Ex-Free Press writer John Lowe joins Baseball Hall of Fame: His colleagues tell us why

Detroit Free Press
Gene Myers |  Special to Detroit Free Press

Tributes from John Lowe’s former colleagues at the Free Press as he receives a permanent home in the scribes and mikemen wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown:

Curt Sylvester

Here’s my best John Lowe story. As a baseball guy on the Lions beat I always appreciated my ringside seat for John’s baseball coverage. And what I appreciated most was how John took care of the game, how he appreciated the history of the game and how he tied it in with the modern game and its players. I knew that any time I wanted to chat about the great Ted Williams I had a knowledgeable and willing counterpart in John Lowe.

And, as it turns out, I’m sure I was only one of many who appreciated John’s commitment to journalism and baseball.

In November 2022, when I was playing in the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series, one of my teammates was former Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn. As the week progressed and I was talking with Trebelhorn, he learned that I had been a sportswriter at the Detroit Free Press. The words were barely out of my mouth when his face lit up.

“Do you know John Lowe?” he asked with a grin. And without waiting for a response, he continued. “I love John Lowe.”

The next several minutes were occupied with the virtues of sportswriter John Lowe, his appreciation and his commitment to coverage of the game of baseball.

Congratulations, John, on your induction into Cooperstown.

Outstanding!

Curt Sylvester joined the Free Press in August 1967 and stayed for 38 years before retiring in 2005. He spent his last 27 years as the Lions beat reporter. His passion remains playing baseball.

Dave Robinson

Every year at the World Series, most of the sportswriters would be complaining about their deadlines, complaining about the food, complaining about lack of access to players and complaining about their seats in the auxiliary press box. And I’m sure many were complaining about their editors, too. But every year, John would call from the press box with the same simple message: “Thanks for another great assignment.”

John, thank you for always being so kind to everyone at the Free Press, and for bringing so many insights to Free Press readers.

You are a Hall of Famer in every way!

Dave Robinson joined the Free Press as sports editor in August 1985 and hired John Lowe from the Philadelphia Inquirer for the Tigers beat early in the 1986 season. Robinson was promoted to deputy managing editor in February 1993, a post he held until November 2007. Since leaving the news organization, he has run the metro Detroit franchise for TGA Premier Junior Golf, which teaches the sport to young children through afterschool enrichment programs, summer camps and tournaments.

Steve Schrader

Congratulations, John. It’s certainly a richly deserved honor, and I’m thrilled for you. I’ll never forget all the years we were colleagues at the Free Press, through good times and bad. But I especially cherish the conversations I was privileged to have with you, a journalist who understood the true meaning of baseball: the Cardinals.

Steve Schrader joined the Free Press in April 1985, in time to watch the office Jayhawks bestow sainthood on umpire Don Denkinger, and provided eagle-eye editing, pithy commentary and witty wordplay as a copy editor and assistant sports editor until retiring in December 2015.

Steve Kornacki

I worked with John Lowe at the Detroit Free Press and also against him while covering the Tigers for the Ann Arbor News and Booth Newspapers, the Oakland Press and MLive.com.

That allowed me a special perspective with which to view John, who was always a good friend whether or not we were on the same team.

There are so many special memories I have of him.

There was the night in Arlington, Texas, when the heavens opened and a real gully washer was hitting the area around the ballpark after the game. We looked out the exit door at the storm, and John, who had the only umbrella between us, volunteered to walk to the parking lot across the street and return to pick up me and our laptop computer bags.

John handed me his stuff and his signature Panama hat, which was so special to him.

When John pulled up at the curb, rain still pouring, I had a dilemma. Our bags filled the only two hands I had. What to do with the hat?

Well, I wore it.

Now, most folks aren’t wild about somebody else wearing their hat, and you must know that John used Purell before everyone else. So I cringed while taking off the Panama and handing it to him inside the car. John just smiled and said thank you.

I was coaching one of my sons in a fall league baseball game on the morning John found out Alan Trammell was retiring and would be playing his final game that Sunday afternoon at Tiger Stadium.

John called me before I went to the field in Ann Arbor, and said, “Steve, you covered Tram even before I did. You need to be here today and write about his last day as a Tiger.”

I got to the ballpark, watched the game, did all the postgame interviews and awaited Trammell in a chair outside the clubhouse, typing my story on a portable computer. Waiting to walk with Trammell toward the parking lot so that I could get another comment or two and watching the white knight ride off into the sunset provided the perfect story ending.

Thanks, John, I’ll always treasure that.

