Originally Posted by Procol Harum
Nice new thread BRDSR.
The 1965 season took me from 5th to 6th grade. It was the summer that I was on my one and only championship team in any sport as a strong-hitting catcher/first baseman for my Little League team (named, to my chagrin, the Yankees!). It was a summer where I became briefly enthralled with surfer comics and hot rods to supplement my abiding interests in reading history and listening to the still British Invasion-dominated sounds of WLS' Top 40 format.
It was also the summer that I had my first encounter with death's severe hand as my paternal grandfather passed away down in NC. It was at that funeral--actually during the viewing at my grandparents' house, they were still in the habit there of taking the body "home" one last time and setting the coffin out in the parlor--where, during the year of the March on Selma that I saw two of my grandfather's black neighbors from the filling station down the road come forward, hesitant, hats in hand, unsure about the propriety of stepping foot in a white man's house, until reassured by my grandmother that they could come in and pay their respects. They say the past is a different country. Indeed.
I entered the 1965 baseball season fueled with hope--the previous year's White Sox team's anemic hitting and excellent pitching staff had, after all, lifted us to a 98-win season that had fallen one desperate game short of the hated Yankees. If only we (and it was always "we") had been able to win just two--two stinkin' games!--of the first ten games we had played against the Yankees the pennant would have been ours! Surely, there was reason for optimism going into '65--the White Sox pitching staff was a close, close second to the Dodgers' unworldly staff featuring the likes of Koufax, Drysdale and Osteen. In looking at the entire staff from starters through bullpen--a good argument could be made that perhaps Sox pitching was stronger even than that of Los Angeles.
And there was even hope that our inept offense just might be ready to do something. In the off season we had strengthened our club after having re-acquired "Honey" John Romano to add some punch along with a good-looking outfielder acquired from the Phillies named Danny Cater. The '64 lineup promised better, revolving around our star 3rd baseman Pete Ward who had given the dodge to the sophomore slump after his near-miss Rookie of the Year 1963 season posting a .282 ba, driving in 94 runs, and banging out 23 home runs (23! It's hard now to convey just how awesome those sorts of numbers looked for a White Sox player during that era of the pitcher). With Floyd Robinson out in RF, our tall, lanky power-hitting shortstop Ron Hansen, and the big bat of first baseman Moose Skowron (on hand for the entire season this time) it looked like the Sox would be able to make their move.
And from the start it looked good--an opening day win and a decent start while the Yankees so uncharacteristically stumbled out of the gate. In May there was a 9 or 10-game winning streak that I followed excitedly every morning in the pages of "The Bright One", the Chicago Sun-Times. But alas...the Twins, with that horde of great hitters Killebrew, Allison, Hall, Versailles, Mincher, Rollins, Oliva, and the ex-Sox prospect Earl Battey suddenly came up with great seasons from the likes of veteran pitchers such as Camillo Pascual, 21-game winner Jim "Mudcat Grant," Jim Perry, and Jim Kaat; the previous season's 6th place team suddenly gelled and began playing great baseball. And the Sox? A few key injuries undercut the team. The pitching was not quite as good as it had been in '64 although it was still very good and, unimaginably, the hitting was even worse. I learned a lot about expectations, realities, ideals, disappointments, baseball and life that year...