Larry Adderley, longtime Detroit media fixture, ex-Tigers broadcaster, golf booster, dies at 82

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

For a man who made his living in the TV industry, Larry Adderley was shockingly private.

He didn't want a funeral, or an obituary, or really even any notice to close friends.

"But," said Michigan football broadcaster Jim Brandstatter, one of those good friends, "I couldn't let him leave without giving him one last pat on the back.

"We lost a great one."

Larry Adderley, left, with fellow Michigan broadcasting icons Jim Brandstatter, center, and Ray Lane.

Brandstatter found out Saturday that Adderley had died. The Michigan Golf Foundation confirmed his death to the public Sunday.

Adderley, a longtime broadcaster of Michigan and Detroit sports who went on to become one of the state's biggest golf boosters, died Dec. 20, 2019, after a long battle with dementia. He was 82.

Adderley had a lengthy stint at WXYZ Channel 7, during which he extensively covered Michigan football, and even was a co-host with Brandstatter back when Michigan football games would be shown on television locally, on tape-delay on Saturday nights.

He also spent three seasons broadcasting Detroit Tigers games on ONTV, a predecessor to PASS and Fox Sports Detroit, from 1981-83, with two of the team's all-time colorful characters, Norm Cash and Hank Aguirre, working alongside him.

"To be the referee between those two was unbelievable," Brandstatter said, with a laugh. "His talent was never more tested, never more brilliant, than working with those two guys."

In the days before cable TV, Adderley also did play-by-play for a high-school football game of the week that was carried on WKBD-TV and later WTVS-TV.

Adderley also did a couple seasons of Red Wings TV with Budd Lynch in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, during and after his time at WXYZ, Adderley also was huge into the Michigan golf scene.

He was a founding member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame committee in 1982, and served on the board through 2018. At that time, he stepped down because of his health.

In the 1980s, Adderley was the driving force behind getting the state's top annual tournament, the Michigan Open, shown on television and heard on radio. The same held true with the Michigan Bell Showdown, a skins game featuring the state's top champions.

The Michigan section of the PGA was never more popular and visible than it was under Adderley's support.

He also founded the Michigan Golf Network, and hosted a TV show that featured himself playing some of the state's top resorts, along with the respective club's pro.

Yet, again, while he was a natural on camera, he wasn't a fan of being noticed — even though, according to Greg Johnson, chairman of the Michigan Golf HOF, he always was the best-dressed person in any room. 

“He never wanted a big deal made about him,” Adderley's wife Linda said this week, in a press release put out by the Michigan Golf Foundation.

“He was private and proud, and he missed his golf trips, especially the ones up north, and we would laugh and tell stories about the golfers, the people we met and things they said.”

Brandstatter recounts many rounds of golf played over the years with Adderley, and some hijinks during downtime covering some of the golf tournaments, particularly the Michigan Open.

Larry Adderley as a young journalist.

At the Michigan Open, played at the Bear course at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, the two would station at the pavilion off the 18th green, waiting for golfers to finish their rounds. 

Between groups, they would chip off the cement below the pavilion, seeing who could keep the ball on the green from just 30 or so yards out.

After the day's action was complete, they'd often try to sneak in a quick nine before it turned dark.

"He wasn't as good as I was, and if he were alive today, he would take great exception to that," Brandstatter said from his home in Florida, where he and wife Robbie Timmons are hunkered down awaiting their delayed trip back to Michigan. "We were dear friends, we were colleagues, we worked together, and we played golf together countless times.

"He also was one of those guys that was part of the fabric of Detroit local television and news, when it was at its heights.

"I was lucky to be able to come and stand on his shoulders."

Adderley was a native of the Beverly Hills area in Metro Detroit and graduated with a communications degree from Michigan State, where he also walked on to the football team — and later became a long-time season-ticket holder. 

During his professional career, he spent much time covering the rival school, Michigan.

In one noteworthy 1976 segment, he conducted an interview with then-coach Bo Schembechler, while both were jogging, following Schembechler's heart surgery.

Adderley lived in Edmore, in mid-Michigan, at the time of his death.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984