Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tim Wendel's Summer of '68

Reading Tim Wendel's Summer of '68: The Season That Changed Baseball, and America, Forever is a reminder that our current era has parallels for awfulness. The book is the story of a year, but it tends to focus a lot on the Tigers and on the World Series they played (and won) against the Cardinals. Wendel doesn't really come to any particular conclusions--he weaves some different sports in though they don't form part of a broader narrative.

The Tigers are an appropriate subject because their run for the championship helped unite the city to an extent, which has experienced riots the year prior. Baseball didn't fix or heal racial divides, but even the players themselves--black or white--felt like they were truly playing for their city. They were misfits, not smooth and athletic like the Cardinals.

If there is any theme, it's that the "real world" touches on and draws from baseball whether the players know it or not. Politicians from both parties wanted to comment on or attend games. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a sports fan per se but of course understood how race relations in major sports impacted public policy. Football was only just taking off at that point, and it's interested how it has overtaken baseball in terms of political importance. Donald Trump is whining about the NFL and to an extent the NBA, but not MLB.


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