Curve GM gets to meet his childhood hero

Meeting a sports celebrity is cool and all, but it’s extra special getting the chance to meet a childhood hero.

Curve general manager Rob Egan grew up in Michigan and was a huge Tigers fan. As a 15-year-old, he got to enjoy a phenomenal season by Detroit that culminated with the 1984 World Series title.

Egan was even in the stands for the decisive Game 5 of that series at the old Tigers Stadium.

One of the best players on that Tigers team was catcher Lance Parrish, who’s in town this weekend as manager of the Erie SeaWolves. Egan has met a lot of baseball stars in his long career in the game, and getting to meet and chat briefly with Parrish is near the top of the list because of the personal connection to his team growing up.

“Lance was such a big part of that team because he was the cleanup hitter, he was the catcher, hit 30-something home runs,” Egan said.

“I told him, ‘I just wanted to let you know I was in the stands, World Series Game 5.’ He said, ‘Well, thanks for your support.’ And I said, ‘You did all the hitting.'”

Egan said he still gets goose bumps thinking about attending that memorable World Series game, in which the Tigers beat the Padres, 8-4, to win the championship. Kirk Gibson hit two homers for Detroit.

“What was kind of cool is after Gibson’s second home run, somebody came up right after Gibson and got a base hit, and they showed the crowd on TV, and my friend and I got on television,” Egan recalled.

The 1984 Tigers, managed by Sparky Anderson, got off to the best start in baseball history at 35-5 and went on to finish 104-58.

“It was just one of those magical years,” said Parrish, in his first season managing Erie.

“I experienced what it took to be a winning ballclub, what it did to the city. Every day we came to the ballpark, everybody was in a good mood. The fans rallied around us, all they talked about all summer long was baseball. We had a team that just executed in every aspect of the game. It seemed like every time Sparky pushed a button it worked.”

Parrish led the Tigers with 33 homers and 98 RBIs, was an All-Star and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award for American League catchers. The team also included stars Gibson, shortstop Alan Trammell, second baseman Lou Whitaker, center fielder Chet Lemon, DH Darrell Evans and pitcher Jack Morris.

Anderson, a Hall of Famer manager, guided the team. Parrish said he was able to spend time every year with Anderson late in his life before he died in 2010.

“To me he was just a great mentor and great teacher and just really pulled our ballclub together,” Parrish said.

Egan got a chance to meet Anderson when he visited Altoona for a Curve banquet in 2000. That 1984 Tigers club marked the first time one of Egan’s favorite teams won a title.

“It was because the Lions were no good, the Red Wings really were not good at that time and the Pistons hadn’t won their first championship yet,” Egan said.

That made it even more special for Egan to get an opportunity to meet Parrish.

“He would be the most famous person that I’ve met [from that team] and had some personable interaction with,” Egan said. “It’s great, too, because he was just as down to earth and as friendly as he seemed to be to me back then.”