cover image City of Champions: A History of Triumph and Defeat in Detroit

City of Champions: A History of Triumph and Defeat in Detroit

Stefan Szymanski and Silke-Maria Weineck. New Press, $29.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-62097-442-1

Racial antagonism and economic decline take the field against the Motor City’s sports teams in this sweeping social history of Detroit. University of Michigan professors Szymanski (Money and Soccer) and Weineck (The Abyss Above) survey a reverse chronology of sports episodes and their social contexts, including the recent construction of new arenas as a redevelopment strategy for blighted downtown Detroit (and pretext for corporate land-grabs); the 1982 Grand Prix race held amid the collapse of Detroit’s auto industry; the Tigers’ 1968 World Series win, a rare moment of celebration after the 1967 riots intensified racial conflict and white flight; and the first recorded baseball game in 1859 (the Detroit Base Ball Club beat the Early Risers 59–21) in a bare-knuckled town known for crime and brothels. There’s expert play-by-play of storied Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and Pistons games and vivid profiles of greats such as Isiah Thomas, Joe Louis, and Ty Cobb, but the authors also focus on the dynamics of racism, economics, and sweeping demographic shifts as the city swelled with factory workers and then hollowed out. The result is a sophisticated yet entertaining history that captures both Detroit’s colorful peculiarities and the deep tectonic forces shaping them. (Oct.)