Steve Kornacki joined the Free Press in September 1988 and covered the University of Michigan until January 1997, plus plenty of time at Tiger Stadium, Joe Louis Arena and the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Owen Davis

My memories of John Lowe start with his enthusiasm. It might be snowing in Chicago or raining in Kansas City, but John was typically upbeat. He covered one of the worst teams in major-league history — the 43-119 Tigers in 2003 — but never stopped looking for the best story of the day, the interesting angle others might not see. In his 29 years at the Free Press, he never moaned or complained about what he had to do each day. He knew he was fortunate. He realized how many people would like to earn a living writing about baseball, even with all the late-night games and deadlines and moves from one hotel to another.

John admired athletes who showed up for work and did their jobs well — the Cal Ripkens and Mike Mussinas of the world — or closer to home, the Alan Trammells and Justin Verlanders. And he appreciated the opportunity to listen to the wisdom of an older generation in baseball — a Whitey Herzog or a Sparky Anderson. Sparky once made a big deal out of something John wrote about a players-only meeting, which incensed Anderson because he apparently thought it implied he didn’t have control of his team. But John didn’t let that throw him off course. He kept showing up in the Tigers’ clubhouse and reporting the news.

John’s coverage of the Tigers wasn’t his only attribute. For years he wrote a weekly column that pointed out unusual happenings in the major leagues, things you wouldn’t know if he hadn’t pointed them out. I always looked forward to those columns. They reflected the homework John did and his network of reliable contacts from coast to coast. Baseball people had to know he was trustworthy, and he knew who the good guys were.

John also occasionally branched out beyond the Tigers in his daily reports, such as when he covered what was called the last great pennant race in 1993. It was the last year that only the division winners made the playoffs. The Braves and Giants went down to the final games of the season in their competition for the National League West title. The Giants finished with 103 victories but lost their last game — and didn’t make the playoffs. The Braves finished with 104 victories and won their last game — and a playoff berth. John, who had the idea to go to Atlanta for the Braves’ final series, provided his usual sparkling coverage.

When I think of John’s coverage, I recall something my father told me numerous times when I played baseball as a youngster: Keep your eye on the ball. I didn’t really know what his point was then, beyond the obvious, but it dawned on me as an adult that the phrase carried a deeper meaning. During his years at the Free Press, John always kept his eye on the ball.

One more thing we should note: John is a man of deep religious faith and strong moral values. He never cuts corners. Things like honesty and courtesy are important to him. And now he is going into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Congratulations, John. This is well deserved.

Owen Davis joined the Free Press in the summer of 1984 and over the next 22 years more often than not was the first set of eyes to see a sportswriter’s story in his role as deputy sports editor.

Jodie Valade

It’s no exaggeration to say that my internship at the Detroit Free Press in the summer of 1997 changed my life. I met people there who would not only help me get jobs throughout my career, but people who offered advice that I listened to for years and who became lifelong mentors.

Best of all, I had the chance to work alongside all the reporters I grew up reading every day in my Free Press: Mitch Albom, Curt Sylvester, Keith Gave, Drew Sharp and, of course, the great John Lowe.

The NBA always has been my true love. But baseball was probably my second-favorite, and for an intern, I had a fair amount of experience in covering the sport after spending the previous summer as the beat writer for a Single-A team in California. That was all John needed to know to take me under his wing for the entire summer.

He extended an open invitation for me to go to Detroit Tigers games whenever I had free time, and I probably went out to at least 10 that summer, just to watch John work and learn how a master did his job. He introduced me to everyone from Ernie Harwell to Sarah the elevator operator with the same level of graciousness. And he explained precisely how he did his job — everything from how he kept stats, to what he was looking for each game, to how he asked questions and the best time to approach players for interviews.

John was so encouraging in every aspect of my career that he even had me cover a game for him one night in Detroit. I was terrified. I have never been the best at writing running game stories, and it was daunting to think of doing so for my hometown paper, knowing that my parents would be reading it the next morning.

John coached me through writing throughout the game, but I admit that when a tight game was decided in the ninth, I froze. I just did not have a lead. Of course, John whisked in and saved the day, plopping a couple of sentences that he obviously had been crafting for his own mental game story and helped me hit deadline. I remember he made some mention of Fahrenheit 451, which I’ve never read and still haven’t.

I felt like a failure, of course, but I should have thanked him profusely. He was the only reason I even had the opportunity to experience writing a deadline gamer like that about the team I grew up watching. I’m not sure he ever knew how huge an impact he had on my career in giving me that confidence to believe I was good enough to cover an MLB team when I was barely out of college.

I went on to follow my passion of covering the NBA, but I never forgot the things John taught me that summer about how to be a journalist and, even more important, how to be a kind person. His Hall of Fame induction is a measure of not only the outstanding work he did as a journalist, but of how beloved he is by all who know his kind heart and generosity as a mentor.

I’m so grateful to know him and to have learned from him.

