New 1967 Detroit Tigers hat evokes memories of an eventful summer

Willie Horton wore this cap during the 1967 season.

Willie Horton wore this cap during the 1967 season.

In the Summer of 1967, the radio waves in Detroit carried popular songs such as The Door’s “Light My Fire” and Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man”, but Motor City baseball fans were glued to transistor radios as Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane described arguably the greatest pennant race in history.

The Tigers, White Sox, Twins, and Red Sox battled all summer for first place in a neck and neck American League pennant race that was not decided until the final day of the season.

Led by a Tiger team that included Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Willie Horton, Bill Freehan, and Dick McAuliffe, Detroit’s pennant hopes came to an abrupt end on the last day when they split a doubleheader with the Angels as the Red Sox won the pennant.

Although 1967 was called the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco when thousands of hippies flocked to the Haight Ashbury district, it was hardly the case on July 23 in Detroit when a riot broke out following the raid of a blind pig that resulted in 43 deaths and massive property destruction.

Detroit has never been the same. But ironically, Detroit’s motto as displayed on the city seal is Speramus Meliora Resurget Cineribus’ which translates to, “We hope for better things. It will arise from the ashes.”

On that day, as the Tigers split a double header against the Yankees at Tiger Stadium smoke could be seen from the press box. Following the game, Tiger slugger Willie Horton rushed to his old neighborhood still dressed in his Detroit uniform as he surveyed the situation and tried to quell the crowd.

Although the summer of ‘67 turned out to be a tragedy for the city and a major disappointment for Tiger fans, it helped catapult the Tigers to the ’68 World Championship. Horton himself has long said that “God gave Detroit the 1968 Tigers to help a city that had been torn apart by the 1967 riot.”

Last year I asked Steve Thomas, the owner of the Detroit Athletic Company, if he would be interested in making a reproduction of a game used 1967 Willie Horton hat that I own that was manufactured by the Tim McAuliffe Company in Boston.

I took the hat to Steve where he photographed and measured it for specifications before sending it to American Needle, a company that does a wonderful job of producing retro baseball hats.

One year later, the Detroit Athletic Company has now just started selling a 1967 Detroit Tigers hat that is a spitting image of the Horton gamer.

Over the years the Tigers have used numerous versions of the Old English D as their hats have been manufactured by Spalding, Tim McAuliffe, New Era and others I am sure.

Even in the same season, the Tiger hats have hardly been “uniform.”

In fact if you look closely at the 1968 Tiger team photo, Don Wert, Fred Lasher, Earl Wilson, and Wally Moses are all wearing the ’67 Tim McAuliffe cap while the balance of the team is wearing the home New Era version that we have seen since the late 1960’s.

Sorry if this sounds like a shameless plug, but I am going to be wearing the ’67 hat for what it symbolizes for me. A fighting ballclub that rose from the ashes to capture a championship and a great city that is still on the rise.

By the way, check out this fabulous video of the Sam Roberts Band and their great song, Detroit 67.

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About Bill Dow

Bill Dow has written numerous articles on Detroit sports history as a regular freelance contributor to the Detroit Free Press sports page, and some of his work has been published in Baseball Digest magazine. He also wrote the Afterword to the latest editions of George Plimpton’s book Paper Lion.