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.
“With the racist Black Legion spreading evil and the rambunctious Detroit Tigers bringing joy, Detroit’s seemingly eternal forces of darkness and light coexist in this captivating slice of American history.”
—David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story and When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
“Today, Detroit is a shadow of its former self. This fascinating book reveals what an astonishing place it formerly was. Eight decades ago, it was a boiling cauldron of social extremism, extravagant criminality, and athletic excellence. Readers of this book have a new understanding of the city and the Thirties.”
—George F. Will
“Tom Stanton’s absorbingly detailed work entwines the best and the worst of Detroit during the Depression. Readers will find themselves cheering the sports heroes and rooting against the Black Legion, a fascinatingly bizarre bunch whose sudden leap into the headlines inspired a wave of national hysteria. Stanton has deftly recreated one of the most farfetched episodes of the Motor City’s never-dull past.”
—Richard Bak, author of Detroitland and Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope
“Once in a blue moon, a city bears witness to the best and the worst of times. Such was Detroit’s fate more than a generation ago as the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings reached new sports heights while the Black Legion too often ruled the night. It’s a great tale and Tom Stanton has done a marvelous job telling it.”
—Tim Wendel, author of Summer of ’68