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Former Tigers GM Bill Lajoie dies

Dec 29, 2010, 10:08 AM EDT

Bill Jajoie

Sad news:

Longtime baseball executive Bill Lajoie, whose eye for talent helped build the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1984 World Series championship, died Tuesday. He was 76.

The key to that Tigers team’s success was not Lajoie’s general manager moves, however. It was the work he had put in the previous fifteen or sixteen years as a Tigers scout, head of scouting, assistant GM and vice president of baseball operations.  During those years he found and signed Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish. As GM his trade for Willie Hernandez prior to the 1984 season sealed the deal, however.

After leaving Detroit, Lajoie worked for the Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Braves and Brewers in various capacities.

As I write this, I have in front of me my 1979 Tigers yearbook.  Pages 4-6 features team ownership and front office staff.  Lajoie is pictured there along with 30 other random executives.  He’s one of maybe three or four who look like they were born in the 20th century.  I know very little about the Tigers’ front office of that era, but knowing who Lajoie and his staff were responsible for brining in to Detroit — and knowing how tradition-bound the team was under owner John Fetzer — it’s not hard to imagine that Lajoie was the first one in the office each day, the first one who had a computer desk and all of that.

Maybe that’s just fancy on my part and Lajoie was a fuddy-duddy. But he was responsible for the most comprehensive overhaul the Tigers ever experienced, and for helping put together a team against which all future Tigers teams will be measured.

  1. Old Gator - Dec 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    Craig, I’m betting there’s a “yes” at the end of this question but was he related to the great Nap Lajoie?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 29, 2010 at 10:29 AM

      I have no idea. Off to Google it.

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 29, 2010 at 10:40 AM

        Yes, he was descended from Nap Lajoie. Bill pronounced his last name La-JOY though.

  2. heiniemanush - Dec 29, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    Good point about Lajoie’s attributes as a scout, the Tigers were churning out studs all throughout the late 70s and early 80s. But while I remember him fondly as being the GM of the last Tigers’ championship team, the team’s infrastructure eroded under his watch, leading to poor drafts and a long decline. Still, Bill was a stellar baseball man and will be missed.

  3. Detroit Michael - Dec 29, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    He was indeed a stellar baseball man, but in retrospect, the Tigers farm system really dried up during years when Lajoie held senior positions. There was a prolonged dry spell during which Mike Henneman and Travis Fryman were the only players of note to be produced for a very long time.

    • JBerardi - Dec 29, 2010 at 11:16 AM

      You’d think that a guy who “…found and signed Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish.” would be the last one to neglect his farm system. What was the problem? Not spending on the draft? Not making good picks? Trading away prospects? Something else?

      • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 29, 2010 at 11:19 AM

        My guess: the Peter Principle. He was a great scout/scouting director himself, but was promoted up to a position or which he was not suited. Meanwhile, the scouts/scouting directors who replaced him were nowhere near as good at it as he was.

        Also worth noting that the mid-70s Tigers were terrible and drafted pretty high for a couple of years while the 80s Tigers were always good. That’s probably not enough to explain the talent drought, but it had to be part of it.

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