2010-12-29 13:07:03 UTC
DETROIT (AP) — Longtime baseball executive Bill Lajoie, whose eye for
talent helped build the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1984 World
Series championship, died Tuesday. He was 76.
Tigers spokesman Brian Britten said the team first learned of Lajoie's
death from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lajoie had been working as a
special assistant to the Pirates. The Detroit News reported he died at
his home near Sarasota, Fla. Britten said he couldn't confirm the
location or the cause of death.
"Bill played an integral role in building the Detroit Tigers into a
world championship team in 1984 and a division title winner in 1987,"
Tigers general manager David Dombrowski said in an e-mail to The
Associated Press. "Bill was a respected and highly regarded baseball
executive who made significant contributions to the Tigers franchise
and the game of baseball."
"Mr. Lajoie impacted the lives and careers of a countless number of
players, scouts and front office executives," Pirates general manager
Neal Huntington said in a statement. "He was a terrific evaluator of
talent, an outstanding baseball man, a tremendous mentor and a better
Lajoie was born in the Detroit suburb of Wyandotte, played baseball at
Western Michigan University and made it as far as Triple-A ball as an
He joined the Tigers as a scout in 1968 and helped land the likes of
future stars Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Willie Hernandez, Lance
Parrish, Dan Petry, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
"I thought we had a good team going to spring training that year,"
Lajoie said in an interview 15 years later. "But getting (pitcher)
Willie (Hernandez) just before camp ended really added a lot."
Hernandez had 32 saves, winning the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards that
Whitaker, who grew up in Martinsville, Va., was shy and quiet and
hesitant to sign a professional contract because he didn't have much
of a wardrobe. Lajoie bought him two suits, and Whitaker signed.
"I roomed with him for 10 years in Lakeland, (Fla.)," Tigers manager
Jim Leyland, long a manager in Detroit's farm system, told The Detroit
News. "He was a great teacher for me. We'd sit there and talk
baseball, hours on end.
"I would write a lot of it down because he really knew the game. And
he really knew talent. But his greatest knack was finding the pieces
that completed the puzzle."
Lajoie was scouting director and assistant general manager for the
Tigers before coming general manager in 1984, a job he held till 1990.
Among his last moves at Detroit was the signing of Cecil Fielder as a
free agent from Japan for the 1990 season. Fielder had 51 home runs
After leaving Detroit, Lajoie served as an assistant for the Boston
Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and