In 1997, Jodie Valade spent six months as a sportswriting intern with the Free Press before a long career writing for the Kansas City Star, Dallas Morning News, Cleveland Plain Dealer and as a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also taught at Cleveland State. Valade shifted to news editing a few years ago, and she has worked at Charlotte’s NPR affiliate, WFAE, and since January 2022, she has been the enterprise and planning editor at the Charlotte Observer.

The Yak (via Cathy Collison)

The Yak no longer lives in Michigan or even in the United States. He lives way up in the Himalayas, where the former newspaper-reading mascot ruminates on life and practices yoga near his yurt. Still, he heard about the great honor to be bestowed on John Lowe.

The Yak remembered how often he asked the veteran baseball writer to take time off his beat to answer questions from students — and from the Yak. (The Yak is more of a March Madness and hoops fan, apart from yoga and tai chi.) John patiently explained to the Yak terms like “hit for the cycle,” and he included nuggets from interviews with Tigers greats such as Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker to kids who had no clue about the Roar of ’84.

Why is baseball so great to John? Here’s his voice in talking to Yak’s Corner readers: “Baseball’s All-Star Game is played at a more intense level than the other all-star games.” Also: “A baseball game is one long parade of one-on-one duels between pitcher and hitter. … It does not feature the up-and-down group action of football, basketball and hockey.”

John, it was great yakking with you.

Namaste.

Cathy Collison joined the Free Press as a copy editor for features sections in November 1979, spent decades spearheading Yak’s Corner and graduated/retired in the Class of 2008-09. But she continued to do freelance editing, including the Yak’s Corner magazine through contract work with Michigan KIDS, a charity arm of the Detroit Free Press and News. The Yak arrived at the Freep in September 1994. Collison and the Yak retired for good in the spring of 2017.

Cathy Collison joined the Free Press as a copy editor for features sections in November 1979, spent decades spearheading Yak’s Corner and graduated/retired in the Class of 2008-09. But she continued to do freelance editing, including the Yak’s Corner magazine through contract work with Michigan KIDS, a charity arm of the Detroit Free Press and News. The Yak arrived at the Freep in September 1994. Collison and the Yak retired for good in the spring of 2017.

Bill Collison

One day John and I had a conversation about our favorite sports. We agreed that baseball and curling are well-suited to commercial television because both have timely breaks in which ads can be inserted without interrupting the action (if any). Baseball has innings, pitching changes, the seventh-inning stretch, etc. Curling has ends, team time-outs and a longer break between the fifth and sixth ends to allow resurfacing of the ice.

Both sports have tiebreakers: baseball’s extra innings and curling’s extra ends (although more than one is seldom needed).

John seemed a bit surprised when I pointed out that both sports use the term “steal.” We both knew what stealing means in baseball. In curling, I explained, a “steal” occurs when a team scores without the benefit of last rock in an end.

At that point, John got a faraway look in his eyes and politely excused himself.

Bill (Crash) Collison joined the Free Press as a Sports copy editor in November 1979 and handled countless stories from the Ol’ Seamhead before retiring in December 2016.

Jo-Ann Barnas

In 1999, Owen Davis assigned me to write a feature on Al Kaline turning 65. To do the story, obviously, I had to talk to Kaline. But I didn’t have his contact info.

When I told Owen that I didn’t want to go through the Tigers’ media relations department — because I knew if those folks presented Kaline the story idea, he’d take a hard pass — Owen quickly offered a solution: “Call John Lowe.’’

So I did.

But John wouldn’t share his number.

Now, I knew that John was protective of his sources, and I’m guessing that Kaline probably told him to never, ever give his contact info to anyone, even a fellow staffer.

All these years later, I can’t remember how I got Kaline’s number. But I did and subsequently spent hours at his home in Bloomfield for the interview.

And although he passed away in 2020, the number remains in my phone as a keepsake.

RIP, Al. And congrats, John!

Two great ones.

Jo-Ann Barnas joined the Free Press as a takeout writer for the Sports Department in August 1995. For the next 17 years she wrote award-winning features from every corner of Michigan sports. In 2005, she was voted Michigan sportswriter of the year by her peers, the first woman to capture the award. She also covered Olympic sports from 1997 until 2012, when she left the Free Press after another gold-medal performance at the London Summer Games.

Jon Morosi

I never wrote for the Michigan Daily, but I am forever grateful to it, because I met John Lowe in the newsroom of that great publication.

I went to college in greater Boston but made frequent trips to Ann Arbor. The primary reason was to visit my girlfriend, Alexis, then an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. (Update: We’re married with three daughters.) Several of my best childhood friends were attending U-M, too. One of them, Kyle O’Neill, was a Daily sportswriter.

