Detroit has been blessed with a rich history of great players in all sports. Even better, some of the best nicknames in sports have come from this area. I put together a list of my top 10 favorites with a few honorable mentions. There were so many to choose from, so it was difficult to make this list as any of these mentioned, I am sure, are favorites of many Detroit fans. I am also sure I may have missed a few.
Dick “Night Train” Lane
This seven-time Pro Bowler played for the Lions from 1960-1965. He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1974. He still holds the NFL record of 14 interceptions in one season.
“Megatron” Calvin Johnson
Calvin was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft and gave Lions fans nine years of Hall of Fame quality play. He holds the NFL record with 1,964 yards in one season and was elected to six Pro Bowls.
“Sweet Lou” Whitaker
One of my personal favorites who I watched his entire career. There was nothing better than hearing the crowd yell “Lou” when he came to the plate or when he made a dazzling play in the field. One-half of the greatest double play combo in MLB history, Lou was the Rookie of the Year in 1978 and he went on to play in 5 All-Star games and win 3 Gold Gloves. His pinnacle came in 1984 as Detroit won the World Series.
Mark “The Bird” Fidrych
1976 was a magical year as the Rookie of the Year dazzled not only Detroit fans, but the entire nation with his mound antics. While he only played five seasons due to injuries, his stardom will never dim. Fidrych will always be beloved in Detroit.
Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns
A Detroit legend, Hearns compiled 61 wins in 67 fights. I still remember the huge showdown with “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1981. WDIV was giving round by round results and commentary as I was glued to the television. He would also be involved in one of the most exciting fights in boxing history in 1985 against “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson
The ultimate role player, Johnson was instant offense. He played in Detroit from 1981-1991 and captured two NBA Championships with the Pistons. His shot with 0.7 seconds left sealed back-to-back titles in 1990 over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“The Georgia Peach” Ty Cobb
Playing in Detroit from 1905-1926, Cobb compiled 4,191 hits with a rugged, win at all cost, style. He still holds the MLB record with a career .367 average and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936.
Dennis “The Worm” Rodman
Rodman was an electric figure in Detroit playing from 1986-1993 capturing two NBA Championships. He was the 2-time NBA defensive player of the year and was on the NBA “All Defense” first team seven times. Rodman also led the NBA in rebounding seven straight seasons. What Rodman was able to do at six-foot-seven may never be duplicated.
“Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe
The accolade “Mr. Hockey” basically says it all. Howe played in Detroit from 1946-1971 and held major every offensive record in hockey until “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky came along. A member of the 1972 Hockey Hall of Fame class, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest athletes Detroit has ever seen.
“The Brown Bomber” Joe Louis
Not many things say Detroit more than Joe Louis. The Heavyweight Champion dominated his sport with a record of 66-3 over 18 years of competition. His battles with Max Baer, Max Schmeling, Jersey Joe Walcott, and finally Rocky Marciano are legendary. Joe Louis Arena was a centerpiece of downtown Detroit from 1979-2017. The monument to Joe Louis “The Fist” still graces Hart Plaza.
A few other names that came to mind included Earvin “Magic” Johnson who is not associated with Detroit, but being so close in East Lansing, I had to consider it. “Terrible Ted” Lindsay, “The Dominator” Dominik Hasek, “The Grim Reaper” Stu Grimson, and Robert “Tractor” Traylor were a few more that came to mind.