Living across the state in Potawatomi Rapids,
we only got to Tiger Stadium once every few years.
I was glued to the RCA Victor black and white
every time they were on TV.
So naturally I watched that Saturday,
September 14, 1968, nationally televised.
I was sixteen. The Tigers had never won a championship
in my lifetime, though I knew
the legends of Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg,
the 1935 and 1945 World Series wins.
But here was Denny McClain going for his 30th win,
a feat not accomplished in 34 years
since Dizzy Dean won 30 for the Cardinals.
Denny had a respectable 6-hitter going
when the Tigers came up in the bottom of the ninth,
but he’d given up two homers
to the new kid on Oakland, Reggie Jackson,
and the Tigers trailed 4 to 3.
Mayo Smith pulled Denny for a pinchhitter, Al Kaline,
who walked, then went to third on Mickey Stanley’s single.
Kaline scored on a wild throw to the plate before
Willie Horton’s blast to left over Jim Gosger’s head.
Stanley scored the winning run!
Denny would be disgraced in years to come,
associated with organized crime figures, gambling, bookmaking.
Bowie Kuhn suspended him for carrying a gun.
He’d retire in 1972 after losing 22 in 1971 for Ted Williams’ Senators.
But in 1968? He could have been elected President!