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Howe, Kaline cemented together

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – It’s not a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But it was just as meaningful for the five iconic Detroit personalities that preserved their hand prints in cement for the Detroit Historical Society’s Past>Forward campaign and Detroit’s Legends Plaza.
Detroit's Legends Plaza

Red Wings legends Gordie Howe did not attend Wednesday morning’s event on Woodward Avenue, as he’s spending the summer with his son, Mark, in the Jersey Shore. However, Mr. Hockey did make his prints last month for the museum (WATCH VIDEO BELOW), which was founded in 1921.

The five Detroiters that did get dirty their hands dirty Wednesday were Detroit Tigers’ great Al Kaline, basketball hall of famer Dave Bing, novelist Elmore Leonard, former radio broadcaster Dick Purtan, and Carmen Harlan, who is perhaps Detroit’s most-recognizable TV anchor.

Moving forward, the Historical Society hopes to gain enough hand-prints of famous Detroiters to eventually construct a walk of fame, which will lead to the museum’s main doors on Woodward. Kid Rock and Aretha Franklin are two other Detroiters who have committed to the project.

Howe’s absence was certainly missed Wednesday by the inductees, most of whom have known the Wings’ all-time scoring leader for a very long time.

“When I first got here, those were the two people that I met, Gordie and Al,” said Bing, who has been Detroit’s mayor since 2009. “They were already icons when I got here and we’ve developed and maintained a friendship over all of these years. So having the opportunity to go in with them is a great, great honor.

Bing averaged more than 22 points and nearly 8 assists a game for 10 seasons with the Detroit Pistons. A former consensus All-America at Syracuse, Bing has made a profound impact in Detroit, even after his playing career.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Bing said. “Having started my career here as an athlete, and then as a business person and now leading the city from a political standpoint, this is a great honor and I feel really good about it.”

Kaline, who still holds the Tigers’ career mark for home runs (399), said it’s a privilege whenever he can be associated with Gordie Howe.

“Anything that Gordie is a part of, I’m very happy to be a part of,” Kaline said. “Gordie is a great guy, and a great friend of mine, someone I’ve known since 1953.

“I remember the first time that I met Gordie. He shook my hand and almost squeezed it to death, because his hands are so big. … I remember Gordie coming out to Briggs Stadium at that time, taking batting practice; And seeing him with his shirt off and the muscles that he had.”

A former radio personality, Purtan entertained Detroiters with his whimsical brand of comedy with his cast of characters called “Purtan’s People” for 45 years. He too, has known Mr. Hockey for a very long time, and remembers how much Gordie could wow an audience, just by walking into a room.

“There was an event in the big banquet hall in Cobo Hall, and I picked Gordie up at his home,” Purtan recalled. “We drove downtown and had a great conversation. We parked the car and walked into the banquet hall together. He was in front of me by 3-4 feet and the place was packed with a couple thousand people, and as the people saw Gordie, I’m telling you, they parted like the waves in the Ten Commandments. It was unbelievable. I’ve never forgotten it. That’s Gordie Howe and that sums up what he has meant to this community. ... What a fabulous guy.”

A Detroiter since 1934, Leonard used to live a few blocks away from Howe in a cozy Lathrup Village neighborhood in Oakland County.

“There was a guy named W.C. Heinz, who came to do a piece about Gordie for The Saturday Evening Post,” Leonard recalled. “We were sitting around the house talking and finally we drove over to Olympia Stadium. We went behind the scenes and met all the players. That was fun. Gordie was fun to be with.”

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