What were this region’s best professional and college sports stories from 2013?
Members of The Blade’s sports staff voted for the top-10 stories among the Detroit and Cleveland pro sports, as well as Toledo, Bowling Green, Ohio State, Michigan, plus other teams and individuals linked to this area.
Torii Hunter hugs Tigers manager Jim Leyland after hitting a game-winning single. Leyland, 69, retired after 22 seasons as a manager, the final eight with Detroit.
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Here is our list:
1. TIGERS’ UPS AND DOWNS: With a high-budget roster which was the envy of many in Major League Baseball, the Detroit Tigers progressed through another high-profile season that included top individual honors, and a high-drama, albeit unsuccessful, path into the postseason playoffs.
The season included a second straight American League MVP award for third baseman Miguel Cabrera (.348 average, 44 home runs, 137 RBI) and the highest pitching award, the Cy Young, for ace right-hander Max Scherzer (21-3 record, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts).
Detroit won its third straight AL Central Division title, plus took a 3-2 divisional series win over Oakland. But at the end, some sterling performances from MLB’s top starting rotation were wasted in a 4-2 loss to eventual World Series champion Boston in the AL Championship Series.
2. LEYLAND RETIRES: Although linked with the Tigers’ story, the retirement of Detroit manager and Perrysburg native Jim Leyland stood on its own.
Leyland, 69, called it quits after 22 seasons as a major league manager on the heels of the Tigers’ frustrating finish.
During Leyland’s eight-year run with Detroit, the organization in which he began as a player in the 1960s, the Tigers posted a 700-597 record, made trips to the World Series in 2006 and 2012, and got as far as the ALCS in 2011 and 2013.
Previously, Leyland managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for 11 seasons, won a World Series in 1997 as part of his two-year run with the Florida Marlins, and spent one season managing the Colorado Rockies (1999). Leyland’s 1,769 career wins as a manager ranked him 15th all-time among MLB managers.
Braxton Miller led Ohio State to another 12-0 regular season but the Buckeyes lost in the Big Ten championship game.
3. OSU FOOTBALL STREAK: Although it was ultimately spoiled in a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, the Ohio State Buckeyes posted a second straight 12-0 regular season under second-year coach Urban Meyer.
Led by the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year, junior quarterback Braxton Miller, and supremely talented running back Carlos Hyde, OSU survived a few scares and an inconsistent defense to win the conference’s Leaders Division at 8-0. Meyer won his first 24 games as Ohio State coach.
Capping that division title was a nail-biting 42-41 victory in the regular-season finale at rival Michigan.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, a Toledo native, congratulates quarterback Jason Campbell after a touchdown pass.
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4. BROWNS PICK CHUDZINSKI: It was a dream come true for a Toledo native and St. John’s Jesuit graduate in early January when the Cleveland Browns named former Titans player Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach.
Chudzinski, 44 at the time, completed his football climb to one of the NFL’s 32 coveted jobs one rung at a time up the ladder. His St. John’s time was followed by a college career as a tight end at Miami, which included national championships in 1987 and 1989.
He later coached at Miami before making the jump to the NFL with stints as an assistant at Cleveland, San Diego, and Carolina along the way.
5. UM NCAA RUNNER-UP: Things didn’t look so promising after the Michigan Wolverines let their Big Ten regular-season finale against Indiana slip away in the closing seconds. That 72-71 loss prevented a four-way championship that would have been shared by UM, Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan State, and instead made Indiana the outright winner.
It wasn’t much better when the Wolverines lost in the Big Ten tournament semifinals against Wisconsin.
But when the NCAA tourney began, UM was all business, led by All-America guard Trey Burke. The Wolverines (31-8) beat San Diego State, Virginia Commonwealth, Kansas, Florida, and Syracuse before ultimately losing to Louisville 82-76 in the national championship game.
6. FALCONS FLY HIGH: Bowling Green State University, led by all-conference players BooBoo Gates, Chief Kekuewa, and Dominic Flewellyn, along with running back Travis Greene, quarterback Matt Johnson, and receiver Shaun Joplin, won the Mid-American Conference’s East Division title with a 6-1 record, then upset previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Northern Illinois 47-27 in the MAC championship game.
The Falcons then lost coach Dave Clawson, who took over as head coach at Wake Forest, and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl game 30-27 to Pittsburgh to finish 10-4 overall.
7. INDIANS SURPRISE: With new manager Terry Francona pushing all the right buttons, the Cleveland Indians turned a low-profile roster into a surprisingly successful team that finished just one game behind (92-70 record) the heavily favored Detroit Tigers in the American League’s Central Division.
That run earned the Tribe one of the AL’s two wild card spots in the postseason, where Cleveland dropped a one-game playoff game to Tampa Bay.
8. BASKETBALL BUCKEYES SURGE: Still struggling to hit stride midway through the Big Ten basketball schedule, Ohio State — led by offensive weapon Deshaun Thomas and defensive master Aaron Craft — caught fire down the stretch in the regular-season.
The Buckeyes missed out on a share of the Big Ten’s regular-season title, but won the conference tournament and added three more wins in advancing to the national quarterfinals.
OSU dropped a 70-66 decision to Wichita State to miss out on the Final Four.
9. MARATHON STEPS UP: Bolstered by the sponsored of Findlay-based Marathon, a longtime area golf staple, the former Jamie Farr Classic LPGA tournament was able to continue its existence.
The first Marathon Classic was a thriller, with Beatriz Recari (17-under-par 267) squeaking out one-stroke victory over Paula Creamer.
10. HUNTINGTON HOCKEY: Toledo’s Huntington Center played host to the first and second-round games in the NCAA national hockey tournament.
Miami (Ohio) defeated Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State topped Notre Dame in the opening round, and St. Cloud then advanced to the NCAA’s Frozen Four in Pittsburgh after taking a 4-1 win against Miami.