The Obit For Billy Consolo


Conselo was valued Tiger coach, storyteller
Spent 13 seasons on Sparky's staff


HOUSTON -- Billy Consolo, the irrepressible storyteller who was a Tigers coach for much of Sparky Anderson's tenure as manager, died Thursday, apparently of a heart attack, at his home in Westlake Village, Calif. He was 73.

Consolo's death was confirmed by former Tigers public relations director Dan Ewald, a close friend of Consolo.

Consolo had became one of Anderson's best friends by 1951, when as high schoolers they played on the American Legion team from southern California that won the national title at Briggs Stadium. That ballpark had become Tiger Stadium by the time Anderson took over as Tigers manager in the middle of the 1979 season.

For the 1980 season, Anderson appointed Consolo to the coaching staff. Consolo remained on it through the 1992 season. Anderson stepped down after the 1995 season.

Beyond his baseball insight and his friendship with Anderson, Consolo was valuable as a coach because of how, in his raspy voice, he'd unfurl tales that could generate laughter among the Tigers no matter how much pressure the team was under.

Like a Mark Twain of the locker room, Consolo told stories so entertaining that a listener would forget to care where the fact might have ended and the fiction might have begun.

"Billy was a beautiful storyteller," Ewald said. "I think he'd pick things up on TV about history and geography. He could spin a story you might think was 100% true. It might have been. He didn't worry."

Consolo also had stories from his 10-year career as a part-time major league infielder.

"Billy told how he drove the ball into the alley and got an inside-the-park homer," Ewald said. "The umpire called him out for missing second base. Billy said he charged the umpire from the dugout and told him, 'You're wrong. I touched second base. I missed third. But I touched second.' "

Consolo batted .221 with little power in his career, spent primarily with the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators.

Ewald said Consolo sometimes wondered how much better of a big leaguer he would have been if he could have developed in the minors. Under the rules of the time, Consolo had to spend his first two pro years in the big leagues because of the size of the bonus the Red Sox gave him. He joined the Red Sox at 18.

"Sparky has said Billy was the finest athlete he's seen at that age," Ewald said.

Ewald never tired of hearing Consolo tell some stories over and over.

"Sometimes, when he would tell one of them again, you'd get a new piece," Ewald said. "That made it worth listening to the old stories."

Longtime Tigers coach Billy Consolo dies at age 73

The Associated Press 3/28/2008, 6:23 p.m. EDT

DETROIT (AP) — Former Tigers coach Billy Consolo has died of an apparent heart attack.

A longtime friend, former Tigers public relations director Dan Ewald, says Consolo died Thursday at age 73 at his home in Westlake Village, Calif.

Sparky Anderson and Consolo became close friends while playing high school baseball in southern California. Anderson became the Tigers' manager midway through the 1979 season and added Consolo to his coaching staff in 1980. Consolo retired after the 1992 season.

Booth Newspapers says Consolo was one of baseball's first "bonus babies" when he signed with Boston in 1953 and went straight from high school to the major leagues. He batted .221 in 10 seasons spent mainly with the Red Sox and Washington Senators.

Ewald says Consolo is survived by two brothers.