Dave Moller: ’68 Series evokes mixed emotions, memories | TheUnion.com

Dave Moller: ’68 Series evokes mixed emotions, memories

This isn’t my first World Series with the Cardinals and Tigers, and it just can’t help from being personal, because it reminds me of the incredibly beautiful Patty Duffy, with whom I attended the last.

It was 1968, and my cousin was killed in Vietnam just as St. Louis was starting the season. So the solace I found in my hometown team that year was even more profound than usual, a place to hide from me pain and madness.

We had won the World Series in ’67 against the Boston Red Sox, an upset in the eyes of all those from the East, who still considered anything west of the Alleghenies trivial. So it was with great delight that we beat the great Carl Yastrzemski and all those stuffy Easterners who incessantly used long “A”s in their speech where it didn’t belong.

The Cardinals did it with what we used to call country hardball. It was the style they played from the 1920s through the 1980s, a take-no-prisoners, spike ’em if they get in your way, chin-music brushback, take-the-extra-base attitude that our dads passed on to us because they figured what was good for them – Pepper Martin and Dizzy Dean – was good for junior.

What you have to understand is in St. Louis at that time, baseball was second only to church, and that was a very close second. If your minister had mentioned Stan Musial as the embodiment of the Ten Commandments, the congregation would not have flinched, and no one would have referred to it as a blasphemous analogy.

However, I preferred a certain pew in the right-field bleachers of Busch Stadium to the one at the First Presbyterian Church in the suburbs where my dad sang in me choir every Sunday. That’s where I was for game six against the Tigers in October.

It was the year of the pitcher in which Bob Gibson won the National League MVP and Cy Young Award on still the best Cardinal team I have ever seen. The next year they lowered the pitching mound from 15 to 10 inches because of the season Gibson had.

Because of the proliferation of relief pitchers these days, you will probably never see the numbers Gibson produced that year again.

Imagine this. In the 34 games he started, Gibby had 28 complete games, 13 shutouts, 24 wins, 9 losses, 268 strikeouts, 69 walks and a still-record 1.12 ERA over 304 innings. Gibby wasn’t throwing peas that year, he was firing atoms and as always, if they crowded the plate, Mr. Gibson would put them on their big back side.

The Tigers had Denny McLain, the last man to win 31 games in a year and the first to do so since the aforementioned Mr. Dean. They also had the proverbial crafty left-hander, Mickey Lolich, who would eventually see to our horsehide demise, but I digress.

Up three games to two, the Cards were primed for a second-consecutive championship. And there I was, basking in the bleacher seats my buddies and I had spent all night in line for the prior Friday night.

We all had dates and sitting on my right was the incredibly beautiful Patty Duffy, who heretofore had been less than receptive to my advances. Even her freckles were beautiful, and she had one of those incredible, perky personalities that just lit you up.

I was no fool. I knew she couldn’t say no to the World Series and she sure didn’t. The Tigers jumped all over the Cardinal pitchers early before the rains came and I put up an umbrella. The drizzle didn’t stop for awhile, but that didn’t dampen our spirit. It was the World Series – only two Super Bowls had been played by then – and there we were, killing the best of times.

And then it happened.

I was trying to impress Patty with my baseball expertise under the umbrella, and how the rain delay might actually work to the Cardinals’ advantage, when she ever-so-sweetly leaned over and kissed me flush on my 17-year-old lips.

I immediately assumed it was love, not realizing she was completely caught up in the moment, the World Series, good friends all around, high school, and all that red, white and blue bunting.

I don’t mind saying we shared more smooches under that umbrella in those rainy day bleachers as we waited for the game to resume. My buddies started giving us the razz, but we didn’t care.

An hour later, we were driving home listening to the Cardinals lose 13-0 on the radio. I went home ecstatic anyway after she kissed me goodbye at the door.

For game seven I was in the right field bleachers again, but this time with my burly bud Buschman on the left. This was no place for dates or making out, it was time for country hardball.

The game was scoreless for six innings and Gibson was throwing his atoms early. Lolich had already beaten us twice during the series, and here he was again, carving the Cardinals with curves, changeups and guile.

Having pitched all of games one and four, Gibby started to tire, the atoms turning to peas and then real baseballs as the Tigers stepped to the plate in the seventh.

The next thing we knew, a bad-hop went over Julian Javier’s glove at second and third baseman Mike Shannon just missed a screamer down the line to put runners at first and second. There were two outs and we figured Gibby could strike out Jim Northrup, or get him to ground out to end the threat.

I can still see the ball coming off Northrup’s bat like a gunshot soaring low and climbing into center field straight at Gold Glove winner Curt Flood, who was almost dead in front of me. Anyone who ever played outfield knows the line drive straight at you is the toughest to judge, and Flood had a classic one coming right at his eyes.

He froze for a millisecond, took two steps in toward the infield and slipped. Some say he misjudged it and some say the ground simply gave way.

Whatever, the ball sailed over his head for a triple and two runs scored. The Tigers got another run and then in the ninth, both teams exchanged tallies for a 4-1 Detroit victory. Series over.

I’ll never forget walking out the back side of the stadium in silence with 50,000 people, a country on the ropes, and wondering why God had punished us.

It wasn’t a good year. I lost my cousin, the World Series and two weeks later, Patty Duffy.

But I lived and prospered, and I always wondered what happened to her. She gave me one of the best moments of my life.


To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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