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There hasn’t been a lot to celebrate over the last few years when it comes to Detroit sports. It’s been a string of losing seasons, missing playoffs and rebuilding.
As the decade comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back at some of the biggest Detroit sports moments from the 2010s.
Note: These are listed chronologically and in no particular order.
May 4, 2010 – Ernie Harwell dies at the age of 92
The decade started off on a somber note as legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell died at the age of 92 in May.
His death came less than a year after he gave a farewell speech at Comerica Park on Sept. 16, 2009.
“In my almost 92 years of this earth, the good lord has blessed me with a great journey. The blessed part of that journey is that it’s going to end in the great state of Michigan,” Harwell said during the speech. “I deeply appreciate the people of Michigan, I love their grit, I love the way they face life. I love the family values they have. And you Tigers fans are the greatest fans of all, no question about that.”
He was the team’s broadcaster from 1960 until 1991 after a controversy where the team didn’t renew his contract. After Mike Ilitch bought the Tigers in 1993, he brought back Harwell as the broadcaster, until he retired in 2002.
June 2, 2010 – Armando Galarraga’s Imperfect Game
June 2, 2010. The Imperfect Game. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a historic Perfect Game against the Cleveland Indians, when umpire Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe at first on a grounder, but the call was wrong.
“I know that I pitched a perfect game” – Armando Galarraga
The game went down in history for what happened, and for the apology after. In 2019, Fox Sports premiered a documentary about the game, featuring interviews with Galaragga and Joyce.
“I know that I pitched a perfect game, I believe I got it,” Galarraga said at the time. “I said before, I got a perfect game.”
June 1, 2011 – Tom Gores buys the Detroit Pistons
Two months after an announcement was made, the sale of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment to Tom Gores was official on June 1, 2011.
The team was put up for sale by Karen Davison, the widow of Bill Davidson, the team’s former owner.
“I am very excited at the opportunity to lead this great franchise into the future,” Gores said in a statement at the time. “The passion and commitment of Pistons fans is legendary, and our goal is to meet every one of their expectations. That starts with the hard work and values necessary to compete for championships. It also includes being a real partner in the community, and we intend to do that as well.”
“I know the new guy that’s coming in here is really passionate about this,” former Pistons player Rodney Stuckey said at the time. “I think we’re all ready to see what changes are going to be made and we’re all excited for it.”
Fall 2011 – Justin Verlander wins AL Cy Young and MVP
Justin Verlander threw his second-career no-hitter in 2011, in what would become one of the best seasons of his career. He won the Triple Crown of pitching in the American League, leading the AL in wins with 24, strikeouts with 250 and ERA with 2.40.
Verlander also was awarded the American League Cy Young Award, a unanimous decision, and the AL MVP Award.
Jan. 7, 2012 – First Detroit Lions playoff game since 1999
There was a party like it was 1999 when the Detroit Lions made the playoffs in 2012. It was the first time Detroit had made the playoffs since 1999.
Detroit took on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and got on the board first with a Matthew Stafford pass to Will Heller for 10 yards. After the Saints answered early in the second, Detroit scored once again on a pass from Stafford to Calvin Johnson, taking a 14-10 lead into halftime.
New Orleans came out firing on all cylinders, scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter, but a late touchdown from Stafford cut the lead to 24-21.
Drew Brees and Darren Sproles each had a touchdown in the fourth, giving New Orleans a 38-21 lead, and the Lions couldn’t come back. Stafford and Johnson connected for another touchdown late in the game, but the Lions ultimately lost 45-28.
Oct. 2, 2012 – Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown
Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown on Oct. 2, 2012. He was the 15th player in MLB history to lead the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
“”It’s an unbelievable feeling. I can’t describe the feeling right now” – Miguel Cabrera
He batted .330 for the season with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, joining the likes of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said at the time. “I can’t describe the feeling right now.”
Oct. 24-28, 2012 – Detroit Tigers swept in World Series
Cabrera’s Triple Crown was one of many highlights of the 2012 MLB season that saw the Tigers get back to the World Series.
Detroit went 88-74 during the season and won the AL Central, and beat both the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS and the New York Yankees in the ALCS to advance to the World Series.
The Tigers had a dominating starting pitching lineup with Justin Verlander leading the league in strikeouts, Max Scherzer in second and Doug Fister setting an American League record with nine consecutive strikeouts.
