Detroit Tigers: Champions Day

DETROIT, MI - CIRCA 1935: (L-R) Charlie Gehringer, Billy Rogell, Hank Greenberg, and Marv Owen of the Detroit Tiger infield is represented in this photo made circa 1935 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - CIRCA 1935: (L-R) Charlie Gehringer, Billy Rogell, Hank Greenberg, and Marv Owen of the Detroit Tiger infield is represented in this photo made circa 1935 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) /
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Then-Governor Frank Fitzgerald designated April 18th “Champions Day” on this date in 1936. The 1935 Detroit Tigers played a role in making this happen. Who showed up for the party?

The city of Detroit experienced a once in a lifetime phenom that still stands to this day. In one calendar year, the Detroit Lions, Detroit Red Wings, and the Tigers won their first championships. In addition to team sports, many individuals who called Detroit home were champions were celebrated from all types of sports including:

“(Joe) Louis is nuts about the Tigers. He plays catch out at (boxing) camp every chance he gets. Gerald Walker is his favorite Tiger. He’s postponing his honeymoon so he can see the Tigers in the World Series.”

  • Eddie Tolan aka the Midnight Express was the first African-American to win gold in the Olympics. He was a Detroit Cass Tech grad and won medals at his time at the University of Michigan.
  • Newell Banks, the national champion of checkers in 1934.

The City of Detroit’s talent was succeeding on the national stage and the citizens of Michigan were swelling with pride.  With all the success going on, Governor Frank Fitzgerald and the City Council of Detroit decided to have a celebration dinner.

On April 18th, 1936, the City of Champions Testimonial Dinner was held at the Masonic Temple. Bud Shaver was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Shaver was the editor for the Detroit Times, a newspaper that was in publication from 1900 to 1960.  The event was broadcasted on local radio station WXYT. Radio was starting to become the must-own medium to have as it was the only way to mass communicate with the public. So having it on the radio made it prime time listening.

The Tigers, who had the day off, were all in attendance. Hall of Famer catcher and manager Mickey Cochrane was the first speaker of the evening. As he stood to speak, the 600 who paid $3.00 to attend, gave him a loud cheer. He went on to speak about each other player on the team that included three more Hall of Fame talents in second basemen, Charlie Gehringer, first baseman Hank Greenberg and left fielder Goose Goslin.

As he was wrapping up his speech, he went on to speak about Frank Navin, the former Tigers president, owner, who put the team together. He died suddenly in December 1935 just after the Tigers won the title. This exert comes from the Detroit City of Champions book that was written by Charles C Avison.

"“We’ll be in there swinging for another Championship, I’ve got a tough job in attempting to carry on without Mr. Frank Navin. But I hope the fans will stick with me.”"

Can you imagine the space needed today to have a party to have all four major professional teams & Detroit born athletes to have a year as they did in 1935? It is a truly remarkable landmark moment in Detroit sports history on this date in 1936.