07/07/09 8:52 PM ET
Willie Horton talks baseball with the fans
Tigers legend participates in online Web chat
By / MLB.com
W_Horton: A big Tigers welcome to everyone and we're making history this evening and you're a big part of it.
W_Horton: It's time to Play Ball and get started.
cdurbfan22: If you could go back to any moment in your great career, when would that be and why? Thank you.
W_Horton: Fifth game of the '68 World Series, throwing out Lou Brock in the 5th inning, I thought was the turning point and we went on to win the Series.
jahgreen_2: Willie, did you think you were going to get Lou Brock at home in Game 5 of the 1968 Series?
W_Horton: What made that play was a scout's report. We noticed Lou drifted a little from base-to-base. And we picked up on that and knowing who our pitcher was... all factored into that play.
kirbysmom: What would have [liked to see] happen to Tiger Stadium to save it?
W_Horton: A monument at the sight of the old Tiger Stadium would be appropriate. That said, it was time to move on, and Mr. Ilitch has built a beautiful ballpark for everyone to enjoy now and in the future.
hutchtx: What's the best baseball movie and why? My personal favorite is a longshot -- The Sandlot. Ever see it?
W_Horton: The Lou Gerhig Story is one I can watch over and over. It showed all phases of life on and off the field.
mlbtimmy8: How does it feel to have your number 23 retired at Comerica Park?
W_Horton: Actually, I get chills. And then, I get choked up and sometimes get tears in my eyes when I see the statue out there.
hutchtx: Q: What's the biggest difference between playing in the field and hitting and being a DH? Seems to take a special mental focus to just DH.
W_Horton: I learned a lot being a DH. It can be to a player's advantage if you use it right. What I mean is, you become more a player coach, especially for the younger players. It actually helped me when I managed in Venezuela.
jahgreen: What was it like for you playing on the 1968 team after the 1967 urban unrest in Detroit?
W_Horton: The '68 season was special for the city and the state. We helped heal the city.
W_Horton: It was remarkable. Black and white people came together to help each other.
269sturgis: Is there any way to stop the Twins?
W_Horton: You have play BillyBall... I mean Billy Martin type baseball which includes the little things, hit and run, bunt, squeeze, sacrifice, and execute. You can't beat them with the long ball.
westengtr: What was your best memory of The Bird?
W_Horton: He's a lifetime brother. He's someone special God put on this earth.
W_Horton: My best memory is Mark pitching his first game against Cleveland. He was out there talking to the ball, and I'd never seen that before in my career. And he was on the mound, doing all the grounds keeping. I miss him.
1MoreTIGERfan: How many of your teammates do you keep in touch with? Who are they?
W_Horton: Eighty-five percent are still living, and we stay in touch quite often. We're blessed to have been part of something so historical and to still be part of each other.
W_Horton: We still do things together. It's a treat to be involved, to be associated with fantasy camp. They're my teammates for life.
mlbtimmy8: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Favorite team?
W_Horton: Rocky Colavito was my favorite, he started with Cleveland and then became a Tiger. I have a story to tell...
W_Horton: Me and my buddy, JP, use to play strike out on the wall, and he used hide behind the dumpster trucks to sneak into the ballpark (Tiger Stadium). One day we got caught.
W_Horton: And that's when we ran into Rocky, and he was dressed in street clothes, and we thought we were getting into big trouble. But he took us down to the visiting clubhouse guy and we actually got a job working in the clubhouse.
W_Horton: That's when Rocky was with Cleveland, and then later became a Tiger, and passed left field down to me.
W_Horton: Rocky still calls me to go hunting.
W_Horton: I passed along the advice Rocky gave me to Steve Kemp. Playing left field for the Tigers, is special
robert_run: You deserve the honor of having your number retired, and the statue of you. You mean a lot to us!
W_Horton: Thank you, and the fans mean everything to me. I dedicated my career and playing hard to the fans. I appreciate the fans. The fans always gave me added energy. They sparked me every day.
Mark23: Hi Willie. It's been quite a while, but what were the circumstances that took you to Seattle? And if I could also ask, how did you come to get the number 23?
W_Horton: Charlie Dressen gave me the number. My first number was 50-something in my first Spring Training with the Tigers. The second year, Charlie Dressen gave me number 23.
