1968: Season Opens Amidst Rioting

April 10, 1968

“One thing tomorrow brought was baseball. The pause for death was over; it was time to get on with living. So uneasily, the season began in Washington and in other tense cities – Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati.” –TSN April 27, 1968

Life in Washington DC in April of 1968 was anything but ordinary. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4,1968, the city looked more like a military zone.  D.C. Stadium, home of the Washington Senators, had been used as a base of sorts for troops that had been called to contain the rioting. When it was finally over on April 8, a total of 12 people had been killed and over a thousand were injured. Against this backdrop, the Twins and the Senators were trying to open the 1968 baseball season. The game, postponed twice, finally took place on April 10. From TSN:

D.C. Stadium lies near a Negro ghetto. It may be approached by beltway from Maryland and from Virginia. But fans coming to and from the city must go through a Negro district. Many, apparently, were reluctant to take that route.

Those who came, though, seemed eager to return to normalcy and when Vice-President Hubert H. Humphery arrived smiling and waving, a festive air swept over the stadium…

Humphery was the relief pitcher for President Johnson and, with the Twins playing the Senators, he couldn’t lose. HHH, of course, is from Minnesota and lives in Washington.

The Vice-President visited Manager Jim Lemon in the Senators’ dugout, then strode across the field to call on Cal Ermer, the Twins’ pilot. At this, the fans (who know of Humphery’s passion for the Twins) booed good-naturedly.

The Twins won the game 2-0 on a shut out by Dean Chance, helped by solo home runs from Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison. Good-natured booing in the pre-game aside, “festive” might have been an overstatement:

Meanwhile, the crowd filed out under the watchful eye of soldiers, police, and Secret Service men. Senators’ officials breathed a sigh of relief. Still, facing reality, they recognized the widespread feeling of uneasiness couldn’t be swept away by one pleasant afternoon at the ball park.

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