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Michigan Matters: Tigers legend Willie Horton on career, Motor City & Overcoming COVID

Michigan Matters: Willie Horton & Roundtable
Michigan Matters: Willie Horton & Roundtable 24:21

SOUTHFIELD (CBS DETROIT) – Willie "the Wonder" Horton – who wore No 23 when he played for the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers — appears on CBS 62's "Michigan Matters" at 8 a.m. this Sunday in an exclusive conversation to talk about his career, helping his beloved hometown, Mr. "I" and overcoming COVID.

Michigan Matters Host Carol Cain, with Detroit Tigers Legend Willie Horton

Horton, 79 (he turns 80 in October)  served as an honorary coach with the American League Team in Los Angeles during the MLB All-Star Game held on July 19. He told Carol Cain, Senior Producer/Host, that he was diagnosed with COVID – two days later.

He isn't sure where he got it. Ironically, it was the same day  President Joe Biden announced he too had COVID. Both men, fully vaccinated and double boosted, were given Paxlovid and are on the road to recovery.

"Thank god I was vaccinated, or who knows what might have happened," Horton said about COVID. "It took a lot of juice out of me."

"Everyone needs to get their shots and boosters!" he added.


Horton just penned a new book, "Willie Horton: 23: Detroit's own Willie the Wonder, the Tiger's First Black Great" and talked bout his life, the influence of Judge Damon Keith, Mike Ilitch (late owner of the Tigers), Coleman Young and his teammates.  

He talked about that magical 1968 season and his team of "brothers" on the Tigers who learned to play for, and with, each other.

Willie Horton at PAL Provided by Detroit PAL

Horton, who grew up in the Jeffries Project which had African American and white families, said he never confronted racism until he went to the Tiger's training camp in Lakeland, Fla. He couldn't get a cab and had to walk five miles as they wouldn't pick up an African American back then.

He talked about Judge Keith's guidance as a young man as his  parents had asked Keith to  take him under his wing and keep the rising baseball star on the right path.

Horton also talked about the 1967 civil uprising in Detroit and recalled the night it began when the Tigers had a doubleheader with the Yankees. "I had hit a homerun in the first game," he recalled.

It was during the second game,  which ended abruptly  due to growing violence outside when fans and players were asked to leave and go home for their safety.

Horton grabbed his  bag,  ran out of Tiger Stadium still  in his uniform and drove his car into the eye of the uprising and went to  12th Street where a crowd gathered and stood atop his car to try and calm things down. He knew the neighborhood and people who lived there. He did so the next few nights too.

1968 Willie Horton Baseball Card, compliments of Laura Cain.. who saved it from a baseball card pack she opened that year

Flash forward a few decades later, Horton talked about how he and Mike Ilitch used to  walk through the stands at Tigers game, to see how things were going with the team and what the fans thought.  

Then, the roundtable of Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, Peter Bhatia, Editor and Vice President of Detroit Free Press, and Michael Patrick Shiels, host of "The Big Show," appear to talk about politics, the massive water main break in Metro Detroit, and more.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett; Detroit Free Press VP and Editor Peter Bhatia; and Michael Patrick Shield, Host of The Big Show

The roundtable also talks about the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden into law this week, and also the water main break in Metro Detroit and more.

Watch Michigan Matters, Sunday at 8 a.m. on CBS 62

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