In preparing for our forthcoming exhibit: “The Year of the Tiger: 1968” (opening April 21th, 2018) much of our staff has been engrossed in details related to the Detroit Tigers World Series run that year. The ’68 team holds a special significance for Tiger fans; their on-field accomplishments (103 wins, dominate pitching, and prolific power hitting) captured a generation of fan interest and earned Detroiters lifelong devotion. However, more intangibly, in the process of tearing through the American League that summer the Tigers did more for an anxious city than simply win a baseball championship.
Michigan Governor George Romney, with the events of the summer of 1967 fresh in his mind, summed up his feelings on the team in a letter to Tigers Owner John Fetzer:
“The deepest meaning of this victory extends beyond Tiger Stadium, beyond the sports pages, radio broadcasts, and telecasts that have consumed our attention for several months. This championship occurred when all of us in Detroit and Michigan needed a great lift. At a time of unusual tensions, when many good men lost their perspective towards others, the Tigers set an example of what human relations should really be.”
Donated to the museum’s collection by the Detroit Tigers in 1970, these two enormous flags are the tangible representation of the landmark 1968 season that served as a welcome distraction from the events of the previous summer.
They were raised up Tiger Stadium’s flagpole on Opening Day 1969, as the climax of a raucous pregame ceremony.
In addition to the ’68 pennants above this donation also included the 1934, 1935, and 1940* American League Championship pennants as well as the 1935 and 1945 World Series flags. Each pennant in this collection represents the peaks, valleys, and countless stories associated with their specific moment in time.
The 1934 Tigers were 7 games better than Ruth, Gehrig, and the Yankees, but lost a heartbreaking World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals. By 1934 the Tigers and St. Louis Browns were the only American League teams that had not won a World Series.
The next year the Tigers won 9 fewer games, but were still good enough to win the pennant and represent the league in the World Series for the second year in a row.
*At the time of its donation this flag was identified as the 1940 American League Pennant. However, further research has determined it was one of the nine smaller flags flown during each home game atop Briggs (Tiger) Stadium; one for each of the eight clubs in the American League, and this one for the league itself. The Tigers won the American League in 1940 but dropped the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, losing the 7th game 2-1.
The 1935 World Series pennant measures 33 feet long and 13 feet high and is the largest in the collection. 1935 saw the Tigers finally break through and win their first World Series, though it took Mickey Cochrane and the G-Men (Greenberg, Gehringer, and Goslin) 6 games to beat the Chicago Cubs. Adding insult to injury the Tigers had the giant flag made by a Chicago tent and awning company.
The Tigers took the 1945 AL pennant by just 1.5 games and needed all 7 games to beat Chicago in the World Series. It would be the last time the Cubs played for the championship until 2016.
The final item in this donation was present at a special event in Detroit baseball history. This flag was created by the Detroit Board of Commerce in 1912 to commemorate the Tigers 1907, 1908 and 1909 American League Championships. The banner was given to the team and raised to the breeze before the Tigers April 18th, 1912 contest against Cleveland. Not only was it the team’s first home game of the year, it was also their first game in the brand new 23,000 seat Navin Field; a building that would grow into the behemoth Tiger Stadium and serve as the team’s home for the next 87 years.
Significant as they are, because these flags are so large, they have rarely (and in some cases never) been on display. In fact, due to their size, they had not been photographed until earlier this year when a local gym and a nice tall ladder were employed to allow them to be completely unrolled and photographed from above.
Come see the 1968 World Series banner on display in the “Year of the Tiger: 1968” mentioned above.
Special thanks to John Stout, DHS Collections Volunteer, for his work on this project.