Fifty years ago in early October the 1968 World Series featured the American League Champions Detroit Tigers against the National League Champions St. Louis Cardinals.
The underdog Tigers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win three games in a row primarily on the arm of MVP Mickey Lolich.
He remains the last pitcher to win three complete game victories in a single World Series.
The ’68 World Series was tagged “The Year of the Pitchers” because it featured performances by Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, MVP of the 1964 and 1967 World Series. Gibson won games 1 and 4 in the ’68 World Series, while the mighty Denny McLain lost both of his starts.
Now, 50 years later, mentioning the “68 Tigers” to people of a certain age brings back memories of an amazing season. It was a season that not only enthralled Detroit baseball fans but it also helped heal a city trying to recover from the 1967 riots.
On Saturday, October 5, 1968, my sons Bob and Mike insisted that we try to go to the game even though we didn’t have tickets.
In spite of my objections the three of us, plus Bob’s girlfriend, Vivian, left early Saturday morning for Tiger stadium.
After parking the car we walked to the main ticket office at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull where there was already a lot of people seeking tickets.
Bob, Mike and Vivian stayed in the vicinity of the ticket office while I crossed Trumbull to Hoot Robinson’s Bar/Restaurant, which was packed with Tiger fans.
I walked through the restaurant asking if anyone had extra tickets? A man sitting at the bar said he had two tickets and asked what I’d pay for them?
There had been a lot of publicity about steep fines for scalping tickets so I offered him face value, which he accepted.
I gave the two tickets to Bob and Vivian and they entered the stadium.
My son Mike and I then walked west on Michigan to the other ticket office and as we arrived there a cab pulled out to let two people out. I asked if they had extra tickets and they had one. I bought this ticket and Mike entered the stadium with them.
I walked around Tiger Stadium after the game had started and as I was walking south on Trumbull a young man came running towards me. I asked if he had an extra ticket and I was surprised when he stopped and said, “Yes, I have one.”
His girlfriend was ill and couldn’t come to the game.
I bought his extra ticket and we sat together in the bleachers. The Tigers lost this game scoring 3 runs to the Cards 7 runs.
The Sunday, October 6 game was also played in Detroit and I attended the game as a guest of WWJ-TV. The Tigers also lost this game – Cards 10, Tigers 1.
The Monday, October 7 game was played in Detroit and the Tigers won beating the Cards 5 – 3.
The next two games were played in St. Louis and the Tigers won both games. The Wednesday, October 9 game the Tigers won 13 runs to the Cards 1 and the Thursday game the Tigers won 4 runs to 1 run for the Cards.
The celebration that Thursday night in Detroit was wild and crazy and for an old Tiger fan like me there’s still an afterglow.
The World Series winners share in 1968 was $10,973 and in 2017 each winners share was $438,902. Al Kaline’s salary in 1968 was $60,000.
How times have changed.
The ’68 World Series hero Mickey Lolich became an important and popular part of Lake Orion when he opened Lolich’s Donut and Pastry Shop on Lapeer Road next to the Lake Orion Post Office.
A bat-and-ball shaped sign identified his business, which he operated for 18 years. During those 18 years he autographed thousands of boxes of donuts.
During his baseball career he recorded 2,679 strikeouts, the second most in AL history by a left-hander.
In the 1965-1974 decade, Lolich struck out 2,245 batters which was more than any other major league pitcher.
Ernest “Ernie” Baker is a Lake Orion resident, a World War II veteran, a member of VFW Post 334 and an all-around great guy.