Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

My insular world of Neosho, Missouri protected me from much of what was happening in 1968. That fall, I entered 7th grade at Neosho Junior High School and started my downtown paper route after school. So much was happening in the world that year. The Tet offensive was launched in January. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April, and Robert Kennedy in June. Only later did the impact of the My Lai Massacre begin to sink in as we heard news reports about Charlie Company and Lt. William Calley. Occasionally I'd get to watch "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." Goldie Hawn and Lilly Tomlin made quite an impression -- in their own ways. Tiny Tim was singing, "Tip Toe Through the Tulips," Mike Wallace was launching "60 Minutes" (Don't you know some exec said, "It'll never last"?), Peggy Fleming was skating, and Joe Namath was wearing a mink coat! But in my world, it was Bob Gibson. My beloved Cardinals were headed back to the World Series (after their wins in 1964 and 1967), led by the greatest pitcher of his era. You may disagree -- but, hey, start your own blog! In 1968 Gibby won the National League MVP and the Cy Young. His ERA for the year was 1.12, with 268 strikeouts and 13 shutouts. Maybe most remarkable is that he completed 28 of his 34 starts. Can you imagine a pitcher today having half that many completed games? I still remember having my little transistor radio nearby on any day Gibson was pitching. That summer my maternal grandmother and my cool, young aunt (who was probably 20ish at the time) took me to Chicago. We were visiting lots of relatives along the way, but I think my Grandma wanted to be there for the start of the Democratic Convention when her candidate, Robert Kennedy, would be nominated. After his assassination, she changed allegiance to Eugene McCarthy, and in August we headed for the Windy City, with Grandma preaching Democratic politics to anyone who would listen. I'm sure what my aunt remembers most about the trip is the beginning of that stormy convention. (Will there ever be another quite like the 1968 Democratic Convention? And yes -- I was there!) But what I remember is that these two women I loved took me to Wrigley Field. And of all luck, they were playing the Cardinals! I had so much fun, they took me back the next day. In October, we (yes WE -- I considered myself part of the team) were facing the Detroit Tigers. With the newspaper connection, we again scored tickets, this time to game 6. I was in a bit of a predicament as a Cardinal supporter. Because the Cards went into game 5 with a 3-1 lead. If we won that game, we'd repeat as WS champs. But I wouldn't get to see them in game 6. So I rooted for St. Louis, but didn't mind much when they lost. The rest is sad history for a Cardinal fan. We lost both the sixth and seventh games. But that's not the really sad part. The saddest was that we wouldn't be returning to a World Series until the 1980s. In October the Cards lost the World Series and in November Richard Nixon was elected president. My grandma and I were both sad.

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