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The Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers: Club and Community, 1945-1995

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    The Detroit Tigers
    Book Description:

    A vivid portrait of a team, a sport and its far-reaching influence. The Detroit Tigers are a curious reflection of America's post-war urban society and this book illustrates the inextricable links between this team and its hometown.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8110-1
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xi-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Baseball is a boys’ game played by men and run by promoters for profit.¹ Baseball is also about community - local and regional community as well as the community of players - and about American society. Indeed, sports often inspire national pride. At the national level World Cup soccer, where entire countries support their teams, provides perhaps the

    best example. Baseball has its place as well, encouraging a sense of pride in the American people for a sport that was their invention and that continues to have its finest expression in their country. When Clark Griffith suggested to Baseball Commissioner...

  8. 1 Baseball in Postwar American Society
    (pp. 9-39)

    Baseball embarked on a new era after the Second World War. It was a period of recovery and prosperity that brought with it new issues emanating more from postwar American society than from within baseball itself. This period witnessed the spread of major-league baseball across the nation and the rising popularity of professional and amateur baseball, followed quickly by declines in attendance at both the major- and minor-league levels. New technology - more powerful lights for night baseball, airplanes for travel, and television - transformed the game’s audience. Integration, the organization then unionization of players, and corporate ownership destroyed the...

  9. 2 The Briggs Era of Detroit Baseball
    (pp. 40-65)

    Professional baseball in Detroit began with a franchise in the National League from 1881 through 1888.¹ Games were at Recreation Park, off Brush Street, and the club operated out of the mayor’s office because Mayor W.G. Thompson was also president of the team.² Frank Bancroft, who ran a downtown cigar store at Woodward and Jefferson, was the manager. Twelve hundred and eighty-five fans attended the home opener on 21 May 1881. The ‘Detroits,’ as they were known, won the pennant in 1887 and in a fifteen-game ‘World Series’ beat the St Louis Browns. Despite that success, finances forced Detroit out...

  10. 3 Transitions and Adaptation of the Detroit Baseball Club in the 1950s
    (pp. 66-91)

    The Detroit Tigers Baseball Club conjures up images of conservatism and dependability.¹ Those epithets describe the Navin-Briggs era and the later Campbell-Fetzer era. Although the Tigers remained mired in the middle of the American League during the 1950s, the decade was one of critical transition and importance off the field. The ownership of

    the team was in limbo after the death of Walter Briggs. Payrolls and expenses were rising. Television was expanding baseball’s audience and providing new sources of revenues. Detroit’s metropolitan base continued to expand, but the population of the city itself - and noticeably its white population -...

  11. 4 Community Problems and a World Championship
    (pp. 92-124)

    The Campbell-Fetzer regime won a world championship in its first decade and cemented the club’s financial base. League expansion, rising attendance, and television provided increased sources of revenue, while the reserve clause kept payrolls constant. Breaking of the color line allowed the club a wider base for recruitment and attracted more African American fans, but its black players still faced segregation during spring training. The city of Detroit was becoming more multiracial, with resultant tensions that culminated in the 1967 riot. Civil rights movements and protests against the Vietnam War challenged America’s ability to adapt. Baseball was not immune to...

  12. 5 The Players
    (pp. 125-154)

    Baseball is one aspect of American popular culture. Its history redounds on the history of television, race relations, and business. Recent books about baseball have focused especially on the economics of baseball, even as earlier histories were confident that the only things that mattered were those who played the game and how they played it. A typical title from a generation ago wasThe History of Baseball: Its Great Players, Teams, and Managers(by Allison Danzig and Joe Reichler, 1959). Such books belong to a simpler, more naive age, but they recognized that without the players, there would be nothing...

  13. 6 The Era of Personalities, 1969–1977
    (pp. 155-181)

    The decade of the 1970s was a revolutionary one for major-league baseball. Activity off the field became as important as what happened on the field. The decade witnessed baseball’s first modern strike and the introduction of limited free agency. A more aggressive journalism shifted attention from action on the field to players’ lives and events off the field. A few players gained celebrity status that often derived from off-the-field exploits and carried over to product endorsements in television advertising. Television widened baseball’s audience, especially among women. Sports stars were beginning to capture public attention in a way once reserved for...

  14. 7 Free Agency and Big Money for Baseball, 1977–1983
    (pp. 182-202)

    On 23 December 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that Andy Messersmith and David McNally were free agents. That decision ended the monopoly that owners held on players’ services founded in the reserve clause. It inaugurated a new era in baseball during which players changed teams regularly and garnered million-dollar salaries. As Bowie Kuhn himself admitted after the fact, abolition of a reserve clause that continued in perpetuity from contract to contract should not have been unexpected.¹ Owners have continued to try to put Humpty-Dumpty together again, however. Free agency or its concomitant, a salary cap, was the main issue in...

  15. 8 The Golden Age of Detroit Baseball
    (pp. 203-224)

    One of the charms of baseball has been its historic dimension. Fans debate how players of one era would have performed in other years. Some like H.G. Salsinger believed that Ty Cobb was the greatest player ever and that the dead-ball era demanded strategy that the home run obliterated. Others pointed to the Ruthian years as baseball’s heyday, or to 1941 when Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games and Ted Williams was the last player to hit .400, or to the 1950s, the era of Mickey (Mantle), Willie (Mays), and the Duke (Snider). A possibly apocryphal story about...

  16. 9 A Franchise in Decline
    (pp. 225-253)

    Detroit has been a troubled franchise in the 1990s. An average home gate of more than two million from 1983 to 1989 became one and one-half million over the next six years, half a million below the American League average for those years. The team never won more than 85 games and finished a total of 79 games below .500 from 1989 to 1995. The climax of ineptitude occurred in the final three games of the 1995 season, when they did not score a run. The club lost money for the first time since the Depression. It had to borrow...

  17. 10 The Stadium as Symbol
    (pp. 254-277)

    Tiger Stadium has been more than a place to play major-league baseball. It has served as an icon of baseball in Detroit. On the same site for a century, in its present form for half a century, it has linked present and past. It brought suburbanites to downtown and has been part of the identity of ‘Detroit’ for those living throughout the metropolitan area. This elderly citizen symbolized better times in Detroit and was a meeting place for generations, joined in memories of Tigers’ victories and hopes for future glories. Built in a different era, it seemed to some an...

  18. Epilogue: The 1994 Strike and Its Aftermath
    (pp. 278-284)

    The 1994 season might have gone down in history as one of baseball’s greatest, remembered like that of 1927 or 1941. It was a season of offensive fireworks with teams on a pace to hit more home runs and score more runs than anytime since 1930. Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 when the season ended. Matt Williams, Ken Griffey Jr, and Frank Thomas threatened to break Roger Maris’s record of sixty-one home runs. Thomas was challenging Ruth’s season marks for walks, runs scored, and total bases. Amidst all the offense, a bespectacled pitcher, Greg Maddux, achieved a 1.56 ERA, one...

  19. TABLES
    (pp. 285-310)
    (pp. 311-332)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 333-394)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 395-406)
  23. Index
    (pp. 407-415)