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Bo Gets Ax by Fax : Tigers' Message to Schembechler: You're Fired

August 04, 1992|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Detroit Tigers faxed a greeting to club President Bo Schembechler and his wife, Millie, as they celebrated a wedding anniversary at home Monday.

It wasn't among the most sentimental messages the Schembechlers received.

Owner Tom Monaghan, who is selling the team, notified the former University of Michigan football coach via the impersonal machine that he was being fired.

Monaghan released a statement, citing personal differences with Schembechler, a longtime friend who joined the Tigers in January of 1990 after 21 years as Michigan's coach.

Jim Campbell, chief executive officer who has been with the club since 1949, was also fired by Monaghan, who said in the statement that he would become club president, pending completion of the sale to Detroit businessman Mike Ilitch. Campbell's tenure was the longest among active major league executives with one club.

Monaghan praised Campbell in his statement, but made no mention of Schembechler other than to cite their personal differences.

"Jim has been an invaluable ally, confidant and consultant throughout my years as the Tigers' owner," Monaghan said. "I will miss working with him very much."

Neither Schembechler nor Campbell could be reached for comment.

Sources close to the Tigers suggested that Ilitch, the prospective buyer, was not interested in retaining either of the two and demanded that Monaghan fire them as a prerequisite of the sale.

The sources said, however, that there were definitely personality differences and that Schembechler felt betrayed by Monaghan's decision to sell and his restrictive economic policies leading up to that decision.

Schembechler was also disturbed, the sources said, to have been portrayed as the point man in last year's firing of the club's popular broadcaster, Ernie Harwell.

In addition, there have been reports in Detroit that Schembechler has been considering suing the Tigers for millions of dollars in contracted bonuses he had not received, but his assistant, Alice Sloane, said Monday that Schembechler had termed those reports ridiculous.

In his 2 1/2 years with the team, Schembechler was credited with restructuring and rebuilding a once-woeful farm system by upgrading facilities, introducing strength and conditioning programs and beefing up the coaching and medical staffs.

Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson said he was shaken by the development.

He said Campbell was his closest friend and the best executive he had ever served under. He said Schembechler never really had a chance, citing the collusion Schembechler "walked into" when he joined the club and the ensuing furor in Detroit over the firing of Harwell and the future of Tiger Stadium.

"The people in Detroit never really had a chance to see what he could do with the organization, given time and an unrestricted opportunity," Anderson said.

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