I was seven in 1968 and this was the first season I followed from start to finish- I remember being ‘sick’ during the weekday games of the World Series in October- so I could watch those games.
I hear old timers talk about how great it was in the old days- and how today’s game doesn’t match up. In my opinion the players of today are as good if not better than ever. The game has changed over the years- and the world has changed. Those who make the claim ‘they played for the love of the game” 50 years ago are full of baloney. They have always played for the money.
One way the game has changed for the better over 50 years ago. Look at the standings below- back then it was two leagues as it is today but only one team in each league- the pennant winners advanced to the World Series. There was no playoffs. On August 1, 1968 there was still two months to go in the season and a lot of meaningless games. Look at the American League- Detroit led by 7 games over Baltimore, 8 over Cleveland and 10 over Boston. The pennant race wasn’t over- a 7 game lead in two months can be lost but Baltimore or Cleveland would have had to have played great ball and Detroit would have had to stumble for there to be a pennant race. The rest of the league was out of it. The National League? It was over- the last two months would be meaningless games- except for players statistics and pride the rest of the way- St. Louis had a 14 1/2 game lead over second place Cincinnati.
I was seven and a Pirate fan they were 51-54 but I didn’t know any better. I listened to the games on the radio and was happy with every win- unhappy with every loss but enjoying the experience of following baseball and going to some games- and seeing my heroes- Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. There were great players back then as there are today- but I don’t think the game was necessarily better. I was younger and it was new to me- so more exciting–but more exciting because I was young. The game today is as great as it ever has been.