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Baseball and unrest explored in exhibition at library

Baseball and unrest explored in exhibition at library
(Raul Roa Staff Photographer)

Terry Cannon grew up in Detroit rooting for his hometown Tigers.

Cannon is the executive director of the Baseball Reliquary, a Pasadena-based nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. Cannon has been the curator of a number of baseball-themed exhibitions that have been displayed at the Burbank Central Library.

The latest display, “Bad Moon Rising: Baseball and the Summer of ’68,” which runs through Sept. 27 at the library, includes a tribute to his beloved Tigers and their seven-game victory against the St. Louis Cardinalsin the World Series.

“This was a really fun exhibit for me because I grew up in Detroit, and I always thought about doing something to celebrate the success of the ’68 team,” Cannon said. “That World Series victory really galvanized that city, a city that suffered through some pretty bad rioting in 1968. It kind of really brought the city out of the ashes and the population really rallied around the team. What we saw there was a real positive impact of baseball.”


The exhibition is played out against the backdrop of one of the most divisive and turbulent years in American history, marked by national tragedy and sweeping change. The presentation is based on ¿Tim Wendel’s book, ¿"Summer of ’68: The¿ Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever.”

“I’m very pleased with it. I think it’s one of the better exhibits that we’ve done,” Cannon said. “Because the information is from such a wonderful book, it was vary easy to kind of translate that to the exhibit. It’s also interesting because along with what was going on in baseball at the time, it also draws upon what was happening in society at the time.

“In 1968, there were so many changes that were happening at the time in baseball, and it was also a very turbulent time in America with the tensions that were going on, the riots in the cities that were taking place and the assassination of two prominent figures. So you will see all of this sprinkled throughout the exhibition.”

The exhibition utilizes photographs, artifacts and documents to illustrate key elements of Wendel’s research. Much of the signage, including captions for photographs, is excerpted from the book.


In the preface to “Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever,” Wendel writes: “In 1968, the gods were angry. It’s been called ‘the year that rocked the world,’ and it rarely showed any mercy. How else to describe a single year in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.was killed by an assassin’s bullet and weeks later Robert Kennedy met the same fate? In which riots broke out in the streets in cities across the country and millions gathered to protest the issues surrounding the Vietnam War and civil rights, often to be met with resistance and in some cases brutality.”

Among the topics examined in the display are the record-setting achievements of pitchers such as Bob Gibson, Denny McLain and Don Drysdale, which resulted in the 1968 season being hailed as the “Year of the Pitcher.”

Cannon said there are a number of items in the exhibition that relate to Drysdale and his record-breaking season of 1968, in which he recorded six consecutive shutouts and set a Major League record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings (broken by Dodger Orel Hershiser in 1988).

Cannon relates a poignant story about what also occurred on the night Drysdale recorded his sixth straight shutout on June 4 of that year.

“That same night, Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel,” he said. “When Kennedy came out to make a speech at about midnight to acknowledge his win in the [California presidential primary] … one the first things he talked about was that he congratulated Drysdale on his sixth shutout and added that he hoped he would be able to enjoy the same success in his race for president that Drysdale had had.”

Moments later, Kennedy was shot to death by Sirhan Sirhan.

The presentation also delves into baseball’s reaction to the assassinations of King and Kennedy, and the refusal of some players to take the field when baseball Commissioner William Eckert decided not to postpone all games during the national day of mourning for Kennedy.

Also covered is the classic World Series matchup between the Cardinals and Tigers, and the importance of Detroit’s championship season in the wake of one of the worst riots in U.S. history, as well as the story behind Puerto Rican singer Jose Feliciano’s controversial rendition of the national anthem during the World Series.


The 18th and final major league season of Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle, and the gift that was given him by one of his biggest fans — Tigers’ pitcher McLain — is also touched upon, as well as the emergence of football as the most popular game in America, symbolized by the public reaction to the “Heidi Game” and sealed by quarterback Joe Namath leading the New York Jets to a stunning upset in Super Bowl III.

Even political activist Tom Hayden, one of the infamous Chicago Seven charged with conspiracy and inciting rioting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, is featured in the exhibition for his unique connection to the Detroit Tigers and for his love of baseball. Hayden, now 72, still plays hardball every Sunday in Los Angeles, competing against players half his age.

“The Baseball Reliquary never fails to provide an interesting, informative and entertaining program to accompany a fascinating display,” library assistant Joan Cappocchi said. “Every year I look forward to discovering what they will bring to us. And I love the fact that their programs and ¿exhibits bring new people into the library who can then discover all that we have to offer to the community.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Baseball Reliquary and the Burbank Central Library will present a discussion and book signing with Wendel, who will also narrate a PowerPoint presentation of images from the book.

The program and exhibition are both free.