Catholicism, Detroit Redwings, Detroit Tigers, Domino's Pizza, Jesus, Little Caesar's Pizza, Mike Ilitch, philanthropy, Tom Monaghan, ultra conservative Christians
If you have ever lived in a small town, you know that there are always back stories. Oddities and mysteries that sometimes are passed from generation to generation.
But, large cities are no exception, and this is the tale of the Pizza makers, and how they once ran an important industry in Detroit Michigan.
Yes, you heard that right. You would expect me to say GM or Ford no doubt, but instead I speak of Domino’s Pizza and Little Caesars, and the men who created them, and became entwined in the Motor City.
Domino’s was once the brain child of a man named Tom Monaghan. His early life is compelling. He was placed in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns early in his life. He loved baseball. He had some strange starts and stops. He entered a seminary and was kicked out for disciplinary problems, he entered the Marine Corp, thinking he was entering the Army.
Ultimately he ended up at U of M in Ann Arbor where he started a pizza store in Ypsilanti Michigan. It snowballed and made him ultimately a billionaire.
In those early years of success, he lived lavishly, and purchased the Detroit Tigers. It was a Horatio Alger story par excellence. They won the World Series. Detroit was in love with Tom Monaghan. Until. . . .
He became an ultra conservative Catholic. He has spend most all of his money ever since on creating a conservative enclave for Catholics in Florida. It was transferred there from Domino Farms in Ann Arbor, when local officials refused to change zoning laws to accommodate the 250 foot high crucifix he wanted to erect over his new Ave Maria University. Retailers in the town are not allowed to sell either contraceptives or pornography.
His law school, Ave Marie Law School, in Ann Arbor has faculty such as Bork, Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. It is dedicated to pursuing “natural law” theology and training “moral” attorneys. (yes I am most aware of the high oxymoronic element.)
I recall reading a piece on him in the local Sunday Parade section of the Detroit Free Press. Monaghan, as I recall, was most proud of the fact that he could recite the rosary ( a daily practice for him) in I believe less than five minutes while shaving. I never quite understood why that was to be applauded.
He sold the Detroit Tigers to Mike Ilitch, when he was convinced that it was sinful to live lavishly. He also sold his holdings on Drummond Island and a house half built. All his money goes into promoting “anti-abortion” efforts as well as other conservative Catholic interests. He presently sits on the Catholic Advisory Board with the likes of Phyllis Schlafly and Michael Novak.
In the end, Monaghan was considered a bit of a nut case, and the city breathed a sigh of relief when he sold the Tigers to the Ilitch family.
Enter one Mike Ilitch. Ilitch is a home town boy and also a veteran. He opened Little Caesar’s as his first pizza store, and like, Monaghan, never looked back. But he too is something of a Horatio Alger story, since both he and his wife are first generation immigrants from Macedonia.
He amassed a fortune and when he had done so, he purchased the woeful Detroit Red Wings. As anyone who follows hockey, knows, the Wings have have been a major contender and winner of the Stanley Cup most ever since.
Ironically, Ilitch was offered an opportunity to play baseball for the Detroit Tigers in his youth, but declined the offer.
He purchased the Tigers when Monaghan, determined that he must divest himself of the team or risk the wrath of God.
Ilitch has fed more than two million people country wide with his traveling “Little Caesar’s Love Kitchen.” He has been recognized by three former presidents for his efforts to feed the hungry. He started a veterans program to help returning veterans with business opportunities in their transition from military to civilian life. He has received the “Secretary’s Award”, the highest civilian award granted for his efforts–$1.5 million in financial assistance.
Tens of thousands of youth have learned both hockey and character development at the Little Caesar’s Amateur Hockey Program. Ilitch “Charities for Children” has been expanded to “Ilitch Charities” covering a broad array of problems involving education, health, unemployment, and homelessness.
No mention is made of Ilitch’s religious interests if any.
I wonder, who has more successfully put on the mind of Christ?
For more information on both men: