WMU alumnus chronicles 1935 sports in Detroit

(Photo Courtesy of Charles Avison) WMU alumnus Charles Avison will be at the Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan to promote his book, “Detroit City of Champions, The Story of the Most Important Season in Detroit Sports History.”

By Adam Bouton

Western Herald

What once started as a paper for Linda Borish’s sports history class at Western Michigan University has now turned into a 235-page book chronicling the 1935 year in sports in the city of Detroit.

In his book entitled “Detroit City of Champions, The Story of the Most Important Season in Detroit Sports History,” Western Michigan alumnus Charles Avison explores what was arguably the best year for Detroit sports.  Avison, who self-published and is promoting his book, will be in attendance at the 2009 Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan Thursday at Miller Auditorium.  There will be a table set up with promotional material, along with his book at either end as people walk in.

“We’re hoping for a good attendance tomorrow,” Avison said through a telephone interview.  “We’re hoping to raise the awareness of this book and the 1935 season in Detroit.”

The book delves into the year 1935, with Detroit in the midst of the Great Depression. Avison highlights some of the best moments of that sports season.  Some of them include the Detroit Tigers winning its first championship, the Lions capturing an NFL title and the Detroit Red Wings securing the Stanley Cup.  It also talks about the year that Joe Louis had, who was relatively unknown at the beginning of 1935, but by the end had defeated Max Baer (among others) and was a highly regarded boxer.

“Growing up in Michigan, and being a Detroit sports fan for my entire life, I have long appreciated the stories of my favorite teams,” Avison wrote in his press release.

Avison considers that it could not only be the best sports season for Detroit, but it could possibly also be the best sports year for any city in history.

“It is the only time in sports history that a city has won three major professional sports titles in the same season,” Avison acknowledged again in his press release.

One of the other major points that Avison is trying to get out is about “Champions Day,” which was celebrated on April 18 after 1935 in Detroit.  The day has since been forgotten, but Avison is hoping to try and get the word out about the day so that people will relive it again.  April 18 was the day when Detroit celebrated a testimonial dinner called the “Greatest Gathering of Champions Under a Single Roof.”

“It’s a crusade I’m on and sometimes I feel like it’s me against the world,” Avison said about trying to get the word out about the day.  “I’m trying to get this story out to people.  It’s a story that is important for Detroit and the state of Michigan.”

Avison has always been fascinated in sports and history and considers himself a very big sports fan, especially of Detroit sports.  It’s the first book that he’s ever written, but believes that it’s a book unlike any other out there.

Detroit City of Champions includes hundreds of pictures, many of them coming from newspapers that were distributed in 1935.

“Almost every picture in the book is taken from an original newspaper or microfilm,” Avison noted.  “The pictures back then were unbelievable.  Many of these pictures have not been seen.”

The difference between this book and other books on the same topic is that it takes an in-depth look at everything that happened during that sports season.  Even though there are tons of pictures, Avison also gives a commentary on what was happening and how it impacted the fans and the city.  It even shows the motions the Detroit Tigers’ pitchers use as they deliver a pitch.

“There’s really three aspects of the book,” Avison said.  “There is the human perspective of what it was like to be there.  There is the picture aspect where there are a lot of great pictures, and then there’s the full appendix where it’s literally a play-by-play account of every game I talk about in the text.  That is the main difference between my book and just about every other book.”

The book is available at select bookstores across the state, but anyone wishing to purchase the book or interested in more information can find it at www.DetroitCityofChamps.com.

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