Their season came crashing down in the World Series as they were swept by the San Francisco Giants – 8-3 in game 1, 2-0 in game 2, 2-0 in game 3 and 4-3 in game 4 in 10 innings. Pablo Sandoval was named MVP of the series.
Detroit hasn’t made it back to the World Series and most recently finished with one of the worst records in the majors.
April 8, 2013 – Michigan Men’s Basketball appears in the NCAA Championship
The Michigan Wolverines Men’s Basketball team would get the No. 4 ranking in the 2013 NCAA tournament and take down several high-ranked teams on its way to the national championship, including No. 1 Kansas in the Sweet 16 and No. 3 Florida in the Elite 8.
After beating No. 4 Syracuse in the Final Four, Michigan would take on No. 1 Louisville in the NCAA Championship.
The game went back-and-forth throughout, and Spike Albrecht made a name for himself after hitting four straight 3-pointers for Michigan replacing Trey Burke who was in foul trouble.
The Cardinals would beat the Wolverines 82-76 despite 24 points from Burke, but didn’t have enough time for the comeback.
Louisville would later vacate the 2013 title after the NCAA denied an appeal of the sanctions against the Louisville program in a sex scandal case.
Jan. 1, 2014 – Winter Classic held at the Big House
History was made when the Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic in 2014.
Fans struggled through snowy conditions and bitter cold in Ann Arbor but set an NHL attendance record of 105,491 at the Big House.
While the game was scoreless in the first period, Daniel Alfredsson put the Wings on the board first before James van Reimsdyk tied the game. In the third, each team scored again with Justin Abdelkader tying it late in the third.
It stayed scoreless through overtime, but the Maple Leafs won the shootout 2-1 with goals from Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
Jan. 1, 2014 – Michigan State wins the Rose Bowl
The busy sports day to start the new year continued when the Michigan State Spartans took on the Stanford Cardinals in the 2014 Rose Bowl.
It was the fifth time the Spartans played in the bowl game, and the Spartans had an incredible season, going 11-1 before beating No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Their only loss was at No. 22 Notre Dame early in the season.
“It’s sort of living a dream.” – Mark Dantonio
While the Spartans offense with Le’Veon Bell wasn’t great, the defense was the best in the league, giving up just 273.3 yards per game and 16.3 points per game, ranking in the top 10 in the country in several categories.
That defense held on strong as the Spartans beat Stanford 24-20.
“It’s sort of living a dream. I woke up this morning, and I knew the day might be very very special. If we played hard, great things were going to happen, and that’s what we did,” Mark Dantonio said at the time.
March 9, 2014 – William Clay Ford dies at the age of 88
Longtime Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, who was also the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, died at the age of 88 on March 9, 2014.
Ford bought the team in November 1963 for just $4.5 million. He also moved the Lions back to the city in 2002 when Ford Field opened after the team played in Pontiac for 2012.
His influence also helped Detroit bring the Super Bowl to the city in 2006.
Dec. 30, 2014 – Jim Harbaugh hired at Michigan
A Michigan man came home on Dec. 30, 2014, when Jim Harbaugh was hired at Michigan.
He replaced Brady Hoke, who was fired two weeks before that after posting a 5-7 record during the 2014 season.
Oct. 17, 2015 – Trouble With the Snap
Arguably one of the biggest plays of the decade happened in October 2015 when No. 12 Michigan hosted No. 7 Michigan State.
The Wolverines were leading in the fourth quarter when they were forced to punt with just 10 seconds left. That’s when Michigan’s punter Blake O’Neill had “trouble with the snap.”
Sean McDonough had an epic call for ESPN as Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up the ball and ran nearly 40 yards for a touchdown as time expired, giving Michigan State a 27-23 win over the Wolverines at the Big House.
It was an epic game that, for Michigan fans, will live in infamy along with the Appalachian State game. The Spartans would go on to the College Football Playoff and a 12-2 season.
Nov. 9, 2015 – Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame
Two Detroit Red Wings legends were honored in 2015 when Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Both men were chosen along with Chris Pronger in the first year of eligibility.
“Sergei and I were roommates for a quite a few years when we played together in Detroit,” Lidstrom said to NHL.com. “Sergei helped me out a lot, seeing how he played and prepared every day.”
“I love you,” Fedorov said to Lidstrom during a teleconference when asked to describe their time together in Detroit. “I think we [climbed] as high as we possibly can.”
Dec. 31, 2015 – Michigan State in the College Football playoff
The Michigan State Spartans were on a roll as they entered the 2015 football season, coming off a Rose Bowl win in 2013 and a Cotton Bowl win in 2014.
