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When Less Moss was fired and replaced with Sparky Anderson


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With nothing else to write about during the MLB shutdown,  the baseball beat reporters are reaching back in the archives for even the most arcane things to write about.  Lynn Henning wrote this story today in the Detroit News:


This was a long time ago, 1979, and I realize hardly anyone (maybe nobody) cares, but I've got this story about how I knew they were thinking about firing Les Moss, the Tiger manager, a couple of days before they actually did it.  And without the background context that Henning provides in the link, the story is just too obscure to stand on its own.  Sort of an obscure personal footnote to a very obscure baseball historical footnote.

In June 1979 I was working in what would now be called the I.T. department at the Detroit Free Press.   About four of us shared the same phone number although we had separate phones with multiple lines.  Our number was just one digit different than the sports department so sometimes we would get their calls or when all their lines were busy their calls would bleed into our lines.  So the phone rings one morning and I grab it but Nobel Holloway III answers it first.  Noble's mind usually occupied a different space than anyone else's so you could never be sure what he might say.  So the guy on the phone says, " Is it true the Tigers are going to fire Les Moss?"  So rather than tell the guy that he's got the wrong number and transfer him to the sports department, he says "Gee I don't know" and he hangs up.   Then a couple of days later, Less Moss was fired just as Henning explains in his article.  

OK, that's the whole story.  Like Henning, I don't have much to write about during the quarantine. 

Actually I have a much better Free Press story that involves the same phone system and a guy that would call us occasionally whose Black Muslim name supposedly translated to the Black Messenger of Death.  And as it turned out he actually was the messenger of death and our number is the one he meant to call, he wasn't trying to call the sports department.  But that's a much better more dramatic story for another time.          


Edited by walker
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On 5/21/2020 at 10:29 PM, walker said:

. . . Actually I have a much better Free Press story that involves the same phone system and a guy that would call us occasionally whose Black Muslim name supposedly translated to the Black Messenger of Death.  And as it turned out he actually was the messenger of death and our number is the one he meant to call, he wasn't trying to call the sports department.  But that's a much better more dramatic story for another time.        


It's been two years since I posted the original post above and since then the Detroit News has put up a pay wall so you can no longer read the link to Henning's story without a subscription.  So now I'll tell the better story that involves the same phone system  in our department at the Free Press but has nothing to do with sports.

Roger Taylor, a computer programmer, and an ex-Ohio State hockey player was a relatively new employee at the Free Press.   Previously he had worked at Henry Ford Hospital.  Roger also loved to work on cars.  At the hospital with Roger there was a guy who had worked there with him that had an old Cadillac that needed a lot of work and Roger was happy to help him with it.  After Roger started at the Free Press the guy would call up and identify himself as  Ameer Al-Mumeet Mujahiid and ask for Roger.  Roger told us that was the guy's Black Muslim name and it allegedly translated to "the black messenger of death."  So it was always fun when he called to put him on hold and yell out to Roger that the messenger of death was waiting for him on line two (or whatever.)  He called often to talk about cars or hockey but I think mostly he called because he was lonely and he was unemployed at the time.  While waiting for Roger to pick up the phone I'd talk to him sometimes.  Despite his name, he was actually fun to talk with. 

So in early May 1979 (about a month before Les Moss was fired in the unrelated story in the original post above,)  Roger comes in to work a little shaken and says that the messenger had called him at home the night before.   After talking with Roger for a while about hockey, he gets around to what he was really calling about.  He was making his one call from jail, he had just shot and killed a man outside Baker's Keyboard Lounge.  Back then Baker's Keyboard Lounge was known as one of the most elite venues for jazz in the country.  His victim was the headliner that evening,  Eddie Jefferson, a jazz singer of some renown who was known as the creator of vocalese (the technique of putting recorded instrumental solos to words.)

The story is that Ameer Al-Mumeet Mujahiid once worked with Mr. Jefferson in New York City a decade or so earlier as a tap dancer and he had approached him at the lounge about giving him a job.  Jefferson didn't need a dancer and turned him down.  The messenger wasn't happy with the response.

Here's a couple of links about Eddie Jefferson that explains vocalese and his importance and they end with his murder:

WIKIPEDIA: Eddie_Jefferson

ALLMUSIC: eddie-jefferson

And here is a video of Jefferson and his then young partner, Richie Cole, playing just a day or two earlier in Chicago - Jefferson appears in the video starting at about 5:20:

Eddie Jefferson - Live from the Jazz Showcase starring Richie Cole

Richie Cole became an alcoholic after that and some people think that witnessing the murder of his mentor was the cause.  It's likely but whose to say, since being an alcoholic or heavy drug user seems to be a common occupational hazard for  jazz musicians anyway.  Cole, went on to have a long career and he just died recently right around the time I wrote the original post. 

So what happened to Ameer Al-Mumeet Mujahiid aka William Perryman?  Roger couldn't help him.  After all he went to college to play hockey- not to become a lawyer,  I told Roger that the messenger was going to prison for a long time and every day he'd think about who didn't help him and then he'd eventually get out,  Turns out I was wrong, the messenger was appointed a very good defense lawyer and  after a three week trial he was found not guilty and went free even though it was clear he did it..   

  EDIT: even though Jefferson was the more or less inventor of vocalese, I think there are better examples of it than his last recorded performance.  Here is an example of  vocalese I like by Joni Mitchell of her adding lyrics to a Charlie Mingus jazz instrumental tune:

Joni Mitchell - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat  

ANOTHER LATE EDIT:   I realize no one is likely reading this old post other than crawler bots.  And if anyone does read it, they are not likely to stay with it this deep into it.  But YouTube just recommended to me this interview of Ritchie Cole done in 2010 and I have to include it.  I found the whole interview very interesting. it covers Cole's whole life (up to the time of the interview.)  Around the eight minute mark he's asked about Eddie Jefferson who he worked with for around five years until Jefferson was murdered.  He says he doesn't want to talk about the murder but then he does, and he mentions with some bitterness the messenger, aka Bill Perryman:

"I'm The Luckiest Guy I Know!" ~ The Real Richie Cole ~ 2010  

Edited by walker
added a couple of clarifying videos
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