A final farewell to the sports figures we lost in 2021

The reunions are getting smaller and smaller, more reflective than celebratory.

The 1968 World Series-champion Detroit Tigers lost another of the heroes in 2021, when catcher Bill Freehan, an 11-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, died Aug. 19 at the age of 79.

Freehan had battled Alzheimer’s for several years, and didn’t attend the 50th-anniversary celebration in 2018. Wife Pat attended both the on-field ceremony and an evening gala in his place.

Tigers catcher Bill Freehan, right, died in 2021, after his teammate Al Kaline, left, died in 2020.

“I lost one of my best friends — a baseball friend I was closer to than anyone else on the team,” said pitcher Mickey Lolich, a teammate of Freehan’s for 13 seasons. “I don’t know how to explain this to people, but it was just amazing how close we were, mentally, when it was time for pitching and catching.”

It was Lolich and Freehan who made for one of the most memorable images in Detroit sports history, when they leapt into each other’s arms after Freehan caught the final out of Game 7 in the 1968 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.


Christin Hakim

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