Detroit great finishes work release

Updated: October 28, 2003, 11:09 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Two-time Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain says he is sorry and ready to start a new life. The former Detroit Tigers great recently finished a six-month work-release program after spending six years in federal prison for embezzlement, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy.

"No one is sorrier for what happened than I am," the 59-year-old told The Detroit News for a story Tuesday.

"Nobody. And whatever it was, I did the time. I paid a ... price for whatever this was. That's probably going to be good enough for some people. Maybe not good enough for all of the people."

McLain captivated Detroit and the country in 1968 as he pitched his way to 30 victories -- the first time that feat had been accomplished since Dizzy Dean did it in 1934.

But his success on the mound was marred by brushes with the law. He was sent to prison twice after leading the Tigers to the 1968 World Series championship.

On the field, he also ran into trouble. In 1970, then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended McLain for his involvement in gambling. McLain later was suspended twice more by the Tigers -- once for dumping water on two sports writers.

McLain later took to the airwaves as a local morning talk-show host. That career was cut short after he was indicted in March 1984 on charges of racketeering, extortion and cocaine trafficking and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Two-and-a-half years later, an appeals court threw out the verdict, setting him free. The government decided not to retry the case.

In 1993, he and an associate bought Peet Packing in Chesaning. Within a month after the sale, $3 million was taken from the company's pension fund, and by 1995 the company was bankrupt.

McLain and his partner were convicted on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy, and in June 1997 he began his eight-year sentence at a federal prison camp for nonviolent offenders. For the work-release program, he worked at a Sterling Heights 7-Eleven.

All along, he maintained his innocence. But his two appeals for a new trial were both rejected.

McLain says the experience behind bars has been all too sobering.

"It was packed in there, but I was very lonely," he said. "The boredom in a prison just kills you," he told the Detroit Free Press.

The greater sense of regret, he says, stems from the way he handled his life off the field. McLain says he's particularly haunted by the death of his daughter, Kristin, who was killed by a drunken driver in a 1992 automobile accident.

McLain says his sights are now focused on spending time with his family, which now includes five grandchildren and his wife Sharyn, who he remarried 40 years after their first marriage.

He also says he would like to return to radio.

"I really want to do radio again in a major way, and hopefully an opportunity will come about soon," he said. "I enjoy the pace and excitement of radio and giving guests the opportunity to say what they want."

McLain's colleagues are hopeful this time will be the charm.

"I believe in forgiveness," said Ernie Harwell, the retired longtime Tigers radio announcer. "Denny's had a lot of lives. He's come back and then fallen again, so we'll have to wait and see."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press