Friday, October 20, 2006

38 years later, the rematch


One of my most vivid memories of baseball is encapsulated in the program above. I had that program for many years and it was thrown away at some time, only to re-emerge when I found this website this morning.

I was 10 years old when my father took me to game 1 of the 1968 World Series, one of the most anticipated pitching matchups in WS history. Bob Gibson had just completed one of the finest seasons by a pitcher in the modern era with a 1.12 ERA. He was opposed by 31-game winner Denny McLain.

My dad had a pass to the Stadium Club at old Busch, a 1960s era "skybox" perched in fair territory near the left field foul pole. We hung around there for about half the game and then visited some friends of my dad in a section behind home plate. My dad knew many of the players and umpires and we somehow were allowed to sit in the aisles next to these wonderful seats and saw Gibson mow down the Tigers, striking out 17.

One of the best baseball writers ever, Roger Angell, devoted a chapter to Gibson's performance that afternoon and interviewed Tigers' hitters Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Norm Cash. They said Gibson on that day was the best pitcher they'd ever seen.

I remember the imagery of Tigers' batters swinging and missing at rising fast balls, utterly helpless.

Of course the Series turned out to deeply disappointing to that 10-year-old kid after Detroit rose from a 3-1 deficit in games and won game 7 after Curt Flood, a man who my father introduced me to, broke the wrong way on a late inning fly ball and Mickey Lolich shut the door on the Redbirds.

Back then, the heavily favored Cardinals were disappointed. I'm hoping that 38 years later, the heavily favored Tigers will return the favor.

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