Goodbye, Mr. Tiger

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Attorney treasures fond memories of Tiger great

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

For legions of Detroit baseball fans, the late Al Kaline will always be “Mr. Tiger,” a hitting and fielding wonder who dazzled the American League for 22 seasons.

For area attorney Gordon Snavely, the legendary Hall of Famer will always be affectionately known as “da man,” as in “you da man,” the sports colloquialism reserved for those who excel in their field of play.

Snavely, who specializes in estate law and probate work, came to know Kaline through the annual Michael and Marian Ilitch Foundation golf outing, played each summer at renowned Oakland Hills Country Club.
The fund-raising event traditionally is highlighted by the appearance of Tiger and Red Wing stars – past and present – including Kaline, who as a 20-year-old wunderkind won the 1955 American League batting title with a .340 average.

“If you’re a sports fan, it’s a great event to attend because of all the Tigers and Red Wings who are there playing with the guests,” said Snavely.

Four years ago, Snavely said he had the “great fortune” to be joined by Kaline in his fivesome, which also included former state legislator Kirk Profit, retired Masco executive Mark Perry, and longtime Detroit Institute of Arts Chairman Gene Gargaro.

“The stories he shared with us regarding his career were priceless,” Snavely said of Kaline, who died Monday at the age of 85. “He said that when he joined the Tigers for the first time in Baltimore, his ‘locker’ was a nail on the wall.

“He said that whenever he saw (St. Louis Cardinal star) Lou Brock at the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, Brock would still insist he was safe at home during the 1968 World Series (won by the Tigers).”

Midway during the round at the Ilitch outing, Snavely endured himself to Kaline by hitting a spectacular golf shot that led to a birdie on the hole, earning a “you da man” plaudit from the former Tiger standout.

“I responded by telling him, ‘I am not da man, you were the man for 22 years,’” Snavely said with a wide smile.

If Snavely’s boyhood dreams had come true, he and Kaline would have been Tiger teammates.

“There is something about the game of baseball that cast a spell over me at an early age,” said Snavely, who earned his bachelor and law degrees from the University of Detroit.

“I was 8 years old when I decided that I was either going to be a first baseman for the Tigers or a lawyer,” Snavely recalled. “It became readily apparent later on that if I was going to eat three meals a day, I better be a lawyer.”

He became a good one at that, while also serving as a lifelong and unofficial member of the Al Kaline Fan Club.

“He was a great guy,” Snavely said of Kaline, who in retirement served as a special front office assistant for the Tigers. “A total class act in every respect.”



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