On April 18, 1936, Detroit honored its champion sports teams and heroes by holding Champions Day, a day set aside to commemorate a number of sporting victories by Detroit teams in the early 1930s. The Detroit Historical Society will highlight our region’s more recent sporting accomplishments by holding a re-dedication ceremony to declare April 18, 2012 as City of Champions Day. The event will serve to tell the stories of Detroit’s sports victories beginning in 1935 and continuing today.
“When the Tigers take the World Series, the Lions win the NFL championship, the Pistons earn an NBA title or our Red Wings bring home the Stanley cup, Detroiters come together in a memorable way,” said Bob Bury, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Historical Society. “By rededicating April 18 as City of Champions Day we can share these amazing stories and re-energize the spirit and pride Detroiters have in our city.”
During the 1930s, Detroiters experienced an unprecedented amount of success when the city’s sports teams earned three titles in six months’ time. It began in October 1935 when the Detroit Tigers won their first World Series, and continued in December as the Detroit Lions earned the National Football League crown. The following April the Detroit Red Wings took home the Stanley Cup. It was these team successes, combined with the individual achievements of Detroiters Joe Louis in the boxing ring, sprinter Eddie Tolan on the track and Gar Wood in power boat racing, that led both Michigan Governor Frank Fitzgerald and the Detroit Common Council to declare April 18, 1936 as “Champions Day.” To date, no other city has duplicated such sporting success in the same time span.
The Champions Day event will be hosted inside the Detroit Historical Museum’s Streets of Old Detroit exhibit and will include a rededication ceremony and proclamation from Mayor Dave Bing. In addition, several local sports industry legends will participate in the event, including Mike and Marian Ilitch and Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, who will preserve their handprints and signatures in cement for Detroit Legends Plaza, an outdoor tribute to Detroit’s legends of sports, music, media and more.
Detroit Legends Plaza is part of the Detroit Historical Society’s Past>Forward campaign, a fundraising effort to raise $20.1 million towards new and expanded exhibits, technology upgrades, educational offerings and enhancements to the Detroit Historical Museum, Dossin Great Lakes Museum and the Detroit Historical Society Collection. The plaza is set to be unveiled in fall 2012.
Those in attendance during the Champions Day event will have an opportunity to view artifacts tied to Detroit’s championship teams, including a wood plaque presented to the city and signed by President Franklin Roosevelt and the governors of the United States in 1936 saluting Detroit as the City of Champions. It will remain on display at the Museum from April 18 – 22.