Mantle & Mays

The 1968 All-Star Game was played in the Astrodome.  This was the first time this annual event was played indoors.  Appropriately enough, it was a 1-0 pitching duel — and that single run was unearned.  July had many interesting events.  Luis Tiant had struck out 19 in his 1-0 victory over the Twins about a week before the all-star game.  Don Wilson struck out 18 in a game about a week after, the same day that Hank Aaron became the 8th player to reach 500 career homers.  On the month’s last day, Ron Hansen became the 8th player to record an unassisted triple play (the first since 1927).  It also featured two incredibly rare talents, Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays.


My recollection of 1968 doesn’t really include the things mentioned above.  I was eleven, and while baseball was important to me specific memories of sporting events would not stick until the next decade.  Google provided my memory of that Don Wilson gem mentioned above, but I needed no help recollecting he died during my senior year (maybe a scandalous suicide).  Some things that pass for memories were actually planted later, via popular culture.  For instance, I know Mickey Mantle’s uniform number from a memorable Seinfeld episode, and know he’s an all-time great in a bookish sort of way, not an experiential one.  That said, I must say this 1968 replay of mine has not done much to convey Mantle’s greatness.  This was his last season, at age 36 a somewhat premature ending to a great career.  Makes me pine a bit for doing one of his prime-time seasons next!

Typically, Mantle hits lead-off for the Des Moines squad.  He’s still a 1-13 runner, which is fairly good, but this is still an example of how anachronistic views of lineup creation have creapt into my recreation of 1968.  It was initially hard to hit him at the top of the order.  Mickey only had 435 ABs and nursing those through a long season is a priority.  While his 106 walks definitely extends those ABs (as does the reduced offense in this season relative to what I’ve grown accustomed to in the more modern game), he has had to be rested about 1/4 the time.  Even so, Mantle (or ‘7’, per the Seinfeld) has now drawn 56 walks in his 65 games played, and is just one behind Yaz (who has appeared in 81 games) for the league lead.  As much as I’ve come to admire Mantle’s ability to get on base, I must admit he’s sort of a one-trick pony at this point.  Walks are nice, but his .225 average with only eleven extra-base hits are stark reminders that Father Time has taken a toll… he was not chosen for the IBC all-stars.

“Mrs. Robinson” was released in April of 1968.  Toward the end is a verse that cemented my sense of the greatness of another Yankee outfielder, Joe DiMaggio. Paul Simon, in making him the symbol of a more virtuous past, for better or worse instantly elevated The Yankee Clipper above other baseball legends, such as Ted Williams and Duke Snider.  

Time seems to have stood still for another old-timer, Willie Mays, who believe it or not was the subject of a trio of pop songs back in 1954.  I’ll link my favorite.  At this point he looks like the obvious MVP — worthy of a few more records — leading the IBC in Total Bases and Total Average.  He did slump this week (I jinxed him a week ago), but still sits atop the league with a .326 average.  It’s inevitable that time will eventually get the best of him too, but for now The Say-Hey Kid is as good as ever.  

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 14 weeks of play, and the current standings.  Front-runner Council Bluffs has cooled off, going 5-5 lately.  Iowa City (8-2), Davenport (7-3), and Ames (7-3) have seized the chance to nudge closer in the standings.  Meanwhile, Waterloo is sinking fast, going 0-10.  


7/14/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      59     32    .648     —
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         53     35    .602    4.5
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   52     36    .591    5.5

Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      49     41    .544    9.5
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      46     43    .517   13.0
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      46     45    .505   13.0

Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       39     51    .433   19.5
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         37     55    .402   22.5
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      36     54    .400   22.5
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  32     57    .360   26.0

That’s all for this week.  Note that I have tried to create a Facebook page for this project, but I am unsure how to really integrate this with that wider platform.

© John Kisner 2019