Tigers owner Mike Ilitch said Wednesday a desire for "even more knowledge" and "more Tigers guys" prompted Tuesday's announcement that former stars Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris would join Tigers/FSD telecasts in 2015.
"It's great – more family, and local guys, and fans love it," Ilitch said during a phone conversation with The Detroit News. "I just felt that while we usually go with two guys (play-by-play voice Mario Impemba and resident analyst Rod Allen), we felt there were ways to contribute more.
"I wanted some Tigers, and we worked that all out."
Tigers telecasts on FSD have had a dramatic ratings increase in recent years, in tandem with Comerica Park attendance, which reached 3 million in four of the past eight seasons. In their past nine years the Tigers seven times have reached a playoff game, or playoff series, although there has been no world championship despite two World Series appearances.
Tigers telecasts were the most heavily watched, prime-time TV programming in Metro Detroit in 2014, with an 8.59 rating (156,000 households), 70-percent higher than the runner-up station, WDIV-TV, which was at 5.05.
Tigers telecasts had the No. 1 local baseball audience rating (9.59) of any team in the big leagues in 2013. The Cardinals (7.89) finished slightly ahead of Detroit (7.72) for the top spot in 2014
Ilitch emphasized Wednesday there was no disaffection with Allen, who has been a Tigers analyst the past 13 years and who in 2015 will share time on a rotating basis with Gibson and Morris. It was disclosed Wednesday by the Tigers that Allen will, in fact, be a regular on Tigers telecasts in 2015, appearing on FSD's pre-game and post-game shows when he is not taking his turn as Impemba's partner.
"Working in the beginning with Greg Hammaren (FSD senior vice president and general manager), we felt there were some Tigers players we could add," Ilitch said. "We're just trying to make the sport more interesting.
"In some of these towns, you get some guys on there who don't know the game, or they're people who exaggerate. You've instead got to get people who really love the game. People who are knowledgeable, and interesting, and local."
The Tigers owner, whose affection for "stars" has been on display with his baseball team as well as with his other pro sports franchise, the Red Wings, is banking along with FSD that Gibson and Morris will add more dimension and luster to Tigers telecasts.
Gibson was a dramatic star for the Tigers on their last world championship team, in 1984, as was Morris, who was the team's ace pitcher during the 1980s, when the Tigers had the decade's best win-loss record.
Morris in his post-pitching career has been a radio/TV analyst for the Blue Jays and Twins and will unconventionally work on Twins as well as Tigers broadcasts in 2015. Morris auditioned during six Tigers games in 2014 as a potential broadcast-booth addition.
Gibson was the Tigers' regular TV analyst from 1998-2002 before he joined his old team as a bench coach for then-manager Alan Trammell. He was discharged following the 2005 season, along with Trammell, and coaches Lance Parrish and Bruce Fields, all of whom played for the Tigers during their '80s heyday, as did Allen, who played on the '84 title team.
Trammell now works as a special assistant to Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager. Parrish is the club's manager at Double A Erie, while Fields is the Tigers' roving minor-league hitting instructor.
Gibson's return makes for a full reunion among a six-man cast of ex-teammates, coaches, and in the persons of Gibson, Morris, and Allen, broadcasters.
Ilitch, who is 85, said Wednesday he was feeling "great" and that his focus on Tuesday's Tigers/FSD announcement was the sole motivation for having a rare conversation with media.
"I'm not a hound for publicity," Ilitch said, laughing.
A decade after he purchased the Red Wings in 1982, Ilitch bought the Tigers for $85 million. Forbes Magazine listed the Tigers' net worth in March, 2014, at $680 million, 15th among big-league teams.
The Tigers are part of his family's vast business ventures, under the Ilitch Holdings corporate umbrella, and headed by Little Caesars Pizza.
"I just wanted to make it straight," Ilitch said, repeating his zeal for bringing aboard Gibson and Morris. "In other words, just like I said, we've got to have more knowledge and make it (telecasts) more interesting to the people."