his own man. He was never afraid to say what he believed. It got him into hot water in the clubhouse at times when he was the Tigers' color commentator on their telecasts. I remember Jack Morris being upset with Northrup and saying, "He forgot what it's like to play this game."
I thought, when Morris said that, it was the opposite. Northrup remembered exactly - and wasn't going to sugar coat mental mistakes or lack of effort.
He lived in Waterford when I visited him during the 1990s to do a story on him and his wife adopting a young child from a Polish orphanage, who had health issues. You could tell just how much this tough, brutally honest man loved that little boy. He had a very good heart.
The '68 Tigers were the ultimate heroes for the Baby Boom generation in this town. Joe Sparma, who won the pennant-clinching game that season, has passed away. So have Norm Cash, Ray Oyler, Pat Dobson and Earl Wilson.
In addition to the triple that sailed over Curt Flood's head in the World Series, Northrup was known for hitting grand slams. He had three in a six-day period in '68 - and another in the World Series. He was just solid all-around player, who was a good outfielder, as well.
He was also a great football player - as a quarterback - at Alma College, and was about as native a Michigander as possible.
He'll be missed. You can see Northup in the following video after Tigers clinched the 1968 pennant.


Blogger Tiger Fan said...

Good post on Northrup, and the first I've heard of his honesty on Tiger broadcasts. In a day of Tiger's color men just sugar coating every play the team makes, his honesty is sorely missed.

9:34 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I witnessed the game in which Northrup hit consecutive innings grand slams in Cleveland in 1968. That was great to watch. McClain was pitching that day too and coasted to a 14-3 win with Northrup's 8 RBIs.

I believe only a dozen or so hitters have ever done that. That was right along with the no-hitter by Dennis Eck as my favorite games.

Clearly Jim's best hitting game of his career.

10:19 AM 
Blogger Tiger Fan said...

Pat I know what you mean, you know what you mean, but shouldn't it be; "Northrup wasn't cut out to kiss anybody's behind"?

10:44 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Tiger Fan,
Yes. stand corrected. Wasn't cut out to kiss anybody's behind. thanks.

11:00 AM 
Blogger Russell said...

I still remember him standing on top of the concrete base of the LF wall at Tiger Stadium, jumping to reach above the fence to rob some batter of an HR. Probably in the early 70’s. They had a great shot of it in the paper the next day.

11:37 PM 

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