Check out this from Sunday’s Detroit Free Press:
Fifty years ago Sunday, while one of the nation’s worst civil disturbances was taking place, remarkably the Detroit Tigers played a doubleheader against Mickey Mantle and the New Yankees at Tiger Stadium.
Two days later, Mickey Lolich, the starting pitcher for the Tigers in Game 1 and who would become the World Series hero the following year, was protecting the city with the Michigan Air National Guard while his teammates flew to Baltimore after the home stand with the Orioles was moved to Maryland.
By the end of the week, baseball statistics suddenly didn’t seem as important.
When the mayhem ended, 43 people had been killed, 1,189 injured, 7,231 arrested, 2,509 stores had been looted or burned, 690 buildings were destroyed or had to be demolished, and 388 families were displaced.
I was just 10 and living in Livonia, Mich., about 25 minutes from downtown Detroit, when the riots took place.
The only memory I have is our Little League game that week was canceled. We were far enough away from the trouble, but nobody wanted to take a chance.
It all started early on a Sunday morning, but it took time for the news to get out.
This is what the Free Press reported in Sunday’s commemorative issue:
Amazingly, because Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh on that early Sunday morning somehow convinced the local media to refrain from reporting on the insurrection, few of the 34,623 baseball fans and media personnel who entered Tiger Stadium for the Sunday doubleheader against the Yankees had a clue of the growing violence taking place just 3 1/2 miles north on 12th Street. Now named Rosa Parks Boulevard, the street intersects at Michigan Avenue three blocks west of where Tiger Stadium once stood.
Can you imagine something like that happening today? That information would have been Tweeted out and on the Free Press website minutes after it happened. There would have been pictures on Facebook and Instagram as it happened. Facebook Live would have been there before the television stations.
There would be video everywhere.
Soon after the 1:30 start of the first game that day, (Ernie) Harwell and (Ray) Lane noticed the black smoke rising in the distance over the left-field and center-field third deck, the Free Press reported.
“We thought it was one hell of a fire and that perhaps someone was burning tires because it was so black,” Lane said a half century later.
“I remember Ernie was at the mike when the phone rang around the second inning and Howard Stitzel (broadcast engineer) answered it. Howard told us that Jim Campbell (Tigers general manager) said to never mention the smoke you see over the third deck, but we never asked why.”
We never asked why. That would never fly today.
We are on a 24-hour news cycle and everybody is out there fighting for the news. If you don’t get it, somebody else will and you will have some explaining to do.
That’s the way it should be. We are here to give you the news now, not tomorrow or when somebody says we can give it to you.
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Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.