Kyle told me John volunteered at the Daily every Sunday. John was there as a resource to editors and writers. He would share from his rich experiences, suggest gentle copy edits and provide career advice to students weighing internships (or considering the LSAT).

Kyle said he would be happy to introduce us one weekend in early 2002. I couldn’t believe my great fortune. In baseball terms, I was a college sophomore getting a free hitting lesson from Miguel Cabrera.

Our first conversation on that January day occurred in the Daily library. More than two decades later, I smile at the symbolism of that setting: John was energized by the company of the enterprising Daily staffers, their bright minds eager to add chapters of history to the bound volumes surrounding him.

At baseball’s Hall of Fame, we hear stories of superstar players who were extraordinary teammates. John was — and is — that person for us. He didn’t concern himself with claiming credit or winning awards. For John, the joy was in doing the work: learning new information, sharing unique insight, fashioning copy into precise prose.

He nailed his deadline. He hit his word count. He was reliable. He was honest. Always.

John loves to say, “The baseball beat is a tremendous course in human relations.” He is right. He is also a Ph.D. in this regard. To walk with John into a visiting clubhouse is to witness the manifestation of graciousness and professionalism. Players who never wore the Old English D shake his hand and say, “Hey, John, good to see you.” They know him because of the high standard in his work — and because he took the time to ask them thoughtful, illuminating questions.

John did his job with great regard for the tenets of journalism and respect for the traditions of baseball. He didn’t take cheap shots — in print or even idle press box banter. He wrote with fairness and an appropriate measure of fascination. We don’t often see that approach lauded on social media channels. That’s OK. John Lowe is in the Hall of Fame, which should tell you plenty about the permanence and value of those ideals.

As the years go by, two things become more apparent to me: 1. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have John as my mentor; and 2. the lessons he shared with me are not merely valid, they are more crucial now than ever before.

John sets the standard today, just as he always has — and always will, in Cooperstown.

Jon Morosi joined the Free Press as the backup Tigers reporter in 2006, when Detroit shockingly reached the World Series. He left in 2009 to cover baseball for Fox Sports and in 2016 added duties with MLB.com and the MLB Network, continuing to write online, providing analysis on the air and working games as a field reporter.

David Darby

I have two things to pass along to Mr. Lowe:

1. I remember vividly when John first asked me for my direct extension at work, and I told him 6690. He responded, “Ah, two Series sweeps; that will be easy to remember.” I remembered the 1990 series but I didn’t know about 1966, so I was then treated to about five minutes of details about that Orioles-Dodgers series (and yes, Sandy Koufax’s name was mentioned). One of the best nights I had on the Sports desk.

2. I was always impressed how, whether you had watched the game in the office or not seen it at all, John could summarize the important parts and facts from the game in an easy way that stuck with you. The old-fashioned “gamer” is out of style now, but I always thought John was one of the best at them. Given the time constraints we often worked under, some afternoons and nights I remember thinking, “This gamer of John’s is brilliant.”

David Darby started at the Free Press in 2001 as a member of the prep crew. Hired full-time in 2003, he quickly rose through the ranks from an agate editor to a copy editor to the Sunday editor. When he relocated to Florida, he edited sports copy for freep.com through 2016. In 2017, he started rising through the ranks at The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, where he is the head of marketing and communications.

Mari delaGarza

Congratulations on winning the BBWAA Career Excellence Award. You’re an outstanding writer and an outstanding coworker. I thoroughly enjoyed working with you at the Detroit Free Press.

You brought old-school journalism into the digital age of newspapers. Working with you, I had to go old-school and look through microfiche one last time. You called from a Tigers game asking for information that couldn’t be found through a Google search, so downstairs to the library I ran. I still remember searching through the shelves of microfiche reels until I found the year I needed and then the whirl of the machine as issue after issue passed through the screen until I found the article you needed. More than anything else, I remember how grateful you were when I called you with the information.

You were always a pleasure to work with. You made everyone around you better. Congratulations on your well-deserved award.

Mari delaGarza joined the Free Press as a Sports copy editor in June 2006. After years of polishing prose, she was promoted to an assistant sports editor in charge of the copy desk. She left in August 2015 to join Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a communications specialist.

Brian Manzullo

Reading John Lowe copy was like reading a history lesson on baseball. Every time. I started at the Freep as a web editor on the Sports desk in 2012. One of my favorite parts of the job was getting to read all the amazing work our reporters put out on a daily basis, raw, before it made the website or print. It felt like getting the inside scoop every day, from the best writers in the city, in the best sports city in America.

But I will say that John’s work always stood out, not necessarily because of his finesse with words (which he has), but because of the giant encyclopedia in his head that spews out moments of baseball lore every time he puts his fingers to the keys. He could take a postgame interview with Miguel Cabrera and correlate it somehow to Rogers Hornsby or Ted Williams. Sometimes, you didn’t know which direction a John Lowe story was going, even when you needed him to just write a straight baseball story — but you know what? Readers were always the better for it.

