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Summer of '68: The Season That Changed Baseball—and America—Forever

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  632 ratings  ·  95 reviews
The extraordinary story of the 1968 baseball season—when the game was played to perfection even as the country was being pulled apart at the seams From the beginning, ’68 was a season rocked by national tragedy and sweeping change. Opening Day was postponed and later played in the shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. That summer, as the pennant races were heating u ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Joy D
This is a book about a tumultuous year in US history as seen through the lens of baseball. 1968 is considered “The Year of the Pitcher” and this book recounts the many pitching accomplishments. The next year, the height of the mound was changed – a decision the author questions. It includes historical events such as war protests, civil unrest, and the assassination of two prominent leaders.

I enjoyed reading anecdotes about skilled baseball players of the era, such as Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Bob G
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This fast-paced, interesting sports book covers the big sports events of 1968. The Tigers v. Cardinals World Series discussion was the most exciting part for me. I remember it so well. Great stuff about McClain, Lolich, and Gibson. Frank Howard, the slugger playing for my Senators, is covered. The basketball section is also a good read.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Ever finish a book, feel slightly let down, but not know why?

I can't quite put my finger on a reason, but, Summer of 68 did not quite live up to my expectations. Sure, the narrative was crisp, the characters interesting, and the subject matter entertaining. I learned a great deal about Bob Gibson, Denny Mclain, Curt Flood, Willie Horton, and more. I got a much better sense of the chronology of events that made 1968 an unforgettable year in American History. And I came away convinced that baseba
marcus miller
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I enjoy baseball and the other sports Wendel mentions, and I teach high school history, so I was hoping this would be a book I could recommend to high school boys obsessed with sports, who don't necessarily like to read.
The book is at its best when Wendel writes about the Tigers and the Cardinals. When he jumps between football, (something I paid more attention to as a ten year old in 1968) and basketball, then mixes it in with the social and political events of the
Steve Bennett
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first started watching baseball in 1968 so this book has an extremely sentimental appeal to me. If I were to put sentimentality aside, I would mention that the book is sort of disjointed, jumping from pure baseball stories to non-baseball issues such as Vince Lombardi, Jim Ryun, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and John Carlos in somewhat arbitrary fashion. The author also doesn't convincingly prove that the summer of 1968 changed baseball or America forever. But I'm all about sentimentalit ...more
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
Tim Wendel is a modern baseball writer who taps into the American vein that David Halberstam, Roger Kahn, and Charles Einstein access in their work. No sport better tells the history of this country than baseball. Using baseball as a spring point, Wendel spins a marvelously compelling tale, weaving the assassinations of Dr. King and RFK, the Vietnam War, the birth of the Superbowl, and the '68 Olympics into his narrative seamlessly.

As he does this, Wendel brings us up close to Denny McClain, Bob
Oliver Bateman
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
a breezy read, with some detailed interviews (always key in these types of books; i hate writers who rely too heavily on published sources when they could be adding MORE primary source baseball history to the mix) forming the meat of a definitive recap of the low-scoring, low-drama 1968 season (except for the epic WS, recounted here in game summaries that somehow aren't a misery to read). that said, wendel's clearly reaching here in connecting all of this 68-era stuff...but he did find the conne ...more
Jason Horvath
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book for someone who born in the 70s who didn't experience 1968 but heard lots about it. ...more
Brad Hodges
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
There is no question that 1968 was a momentous year in American history: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Tim Wendel, in his book Summer of '68, suggests that it was a pivotal year in baseball as well, as the subtitle is The Season that Changed Baseball and America Forever.

The latter argument isn't stated as clearly. Certainly there are milestones to the 1968 season. It was the "Year of the Pitcher"--Bob
Dave DiGrazie
Jun 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I will never think of Willie Horton as just another baseball player after having read Tim Wendel's account of the 1968 major league baseball season. The author makes an admirable attempt to show the connection between events that took place on the ball diamonds of America, and the social/political upheaval that characterized 1968.

Older baseball fans will remember 1968 as "the year of the pitcher," a year when Bob Gibson's St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Detroit Tigers of 31-game winner Denny McL
Justin Douglas
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Depressed by the end of the 2014 baseball season I searched the shelves of the Lawrence Public Library for an interesting book about baseball. Tim Wendel's "Summer of '68" chronicles the intersection of sports, politics and culture in 1968. The central story compares and contrasts the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers as each team clinches the pennant and face off in the World Series. Along the way, Wendel introduces readers to the three central characters of the book: Denny McLain, Mic ...more
Eric Gilliland
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tim Wendel's nostalgic book Summer of 68 looks at that historic year through the lens of a baseball fan. The tensions of the decade came to a crashing head with the Vietnam War, racial tension, and political assassination dominating the headlines. Baseball in the words of Terrence Mann from Field of Dreams, remained the only constant in American life.

