A New York Times Bestseller
Detroit, mid-1930s: In a city abuzz over its unrivaled sports success, gun-loving baseball fan Dayton Dean became ensnared in the nefarious and deadly Black Legion. The secretive, Klan-like group was executing a wicked plan of terror, murdering enemies, flogging associates, and contemplating armed rebellion. The Legion boasted tens of thousands of members across the Midwest, among them politicians and prominent citizens—even, possibly, a beloved athlete.
Terror in the City of Champions opens with the arrival of Mickey Cochrane, a fiery baseball star who roused the Great Depression’s hardest-hit city by leading the Tigers to the 1934 pennant. A year later he guided the team to its first championship. Within seven months the Lions and Red Wings follow in football and hockey—all while Joe Louis chased boxing’s heavyweight crown.
Amidst such glory, the Legion’s dreadful toll grew unchecked: staged “suicides,” bodies dumped along roadsides, high-profile assassination plots. Talkative Dayton Dean’s involvement would deepen as heroic Mickey’s Cochrane’s reputation would rise. But the ballplayer had his own demons, including a close friendship with Harry Bennett, Henry Ford’s brutal union buster.
Award-winning author Tom Stanton weaves a stunning tale of history, crime, and sports. Richly portraying 1930s America, Terror in the City of Champions features a pageant of colorful figures: iconic athletes, sanctimonious criminals, scheming industrial titans, a bigoted radio priest, a love-smitten celebrity couple, J. Edgar Hoover, and two future presidents, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. It is a rollicking true story set at the confluence of hard luck, hope, victory, and violence.
Glittering triumphs cover up a sordid racist conspiracy in this lively vignette of the Motor City in its heyday. Swerving between hysterical excitement and hysterical fear, the city embodied the roiling socioeconomic and ideological currents of the 1930s. Journalist Stanton (The Final Season) narrates the mid-1930s transformation of the lackluster Detroit Tigers into World Series contenders under charismatic catcher and manager Mickey Cochrane, a story replete with colorful, superstitious players and ninth-inning drama. (Simultaneous championships for the Lions, the Red Wings, and Detroit boxer Joe Louis add to the epic.) Providing counterpoint is the saga of the Black Legion, a Klan-inspired Midwestern secret society that despised African-Americans, Catholics, Jews, immigrants, leftists and union organizers. Despite comic-opera trappings members pledged to sign their names in blood at nighttime ceremonies the group, which included politicians, police officers, and prosecutors, was a menace; it plotted to assassinate political opponents, committed several murders, carried out bombings and arson, and conspired to gas synagogues and contaminate ethnic neighborhoods with typhoid germs. The smushed-together halves of Stanton's book don't really articulate well, but they combine to form a vivid portrait of Depression-stricken Detroit, a cauldron of racial tensions, police brutality, and strife between management and workers. Photos.