W_Horton: Charlie Dressen story for you... he was going to fine me $100 for every pound I was over weight. I was 26 pounds over weight, and he gave me two weeks to get under weight. And I did it. And then he gave me a 26-pound country ham, and I sent that home to my parents.
roartoend: How do you like being special assistant?
W_Horton: I promised my wife I wasn't coming back to the game. And then Mr. Ilitch offered me this opportunity. I paced around at home, and my wife knew something was up. I told her and she was so supportive. She said I had to do it.
mlbadmin05: In your opinion, who is the best young player in baseball?
W_Horton: My two favorites are Granderson and Grady Sizemore with Cleveland.
mlbadmin05: Did you ever preside over a Kangaroo Court? Any good stories?
W_Horton: We can't talk about some of things that happened with our Kangaroo Court. They didn't miss anything. It was fun. It kept the little boy in you.
W_Horton: I have one for you... about me and Mickey Stanley.
W_Horton: They tell me and Stanley to be at this boat down near Lake Michigan at 7:30 a.m. after a night game. So we get up and we head down there.
W_Horton: And guess what, there was no boat, and we thought we missed it.
W_Horton: We stayed down, until about 10 a.m. and then went home.
W_Horton: We got to the clubhouse around 3 p.m. and asked the guys where the boat was... and they all started laughing. Of course, there never was a boat. So technically, we never missed it.
W_Horton: Norm Cash was fined because he was on a hitting streak and wouldn't let the clubbies wash his uniform. And I'm telling you, that uniform was standing up on it's own in his locker. Complete with tobacco droppings.
W_Horton: I do appreciate everyone's support and participation. This is great. I am enjoying it and I hope you are too...
mlbtimmy8: What did it feel like when you were signed by the Tigers at the age of 18?
W_Horton: I was actually 17 when I was signed by the Tigers. It was a great honor. I was able to support my mom and dad. It was a thrill to put on the uniform. I'm grateful and appreciative to have had that opportunity.
mlbadmin05: What is your favorite restaurant in Detroit?
W_Horton: It used to be Green's Barbecue on Warren. I used to pick up food for Mayor Young back at that time.
W_Horton: My favorite steakhouse was the London Chophouse on Grand River.
W_Horton: They had the best steak this side of the Mississippi.
jrozgonyi: You played behind Denny McLain when he won 31 in 1968. In your opinion, was he that great a pitcher overall, that great a pitcher just that year, or was it a case of a good pitcher getting lucky?
W_Horton: For a period of five years, I thought he was by far, the best in baseball. He brought it every night. He wanted the ball. Him and Bob Gibson had those great years, and they went ahead and lowered the mound because of those two guys. They dominated.
W_Horton: Denny's games lasted less than two hours. He was all business. He didn't believe in warmups. He didn't even take the seven-pitch warmup between innings. He never wanted to leave anything in practice. Never seen anyone like him.
sushi77: Will we be in the World Series this year?
W_Horton: We have a playoff team. But health is key, and luck. I like our young pitching staff. Our hitters need to hit with runners in scoring position. We're leaving too many on base.
owen2: Mr. Horton. Writing from Cookeville, Tenn. We were blessed to have you in our town a few years back. Could you describe the buildup to game 1 of the '68 series and what it was like to hit against Bob Gibson?
W_Horton: I remember visiting my friend there, and enjoyed it. Back then, it was win the AL and you're in the World Series. Gibson was great. Especially that one game where he had 17 strikeouts.
glenster09: Did you ever consider after you retired about a managing position in the Majors?
W_Horton: I wanted it early after my playing days. I did manage in Venezuela. But opportunities were never presented.
roartoend: I used to watch you back in the day! You must be ecstatic to be a part of a great baseball clubhouse?
W_Horton: Gates Brown took me under his wing. Norm Cash, all the guys. I listened and kept my mouth shut and learned to respect the guys that I was learning from. Young guys need to take advantage of the veterans. Watch the older guys. I used to follow those guys around and try to learn.
Mark23: In your opinion, what's the best way to teach a kid to break out of a hitting slump?
W_Horton: Slumps happen because you're getting away from what you're good at... you have to get back to what you know. Everyone is different. I watch our guys every day. I see things with certain guys.
W_Horton: Ask your young player what makes him feel comfortable as a hitter. Just let him do what is natural for him. He can make little adjustments, but make sure he stays with his foundation.
W_Horton: I want to thank everyone for sending questions. I have sincerely enjoyed this experience. I love talking baseball. God bless each and every one.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.