Published January 16, 2017

These are the times that try sports fans’ souls—in Detroit.

The Lions went up in flames in the playoffs. The Red Wings are a shell of their former selves. The Pistons are back to being unlikable and annoying after one season in the playoffs. The Tigers could go either way, and they don’t throw the first pitch for almost 90 days anyhow.

But let’s have some fun with all this.

I got to thinking that we have quite a history of ignominious sports stories in our town, so let’s see how much of that history you know.

This isn’t a fancy-shmancy, high-tech quiz. You’ll need a separate piece of paper and a pencil to keep track of your answers. The correct ones can be found at the bottom, so no peeking!

Please share this with anyone you think might find this a nice little challenge on MLK Day.

Ready? Grab your paper and pencil. I’ll wait.

Got it?

OK, let’s go!

Question 1.

The Pistons, in their pre-Cobo Arena days, once played an NBA playoff game in a local high school gym, because Olympia Stadium and Calihan Hall were predisposed. In what HS did the Pistons play a nationally-televised playoff game against the (then) Minneapolis Lakers?

A. Grosse Pointe

B. Redford Bishop Borgess

C. Detroit Northwestern

D. Cass Technical

Question 2.

This colorful, well-traveled NFL running back once told Lions coach Harry Gilmer, “If you want a messenger, send for Western Union,” when Gilmer told him to deliver a play call into the huddle.

A. Hugh McElhenny

B. Hopalong Cassady

C. Joe Don Looney

D. John Henry Johnson

Question 3.

True or False. Manager Billy Martin once punched out a Tigers pitcher behind a Detroit watering hole.

Question 4.

This popular Red Wing’s grooming habits once drew the ire of coach Ned Harkness.

A. Gary Bergman

B. Garry Unger

C. Marcel Dionne

D. Mickey Redmond

Question 5.

This Lions player crowed, on the eve of an exhibition game against the AFL’s Denver Broncos, that he would “walk home from Denver” if the Lions lost. 

A. Mike Lucci

B. Lem Barney

C. Mel Farr

D. Alex Karras

Question 6.

Most Lions fans worth their salt know that their team lost a playoff game in Dallas, 5-0, in 1970. But do you know which Lions receiver let a pass deflect off his hands and into the arms of Cowboys defensive back Mel Renfro, thus killing a potential game-winning TD drive in the closing minutes? 

A. Charlie Sanders

B. Earl McCullouch

C. Ron Jessie

D. Craig Cotton

Question 7.

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s fall from grace started in spring training, 1977, when he injured his knee while shagging fly balls in Lakeland. Which teammate warned Bird moments before the injury, not to goof around?

A. Tom Veryzer

B. Ron LeFlore

C. Dave Roberts

D. Rusty Staub

Question 8.

In the early 1960s, with the Pistons struggling as usual and contemplating a coaching change, GM Don Wattrick wanted to hire a former Piston as coach, but Wattrick told his first choice, “If you weren’t black, you’d be the answer to all my problems.” To whom did Wattrick utter those words?

A. Sweetwater Clifton

B. Earl Lloyd

C. Ray Scott

D. Walter Dukes

Question 9.

What was new Red Wings GM Ted Lindsay’s slogan after he was hired in 1977?

A. “The Wings Are Back!”

B. “Stanley Cup or Bust!”

C. “Aggressive Hockey Is Back In Town!”

D. “Make the Red Wings Great Again!”

Question 10.

Speaking of slogans, when the Pistons hired Dickie Vitale as coach in 1978, what play on words did Vitale coin to characterize his team? (no multiple choice here; just write down your answer)

Question 11.

Match the beleaguered Lions coach with his ignominious item:

A. Marty Mornhinweg                                                      1. Dropped dead of a heart attack during                                                                                                    training camp

B. Rod Marinelli                                                                2. “I don’t coach that stuff!”

C. Bobby Ross                                                                    3. “Pound the rock”

D. Darryl Rogers                                                               4. “The bar is high”

E. Wayne Fontes                                                               5. Pelted by snowballs by enraged Lions                                                                                                    fans

F. Harry Gilmer                                                                 6. “What does a guy have to do to get                                                                                                          fired around here?”

G. Don McCafferty                                                            7. “I’m the Big Buck”

Question 12.

Which former Tiger said this about his youth: “In high school I took a little math, a little science, some hubcaps and some wheelcovers”

A. Ron LeFlore

B. Willie Horton

C. Jim Northrup

D. Gates Brown

Question 13.

In the 1994 playoffs at Green Bay, this was Barry Sanders’ rushing total for the game.

A. 3 yards

B. 5 yards

C. -1 yard

D. 22 yards

Question 14.

This former Piston became the team’s youngest-ever coach, at age 24.

A. Dave Bing

B. Howard Komives

C. Dave DeBusschere

D. Ray Scott

Question 15.

The Lions went winless vs. the Packers on the road between 1992-2014. In their 1991 victory, this man returned a punt for a touchdown.

A. Herman Hunter

B. Mel Gray

C. Brett Perriman

D. Aubrey Matthews

Question 16.

In Game 7 of the 1934 World Series, this St. Louis Cardinal was removed from the game by Commissioner Landis for his own safety, to protect him from irate Tigers fans who pelted him with litter and fruit—angry at him for a hard slide into 3B Marv Owen.

A. Joe “Ducky” Medwick

B. Enos Slaughter

C. Frankie Frisch

D. Dizzy Dean

Question 17.

This Lions player guaranteed a playoff victory in Philadelphia in 1995. The Lions lost, 58-37, after falling behind 51-7.

A. Chris Spielman

B. Barry Sanders

C. Herman Moore

D. Lomas Brown

Question 18.

On January 2, 1971, the Red Wings lost 13-0, on the road. Which team administered that beat down?

A. New York Rangers

B. Toronto Maple Leafs

C. Montreal Canadiens

D. Philadelphia Flyers

Question 19.

In the summer of 1989, the Red Wings traded Paul MacLean and Adam Oates in what turned out to be a very one-sided deal. Who was the featured player the Red Wings got in return?

A. Darryl Sittler

B. Borje Salming

C. Bernie Federko

D. Ron Duguay

Question 20.

In 1966, the Pistons drafted Dave Bing with the no. 2 overall pick. But they felt disappointed that they couldn’t draft this player instead, losing a coin flip to the New York Knicks.

A. Cazzie Russell

B. Dave DeBusschere

C. Walt Bellamy

D. Willis Reed



  1. A
  2. C
  3. False. Martin punched out Dave Boswell, his own pitcher, when Billy managed the Minnesota Twins. The incident happened behind the Lindell AC at Cass and Michigan Avenue, in 1969.
  4. B (long hair)
  5. D (the Lions lost but Karras got on the plane anyway)
  6. B
  7. D
  8. B
  9. C
  10. “ReVitaleized”
  11. A-4; B-3; C-2; D-6; E-7; F-5; G-1
  12. D
  13. C
  14. C (player-coach, 1964)
  15. B
  16. A
  17. D
  18. B (Leafs scored seven goals in the third period)
  19. C (Red Wings also received Tony McKegney; ironically, the Red Wings could have drafted Federko in 1976 but opted for the bust who was Fred Williams)
  20. A

Scoring scale:

18-20: Expert on ignominy

15-17: Will win many bar bets

12-14: You pay attention most of the time

10-11: Meh

Less than 10: Move to Cleveland!

Please share this post with others who you feel will have fun with it!