City of Champions

A History of Triumph and Defeat in Detroit

The changing fortunes of Detroit, told through the lens of the city’s major sporting events, by the bestselling author of Soccernomics, and a prizewinning cultural critic

City of Champions is a sweeping, gripping, and delightfully unconventional history of one of this nation's most important cities, told via its most glorious and heartbreaking moments in sports. We come to understand more about ourselves and this city than we ever imagined.” —Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

From Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg to the Bad Boys, from Joe Louis and Gordie Howe to the Malice at the Palace, City of Champions explores the history of Detroit through the stories of its most gifted athletes and most celebrated teams, linking iconic events in the history of Motown sports to the city’s shifting fortunes.

In an era when many teams have left rustbelt cities to relocate elsewhere, Detroit has held on to its franchises, and there is currently great hope in the revival of the city focused on its downtown sports complexes—but to whose benefit? Szymanski and Weineck show how the fate of the teams in Detroit’s stadiums, gyms, and fields is echoed in the rise and fall of the car industry, political upheavals ushered in by the depression, World War II, the 1967 uprising, and its recent bankruptcy and renewal.

Driven by the conviction that sports not only mirror society but also have a special power to create both community and enduring narratives that help define a city’s sense of self, City of Champions is a unique history of the most American of cities.

Praise

City of Champions is a sweeping, gripping, and delightfully unconventional history of one of this nation’s most important cities, the Motor City. This beautiful chronicling of the history of Detroit is told through the lens of some of its most glorious and most heartbreaking moments in sports and, in ways that both move and surprise, we come to understand more about ourselves and this city than we ever imagined. As City of Champions makes clear, not only have Detroit’s ups and downs been a true bellwether for the fortunes and fate of the entire country, but also the sport figures and events that Detroiters have turned to time and again to escape their moments of despair, or to celebrate their successes were, in their own way, mirroring as well as shaping those same moments this great American city.”
—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
City of Champions provides a rich history of Detroit’s teams and athletes, as you’d expect, but also delivers an unexpected delight: the battles fought off the field among the city’s leaders that determined where those competitors played—or didn’t. The conflicts over stadium locations, Olympic bids, the unions, and the always-forceful auto industry—whether up or down—are as fascinating as those waged in the rings and rinks. I came away convinced Detroit’s story is inextricably intertwined with its sports, reflecting and sometimes advancing the city’s cause, and you cannot fully understand Detroit without understanding its champions.”
—John U. Bacon, New York Times bestselliing author of Three and Out

News and Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of City of Champions in Publishers Weekly.