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Summer of '68: The Season That Changed Baseball--And America--Foreverby Tim Wendel
Synopses & Reviews
The extraordinary story of the 1968 baseball season—when the game was played to perfection even as the country was being pulled apart at the seams
From the beginning, ’68 was a season rocked by national tragedy and sweeping change. Opening Day was postponed and later played in the shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. That summer, as the pennant races were heating up, the assassination of Robert Kennedy was later followed by rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. But even as tensions boiled over and violence spilled into the streets, something remarkable was happening in major league ballparks across the country. Pitchers were dominating like never before, and with records falling and shut-outs mounting, many began hailing ’68 as “The Year of the Pitcher.”
In Summer of ’68, Tim Wendel takes us on a wild ride through a season that saw such legends as Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, Don Drysdale, and Luis Tiant set new standards for excellence on the mound, each chasing perfection against the backdrop of one of the most divisive and turbulent years in American history. For some players, baseball would become an insular retreat from the turmoil encircling them that season, but for a select few, including Gibson and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, the conflicts of ’68 would spur their performances to incredible heights and set the stage for their own run at history.
Meanwhile in Detroit—which had burned just the summer before during one of the worst riots in American history—’68 instead found the city rallying together behind a colorful Tigers team led by McLain, Mickey Lolich, Willie Horton, and Al Kaline. The Tigers would finish atop the American League, setting themselves on a highly anticipated collision course with Gibson’s Cardinals. And with both teams’ seasons culminating in a thrilling World Series for the ages—one team playing to establish a dynasty, the other fighting to help pull a city from the ashes—what ultimately lay at stake was something even larger: baseball’s place in a rapidly changing America that would never be the same.
In vivid, novelistic detail, Summer of ’68 tells the story of this unforgettable season—the last before rule changes and expansion would alter baseball forever—when the country was captivated by the national pastime at the moment it needed the game most.
"Sportswriter Wendel (High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball) mines one of baseball's more absorbing episodes in this rich chronicle of the 1968 season. It's a sociologically resonant account, anchored by the Detroit Tigers' pennant campaign, which helped settle the city after the 1967 race riots, and overshadowed by football's impending eclipse of the national pastime. Wendel sometimes overswings for historical context as he revisits political traumas, from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Chicago Democratic Convention, and roams afield to the Mexico City Olympics and other sports events. He's at his best just sitting in the ballpark, savoring the Year of the Pitcher's classic mound performances: a Catfish Hunter perfect game; scads of no-hitters and shutouts; the legendary seasons posted by the Tigers' 31-game winner Denny McClain and Cardinals ace Bob Gibson — who had an unheard-of 1.12 ERA — before their World Series showdown. Wendel provides telling color commentary — the contrast between the obsessive, steely-eyed Gibson and McClain, a flamboyant press-hound angling for a Vegas nightclub gig, is especially vivid — and sharp analyses of on-field strategizing and play-by-play. If not as significant as the author imagines, the story still packs plenty of meaning. Photos. Agent: Chris Park, Foundry Media." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The extraordinary story of the 1968 baseball season--when the game was played to perfection even as the country was being pulled apart at the seams
For baseball fans, 1968 was The Year of the Pitcher. The season was dominated by such legends as Don Drysdale, Denny McLain, Luis Tiant, and Bob Gibson. But it was also a season shaped by national tragedy and sweeping change, rocked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and shaken by the violence that erupted at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the riots that raged throughout the summer.
For a select few players, the conflicts of 68 would spur their performance to remarkable heights, elevating the game around them. And in Detroit--which had burned just the summer before during the worst riot in American history--the city rallied behind a Tigers team that would face off against Bob Gibsons St. Louis Cardinals, the defending champions, in an amazing World Series for the ages.
Soon everything would change--for baseball and America. But for this one unforgettable season, the country was captivated by the national pastime at the moment it needed the game most.
About the Author
Tim Wendel is the author of nine books, including High Heat, Far From Home, Red Rain, and Castro’s Curveball. A founding editor of USA Today Baseball Weekly, he has written for Esquire, GQ, and Washingtonian magazines. He teaches writing at Johns Hopkins University and has appeared on CNN, ESPN, SiriusXM, and NPR, and recently served as an exhibit advisor to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He lives in Vienna, Virginia.
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