1968 Detroit Tigers Mean More to Detroit Than Just a Championship

Forty-one years ago, the city of Detroit was enjoying the type of baseball season it hadn’t experienced since the end of World War II.  The Detroit Tigers seemed destined to win the pennant after losing on the last day of the season the year before and a near-magical energy was permeating every nook and cranny of a city that, one year earlier, was literally burning to the ground.

1968worldseries-detroit-free-press-coverIn fact, the whole world seemed like it was turning upside down.  Political unrest and violence became the norm as 1968 saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  The war in Vietnam was raging and college campuses were plagued with protests and long-haired dissenters.  Drugs and rock-n-roll seemed to be the new culture of America’s youth and it scared the hell out of most of us. 

During the season, the Tigers had to play the Chicago White Sox in Milwaukee because of the violent clashes in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.  The old systems were breaking down and life as most people knew it seemed to be morphing into something unrecognizable.

But there was something that seemed to keep us rooted in the jovial world of our youth: the Detroit Tigers and baseball at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.  Focusing our attention on the Tigers proved to be an effective way to tune out the ugliness that was infesting our world.

Accordingly, the 1968 Detroit Tigers will forever hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Tigers fans.  The entire season was like a dream — and the team itself was comprised of lovable, larger-than-life characters.  Denny, Mickey, Willie, Al, The Gator.  They were our boys and it was as though they were fighting for something much larger than a championship.  This was about pride.  The pride of a franchise.  The pride of a city and state. 

Come-from-behind wins and miraculous plays were the cornerstones of a year that seemed like it was touched by divine intervention.  Everyone was a hero at one point or another.  Don Wert, Tommy Matchick, Dick McAuliffe.  There was no designated hitter.  There were no divisions.  No wild cards.  No unfair advantages.  It was an old-school, winner-takes-all pennant race.

But it was more than that.  It was reassurance that somehow, everything was going to be fine.  It was an old friend calling to remind us that all was not lost.  Life would go on and what was good and virtuous just a few years earlier still seemed good and virtuous on the sacred field of Tiger Stadium.

A lot has changed in 41 years.  But the spiritual connection between the fans and their Tigers has not.  The ’68 season will always represent more than just a championship.  It represents hope and believing to a city of people who desperately needed it. 

And who still do.

One reply on “1968 Detroit Tigers Mean More to Detroit Than Just a Championship

  • Karen Elizabeth Bush

    My copy of the “We Win!” edition includes a penned in greeting from my newspaper boy, who has to have sat up writing it on a couple hundred newspapers. “Good morning, Tiger fans!” he wrote in just one more example that there has never been a time that the whole state was more in concert, more behind a sports team.

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