Forty years ago, nearly to the day, the Detroit Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals for their third World Series title. The exact date was October 10, 1968. That’s the day Mickey Lolich jumped into the arms of Tigers catcher Bill Freehan in one of the most memorable moments in team history.
The memories of the ’68 season seem fresh in the minds of so many Detroiters. So does the vibrancy of the city itself. In 1968 — even after the riots — Detroit was still a vibrant and bustling place. The auto industry was still humming along and the city’s population, though decreasing, was still respectable.
So much has changed in the past four decades in the Motor City. In truth, Detroit is just a shadow of its former self. Perhaps that’s why the memories of a baseball championship mean so much to so many people. Somehow, the pleasant, happy memories seem to provide hope — and a constant reminder that even in the worst of times good things can happen.
There will come a day in the not-so-distant future when there will be no more surviving members of the ’68 squad. The generation that experienced the last vestiges of Industrial Age greatness in Detroit — and the home grown leisure sports its abundant wealth provided — will be gone as well.
Personally, I believe that is why so many people in Detroit remain hopeful that some remnant of Tiger Stadium will be preserved for the ages. For anyone who lived through Detroit’s heyday, the field and its surroundings represent much more than just baseball. It is the very place we all shared — and lived — our hopes and dreams. It is the home of our good old days.
There’s no telling what the future will bring. Here’s hoping that a coming championship in Detroit will be memorable enough to provide a small fraction of the magic the 1968 one still does forty years later.