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Remembering 1968

3 June 2020 Views From The Booth Sports

Winchester Printers

Greetings from a sweltering Booth!

Before we begin with the main topic today, I was saddened by yesterday’s passing of the great Wes Unseld at age 74. Wes was the centerpiece of the most successful run in Washington Bullets (now Wizards) history–12 consecutive playoff appearances and that 1978 NBA Championship.

Undersized as a center, Unseld used his big body to his advantage. And, although his stats didn’t jump off the page, Wes made everyone around him look good. what I remember most about the Louisville great, was that quick outlet pass to the likes of Bobby Dandridge
and others, resulting in a quick Bullets basket at the other end.

Unseld was a quiet man who didn’t say much, but his patented scowl spoke volumes. Despite not being flashy, Wes Unseld was voted one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, and was one of only 2 players to win the Rookie Of The Year and MVP honors in the same season. The other was Wilt Chamberlain. Enough said.

Thanks for the great memories Wes (and our only NBA title)!

Speaking of memories, a lot has been said and written recently comparing this tumultuous year of 2020 with 1968, a year that also had it’s share of dark moments. 1968 was a year in which Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, there were riots at the Democratic National Convention, and the anti-war movement was gaining traction as images from Vietnam were beamed into our living rooms every night. It took a Gemini space flight in December
and a view of our peaceful-looking blue planet to bring us together and salvage 1968.

As a 9 year-old certainly remember all of the above, but I was only aware of what was happening in the world through the lens of a young boy. Girls had not yet entered the picture, and although The Doors blew me away with their dark lyrics and carnival-like sound, I wasn’t yet immersed in music. So my only worry in 1968 was when my next Little League game was. I LOVED baseball, still do.

Specifically I loved the dreadful Washington Senators, who finished 65-96 in 1968. The old joke about Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” But they were my hometown team and I followed them with a passion.

The names still come flooding back: Joe Coleman, Dick Bosman, Casey Cox, Eddie Brinkman, Paul Casanova. But my favorite was big Frank Howard, who could hit home runs one-handed off the Longines sign at DC Stadium. “Hondo” remains one of my favorites, and my prized possession is a Frank Howard-signed baseball, which you’ll find encased on a shelf in my office.

But my biggest memory of 1968 is the ’68 World Series, which featured the great St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson, who started 3 games of that series against the Detroit Tigers. Although Gibson would lose game 7 to Mickey Lolich, he put on a clinic in Game 1, striking out 17. Gibson remains (sorry Max) my favorite pitcher of all time.

Funny, in 1968, I never saw Bob Gibson as a black man. I wanted to be a pitcher, and I simply saw him as someone who threw the ball like I aspired to do. To me, Bob Gibson was just a great baseball player.

If only we all could view 2020 through the lens of a 9 year-old…

Until the next visit, stay cool, be good to each other, and GO HORNETS!


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