Amid pandemic, ex-Detroit Tiger Denny McLain is selling off some of his sports collection

©Detroit Free Press

Nearly a year after his wife died, Denny McLain — the both beloved and bedeviled former Detroit Tiger — is holding an estate sale.

A two-time Cy Young award-winner, who also once famously claimed he drank a case of Pepsi a day and ended up in prison twice, is hoping to sell a few thousand sports memorabilia items, a fraction of what he’s collected for decades.

He also aims to part with everything in his 3,500-square-foot Wixom home at 53201 Maranatha Lane.

“What we’re finding — and it’s the same with Denny — is that with COVID, a lot of people’s lives are changing,” said Aaron Siepierski, who is setting up the sale. “They want to be more nimble and tied down with less things.”

Denny McLain signed baseball gloves and much more from the 1968 World Series.

In addition to being able to buy a bit of baseball history, the sale also means that you might get a chance to meet McLain and get his autograph. The 76-year-old former pitcher — whose baseball career and life has been marked with ups and downs — is expected to be on hand all four days of the sale.

“Denny lost his wife,” Siepierski said, adding that it’s another reason why he is holding the sale and eventually plans to downsize to another home. “He wants to be free of stuff, so he can move through life a lot easier.”

McLain’s memorabilia is mostly from the 1930s through the 1970s.

For buyers who purchased $200 and $400 advance tickets, the sale begins Thursday at the home. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, the sale opens to the public at no charge. A preview of some items can be found at aaronsestatesales.com/sale/2623755.

If you go, you must wear a mask, and the home will be open to about 15 people at a time.

Born in Illinois, McLain played on his high school baseball team in Chicago.

As a teen, he met his late wife, Sharon, the daughter of former Cleveland Indians player and manager Lou Boudreau.

McLain, Siepierski said, inherited some of his sports collection from his father-in-law.

After the pitcher graduated high school in 1962, he joined the Chicago White Sox as a free agent. He played in the minor leagues. A year later, he joined the Tigers. At 19, he made his Major League debut.

In 1966, he was elevated to starting pitcher.

Two years later, he set a Tigers season pitching record that stood until it was broken by Justin Verlander in 2016. He was on the cover of Time, and he won both the American League Cy Young Award and the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

The Tigers landed the American League pennant and became World Series champions.

But by 1969, the standout player with a colorful personality also began to get into serious trouble.

He missed the start of a game reportedly because of a dentist appointment, and the next year, Sports Illustrated began reporting that he had a gambling problem and was struggled to pay his debts. He also was accused of setting up his own bookmaking operation.

As a result, baseball suspended him — and he filed for bankruptcy.

But his woes only got worse.

In 1985, he served served time in prison for cocaine possession and went to rehab. His wife divorced him — but later forgave him and they remarried. In 1992, his oldest daughter was killed by a drunk driver. And in 1996, he went to prison a second time on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

As part of his work-release program, he ended up behind the counter of a 7-Eleven.

In 2007, he co-wrote an autobiography, I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect.

McLain, who had gained considerable weight, decided to undergo bariatric surgery in 2013. Within a year, he had lost more than 160 pounds. He told news outlets he was concerned for his health, but mostly wanted to be able to better care for his wife, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

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If you go

The estate sale is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday at 53201 Maranatha Lane in Wixom. Tickets for an advance VIP opening Thursday can be purchased at bit.ly/3ew2Yrj. A preview of items can be found online at aaronsestatesales.com/sale/2623755.

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©2020 Detroit Free Press