BORN: JULY 31, 1958, GRAND HAVEN, MI
pitching talents of Grand Haven's Howard Bailey made him one of the area's
handful of baseball players to rise to the highest level of professional
baseball. He had the added good fortune of playing for
Michigan's own Detroit Tigers for three seasons (1981-1983), when the Tigers
were assembling one of the finest clubs in their history - a team that
dominated Major League baseball in the year following Bailey's last season
with the club.
Howard's prep career at Grand Haven High School began in 1973, the final year of famed Buccaneer baseball coach Steve Sluka's tenure at the school. In his junior and senior years (1974-75) under Dan Bouma and Jack Sikkenga, Bailey was mainly a position player and did not pitch regularly until his senior year. By this time he was perfecting his craft as a pitcher in the Grand Haven summer leagues and in the Muskegon Inter-City League at Marsh Field. He decided to enroll at Muskegon Community College in the fall of 1975 and pitched one year for the Jayhawks under Coach Al Hernandez. The following year he transferred to Grand Valley State University and pitched for the Laker teams coached by former big league hurler Phil Regan in 1977 and 1978. Regan's expert tutelage helped Bailey's development considerably and he was recruited to play for the Grand Rapids Sullivans, a top amateur nine run with a long history of developing baseball talent.
Bob Sullivan, scouting for the Detroit Tigers convinced Howard of his potential and in August 1978 he signed a contract to play with Lakeland, Fla, a Class-A farm club of the Tigers. After posting an 8-12 record with Lakeland in 1979, he was promoted to Class AA Montgomery in 1980 and notched a 12-12 mark. He was invited to the Tigers' spring training roster in 1981 and ended up on the pitching staff of Sparky Anderson's parent club. After a disappointing 1-4 start, he was sent down for more seasoning at AAA Evansville, coached by Jim Leyland. He began the 1982 season with Evansville. A respectable 11-10 record resulted in another call-up to Detroit at season's end. He remained with Detroit in 1983 and posted a 5-5 record with the Tigers before arm troubles began to threaten his career. He returned to the minors with Evansville and Montgomery in 1984, However, the chronic sore arm prevented him from joining the 1984 World Championship Tiger club. He was eventually sold to Baltimore and went to the 1985 Orioles spring training camp, but the arm troubles persisted and Bailey decided it was time to retire.
After baseball, Bailey focused his attention on the sport of sheet shooting, earning a world championship in 1990 at Savannah, GA.
BORN: MARCH 28, 1902, BESSEMER, MI
DIED: APRIL 16, 1978, MESA, AZ
William "Flop" Flora, a teammate of the great Bennie Oosterbaan both in high
school and college, ranks as one of the great football linemen from the
Muskegon area. Flora was an all-state tackle on J. Francis Jacks' mythical
state champion Muskegon Big Red grid teams of 1920 and 1921. After high
school, he enrolled at the University of Michigan and became a standout end
for the Wolverines from 1924 to 1926. In his first year with the Michigan
varsity, Coach George Little converted Flora from tackle to end and
he remained a starter at that position for the balance of his three-year
career with the Wolverines. He removed all doubts of his worth in the
Illinois game that season by proving to be the only Wolverine able to bottle
up the explosive running threat of the immortal Red Grange.
In 1925, the great Fielding Yost returned as head coach and solidified the Muskegon tandem of ends when Oosterbaan joined the squad to hold down the other end position along with Flora. A solid two-way player, Flop earned his nickname through his ferocious tackling - many an opposing player found himself "flopped" to the turf by the big junior. In the Navy contest that year, Flora executed one of the most remarkable plays in football history when he charged the Navy punter in his own end zone and literally snatched the pigskin from the punter's foot to give the Wolverines another touchdown in a 54-0 rout. Although playing in the shadow of Oosterbaan, his All-American teammate and college roommate, Flop's contribution to Michigan's winning teams earned him a selection to the East-West Shrine game in his senior year - an honor reserved for only the nation's finest collegiate gridders.
Offered the chance to play professional football with Frankford (later christened the Philadelphia Eagles) and other early NFL franchises, Flora continued his graduate studies at the Michigan's School of Medicine and eventually became a successful physician in the Detroit area, specializing in Urology. In his spare time, he served as an assistant football coach at Wayne State University for several years. He served with the US Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Flora retired in 1974 after over 40 years in his chosen field and died in Arizona in 1978.
BORN: DECEMBER 20, 1916, GRAND HAVEN, MI
DIED: DECEMBER 5, 2004, GRAND HAVEN, MI
over half a century Grand Haven's George "Yutz" Nietering was the most
accomplished bowler in the Grand Haven - Muskegon area. From the mid-1930s
up to his retirement from the sport in 1991, Nietering was consistently
ranked at the head of the list of local bowlers, maintaining top pin totals
and leading his teams to winning seasons. Despite his competitive success,
Nietering remained modest and easy-going - always popular
with teammates and competitors alike, a true gentleman and a credit to
the sport of bowling.
Nietering was introduced to bowling while still a teenager, setting pins at Grand Haven's Seifert Alleys in the early 1930s. He soon participated in league play and quickly rose to the top of the ranks of local bowlers. At age 20 he was already posting averages around 200, a remarkable figure during the 1930s. Beginning with a straight-ball delivery, his scores improved dramatically once he developed a more effective hook-ball. In a 1936 practice session, he compiled an unheard-of 772 series, the best ever at that time in Grand Haven bowling circles.
By the late 1930's, Nietering began bowling in top-ranked leagues in Muskegon and averaged 191 over the next 20 years. In 1940, he led the crack Wolverine Express teams in establishing a record single game team total of 1230 pins. Two weeks later, his team set another local record with a team series of 3165 pins. In 1942, "Yutz" rolled the highest ABC-sanctioned single series in Muskegon - a 762 series in five-man league play. The record lasted for 23 years. By this time, Nietering was taking his bowling skills to tournament action throughout the region, winning the prestigious Jack Sharkey Singles Classic in Battle Creek in 1948 and finishing in the money at the Peterson Classic in Chicago in 1955. He also was competing in league play in Grand Rapids and fared well enough in that bowling hotbed to be named to the Grand Rapids Herald's All-City team in 1951 with Furniture City legends like Billy Golembiewski. During his prime years Nietering competed in 10 ABC National tournaments, always finishing on the prize list.
Throughout the decades of the 1950's through the 1980's, Nietering continued to bowl regularly in Muskegon and Grand Haven, winning numerous individual trophies in singles, doubles and all-events competition. During the 1957-58 season, Nietering became the first Muskegon league bowler to finish with an average of over 200 pins per game - 202 to be exact. He attained bowling perfection - the 300 game - on two occasions: once in a practice game at Muskegon's Maple Lanes in 1953 and once more in League competition at Grand Haven in 1972. A rotator cuff injury in his bowling shoulder forced Nietering to give up the sport for good in 1991.