To be one of the best writers in your sport, you need to understand the game, inside and out, and you need to know the history, inside and out. John Lowe not only demonstrated with every word he wrote that he had both, but he made it look easy and effortless. He was born to cover baseball, and the city of Detroit was so lucky to have had him as long as it did.

Congratulations, John, on getting to Cooperstown. Nobody deserves it more than you.

Brian Manzullo joined the Free Press as a Sports web editor in 2012. After 4½ years, he moved to the dark side as a web editor for the other departments. Quickly he was promoted to social, search and audience editor. He also writes the Spirits of Detroit craft beer column.

Rob Parker

Simply put, John Lowe was outstanding. From the way he worked the baseball beat, to his interactions with players and peers and to the way he dressed.

John couldn’t be missed — that white shirt, suspenders, blazer and, of course, a hat that couldn’t be ignored — on or off. Few could have pulled off such a look in a world of sloppy Oscar Madison sportswriters.

But then, there was John — with a smile and laugh unmatched.

His peers privately wished they could pull off being John Lowe. He loved the game, loved his craft and loved his style, which was truly one of a kind.

It was pleasure to see John at the yard. His mood and purpose never changed. His response to how he was doing was always the same: OUTSTANDING!

John was about his business and always wanted to deliver just the right game story to match the events of the day. It would be an understatement to say John was always in tune.

First, we were teammates at the Freep and later competitors when I went to the Detroit News. But nothing changed for John. He was the same always — outstanding in his job and how he dealt with people.

And when you consistently are outstanding, you make it to the Hall of Fame.

Rob Parker joined the Free Press as a Sports columnist in 1993. He left two years later for Newsday, starting a whirlwind of career stops across the country as a columnist in print and online, host of local and national sports-talk radio shows, sports anchor on local television and contributor on national sports shows, and the founder of MLBbro.com (“Covering Black and brown Major Leaguers”).

Ryan Ford

I knew about the quality start stat long before I knew John Lowe was its inventor. It’s a pleasantly simple stat to note — at least six innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs allowed — and one that does indeed show, as John wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December 1985, “exactly how many times a man has done exactly what his job is — pitch well enough for his team to have a chance to win.”

And although its critics have noted that the 4.50 ERA it implies is hardly impressive, it actually has become a reasonably solid rule-of-thumb for noting the game’s top starting pitchers. Consider the top four finishers in quality starts in 2022: Miami’s Sandy Alcantara (24), San Diego’s Yu Darvish (25), Toronto’s Alek Manoah (25) and Houston’s Framber Valdez (26). All four received Cy Young Award votes, with Alcantara winning the NL award, Darvish finishing eighth in that league’s voting, Manoah finishing third in the AL and Valdez finishing fifth in the AL.

Likewise, the career leaders in quality starts since he wrote about the stat in 1985 is a who’s who of the game’s most successful pitchers over the past three decades: Justin Verlander (327 and counting), Mike Mussina (330), Jamie Moyer (342), Randy Johnson (404), Tom Glavine (436), Roger Clemens (451) and Greg Maddux (480). (Verlander, Moyer and Clemens are the only ones not in the Hall of Fame, and Moyer is the only one unlikely to be enshrined at some point.)

But it’s not just the invention of one stat that has Lowe getting honored in Cooperstown. It’s the way he brought thousands of games — and the players involved — to life in the days before every game was available to watch wherever and whenever. In the days before the Internet made following a team all season long easy (if not always enjoyable), Lowe’s stories filled in the gaps of the daily grind.

His time and mine at the Freep overlapped by less than a decade (and less than a third of his tenure in Detroit), so I’m far from an expert on his time on the beat. But over the past few years, as I’ve dived deep into the Freep archives for tales of past Tigers greats, there has been a common refrain in my mind upon coming across his byline on any given story: “Ah, John’ll have it.” And sure enough, he would, mixing a key quote from a player with a keen observation (again, in the days before video clips were easily reviewable) and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of baseball history for a story — gamer or notes — that read like a polished historical dissertation, rather than the daily grind so common to the beat life in MLB.

Unfortunately, there’s no stat invented for sportswriters to tell us “exactly how many times a man has done exactly what his job is.” So, in the absence of that, I suppose we’ll have to settle, as it were, for the BBWAA Career Excellence Award. John certainly earned it with plenty of quality starts, finishes and everything in between.

