POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - Jack Tighe, who managed the Toledo Mud Hens for four seasons and guided them to their last pennant in 1968, died at age 88 Thursday.
The former resident of Spring Lake, Mich., had been in poor health.
Tighe never played in the major leagues but he spent 52 years in organized baseball and managed for 20, winning over 1,300 games, four pennants and four playoff titles.
Part of that career was spent in Detroit managing the Tigers. In 1957, Tighe led them to a 78-76 record and a fourth-place finish. Detroit was 21-28 and in fifth place when he was fired in 1958 and replaced by Bill Norman.
But the former catcher/first baseman/third baseman found the most success in Toledo, where he was named minor league manager of the year by the Sporting News in 1968 after he led the Mud Hens - Detroit's top farm club - to the International League championship.
The Hens battled Columbus neck-and-neck that season, capturing the pennant by half a game with a 17-0 victory over Rochester on the season's final day.
That finish, however, was set up the previous year when the Tighe-led Hens, in last place on July 24, proceeded to win 32 of their last 49 games. Toledo finished third in the regular season but used the momentum to win the International League's Governors Cup playoff championship.
Former Mud Hens general manager Charlie Senger, now living in Safety Harbor, Fla., vividly recalls his efforts to hire Tighe as manager:
“I went to [then-Detroit Tigers general manager] Jim Campbell and I told him that I'd like to have Jack Tighe manage our team,” Senger said. “Back then we had a clause in our contract that we could pick our manager.
“Jim got mad as heck at me; he had already picked someone else. But we got Jack and he was a great manager, baseball man and a great guy. He was one of the best managers we ever had in Toledo.”
He beat out future Hall-of-Famer Earl Weaver of Rochester for the first of two consecutive awards as IL manager of the year.
“You couldn't meet a better guy,'' said Leo Marentette, who pitched three seasons during the twilight of his career for Tighe in Toledo and now lives in southeast Michigan.
“I played with him a couple years and against him, too. He always treated me well.
“He was just a great guy to play for. He had his rules and you abided by them.”
Tighe-led Hens also included Dick Drago, Don Pepper, Tom Timmerman, Wayne Comer, Tom Matchick and Dave Campbell.
After the 1969 season, Tighe, at age 56, decided that he had had enough of managing and gave up his position.
“He was just an easy-going kind of guy who had a ton of stories,'' said Bill Fox, who covered the Hens for The Blade. “He got along with everybody.''
Tighe also coached Toledo to a sixth-place finish in 1951, when the Hens were in the American Association and played at Swayne Field.
Tighe's overall record in four seasons with the Hens was 294-284.
Former Hen Ike Brown once said that Tighe was mainly responsible for his rise to the big leagues with the Tigers.
Brown was a key member and a fan favorite on the Hens' title teams of '67 and '68.
In 1952, Tighe went to work for Buffalo before going back to the Tigers organization as a field director-scout in 1954.
He was a full-time employee of the Detroit organization until 1982 and served in other capacities until 1990.
Born Aug. 9, 1913 in Kearny, N.J., Tighe began his baseball career in 1936 as a catcher with Charleston, W.Va. He was a player-manager for the Muskegon Clippers, a Tigers farm club in the Michigan State League, in 1940-41. He won a Central League title managing the Tigers' Flint, Mich., club in 1948.
Tighe was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
“I think I owe Muskegon a lot more than it owes me,” he said that year during an interview with the Muskegon Chronicle. He was referring to his wife, Beverly, whom he met and married while coaching in Muskegon.
Tighe's wife preceded him in death in 1990. Survivors include two sons.