“Terror In The City Of Champions” Explores Violence in Depression-Era Detroit

New book juxtaposes gang violence with sports success

Jake Neher/WDET

In his new book “Terror in the City of Champions” author Tom Stanton juxtaposes violent gang activity with sports success in Depression-era Detroit. Between 1935 and 1936, he says, while the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings were all winning championships, a Klan-like secret society called the Black Legion was spawning hysteria.

Stanton says the Legion committed a range of crimes, from murders for pleasure, to targeting union organizers and various religious groups. It was formed as a more violent alternative to the Klu Klux Klan, he says, and members included elected officials and police officers.

“That’s what they would hear, as they were taking this oath with a gun pointed at them, that ‘we have friends in high places,’” says Stanton of the powerful reach of the society.

Sports played a large part in the activities of the Legion, Stanton says, to the extent that the gang would plan crimes around the Tigers games. Baseball would eventually be their downfall, he says, when they used it as a set-up for the murder of Charley Poole, the crime that would lead to their exposure.

To hear more of the conversation with Stanton, click on the audio link above.