Baseball America’s Game “The 6th Inning”

Christian Corey, Sports Writer

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During the 1960’s America and baseball were again trying to get over another war.  Also, in the year 1960, the great and now Hall of Famer and Korean war veteran, Ted Williams retired from the game he knew and loved.  Williams finished his Hall of Fame career with a .344 AVG/ 1,839 RBIs/ 521 HRs and won 6 batting titles, 2 MVP, 2 Triple Crowns and was a 19 time All-Star.  As you can see, Ted Williams was a true baseball and American hero. 

Also, the 1960’s was a very troubling time for America.  By the middletolate 60s America was again having its racial differences.  However, baseball seemed to be ahead of America in that regard, because in 1947 the first black player Jackie Robinson would play alongside white players. 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was that first black Major League player.  Jackie Robinson was born on January 31st, 1919 in Ciro, Georgia.  Robinson started his baseball career in the Negro Leagues but was soon discovered by a man named Branch Rickey who at the time was the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. 

Jackie Robinson was not just the first player to break the color barrier in baseball, he also had a Hall of Fame career number wise.  Robinson career stats were – AVG: .311/ HR: 137/ RBIs: 734/ and had 197 stolen bases.  He also had an MVP, batting title and won the Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was a 6 time All-Star.  He also won the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955. 

Despite Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, America and its’ people had a hard time grasping this new concept.  In the late 1960s it seemed “all hell broke loose” throughout America and its’ big cities.  America and its’ people were experiencing race riots throughout the country. 

Here is a list of some of the American cities that experienced the riots of the 1960s. 

  • Newark, New Jersey  
  • Harlem, New York  
  • Detroit, Michigan  
  • Pontiac, Michigan  
  • Flint, Michigan  
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan  
  • Houston, Texas 
  • Tucson, Arizona 
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota 
  • Portland, Oregon 
  • Chicago Illinois 
  • Baltimore Maryland 

 

The one city that got hit the hardest by the riots in the 1960s was Detroit, Michigan in the summer of 1967.  The riots started on of July 23rd at 12th street.  The race riots lasted for 5 days ending on July 28th.  The riots left 43 people dead, 342 injured and left nearly 1,400 buildings in the city burned to the ground.  The riots got so bad in Detroit that 7,000 National Guardsman and United Stated Army troops, many who were just coming back from the Vietnam War, had to be sent in to help control the chaos in the city.   

The next summer in 1968 the city was trying to recover but still felt the effects of the riots that happened the previous summer.  The only difference was that the city had something to cheer for during the summer of 68’ and that was their baseball team the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers were having a magical summer that year.  The Tigers finished the regular season that year with a 103-59 record and winning the American Lauge pennant and advancing to the World Series.  

The Tigers had some great players on that 68’ team.  The Tigers had the likes Denny McLain who was an All-Star that year and had 31 wins and had a 1.96 ERA and won the Cy Young Award and the League MVP that year as well.  The Tigers also had Mickey Lolich who threw 3 complete games in that World Series.  The Tigers also had some pretty good hitters on the 68’ team.  The Tigers two “big dogs” were outfielders Willie Horton and Al Kaline.   

Al Kaline was known as “Mr. Tiger” to all of Tigers nation.  Kaline was signed by the Tigers and brought up to the team directly out of high school at the tender age of 18 in 1953.  Kaline spent his entire 22-year big league career with the Tigers.  In 1968 Kaline dealt with some injuries but still managed to hit .287 on the season with 52 RBIs and 10 homeruns. 

Willie Horton, on the other hand, was a very good hitter and outfielder for the Tigers that year as well.  Horton was also one of four black players on that 68’ Tigers team.  In 1968 Willie Horton had a terrific season by hitting .285 with 36 homeruns and 85 RBIs.  Horton was not only a terrific ball player, he was also a model citizen.  Horton was very active in the community when the riots of 1967 started in the city of Detroit.  Horton would go down into the city where the riots were occurring and try to talk to the people of Detroit and make peace. 

When the Tigers advanced to the World Series their opponent was the defending World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals.  The Tigers were quickly down 3 games to 1 heading into game 5 of the series at St. Louis.  Detroit would end up winning the final 3 games of the series in St. Louis and win game 7, by the score of 4-1 and clinching the Tigers 3rd World Championship in their history up to that point.