Mort Crim: Al Ackerman originally used 'Bless You Boys' sarcastically

Former WDIV anchor recalls late colleague's career

DETROIT – Former WDIV anchorman Mort Crim described colleague Al Ackerman as a unique sportscaster and sophisticated man.

The two worked together in the early 1980s when Crim anchored and Ackerman did sports.  

"Al was a different kind of sportscaster, certainly not your typical jock," Crim said. "He was into symphony and opera. He was a very urbane and sophisticated man, who could be quite acerbic on the air."

Ackerman died at age 90 this week. He's remembered as a beloved personality in Detroit TV and sports history.

Crim said Ackerman could keep to himself at times, but he definitely had an impact in the community. He described Ackerman's "Bless You Boys" phrase as a career moment which came about sort of ironically and went all the way to the White House:

After the '84 World Series win by the Tigers, there was a phrase that Al had popularized called 'Bless You Boys,' and I think he started using that after a Tigers losing streak, kind of sarcastically, but then it became identified with both Al and the Tigers. The station had a T-shirt made up that said 'Bless You Boys' and they sent one to the White House, and when I was at a White House luncheon with President Reagan, about a short time after the World Series, when the president wanted to talk about sports -- he had been a sportscaster in his earlier years -- and he talked about Al and he talked about the 'Bless You Boys.' He actually held up a T-shirt on camera. They made a picture of it and a few weeks later I got a photograph in the mail of President Reagan holding up the 'Bless You Boys' T-shirt and it was autographed to me. I treasure that very much, but Al certainly had an influence far beyond Detroit."

 Crim said Ackerman always gave people "the story behind the story" when it came to sports coverage. 

He wasn’t a 'rip off the headlines' kind of sportscaster, and he had a strong personality. He was strong on the air. He certainly had a large fan base, people who were big fans of both when he was at Channel  7 and later when he came over to Channel 4, I think a lot of the fans followed him. He was unique and he was very professional and good at what he did," said Crim. 

More: Carmen Harlan remembers Al Ackerman