IRON RIVER— Forty years after Ike Blessitt had his “cup of coffee” in the “big show” with the Detroit Tigers, he will bring his story to Iron River’s Bachman Park this Sunday, April 15.
Blessitt, 62, is now a hitting instructor traveling around Michigan and working with local youth. He will be at Bachman Park at 1 p.m. this Sunday to hold a “meet and greet,” sign autographs, talk about his career and give some hitting advice.
In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the West Iron County Fire Hall. There is no charge, and the public is invited.
For more information, contact Chris Sholander, event organizer, at 875-3671.
A four-sport legend at Hamtramck High School, Blessitt will be talking about his time as a September call-up with the Tigers in 1972. It gave him a front row seat as the Tigers, managed by Billy Martin, clinched the American League East title.
That team had some of the Tigers’ all-time greatest: Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Dick McAuliffe and Jim Northrup. The pitching staff was led by Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman, while John Hiller was a strong arm out of the bullpen.
“You can’t go any higher,” Blessitt said, “so that’s achieving something.
“That’s what I talk to kids about, getting to that next level. Wherever you’re at, you should want to reach the highest level. And that’s something I can say I did.”
Blessitt was a solid prospect as a 17-year-old and drafted in the 15th round in 1967. He split his next six seasons with the U.S. Army Reserve, cutting each season short to complete his military duty.
In 1971, he had a big year for the Montgomery Rebels of the AA Southern League, hitting 22 home runs, stealing 27 bases and driving in 70 runs.
In 1972, he was promoted to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers’ top farm club, and was called up to the big club that September. He played in four major league games during the stretch run that season.
He was not included on the Tigers’ post-season roster, and the Tigers lost to the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship series—Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue combined to beat the Tigers 2-1 in game five of the best-of-five series.
Blessitt went to the Oakland organization in 1974, playing in AA and AAA, and to Milwaukee’s AA team, the Holyoke Millers, in 1977. That was another big season for Blessitt—he batted .299, hit 17 homers and led the Eastern League with 104 runs batted in. Overall, he hit 73 home runs and batted .265 in the minor leagues.
After that, he played 20 years in the Mexican League. In 1989, he played for the Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association, batting .329 over 49 games. In 2007, he managed the Detroit Danger women’s elite baseball team.
“I’ve always been a hitter, since I was seven years old,” Blessitt said. “I’m a bad-ball hitter, so it’s hard to get me out. You might throw a waist-high pitch out of the strike zone, and I’ll still hit it out of the park.
“I’m old school. See it and hit it.”