The Way It Was — Opening Day, 1937

William, Josephine Ford, Eleanor, and Edsel Ford cheer on the Tigers
tigers opening day ford family
Opening day photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News) 

1937 Led by a stellar lineup of Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane, Billy Rogell, and rookie Rudy York, the 1937 Detroit Tigers were a formidable force. In fact, for a few seasons in the 1930s, the Tigers were on fire, nabbing the American League pennant in 1934 and winning the World Series in 1935.

Taking in the action on opening day, April 20, 1937, are young fans William and Josephine Ford, flanked by their parents, Edsel and Eleanor Ford, at what was then known as Navin Field. The family had reason to smile — the Tigers edged Cleveland, 4-3, that day.

Edsel and Eleanor were pillars of the city’s automotive and cultural world. He was the only child of Henry and Clara Ford, was a sterling automotive designer, and served as president of Ford Motor Co. from 1919 until his death in 1943. Eleanor (nee Clay) was the niece of retailing giant J.L. Hudson. Both Edsel and Eleanor were avid art collectors and generous philanthropists. Eleanor died in 1976 and left an endowment so that the Cotswold-style Grosse Pointe Shores home she and her husband built in the 1920s would be open to the public.

The Tigers ended the 1937 season in second place in the American League, behind the New York Yankees. That year was significant for the Tigers in two other respects. On May 25, catcher-manager Mickey Cochrane was hit in the head by a ball from the unfortunately named Yankee pitcher Bump Hadley. The injury nearly killed Cochrane, and his playing career was over.

Also, 1937 marked the last year the stadium would be called Navin Field. At the start of the 1938 season, the Tigers’ home was rechristened Briggs Stadium, after owner Walter O. Briggs. That appellation would last until 1961, when it became Tiger Stadium.

This story is from the April 2022 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our digital edition