Ryan Ford joined the Free Press in January 2006 as a Sports designer, in a nick of time for Super Bowl XL at Ford Field. How fitting because he has played a dominant role in every big sports story ever since. He has won dozens of awards for designing pages, the content of special sections he oversaw and for his extensive writing in later years. He even was voted Michigan’s sportswriter of the year by his peers in 2021. Ford was promoted to an assistant sports editor in 2017 and deputy sports editor in 2021.

Helene St. James

Baseball and hockey intersected to allow me the pleasure of being around John. He invited me to the Free Press spring training house in Lakeland, Florida, for dinner during February 1998, when the Red Wings conveniently had their own “spring training” camp in Orlando, while the NHL paused for the Olympics.

That was when I learned that Florida did not space its highway markers by miles and how much fun it was to hang out for an evening with John and Gene Guidi. We talked hockey, baseball and horse racing for hours.

I always enjoyed when John would appear during the Wings’ playoff runs, lending his meticulous eye and good-natured personality to our coverage.

John, congratulations on your selection as the 2023 winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award. It was an honor to be your colleague.

Helene St. James joined the Free Press as a Sports editorial assistant in October 1995. In a flash she was helping to cover the biggest story of the decade: The Red Wings’ quest for that elusive Stanley Cup. After several seasons splitting time backing up the Wings and Pistons beats, she took over the Wings beat in 2005. In 2017, she was voted Michigan sportswriter of the year by her peers, the second woman to capture the award.

Alex Cruden

This honor is very good for baseball.

Alex Cruden spent 35 years at the Free Press as an editor and manager. He also served as Jim Northrup’s ghostwriter for his daily columns during the 1984 World Series. He retired in 2008 after a long term as the guardian of editing, language and the style book.

James and Krista Jahnke

Congratulations, John, on this Koufaxian honor! Thank you for being a kind, professional, knowledgeable, humble and helpful colleague for so many years. And thanks for inventing the quality start! We can always tell people we meet at a party, “I know the guy who …”

We hope you thoroughly enjoy this outstanding celebration of your career.

Krista (Latham) Jahnke joined the Free Press as a Sports intern in April 2003. Five months later, as a full-time sportswriter, she covered the Detroit Shock’s first WNBA championship. (Freep headline: “Not bad, girls!”) She then covered the Pistons for three years, the last time they were good. After six years in Sports, she spent two years as a features writer and digital community manager (moderating 11,000 local moms at Detroit.MomsLikeMe.com). Then she joined the Skillman Foundation in 2012 and the Kresge Foundation in 2015 in senior communications positions. James Jahnke joined the Free Press as Sports copy editor in June 2006 and two years later was promoted to assistant sports editor in charge of the digital operation. He left in 2017 to be a senior communications specialist at General Dynamics.

Anthony Fenech

John, I am so happy you’re receiving recognition for something many of us knew a long time ago: You are the best ball writer there ever was.

I truly believe that, and I am honored and indebted to you for not only years of guidance and teaching me how to work this job, but also an unlikely friendship borne out of a mutual love of baseball, writing and reporting.

There isn’t enough space on this page, but just know my deep admiration for you only has grown over the years, I think of you often and I cannot wait until we reconnect.

Congratulations and enjoy the accolades — “in London there was such a man.”

Anthony Fenech, after several years as a freelancer, joined the Free Press as a Sports intern in September 2011. His internship as a sportswriter and web producer lasted 3¼ years possibly a world record. It ended in November 2014, when he took over the Tigers beat right after John Lowe retired. Fenech covered the team for six years of excruciatingly bad baseball.

Michael Rosenberg

Like a lot of sportswriters of my generation, I first met John when he tried to get me a job. I did not work for the Free Press. The job was not at the Free Press. But John was always trying to match young writers with openings — for no other reason, I think, than he wanted us to experience what he did every day.

News stories fade and history reduces most games to box scores, but the feeling of going to the ballpark stays with you. I ended up sitting next to John in the press box for dozens of games, and not once did I think that he wished he were somewhere else. He carried that feeling to his regular check-ins with the umpires, to his interactions with rookies who lasted a week and managers he had known for decades … and, especially, to columnists sitting next to him. He was the best of teammates — never territorial, always ready to swap information and ideas, eager to give anything a read before it went to print. When something huge happened in a game, he would lean over to me, laugh that distinct John laugh and say, “You might want to mention that.”

Many people find baseball repetitive and boring. John said with confidence that pretty much every time he went to the ballpark, he saw something he had never seen before. I can say with confidence that I have never met another ball writer like John Lowe.

Michael Rosenberg joined the Free Press as the Michigan Wolverines beat reporter in September 1999 and became a full-time columnist in 2004. He was voted Michigan sportswriter of the year by his peers in 2010. In 2012, Rosenberg left the Free Press to become a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Laurie Delves

As sportswriters go, John was easy to break in. He filed his expense reports in a timely and precise fashion — except for handwriting like a doctor.

