I thought I’d offer you a trip down memory lane to this date 44 years ago today.
The year was 1968 – a very troubled time in American history. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April, and seemingly close upon the heels of that fateful episode, it happened again to Robert Kennedy on June 5th. After a funeral mass in New York City on the 8th, his body was taken by a slow-moving train to Washington, D.C. to be buried at Arlington.
This funeral train drew large crowds of people all along the route. As the train was making an early evening transit through Baltimore, my family and I were traveling into the city to attend an Orioles game against Oakland. I much remember the crowds gathering along the train tracks on the west side of Baltimore and seeing as well the news helicopters circling above.
I also remember clearly that the Orioles won the game that evening by a score of 8-1, with the only Oakland run being a homer to center field by starting pitcher Catfish Hunter. But looking up the box score of that game here years later, I was surprised by a number of other interesting items.
Batting 7th in the order that evening was a young right fielder practically unknown to everyone. His name – Reggie Jackson. At this point in his career as a first-year full-time player, he was still in single digits of homers for his career.
If we think our recent Orioles teams have had poor offensive statistics, the numbers for the 1968 team are dreadful in the extreme. This was an Orioles team with a record coming into the game of 30-24 (perfectly 1/3 of the way through the season), and they were in 3rd place, just 5 games back.
The batting averages of the first three Orioles in the lineup were: Paul Blair – .210, Curt Motton – .210, and Frank Robinson just .205 (on his way to a sub-par season of .268).
1968 was a baseball season where pitchers totally dominated. It was the year Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12, yet somehow lost 9 games (while winning 22).
Many younger fans may not know that the pitcher’s mound, currently 10 inches above the field level, used to be at 15 inches. The change was made after the 1968 season – the same year the league went from a simple pair of 10-team leagues, to four divisions of six teams each. The changes sure agreed with the Orioles, as they went on to win the AL championship for the next three years, and win the World Series in 1970.
|Robinson F. rf||3||2||1||0|
|Robinson B. 3b||4||1||2||1|
|Hunter L (5-5)||5.0||6||4||4||2||5|
|McNally W (6-5)||9.0||6||1||1||1||5|
HR–Oakland Hunter (1,6th inning off McNally 0 on, 0 out), Baltimore Blefary (4,4th inning off Hunter 0 on, 2 out); Powell (9,5th inning off Hunter 1 on, 2 out); Johnson (5,8th inning off Lindblad 1 on, 1 out). T–2:20. A–17,575.