Ex-News reporter, Tigers PR chief Dan Ewald dies at 73

By Tony Paul and Lynn Henning, The Detroit News
Dan Ewald, right, and late Tigers manager Sparky Anderson had a great friendship that lasted more than four decades.

A man whose visibility, initially, came by way of the Tigers and The Detroit News, and who went on to a broader career in sports media, has died.

Dan Ewald, who was the the Tigers beat writer for The News from 1973 into the 1976 season, on Wednesday lost his battle with Alzheimer's Disease, a family friend confirmed. Ewald was 73.

He became The News' primary Tigers writer after Watson Spoelstra retired following the 1972 season. He left in 1976 to become sports editor of the Grand Rapids Press, but soon returned to Detroit, this time with the Tigers, as head of media and public relations.

He spent 18 years with the Tigers before departing to work as a media-relations and administrative aide to late Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, with whom he had a kinship, professionally and personally. Ewald booked Anderson for commercial, speaking engagements and the like, and helped with charity endeavors, like Anderson's wildly successful Metro Detroit children's hospital initiative, CATCH, which still is going strong today. Ewald and Anderson never had a signed contract on compensation, just a hand-shake agreement.

Ewald wrote two books with Anderson, including "Sparky and Me" in 2012, which shared the details and stories from their final visit, in October 2010, set at Anderson's kitchen at his home in Thousand Oaks, California, before Anderson died in November 2010. Anderson suffered from dementia, and was 76.

"I started writing memories down just to satisfy myself," Ewald said in an interview with The News in 2012. "And it was therapeutic, really. And I kept doing it and kept doing it.

"Finally, I said I'd like to share this with people to show what kind of person he is."

Ewald and Anderson first met in 1971, when Ewald, then at The News, was assigned to write a story on the National League manager for the All-Star Game, at Tiger Stadium that year. That was Anderson.

"You could always get a story out of him," Ewald said of his days as a reporter. "If you were hitting a dry spell, you didn't have to worry.

"He'd give you a story."

They continued to occasionally run across each other's paths when Ewald was on the beat, and became fast friends after Anderson was hired to be Tigers manager in 1979. After Anderson's retirement following the 1995 season, they remained regular companions, Ewald, of course, accompanying Anderson to his Hall-of-Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2000.

Ewald also worked on Anderson's book, "Bless You Boys," a diary of of the 1984 world-championship season. He wrote additional books during his post-Tigers years, one co-authored with late Tigers broadcaster George Kell, as well as "The Detroit Tigers Encyclopedia."

His book projects included, as well, University of Michigan football. Ewald co-wrote with Jon Falk, the long-time Michigan football equipment manager, "Forty Years in The Big House," a lively account of Falk's years and experiences in the thick of Michigan's daily football operations.

Ewald remained close to his media and Tigers brethren over the years, long attending Monday night football get-togethers will Bill Brown, the long-time Tigers traveling secretary, and Tom Gage, The Detroit News' Hall-of-Fame Tigers writer who succeeded Ewald on the beat.

Ewald lived in Troy. Arrangements weren't immediately available late Wednesday night.