I’m at the point in my life where I can’t remember where I was last week and yet I have a very distinct memory of where I was 50 years ago today.
A little more than a year ago I did a post entitled I Miss Baseball. A part of the post talked about this but I wanted to go into a little more detail about that day.
July 13, 1971.
I had just turned 13 years old and was getting ready to go into the 8th grade at Kennedy Junior High in Aiken, SC. Richard Nixon was president. The United States was still fighting the Vietnam War. We were still sending Apollo missions to the moon. My folks were divorced and my dad would still be alive for another 4 months. I had not yet started attending church. I knew next to nothing about Jesus and His work on the cross. And my most favorite thing to do was to play baseball.
I have two converging memories about that day – 1) My Uncle Bob and 2) The Major League Baseball All Star Game
1) My Uncle Bob – Unfortunately you will never have the opportunity to meet him. He died over 20 years ago at the very young age of 63. (I say that to you as a very young 63 year old man). You may or may not have met his kids Dafna and Jason. They are my first cousins. My Uncle Bob (Talbert) was a larger than life kind of guy. He was a syndicated columnist for the Detroit Free Press back in the day when there was such a thing known as newspapers. He did a human interest column for 31 years about whatever struck him and he was hugely popular. He was also a huge baseball fan. Specifically a huge Detroit Tigers baseball fan. Tim Kiska said this about him as a columnist…
Talbert had an uncanny way of tapping into the city’s zeitgeist, with a great feel for what people might be interested in. And, of course, he was just outrageous enough that his arrival at a restaurant would get people talking. Nobody could figure out if Talbert’s weirdness — odd clothes, making sure everybody knew he was in the room — was for real, or something pasted on as a publicity-seeking proposition.
Talbert … wasn’t a Detroiter. But Talbert, always conscious of his status as an outsider, worked overtime at being a local. His omnipresent display of Detroit Tigers stuff was part of the package, as were his southernisms, which played well in a town with southern roots.
To give you an idea of his esteemed status with his beloved Tigers he was greatly honored in 2000, the year following his death. The old Tiger Stadium had given way to Comerica Park. The year that it opened (2000) they began a tradition that still continues. They fly a flag for every home game for a year with the initials of someone who loved and was beloved by the Detroit Tigers. In 2000, they flew the initials BT next to the American flag. His initial flag was the first one to fly in Comerica Park.
He had taken me to several games over the years when we had visited from South Carolina and when Detroit hosted the 1971 All Star Game he had tickets and he invited me to join him. It is one of my greatest memories as a boy.
2) The All Star Game – Now first of all you need to understand that in 1971 the baseball All Star Game was a national event. It was looked forward to by fans and players alike and it was a great honor to get selected. It is much different these days. These days the All Star Game is sort of an afterthought. The Home Run Derby is the main attraction and if a player is selected he may or may not play depending on how he feels. That would have been unthought of in 1971.
The ’71 game was perhaps the greatest All Star Game ever played… for many reasons.
- The American League had not won an ASG since 1962 and they would not win again until 1983. During that 20 year stretch, 1971 was the only year that the American League came away with a W.
- There were 22 future Hall of Famers on the National and America League rosters. Twenty-Two!
- The final score was 6-4. All ten runs were scored on home runs. And all the home runs were hit by future hall of famers: Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, and Frank Robinson. That is quite a lineup of home run heroes.
- The home run that Reggie Jackson hit is one of the most iconic All Star home runs ever. It was a 520′ blast that hit one of the light standards on the roof of the stadium. It was epically jaw dropping.
- It was the last ASG that Roberto Clemente played in. He was selected in 1972 but did not play due to injury and then was killed in a plane crash on December 31 of that year.
- Frank Robinson became the first player in All-Star Game history to hit home runs for both leagues over the course of his career.
One of my most prized pieces of memorabilia is the ticket stub I have from that game. Note the cost of admission: $8.00. A quick google search told me that the average ticket cost for this year’s game is over $400.00
July 13, 1971. 50 years ago. A day I will never forget. But stay tuned for a few posts later this year that will talk about other days that I will never forget from 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, and 10 years ago. And in the mean time…
Never forget that you are very loved,