APRIL 7, 1968

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Someone asked me how they’d recognize loved ones in heaven because people change so much in their lifetimes, not to mention after they pass. My response was that you recognize your husband even though he has changed alot since your wedding day. It’s kinda like that when I look back to the first Major League Baseball game I attended with my father, uncle, & cousin back when I was soon to be 12 years old in April of 1968. The game was an exhibition game between my team the Chicago White Sox and my cousin’s Team the Chicago Cubs played at County Stadium in Milwaukee, WI. Guess Chicago wouldn’t have been cold enough to play this Boys Benefit game on April 7th. It was just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the whole country was pretty much in an uproar. I was concerned as to whether the riots on the South Side of Chicago would find their way to the North Side where I lived. I’ve been a North Sider my whole life, having moved a few blocks when I was three to my present address which has been my home the last 47 years. Yikes, where has the time gone? We almost didn’t go to Milwaukee because of the unrest, the cold weather, and there was talk the game wouldn’t be played in out of respect for the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or the cold weather.

Well the game was played and I’ve been able to tap into a special place in my mind where the memory of the day still lives on, even though my uncle left this earth far too soon, about thirty years ago. I can remember bundling up for the cold weather and driving all the way to Milwaukee, now I go to Waupaca alot, but back then Milwaukee was really far away. The White Sox were the home team for this game and even played ten regular season games North of the border in 1968. The Braves had left for Atlanta and Milwaukee hungered for baseball. Bud Selig was trying to entice the White Sox to make County Stadium its home, but fortunately that wasn’t to be. I can still remember the excitement of coming up the tunnel on the way to our seats and seeing the green grass. It was so exciting! And even though the game didn’t count this was before interleague play and this was about as close to the World Series as either team would get.

Even though the White Sox defeated the Cubs 3-2 in ten blustery innings, the Cubs finished the regular season in 3rd place with 84 wins, while the White Sox ended up in 9th place with 95 losses. Both teams had scrappy skippers who would do anything to win, Leo Durocher for the Cubs and Eddie Stanky for the White Sox. The Cubs featured pretty much the same team as they had in 1969 when they would be immortalized as one of the most remembered teams in Cub history, but not necessarily in a good way, the 1969 Miracle Mets passed them up on their way to a World Series Championship, when the Cubbies had a major collapse. Still those Cubs are held dear in Cub fans hearts even today. On the other side of town, Luis Aparicio was back after four years with the Orioles. Lou Johnson was the first batter I saw step to the plate in a big league game against Joel Horlen, but Little Louie was the first White Sox batter I saw hit, against Ken Holtzman.

Others of note appearing in the game were… For the Cubs… Ferguson Jenkins would be a 20 game winner in 1968, 20-15, 2.63 ERA, in 308 innings of work. Lee Elia was their starting SS for the day, with Jose Arcia at 2B (I still remember Cub announcer Jack Brickhouse calling him Josey Arcia. Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Mr. Cub (Ernie Banks), Randy Hundley, & Glenn Beckert all played. Future veterinarian Rich Nye took the loss in relief, allowing two runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched. No-neck Walt Williams was the hustling leftfielder for the South Siders, with Ken “Bandit” Berry in CF, & Buddy Bradford in right. Sandy Alomar, Sr. was Luis Aparicio’s double play partner at second. Behind the plate was Duane Josephson, with Tommy McCraw at 1B & Pete Ward (who’s base hit would end the game) at the hot corner. A couple of knuckleballers would appear out of the pen, Wilbur Wood & Hoyt Wilhelm. But the youngster Cisco “Kid” Carlos would pick up the victory, he’d only have four wins in the regular season against 14 losses. Besides Jenkins & Carlos’ 1968 stats, here’s what some other guys who appeared in this game’s 1968 stats would be,… Joel Horlen finished with a 12-14 mark, despite having a nifty 2.37 ERA. Wilbur Wood was a workhorse out mostly out of the pen, pitching 159 innings, to go along with a 13-12 record, with 16 saves, & a 1.87. Tommy Davis tied Pete Ward with 50 RBIs, which was the most on the team, Ward also had 15 long balls to lead in that category as well. Remarkably Tommy Davis playing everyday only had five doubles & three triples. Ken Berry had the highest team batting average at .252, while the most runs scored was 55 runs by Luis Aparicio. Cubbies Ron Santo & Billy Williams had the most RBI on the team, 98. Sweet Swingin Billy Williams had a .288 batting average bested only by Glenn Beckert’s .294 mark. Mr. Cub had 32 homers to lead the team, edging Williams by two.

It was remarkable that I was a White Sox fan, growing up on the North Side of Chicago, and considering the shape of the two ballclubs when I started following baseball in 1968, but for some reason all the kids growing up around my house were Sox fans. I knew so little about baseball in 1968 that a Johnny Vasta’s brother Sal wrote positions on my baseball cards for the outfielders, CF is penciled in on an otherwise vintage Willie Mays card. You’d have thought I might have been able to have figured that one out.

I am in debt to the library’s ditto service of the Milwaukee Public Library for making copies of the April 7, 1968 Milwaukee Journal to enable me to complete a nice ride down Memory Lane. Hope you enjoyed the trip. I’d love to hear about your first Major League game or one that particularly stands out in your mind.

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One Response to “APRIL 7, 1968”

  1. Wow TeddyBallgame, what a blast from the past! Walter “No-Neck” Williams, I hadn’t thought of that name in years-LOL!! That’s when nicknames were well, kinda fun. Of course he was just plain “Sandy Alomar” back then, no senior was attached to his name yet. Another name from that box score-Buddy Bradford!

    I remember those Sox games in Milwaukee well. You froze up there in April. I experienced a very cold game up there too, and IIRC it was on the July 4th weekend.

    Check out that story about expansion. I had no idea that the NL had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the San Diego/Montreal round of expansion.

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