You will be seeing a lot of news items this year reminding you of all the news items of 1968 – it was 50 years ago that all kinds of stuff hit the fan.
For me, 1968 was full of personal “tragedy” – it was the year I realized my baby brother, now two years old, was going to get special treatment – and I would merely be a middle child – the rest of my life.
Basically, if you think we live in troubled times today, 1968 was a real mess.
• Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, as was Bobby Kennedy
• Political conventions were marred by rioting by anti-war protestors.
• The environment was trashed by corporate emissions, trash and… gunk with no oversight that would come later by Pres. Nixon’s EPA movement.
• The Civil Rights Act created unrest across the South, as well as violence and rioting in Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc.
Personally, none of that meant too much as I was only eight years old.
But, aside from my baby brother debacle, 1968 provided me some personal truths which were difficult to overcome:
As a born lefty, that year, my first year in Little League, taught me I would never, ever play second base for the St. Louis Cardinals. My coach of the Derryberry Jewelers wouldn’t even let me play second base. “Left-handed? How about center field?
Being left-handed also meant my Big Chief tablet would be permanently smeared by No. 2 pencil smudges. I thought I would leave that behind in the first grade.
And no matter how long my dad made me sit at the dinner table and stare at them, I would never, ever eat those peas. Battle lines between me and my parents were set that would last a decade.
But the worst “tragedy” of 1968 was that horrific day when the St. Louis Cardinals lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Detroit Tigers. Having just won the World Series the year before, I was pretty certain MY Cardinals would win the World Series every year.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to meet Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson at a fund-raising dinner and I told him of my 8-year old hysterics after the Cardinals lost – a story that became sort of famous in my family.
“You see, I was only 8-years old and the Cardinals were the only team. My grandmother and I listened to them on the radio constantly. I took a transistor radio to school to listen to the World Series. When the Cardinals lost, I was so upset,” I told Gibson and a few others listening.
“I understand,” Gibson said with a smile.
“No, I mean, really upset. As in, I threw a tantrum. I cried, I screamed. I threw things. I was ANGRY,” I told the now-snickering crowd. Gibson sighed. “Uh-huh,” he said, with no explanation.
“You realize, you were supposed to win that game. That World Series. You had Detroit down 3 games to 1 and they were entirely beatable. But you lost Game 7. I cried for hours. Even my grandmother’s promise of her special ice cream sundae couldn’t get me to stop throwing a fit.”
Having heard about enough of Game 7, 1968, Gibson ended the conversation:
“You realize, we weren’t too happy with the result either – right?” Gibson asked, this time glaring at me.
We all had a big laugh at my expense. It was pretty funny – but I’m not sure I will ever really get past the 1968 World Series loss to the Tigers.
Lucky for us, our nation is more resilient than 8-year-old me. You will see news reminders this year about 1968. It’s best to remember how much better off we are now than 50 years ago.