I introduced John to a chicken sandwich at Nemo’s. He was apprehensive of going to the bar. I encouraged him to try it. I think it became a favorite of his. He would stop there before a ball game.

In the 1990s, John and his young protégé Jason La Canfora showered me with a gift: a coffee mug that said world’s best secretary.

Laurie Delves, after years on the business side, joined the Free Press Sports Department in November 1989 as its first secretary. All she did before retiring in January 2015 was earn a bust in the Administrative Professionals Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, if there were one.

Reid Creager

Michiganders of a certain age know that for 42 years, Ernie Harwell was rightfully their voice of summer. But for 12 years, my voice of summer was John Lowe.

As a copy editor who mainly handled baseball at the Free Press from 1986-97, I worked daily with John on gamers, notebooks, features, special sections. We spoke on the phone several times a night, often on deadline, often past deadline. Yet that clear, strong voice — broadcaster worthy in its own right — never wavered, never showed stress, never even whispered impatience.

John Lowe was the anti-Oscar Madison: always articulate, comfortably elegant in his Panama, obsessed with the details of painting a precise word picture for the reader, and a man who liked to write about Winston Churchill in a baseball context. And made it make sense.

I have played, written about or followed baseball since age 5. And I have never known anyone who loved baseball the way John Lowe did. Never knew anyone who knew so much about “ball” but hungered to know more. Never knew anyone so immersed in the game’s history — with the ability to weave that history into the present. Never knew anyone who obviously dealt with difficult athletes yet never had one unkind word to say about a single one of them — or anyone else.

John Lowe is an easy choice for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because of his longstanding contributions to the game. And when it comes to character — one of the hall’s original criteria but often overlooked — he is in Ernie Harwell’s neighborhood. It is truly a memorable day now that they share the same hallowed address.

Reid Creager joined the Free Press as a Sports copy editor in March 1986, two months ahead of John Lowe. Creager moved to the news copy desk in 1997 and to the Charlotte Observer in 2004. He has been editor-in-chief of Inventors Digest since 2016.

George Sipple

Long before backing John up on the baseball beat, I was an agate editor in the Sports Department. One of the time-consuming jobs in that role was updating the Tigers’ statistics on Sundays because you had to add in games from Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including the average attendance at home and the quality starts for pitchers.

John called the Sports desk one Sunday as I was in the midst of updating the three games’ worth of stats. I was in a bad mood. I said something like, “I don’t know who came up with this stupid quality start stat …”

John replied, in his familiar calm tone: “I did.”

What?

“I created it,” he continued matter-of-factly, with no hint of being offended.

John was always a pro, always helpful to colleagues and young writers. And of his many outstanding traits, he never took offense to a comment by a fan, a player or a coworker. It’s a quality I admire.

As for his stat, I was obviously wrong in my thinking. I left the biz for school PR. John earned his spot in Cooperstown.

George Sipple started at the Free Press on the prep crew in the early 1990s. Hired full-time in 1995, he quickly rose from an agate editor to a sportswriter who relished covering any sport at any level at any time. He was backing up the Tigers and Red Wings beats and covering college hockey when he left in August 2018 to handle public relations for the Novi school district.

In 2023, he was promoted to the district’s supervisor of communications and community engagement.

Mark Snyder

From the day I met him as a reporter for the competition, John was gracious and kind. While that wasn’t the default in the business — to a young reporter, to a person fighting for the same information — it was simply his nature.

Once we began working for the same team — John always called it a team — the vault of tricks was available for you to improve as well. John’s team won most of the time because of how he helped you and others.

Though his approach was unique, more often than not, that was respected and paid off for him. That’s what made John special.

Surely his talent and passion for the game brought him to this hallowed honor, but his kindness for others, that’s the real gift.

Mark Snyder joined the Free Press as a sportswriter in August 2003 after 4½ years at the Oakland (Mich.) Press. He left in July 2017 to be director of communications and marketing for the Lake Orion school district. Most of his 14 years at the Free Press were spent covering the Michigan Wolverines, but Snyder assisted with numerous other beats from time to time. John Lowe appreciated his work with the Tigers so much that he called Snyder by the nickname of Willie Mac, a reference to the Willie Mac Award given each year by the San Francisco Giants to their most inspirational player, named in honor of Willie McCovey, a Hall of Fame first baseman. Snyder was voted Michigan’s sportswriter of the year by his peers in 2011.

Mary Schroeder

John, all your hard work has paid off. And now you’re going in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s the culmination of a great career.

I’ll never forget how we shared a house rented by the Free Press during spring training in Lakeland. We all had our own rooms — and we kept it neat. It was really nice that we all were there working together and being together.

Thank you for giving me insights on who to photograph. I think my pictures made your stories stronger.

