Mission accomplished; 50 years late

It was one of those things I intended to do …. but never got around to.

The year was 1968, one of the most turmoil-filled in the history of this country. There was unrest in city streets, assassinations of our leaders and riots wherever you looked.

But it was also the Year of the Tiger, the Detroit Tigers to be precise.

Those Tigers led the American League most of the season behind the brilliant pitching of Denny McLain and a number of clutch hitters.

The exploits of Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, Bill Freehan, Mickey Stanley and Dick McAuliffe were in the headlines of the newspapers every day.

I had an intense rooting interest in that team because they were the players I had grown up watching and listening to.

I can give you the starting Detroit lineup — and probably still can — of 1968. Along with their averages.

To make a long story short, I was working in Milwaukee that long ago hot summer, putting in time at Globe-Van Doorn Elevator Co. of Glendale. And waiting for my draft notice from Uncle Sam.

I followed the Tigers as well as I could, catching an occasional game on the tube. But there was no ESPN and Baseball Channel back then, and even McLain — in pursuit of 30 wins — didn’t get near the attention he would have today.

The Tigers made it to the World Series against the powerful St. Louis Cardinals, who had won it all in 1967. There were no playoff games back then.

I vowed to somehow get to a WS game, likely in St. Louis, which was only a five-hour drive from Milwaukee.

But circumstances got in the way and I was forced to watch Game Seven on television.

The Tigers won, of course, by beating unbeatable Cardinals ace Bob Gibson behind Mickey Lolich.

Just this past Saturday, I walked through the gates at Busch Stadium. There were no Tigers on hand and the only sight of Bob Gibson was his statue in front of the stadium.

Still, it felt good to be sitting in the historic ballpark — even it was 50 years late.

I had accomplished a mission, sort of ….


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