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Cover image for Terror in the city of champions : murder, baseball, and the secret society that shocked Depression-era Detroit
Terror in the city of champions : murder, baseball, and the secret society that shocked Depression-era Detroit
Guilford, Connecticut : Lyons Press, [2016]
Physical Description:
xiii, 327 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Something Afoot, 1933-1934 -- Grand Plans, 1935 -- Joy and Terror, 1936.

Something Afoot, 1933-1934. Mickey and Dayton ; A friend disappears ; Spring in Lakeland ; Major-General Bert ; A future together ; The bee is buzzing ; Neither threats nor bribes ; It hurt for days ; The little stone chapel ; The superstitious schoolboy and his gal ; Happy Rosh Hashanah, Hank ; Oh, those Dean boys ; The attorney down the street -- Grand Plans, 1935. A new year ; Mr. Hoover, investigate ; Harry's caravan ; The radio priest ; The killing of Silas Coleman ; Worries ; Unwanted attention ; Zero hour ; Louis vs. Baer ; World champions ; Amid the joy, punishment ; The pastor who said no ; Uncle Frank ; Come to Detroit, Lindbergh -- Joy and Terror, 1936. Case closed ; City of champions ; Rumors ; Poole and Pidcock ; Secrets ; Black Legion hysteria ; Frenzied nerves ; Dayton Dean and the Negro reporter ; The captain ; Wyoming ; The cover-up -- Epilogue.
Detroit 1936: In a city abuzz over its unrivaled sports success, baseball fan Dayton Dean is arrested for murder. Though said to have a childlike intelligence, Dean possesses a vivid memory and a hunger for attention. He gives police a story about a secret Klan-like organization called the Black Legion, responsible for countless murders, floggings, and fire bombings. The Legion has tens of thousands of members in the Midwest, among them politicians and notable citizens--even, possibly, a beloved Detroit athlete. When Dean's revelations explode, they all seek cover. Award-winning author Tom Stanton's stunning work of history, crime, and sports, weaves together the terror of the Legion with the magnificent athletic ascension of Detroit. Richly portraying 1930s America, and featuring figures like Louis, the country's most famous black man; Jewish slugger Hank Greenberg; anti-Semitic Henry Ford; radio priest Father Coughlin; and J. Edgar Hoover, Terror in the City of Champions is a rollicking true tale set at the confluence of hard luck, hope, victory, and violence.


Call Number
364.1523 Stanton 2016
364.1523 STANTON 2016

On Order



A New York Times BestsellerForeword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Winner in True CrimeDetroit, 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.

Author Notes

Tom Stanton is the author of several nonfiction books, among them the critically acclaimed memoir The Final Season and the Quill Award finalist Ty and The Babe. A longtime journalist, he teaches at the University of Detroit Mercy. Stanton co-founded and edited the suburban Detroit Voice newspapers, winning state and national press awards, including a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. He and wife Beth Bagley-Stanton live in New Baltimore, Michigan.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A veteran journalist uses a variety of lenses to illuminate the dark story of the Black Legion, an association of murderous (white) domestic terrorists who briefly thrived in the upper Midwest. Stanton (Journalism/Univ. of Detroit; Ty and the Babe: Baseball's Fiercest Rivals, 2007) unfolds the history of the Legion gradually, always keeping it in the social, cultural, and economic context of the area where it was born and grew: the territory around western Lake Erie. Although the author tells us about the horrors perpetrated by the Legion (whippings, intimidations, murders), he follows other stories closely: the rise of boxer Joe Louis and the phenomenal year of 1935 for Detroit's professional athletic teamsthe Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings all won championships. Stanton gives the Tigers the most attention, especially their player-manager, catcher Mickey Cochrane, a ferocious competitor who eventually crumbled into a nervous breakdown. Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish baseball star, also is often front and center. And there are cameos for a couple of future U.S. presidents (football star Gerald Ford, courted by the Lions, and Ronald Reagan, a broadcaster at the time). It's evident throughout that the author assiduously researched his project; he seems to have read every newspaper and magazine account of the events and to have walked the blood-soaked ground (he ends with a visit to a relevant cemetery). Stanton is also quite clear about the corrosive political and law enforcement corruption that enabled the Black Legion to commit their atrocities without much blowback. "Numerous city figures and their followers belonged," he writes, "including a councilman, police officers, and fire officials. Their biases spread along a spiteful scale from seriousto silly." In 1936, however, a group of diligent cops began investigating and arresting, and the whole house of cards toppled very quicklythough, as Stanton points out, many murders remain unsolved and crime scenes uninvestigated. First-rate reporting and a seminar in how to employ context in investigative and historical journalism. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* If you're looking for a book that combines sports, crime, and history in one package, look no further. Stanton, who's written or contributed to several books about baseball, examines a fascinating period in the history of the sport, the mid-1930s. It was a time when Detroit was, generally speaking, a sports powerhouse: the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings (football, baseball, and hockey, respectively) were champions during the same three-year period; Joe Louis, an up-and-coming local boxer, was starting to generate some serious publicity. But it was also a time when the Black Legion, a massive white-supremacist criminal organization similar in structure and philosophy to the Ku Klux Klan, was terrorizing and murdering men of the church, union leaders, and various other perceived enemies. Stanton tells this big story by focusing on two key players: Mickey Cochrane, newly appointed manager to the Tigers, and Dayton Dean, a Black Legion member whose guilty plea in a murder case led to a massive law-enforcement effort to bring the Legion to its knees. For fans of books about baseball, Depression-era American history, and crime nonfiction, this book is a must-read.--Pitt, David Copyright 2016 Booklist

Library Journal Review

A city rich with history, Detroit is widely known for its sports teams, including the Tigers (baseball), Red Wings (hockey), and Lions (football). For Detroit, the 1930s was a period of corruption, crime, sports, and murder. It was also the era of the notoriously racist "klan like" group called the Black Legion. Stanton (The Final Season) has written an engaging piece that highlights this darkened time. Stanton's masterly prose is thoroughly engaging from cover to cover. Chronicling baseball legends such as Mickey Cochran and Hank Greenberg, Stanton offers engrossing stories that are filled with historical gems. He contrasts the awful crimes committed by the Black Legion with accounts of the Tigers, Red Wings, and Lions, who all won championships during this decade. The author further follows Joe Louis, one of boxing's most famous stars, who made his debut in 1932. VERDICT Packed with fascinating background, this work will be enjoyed not only by fans of Detroit sports, but all sports enthusiasts.-Gus Palas, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xi
Part I Something Afoot, 1933-1934
Mickey and Daytonp. 3
A Friend Disappearsp. 15
Spring in Lakelandp. 16
Major-General Bertp. 22
A Future Togetherp. 30
The Bee Is Buzzingp. 32
Neither Threats Nor Bribesp. 36
It Hurt for Daysp. 43
Tie Little Stone Chapelp. 52
The Superstitious Schoolboy and His Galp. 60
Happy Rosh Hashanah, Hankp. 69
Oh, Those Dean Boysp. 77
The Attorney down the Streetp. 87
Part II Grand Plans, 1935
A New Yearp. 101
Mr. Hoover, Investigatep. 103
Harry's Caravanp. 113
The Radio Priestp. 121
The Killing of Silas Colemanp. 128
Worriesp. 135
Unwanted Attentionp. 145
Zero Hourp. 153
Louis vs. Baerp. 159
World Championsp. 165
Amid the Joy, Punishmentp. 178
The Pastor Who Said Nop. 182
Uncle Frankp. 189
Come to Detroit, Lindberghp. 192
Part III Joy and Terror, 1936
Case Closedp. 203
City of Championsp. 214
Rumorsp. 222
Poole and Pidcockp. 230
Secretsp. 236
Black Legion Hysteriap. 244
Frenzied Nervesp. 255
Dayton Dean and the Negro Reporterp. 257
The Captainp. 260
Wyomingp. 267
The Cover-Upp. 270
Epiloguep. 277
Acknowledgmentsp. 283
Notesp. 285
Bibliographyp. 309
Indexp. 315
About the Authorp. 329