From softball reporter to business reporter
Tom Henderson of Crain’s Detroit Business writes about how his shared love of softball with Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who died this weekend, turned him into a business reporter.
Henderson writes, “The caller was the editor of the Freep‘s business section. He wanted to do a profile of Ilitch, who then, and later, wasn’t much interested in talking to reporters. Ilitch hadn’t returned any calls, said the editor, who told me he’d been checking the clips on Ilitch — in those predigital days, stories were cut out of the paper and placed in envelopes in the paper’s library; it you wanted to see what stories had been written about Ilitch over the years, you went to the library and went to the filing cabinet with an ‘I’ on it — and saw I’d written a bunch of stories on Ilitch’s softball team. Did I think he’d return my calls?
“I called Little Caesars headquarters, then out in Farmington Hills, and he called me back a few minutes later. The next day we were having a burger and beer at a bar just around the corner from the first Little Caesars he and Marian had opened in Garden City in 1959.
“I shocked Ilitch when the bill came and as he reached out to take it, I beat him to the punch.
“‘The Knights are richer than you. Let them pay for it,’ I said, referring to the brothers who owned the Free Press and other dailies around the country. (Years later, he’d joke with me about what a shock it was for a reporter to pick up a tab.)
“A few days later, a lengthy profile of the new Wings owner ran on the front page of the business section.
“‘For a sports writer, that was pretty good,’ said the business editor, thinking he was paying me a compliment. Most of the folks at the paper looked down their noses, condescendingly, at the sports department, which was always a mystery to us. We worked on the toughest deadlines and wrote the best, most colorful copy in the paper.
“The editor asked me if I was interested in doing more business profiles. I was. Suddenly I was a business reporter.”
Read more here.