tigers clinch the pennant, 1968

Just as the baseball season is moving into full gear, a round of lazy YouTube surfing resulted in three clips of the clubhouse celebration after the Detroit Tigers cliched the American League pennant on September 17, 1968.

From the following day's edition of the Toronto Star. I'm guessing that it wasn't the Star's sportswriting style of the day to place "the" in front of a team's name:

Tigertown is nursing a monstrous hangover today after a noisy horn-honking celebration of Tigers' first American League pennant since 1945.

You can hardly blame the celebrants. It was a long time between drinks.

By the scoreboard in Tiger Stadium, it was 10:19 when Don Wert stroked a wrong-field single to right field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Al Kaline with the winning run in the 2-1 triumph over New York Yankees.

But officially Tigers had been champions for 20 minutes. That was when Boston Red Sox completed a 2-0 shutout of Baltimore Orioles in Boston to clinch it for Detroit.

However, police had requested Tigers not announce the Baltimore score until the game was over here for fear of interruptions from exuberant fans jumping onto the field.

Even so, among the 46,512 witnesses who helped set a Detroit season attendance record were many with transistor radios to keep informed of happenings in Boston, and they started throwing debris on the infield as soon as it was official.

Wert's hit had barely hit the grass when fans started pouring onto the field. Police, carrying night sticks, and ushers tried in vain to keep the crowd back, and in no time they were pushed back to the Detroit dugout.

The only time the roar subsided was when a fireworks display was wheeled into centre field. The lights went out, and the fireworks spelled-out "Hudson's say sock it to 'em Tigers."

The lead reporter is George Kell, who, after a Hall-of-Fame career as a third baseman, called Tiger games from 1959 to 1996. At the start of the second clip, you'll see Kell interview his future longtime broadcast partner, Al Kaline. Kell retired after a serious illness—I was living in England at the time, and Dad suggested that I should send a "get well" note since I had watched countless Tiger games growing up. To this day, that note is the only time I've ever sent a fan letter via snail mail.

The home station for the Tigers at the time was WJBK (channel 2), who televised games from 1953 to 1974. Based on the ads in the third clip, it seems this copy may have originated in Kalamazoo, where Kell's booth partner Larry Osterman (the reporter in glasses) worked his day job at WKZO.

Bonus feature: Marvin Gaye sings the national anthem before game 4 of the 1968 World Series. Around the 1:00 minute mark, one of gentlemen in the crowd might be Jackie Robinson. The Tigers won the series in seven games. - JB


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