Moore: Black Tigers: Detroit and the 1967 rebellion

From Louis Moore at US Sport History on July 23, 2017:

Fifty years ago, on July 23, 1967, routine arrests at a blind pig (an illegal after hours’ establishment) in Detroit ignited an explosive rebellion that lasted five days. That night, hometown hero, Willie Horton, of the Detroit Tigers, drove his car into the rebellion to quell the flames. It didn’t work. This piece is a brief look at Black Detroit, the Tigers, and the 1967 Rebellion.

As the Tigers’ double-header with the Yankees came to an end, there were only two columns of smoke arising from 12th street. More smoke and more fire were soon to come, serving as an omnipotent reminder that a rebellion was going on, but as of right now, with the Tigers looking to win the second cap and close the gap in the American League standings, that three miles stretch between Tiger Stadium and 12th street, the center of the rebellion, seemed so distant. The 30,000+ fans, Black and White, but definitely more White than Black, only cared about the score of the game. They ignored the increasing presence of helicopters hovering over the stadium, heading to help contain the rebellion, for now. Within days, containment shifted to shoot to kill. But that seemed so distant. The Tigers were winning and Detroiters could ignore the loud rage for help.

During the game, Detroit News sportswriter Peter Waldmeir climbed to the top of the stadium with two tactical police officers to look down on the rebellions. Destruction. But below them on the field, Waldmeir saw what he imagined was his Detroit. Diversity. “We looked down from the roof, down to the patch of green baseball field. The Tigers were playing the Yankees and Lenny Green, a Negro from Detroit’s north side, was in the Tigers’ outfield with Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup. Willie Horton [a Black Detroiter] had hit his home run earlier and the fans, Black and White, had cheered as he limped around the bases.” The Tigers made everything seem right. Waldmeir could ignore the rebellion, because two Black men wearing white uniforms helped his team win. “The fires were far away then, up on 12th Street, up where it didn’t make any difference,” Waldmeir added. “There were 30,000 people in Tiger Stadium, and nobody pulled a gun. Nobody threw a fire bomb.”

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Originally published: July 24, 2017. Last Updated: July 24, 2017.