DETROIT -- To celebrate the 18th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game and Tenth Annual Negro Leagues Weekend, the Tigers invited several former players from different teams to be honored at Comerica Park.
On Saturday, as both the Tigers and Pirates donned the throwback uniforms of the Detroit Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords, nine former players held a question and answer session on the concourse for fans prior to an on-field tribute.
They relived the days of their baseball careers, covering everything from how much their paychecks were -- most averaged $300 a month -- to the speed of their fastballs -- none of the pitchers said under 100 mph -- to their experiences with Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige.
Minnie Forbes once played third base for the Kansas City Monarchs and Grand Rapids Black Sox before she took over the Stars and became the third female owner in Negro Leagues' history. Forbes, who has been part of the festivities before, was excited Saturday.
"I'm just honored to be here today and to be able to be recognized with the Detroit Stars," said Forbes on stage in front of crowd of fans gathered before the game in Comerica Park. "The organization was founded in 1919 and to be represented in their honor, thank you."
Other players included Jake Sanders, Pedro Sierra, Bill Hill, Joe Douse, Ron Teasley, Alton King and Melvin Duncan. All shared their stories before taking turns throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Leyland awed by Verlander's performance
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has spent much of his managerial career trying not to go overboard on praise. After 48 years in baseball, there isn't much he hasn't seen.
As he reflected back Saturday on Justin Verlander's no-hit bid Friday night, however, he couldn't stop the praise. He couldn't recall a better pitching performance -- not just from Verlander, who has two no-hitters to his credit, but from anyone.
"I've never seen anything like that," he said. "That's probably the best game I've ever seen pitched. I've seen a lot of games -- over 3,000. I don't know how you explain that. That's freaky. ...
"Anybody who was here last night probably saw one of the best games ever pitched in baseball."
The freakiness, he said, is in the velocity.
"Most guys go from 95 [mph] and then by the seventh inning they're down to 92, 91," Leyland continued. "This guy goes from 92 to 94 to 95 in the middle [innings] to 99 to 100 late. That's what is a freak. I'm not calling him a freak. I'm saying it's a freaky thing. I've never seen anything like it."
That's something Leyland and Tigers coaches spent years working with Verlander on doing. Leyland still remembers Hall of Famer Tom Seaver talking with Verlander about it when the Tigers visited the Mets two years ago. It wasn't just about pacing velocity for late, but looking at a lineup, knowing the tough outs and saving his max effort for them.
The way Verlander worked the Pirates lineup, saving his 98-99 mph fastballs for the seventh inning and the middle of the Pirates lineup, was a classic example. Yet it still might not have been at his maximum effort.
"The average person sees 98 on the scoreboard, but they don't see the same 98 I see," Leyland said. "I see the difference between the 98 that's more effort and the 98 that's effortless. There's a major difference in that. And that's what he did last night. When he got to 98-100, it was fluid. He wasn't muscling way up. If you really watch close you can see it. It's amazing to me."
Jackson, Valverde work out on field
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson and Jose Valverde worked out on the field at Comerica Park Saturday, playing catch and doing some running for the first time since suffering their respective injuries. Still, neither appears likely to return until the Tigers hit the road for Cleveland Tuesday.
Manager Jim Leyland said Valverde, who suffered a lower back strain Tuesday at Chicago, was feeling better Saturday and will play catch again Sunday morning.
"If he felt great, he may be available," Leyland said, "but I kind of doubt that. I kind of think maybe Tuesday in Cleveland. I can't swear to that though."
Jackson, too, said Saturday he was feeling more improvement from the abdominal strain he suffered Wednesday night against the Twins. He was going to try take some swings off a tee to see how he felt.
"The main thing is to see how far I can go with it and get a gauge from that," Jackson said.
If he feels well enough, he didn't rule out some limited availability Sunday.
"If I get out there and feel pretty good, I may be available to run if that [situation] presents itself," he said.
Boesch's hitting streak extends to 12 games
DETROIT -- Brennan Boesch's second-inning single Saturday extended his hitting streak to a career best of 12 games. During the first 11 games of the streak, he went 13-for-40 (.325). It also raised his batting average to .237, his highest point since April 18, which is also the last time the Tigers won back-to-back games.
Debate all you want how much Boesch's success ties into that of the Tigers, but it's hard to call it a pure coincidence.
"I hold my ground forever with Brennan Boesch," manager Jim Leyland said. "I love him to death. I think he's got a high ceiling. I don't feel any differently than I have about that. He's one of my favorites. ...
"On the other side of that coin is I'm working real hard, as well as some of the coaches, to just try to get him to learn the knack of relaxation. He's a very intense guy, very serious -- which there is nothing wrong with -- but I'd like to see him relax a little bit more at this level. But he's doing OK. He's better than that. There's more there."
That relaxation part played a partial role into Leyland's decision to move Boesch out of the second spot in the order, though Leyland said Saturday they wanted Andy Dirks up there for better production in front of their big hitters. Boesch's hitting streak began the day after he moved out of the second spot.
Boesch doesn't sound like the move has made a big difference in his approach, but he understands.
"I don't wake up in the morning saying I hope I bat eighth today," said Boesch, who has moved up to seventh the past few days. "It's not the most desired spot in the lineup, but I can't control that. If that's where I'm going to help the team most on that day, then that's where I'll be. I really don't think about it that much, to be honest."
The strangest superstition to come out of Justin Verlander's no-hit bid might have been Doug Fister's supposed re-enactment of Nate Robertson's gum-chewing habit.
"I remember Doug Fister in the dugout was [chewing] like a thousand gums," Ramon Santiago said. "He told me, 'This is my 15th.' Every inning, he was chewing gum. Everybody was staying in the same spot."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.