The Twins have experienced hard times before — just as this country has — and both were thrust into the spotlight during the turbulent year of 1968.
That’s according to sportswriter, Tim Wendel, and his book, “Summer of ‘68: The Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever.”
Wendel tells his tale about the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, but the setting is everything that unfolded that year, including anti-war demonstrations, city riots and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed in April of that year, followed by Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was killed on June 6 during a campaign stop in Los Angeles.
Kennedy was seeking the Democratic nomination of his party to run for the presidency.
The baseball commissioner at the time was William Eckert, who, of all things, apparently was recommended for the job by Gen. Curtis LeMay, famous/infamous for directing the fire-bombing of Tokyo during WWII.
No games were canceled following Kennedy’s assassination. Instead, Eckert said games could continue just as long as they started after the funeral. But he made an exception in two places: games were postponed in New York City and in Washington, D.C.
Guess who was in town to play the Senators that solemn weekend?
The Twins, according to Wendel’s book.
Box scores from that weekend show the Twins played a doubleheader on Friday, June 7, 1968, play was postponed on Saturday — the day of Kennedy’s funeral — and the series resumed on Sunday. The Twins lost two of three games and appeared distracted — as I’m sure many teams were.
In Game 1 of the doubleheader, a game the Twins won, the team committed six errors before 16,000-plus at District of Columbia Stadium, later to be known as RFK Stadium.
Cesar Tovar, Rich Rollins, Al Worthington, Jim Kaat, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew each had an error in the game. They won that game 5-3, lost the second game 3-2 in 10 innings and dropped the final game 7-4 on Sunday to conclude what must have been a long, sad weekend.
Eckert’s decision not to cancel games led to confusion on other teams and among other players, according to Wendel’s book.
Perhaps most vocally, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Milt Pappas, who died last month, pleaded with his teammates not to take the field out of respect for Kennedy. A team vote was held and Pappas eventually lost. Less than 72 hours later he was traded to the Atlanta Braves as part of six-player swap. The Reds denied that Milt’s stance on Kennedy had anything to do with the trade.
The Twins snapped their four-game losing streak Monday night by beating another under-achieving team, the Houston Astros, 6-2.
After losing his debut, pitcher Jose Berrios got the win by going five-plus innings with five walks, but he also struck out eight and surrendered only two runs, both earned.
The Twins had eight hits, including a triple from Byung Ho Park and three hits from Brian Dozier, who finally raised his average above the Mendoza Line.
It’s good to get a win.
Photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain