MSU, WMU coaches enter baseball hall - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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MSU, WMU coaches enter baseball hall

Decker inducted

Legendary Western Michigan University Baseball Coach Fred Decker pumps his fist to his friends and family after his Michigan Baseball Hall-of-Fame plaque is uncovered. His granddaughter, Lana Hanley, admires the plaque after assisting with the unveiling. At right is Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the Lansing Lugnuts' announcer who emceed the ceremony at Jackson Field in Lansing.  Photo by Larry Hook

Larry Hook

By Larry Hook
Adviser of The Lookout


Michigan State University’s Danny Litwhiler and Western Michigan University’s Fred Decker, two of the winningest college baseball coaches in Michigan history, were inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday, July 7.

The induction ceremonies took place at Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, before the Lugnuts’ game against the Lake County Captains

Lugnuts Broadcaster and Media Relations Specialist Jesse Goldberg-Strassler led the ceremonies, which included the unveiling of Hall-of-Fame plaques honoring the two inductees.

“It is my great honor and a thrill for us to induct two of the greatest coaches in this state’s history here today,” Goldberg-Strassler said.

Danny Litwhiler, who died in 2011 at the age of 95, was represented by his son, Mark Litwhiler, along with other family members, during the ceremonies.

“On behalf of the Litwhiler family – there are over 35 kids, grandkids and great grandkids from seven states that are here today to come and enjoy this – our father would be so thrilled and happy to go into this group,” Mark Litwhiler said. “He just loved the game of baseball and as he used to always say, he never worked a day in his life because of baseball.

“He loved his teammates, he loved his players, he loved his coaches. He just lived the dream of baseball. I just wish he could be here for this honor, but his family is thrilled to be a part of it.”

Litwhiler sonMark Litwhiler, son of former MSU Head Baseball Coach, offers kind words about his father during induction ceremonies July 7 at Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts and the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame.  Photo by Larry Hook

 

Litwhiler was born in Ringtown, Penn. Before turning to coaching, he played 11 years in the Major Leagues from 1940 to 1951 with four National League teams.

An outfielder, Litwhiler was the first Major Leaguer to play an entire season without committing an error (317 chances in 151 games in 1942). He had a lifetime batting average of .282 with 107 home runs in 1,057 games played.

LitwhilerDanny Litwhiler

 

He coached in four locations, including at Florida State for nine seasons, before coming to MSU in 1964. Over the next 19 years in East Lansing, Litwhiler won a school-record 489 games (against 362 losses) and two Big Ten championships.

The number 1 uniform of Litwhiler was retired by MSU in 2003. He coached 13 players who later reached the Major Leagues, most notably Steve Garvey and Kirk Gibson.

Fred Decker, a native of Colon, Mich., was present to participate in the induction ceremonies.

Decker coached at WMU for 29 years, retiring in 2004. He posted a career record of 791 wins and 711 losses. His 791 overall wins and his 401 wins in conference play are both Mid-American Conference records. His team finished first in the MAC three times.

Decker spoke about the many players he has coached over the years at WMU, many of whom were present for the ceremony.

“(When I learned) that I was selected for this, it was a big day for me and for my family,” Decker told his former players. “But I was smart enough to realize that I wouldn’t be here holding this mike, if it wasn’t for all of you guys and your teammates.

“It’s what you accomplished that is the reason that I’m getting into this Hall of Fame. I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart.”

Decker also offered praise to his wife Leslie for being a great “baseball wife.” He also thanked his many family members, friends and neighbors for attending the ceremony.

Decker’s granddaughter Lana Hanley, who helped him unveil his Hall-of Fame plaque, gave her grandfather a big hug during the ceremonies.

“I think it’s super cool,” Hanley said. “I’m so proud of him, and everything he’s done and accomplished. I used to play softball when I was little and we would always play in the back yard. He got me into it.”

The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame is in its ninth year of existence. Its purpose is threefold: to honor the state’s baseball heroes of yesterday; celebrate the national pastime today; and inspire baseball fans and ballplayers of tomorrow.

The new members join the 24 others inducted since 2015: Jim Abbott, Bill Freehan, Charlie Gehringer, Ernie Harwell, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser, Alan Trammell, John Smoltz, Pat O’Keefe, Larry Tuttle, Kirk Gibson, Ty Cobb, Derek Jeter, Dave Keilitz, Willie Horton, Ron Oestrike, Javier Cavazos, Drew Henson, Bob Miller, Frank Tanana, Steve Avery, the 2003-06 Homer High School baseball team, the 1959 Hamtramck Little League team and the Page Fence Giants of the 1890s.

Biographies, accomplishments and photos of the inductees can be found at www.michiganbaseballhall.org.

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