History is not supposed to be something I’ve lived through. History is supposed to be something that happened well before I was born.
It was therefore with a mix of nostalgia and dread that I read Tim Wendell‘s Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball–and America–Forever. 1968 was the first year I really started paying attention to what was going on in baseball, attending games, watching on TV, collecting cards and magazines. Of course, at the time I was too young to understand the urban unrest in Detroit and other cities across the country, and the deeper meaning of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the political impact of the war in Vietnam. So in that regard, it’s educational to see now what I could not appreciate as a kid.
Other authors have covered the story of how that southwestern city embraced a team of mixed races to a degree that was still something of a novelty. Team ownership bought a hotel in St. Petersberg, Florida so all the players and their families could bond during spring training. David Halberstam made that a focal point of his October 1964, a contrast in study between the Cardinals and the more racially conservative New York Yankees. But four years later, more teams were getting comfortable with such a diversity and Wendel blends the baseball and contemporary cultural in the U.S. to show how a sport can help heal and, in some cases, lead the way when it comes to bridging gaps.
Wendel, a former baseball writer for USA Today, also wrote High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All. He will be the featured guest at The Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, located at 67 East 11th Street in Manhattan, on Wednesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Clubhouse website or call 800-556-9420. See here for more Wendel appearances.