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December 09, 1994 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-12-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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42

. or nearly a dozen years,
Jerry Lewis and Jim Price
were known as the Detroit
Tigers fantasy camp guys.
Sparked by Mr. Lewis' idea, the
two men organized and ran week-
long winter camps based at the
Tigers' facilities in Lakeland, Fla.,
which gave about 100 "average
Joe's" a chance to play baseball
and socialize with former Tigers,
who acted as coaches.
The first camp was held prior to
the 1984 baseball season and it at-
tracted extensive local and nation-
al media attention because it was
such a novel concept. Only the
Chicago 'Cubs had done a similar
camp.
On April 1, however, Mr. Price, a
former Tiger catcher, broke off his
business ties with Mr. Lewis.
The Tigers had started their own
fantasy camp, called Dream Week,
and Mr. Price, the Tigers' director
of alumni relations and the play-by-
play announcer for the team's games
on the PASS cable network, was tak-
ing a major role in the operation.
Mr. Lewis' 12th camp is scheduled
for Feb. 5-12 in Lakeland. It will be
based at Henley Field, the Tigers' for-
mer spring training home.
The Tigers' Dream Week will be
held Jan. 29 through Feb. 5 at their
facilities in Lakeland, including
Marchant Stadium and Tigertown.
Hall of Famer Al Kaline will act as
camp commissioner.
Mr. Lewis, the president and
founder of Sports Fantasies who also
is a manufacturers rep for clothing, is
charging $2,995 for his camp. The
Tigers are asking $2,695.
In a March letter, the Tigers told
Mr. Lewis that he would no longer

STEVE STEIN STAFF WRITER

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have access to the team's Lakeland
facilities and he could not use their
logo on his advertising.
He is still, however, allowed to use
the Tigers' logo on uniforms which
are given to his campers.
Mr. Lewis' camp flier states: "not
affiliated with Detroit Baseball Club."
A graduate of Detroit Mumford
High School and Wayne State Uni-
versity, Mr. Lewis refuses to knock
the Tigers, a team he has followed for
many years. He says the Tigers have
a right to put on a camp.
But Mr. Lewis is worried about the
future of his operation and he says
he's disappointed that his 25-year
friendship with Mr. Price has deterio-
rated. They haven't spoken in
months.
"Jim and I ran our camps from
1984-94 with the tacit approval of the
Tigers," Mr. Lewis said. "When peo-
ple called the Tigers and asked about
the fantasy camp, the calls would be
referred to me. Obviously, that's not
happening anymore, and it's hurting
me.

"I'm concerned because the Tigers
are threatening my livelihood. I'm 49,
so I'm not quite retirement age, and I
have two daughters in college.
"What's so frustrating about this
for me is that I still love the Tigers.
I'm a season-ticket holder; I went to
40 of their 48 home games this year.
Even after what's happened, I'd like
to continue talking to them about the
camps. I can't believe there isn't any
room for future dialogue."
Mike Dietz, the Tigers' director of
marketing, said the club began its
own camp because it was encouraged
to do so by major league baseball.
"Almost all the teams have camps
now," Mr. Dietz said. "The only rea-
son we didn't start one the first year
(owner) Mr. (Mike) flitch bought the
club is that we had a lot of other
things to do, especially at Tiger Stadi-
um."
Why didn't the Tigers ask Mr.
Lewis to work on their camp?
"The bottom line is that Mr. Lewis
is not an employee of the Detroit
Tigers," Mr. Dietz said. "We have

enough people to plan and conduct
our Dream Week."
Mr. Lewis believes the best defense
against the Tigers' publicity machine
is the support of his more than 1,000
camp alumni, about 60 percent of
whom live in Michigan.
Many alumni have sent Mr. Lewis
letters and gifts after returning from
camp, and those gifts enjoy promi-
nent spots in the sports shrine which
doubles as Mr. Lewis' Southfield of-
fice.
"Our alumni are almost like a Ro-
tary club," Mr. Lewis said. "We have
lunches, dinners, a Super Bowl party,
a newsletter, we play ball during the
summer ..."
At last count, 95 people had signed
up for Mr. Lewis' 1995 camp, close to
his goal of 105. Some 48 registrants
are first-timers, and the rest are
alumni.
"What I've got to do is make this
year's camp a showcase," Mr. Lewis-
said. "That's my best strategy for sur-
vival."

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