They went on to win their first eight games before being upset by Nebraska, but continued on to win the rest of their games, beating No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship.
The Mark Dantonio-led Spartans then were give the No. 3 ranking in the College Football Playoff, earning a spot in the second-ever CFP.
Michigan State traveled to Arlington, Texas for the second straight year to take on No. 2 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, but couldn’t overcome the Crimson Tide’s offense and lost 38-0. Alabama would end up going on to defeat Clemson 45-40 in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
March 8, 2016 – Calvin Johnson announces his retirement
It was a shocking day in March 2016 when Calvin Johnson officially announced his retirement from the NFL.
The announcement was Barry Sanders-esque after playing nine seasons with the Lions, surprising many fans. The retirement announcement came via a statement, and was effective immediately.
“Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision. As I stated, I, along with those closest to me, have put a lot of time, deliberation and prayer into this decision and I truly am at peace with it,” he said in the statement.
Since his retirement, Johnson has spoken out about his frustration wit the Lions, since the team asked him to pay back part of his signing bonus after he announced his retirement.
In an interview, he said he would not have anything to do with the team until he gets his money back. He has helped other teams during the off-season and training camps.
June 10, 2016 – Gordie Howe dies at the age of 88
The Detroit Red Wings lost their greatest player on June 10, 2016, when Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, died at the age of 88.
Howe was the only player to have played in the NHL for five different decades; from the 1940s until the 1980s. Eventually, he played in a sixth decade with one game for the Detroit Vipers in 1997 at nearly 70 years old.
“As one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL, the majority of his career being in Detroit, it was an honor to wear the same uniform, spend time with, laugh, joke and seek advice from him. Gordie’s humility and kindness left a permanent impression on me, greatly influencing how I tried to conduct myself throughout my career,” Steve Yzerman said in a statement.
Nov. 22, 2016 – Detroit Pistons announce move to Detroit
While there had been rumors of a Detroit Pistons move to Detroit in the past, team owner Tom Gores announced in November 2016 that the Pistons would join the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
“This is a historic day for our franchise, and for the City of Detroit.” – Tom Gores
“This is a historic day for our franchise, and for the City of Detroit,” Gores said. “We’re moving to a beautiful new arena that will provide a state-of-the-art fan experience, and we’re investing in the future of Detroit.
The Pistons played their final game at The Palace of Auburn Hills on April 10, 2017. They had played there since 1988.
Feb. 10, 2017 – Mike Ilitch dies at the age of 87
Billionaire businessman Mike Ilitch, who founded Little Caesars Pizza and owned the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, died at the age of 87 on Feb. 10, 2017.
His life was celebrated after his death with leaders from across the state reacting, and a public visitation held in downtown Detroit.
April 9, 2017 – Final game at Joe Louis Arena
The 2017 season would be the first time the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs in 25 years – and it was also the final season at the historic Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit celebrated the arena on April 9, 2017, with a red carpet before the game and a celebration after featuring Red Wings legends.
The Red Wings beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 in front of a loud crowd, wrapping up 38 years at the Joe.
Oct. 5, 2017 – First home game at Little Caesars Arena
After years of anticipation, Little Caesars Arena held its first regular season Red Wings game on Oct. 5, 2017. The Red Wings beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2.
The arena opened in September with six straight shows from Kid Rock, followed by Red Wings preseason games.
Dec. 10, 2017 – Alan Trammell and Jack Morris elected into Hall of Fame
Detroit Tigers legends Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame through the hall’s Modern Baseball Era committee.
Both men were later inducted into the Hall of Fame during the ceremony in July 2018.
April 2, 2018 – Michigan Basketball in the NCAA Championship
John Beilein led the Wolveriens to their second national championship appearance during his tenure at Michigan.
The Wolverines took on Villanova at the Alamodome in San Antonio, but lost 79-62 in the final.
March 4, 2019 – Ted Lindsay dies at the age of 93
Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay died at the age of 93 on March 4, 2019 after being in hospice care.
Standing at just 5-feet-8 and weighing only 168 pounds, Lindsay was known as “Terrible Ted” and was part of the Red Wings’ “Production Line” with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel that won four Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.
June 27-30, 2019 – Rocket Mortgage Classic
Detroit’s first-ever PGA Tour event came to the historic Detroit Golf Club from June 27-30. With massive crowds and big names like Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, it was a man not many people knew who led the tournament from start to finish.