Title: The Detroit Tigers: Club and Community, 1945-1995
Author: Patrick Harrigan
Harrigan covers all of the major transitional moments for the sport: integration, western migration, expansion, free agency, etc. Just as important to the story, however, are the changes in the city of Detroit. An industrial powerhouse in the middle of the 20th century, Detroit was hit hard when automation and globalization decimated the job market. The affluent fled to the suburbs, leaving an increasingly impoverished inner city to struggle through decades of high crime and decaying infrastructure. Yet, the team has, for the most part, thrived, a unifying symbol for the entire metropolitan area.
That's not to say there have been no bumps in the road. Race relations have long been a challenge for the old ball club. The Tigers were the second-to-last Major League team to integrate (the Red Sox were the last) and maintained unofficial discriminatory practices in hiring for years afterward - not exactly strong PR in the city with the highest percentage of African-American residents of any major city in the United States. Over the years, the team has worked harder at maintaining its audience in the suburbs than in the inner city.
While I've read a fair amount about integration in baseball, Harrigan provided some new perspectives. Problems continued long after Jackie Robinson, of course. While there were few Major League teams in the segregated South, there were plenty of minor league teams. The Tigers had a farm team in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most notoriously segregated cities in America. Plus, there was the matter of spring training in Florida each year.
I don't know if non-baseball fans would be interested in the book but anyone curious about the transformation of urban America in the late 20th century certainly should be.