Congratulations!

Mary Schroeder joined the Free Press as a photography intern in 1979 and stayed for 40 years. Best known for an iconic photo of Detroit Tigers outfielder Kirk Gibson celebrating a World Series-clinching home run in 1984, Schroeder was a pioneer among female photographers: In 1983, at age 26, she became the only female photojournalist in the country covering sports full time for a big-city newspaper. Later, she moved to editing, where she coached young journalists on photography, Detroit and Free Press history. In 2019, Schroeder was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. In 2021, she was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, the first photographer and first female media member to be so honored.

Gene Myers

So many memories. Where to start? At the beginning.

Not long after joining the Free Press in 1986, John, you won over the Sports copy desk by deciding to join staffers at their favorite local watering hole, the Anchor, a dive bar in every aspect. All the copy and agate editors were stunned that a sportswriter wanted to hang with them. Your time at the Anchor became legend in the office over the decades for three reasons: 1. You actually did it (and late at night). 2. You asked to see the wine list (the Anchor featured red and white). 3. You asked whether the bar had sourdough bread (the usual choices were fresh or stale).

In the late 1980s, when I made my first foray to Lakeland during spring training, at your encouragement, I stayed at the Hut, your nickname for the house rented by the Free Press. Since it was late in spring training, the photographer already had returned to Detroit and columnist Charlie Vincent wasn’t expected back until late in my stay. That left three of us: a deputy sports editor and the Odd Couple of Detroit Sportswriting, John Lowe and Gene Guidi. The dynamic between the two of you was amazing. At the ballpark, y’all worked as a totally in-sync team. At the Hut, y’all couldn’t have been more different. You spent your evenings working in your room with all the James Bond technology of that bygone time: a private phone line, a fax machine, a laptop. Gene spent his evenings lounging on the sofa, talking with me and watching hockey games — part of the time in his underwear. One night he took me to what he called “fine dining, Lakeland style.” In other words, the Olive Garden. When you took a morning off to spend some time with me, you suggested we watch an old return of “Perry Mason.” I recall how we followed along wondering who Perry would reveal as the real killer in the courtroom. And I’ll never forget when you revealed one of your favorite things: to watch the credits and decipher the Roman numerals for the year the episode was first aired.

John, your 29 seasons covering the Tigers for the Free Press were impressive in so many ways. That’s why you never will forget a ceremony organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. As I wrote in your 2008 performance evaluation, you broke news, described games with flair, accuracy and imagination, and you never stopped digging for angles and information.

I appreciated all that. But I appreciated so much more. How you held yourself to the highest of standards in your professional life and your personal life. You didn’t badmouth anyone. Your enthusiasm and optimism were contagious. Your calmness under pressure was remarkable.

You proudly were a Seamhead — you joke the definition was “someone who not only likes umpires but knows them personally” — and weren’t a stereotypical sportswriter driven by booze, broads and beef. You took care of your body for the grind of a long, long season.

You strived to help others. You mentored countless student journalists and advised scores of young baseball writers. You visited classrooms. You wrote postcards with encouragement. You tried to matchmake for jobs. You were a great addition to our Stanley Cup coverage teams during the Red Wings’ dynasty. And you also provided your sports editor underlined articles with tips about time management and self-preservation.

You are one of a kind, indeed. And, John, I am proud to have been your boss for so long, thrilled by your Hall of Fame award and blessed to have you as a friend.

It’s not a wonderful life. It’s an OUTSTANDING life.

Gene Myers, after spending the summer of 1982 as a Sports copy editing intern, joined the Free Press full-time in the same position in May 1983. He was promoted to an assistant sports editor at age 25 in August 1985 and to sports editor at age 32 in February 1993. Myers retired on Halloween 2015 after 22½ years leading the Sports Department.

Since then, he has spearheaded numerous Free Press books two on Michigan football, one on the Red Wings, one on Michigan State basketball, one on MSU football, one on Mick McCabe’s career and commemoratives on Gordie Howe, Al Kaline and Joe Louis Arena. He also has cried because just as many potential books bit the dust after weeks of hard work when teams couldn’t cross the finish line thanks for nuttin’, Beilein, Izzo, Howard and Harbaugh! Myers still does yoga daily and suffers injuries occasionally playing hockey. Dave Robinson, his forever boss, forces him to teach golf lessons in his TGA afterschool programs.

Articles You May Like

Jackson Jobe looms as Reese Olson’s injury compounds the Tigers rotation problems
2024 Major League Baseball All-Star Game open thread
Orioles, Dodgers Have Discussed Tarik Skubal With Tigers
Detroit Tigers 2024 MLB draft: Day 3 roundup of picks 11-20
Five lesser known Tigers prospects who are performing well in 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *