Jul 102012

In 1963, author George Plimpton participated in the Detroit Lions training camp in hopes of becoming their third-string QB. As expected he failed miserably in his attempt, but in the process he penned one of football’s most recognizable books, Paper Lion.

The Lions camp that year was held at the grounds of the Cranbrook Schools, in Bloomfield Hills, MI, about 20 miles northwest of Detroit, MI.

The Lions held their training camp at the Cranbrook Schools from 1934-1941, and again from 1957-1974, for a total of 26 seasons. The most by any site in Lions training camp history.

The Lions last training camp at the Cranbrook Schools in 1974, was struck by tragedy. With their training camp schedule already started, Lions head coach Don McCafferty suffered a heart attack at his home and died. At the same time several veterans weren’t in camp, as they took part in a players strike. Lions QB Greg Landry acted as a true franchise leader, when he left the picket line to show his support for interim head coach Rick Forzano.

There was also drama at the Lions first training camp back at the Cranbrook Schools in 1957. Lions head coach Buddy Parker grew frustrated with the team, and he abruptly quit his post just before the start of their preseason schedule. Parker announced his resignation in front of 600 surprised guests at the annual “Meet the Lions” banquet. Parker was quoted as saying the Lions were “the worst team Iv’e ever seen in training camp”. George Wilson replaced Parker and subsequently called the Lions “a-number-one all the way”. He was right, they won the league title. It’s the last league title the Lions have won.


Additional Facts

  • Pete Dawkins, an Army HB who won the Heisman Trophy in 1958, is an alumnus of the Cranbrook Schools.
  • Bloomfield Hills is a small but very wealthy community. It has a population of 3,869 as reported by the 2010 Census. According to the Bloomfield Hills city website, it’s one of the top five richest cities in the United States among cities with over 1,000 households. A quick look on REALTOR.com shows that there are close to 100 homes with listed sale prices of over a million dollars.
  • Bloomfield Hills is close to the Oakland Hills Country Club, which is in the Bloomfield Township. The private golf course has hosted the Ryder Cup (2004), the U.S. Open six times (mostly recently in 1996), and the PGA Championship three times (most recently in 2008)


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