The 1968 season was the end of an era (for lack of a better term). The NFL and NBA began to overtake the baseball in popularity. Football and baske
Steven Voorhees
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
1968 has been called many things. "The year the dream died" and "[t]he year everything changed" are but two sobriquets. Several old school institutions ended that year. One was the voting coalition Franklin Roosevelt built and sustained in the Democratic Party. A second was the fumigation of the party's smoke-filled back rooms, where its presidential nominees had been chosen for eons. A third demise was the two top teams in baseball winning their respective league pennants and going straight to ...more
Chris Schaffer
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
It was good and probably better than I'm giving it credit for..I just feel like it was lacking some oomph and wrote a bit too fawningly of the Tigers and Cardinals, respectively. Does chronicle the season pretty well. Some of the forays into other sports such as pro football, basketball and the Olympics felt a little disjointed. The author says it changed sports but didn't delve that deeply into how. But all in all a good quick read that chronicles a great season and great World Series. ...more
Jay French
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball
An enjoyable book on the 1968 baseball season, full of interesting anecdotes you would expect about the larger than life players of the year, including the always angry Bob Gibson, the media obsessed Denny McLain, Don Drysdale, Willie Horton, and more. While the author included segments on other sports, the Olympics and football, as well as the social climate of 1968, I didn't see all that much to justify the subtitle of the book. The Detroit riots took place the year before, the assassinations ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book because I'm a big baseball fan and a Cardinal fan. Wendel's coverage of baseball in this book is very enjoyable. And that's what he should have focused on.

The baseball portions of the book are really the heart of the story. I had two complaints about this book.

First, Wendel didn't need to talk about football, basketball, the Olympics, or the events of 1968 much at all because it took away from the baseball story. It was as if he was trying to cover as much as he could but co
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
In this book, the author tries to interleave the story of one of the most exceptional seasons in MLB history with the other major events of the year, sporting and historical, to show how 1968 changed everything. other writers have explored this territory, perhaps better...Wendel's strength is his descriptions of the action, or lack thereof mostly, during the great Year of the Pitcher. Bob Gibson set the modern record for lowest ERA in a season, Denny McLain won 34 games becoming the only first 3 ...more
Tom Gase
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good book on the baseball season of 1968, but a lot of other stuff that was going on in the world that year.
Author Tim Wendel does a good job of bringing the city of Detroit in 1968 to life and he does a great job of reporting on the World Series that year. He also does a good job talking about important players such as Bob Gibson, Denny McClain, Mickey Lolich, Willie Horton, Lou Brock, Al Kaline, etc.
Wendel also talks about other sports and events that shaped the nation that year, but I thin
Tom Navratil
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book does a marvelous job illustrating the interplay between sports and society in 1968, and sheds light from different angles on why that was such a momentous and consequential year. The primary focus is on baseball, and especially the World Series between the Cardinals and the Tigers. The author portrayed that contest so vividly I wanted both teams to win (and they almost did). But the book ranges far more widely. It shows how the prevalence of racial prejudice and efforts to overcome it ...more
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
I read the Kindle eBook version. The main focus is the world series confrontation of the St Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers in 1968 but there is quite a bit of history of the time as context, which is fine. Some of the coverage of other baseball teams during the regular season seems a bit random and the coverage of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City seems odd.

I was quite engaged with most of it - about three-quarters through I wondered if I would finish, but managed to push through to the e
Chris Dean
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
From a baseball standpoint, I enjoyed this book. It delved into some of the other less obvious aspects of the season, Luis Tiant and Frank Howard in particular since much has already been written about the Cardinals and Tigers of this era. I agree that much of what happened in this season changed baseball, particularly the lowering of the mound and the eventual adoption of the designated hitter to increase offense (and in doing so revenue)

As far as the season that changed America, I'm not so sur
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball
I found this book a little dry and precursory. Wendel's preface paints a more epic picture of the year 1968 in the world and in baseball than the following chapters offer in terms of its narrative flow. Wendel jumps focus from team to team, player to player, and sport to sport in very short order with little transition. This is not a book to carry with you to read on the bus, as the effort of following where in time or place this book is at any moment is likely to lead one to miss one's stop.

Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had not known anything about the 1968 baseball season when I started this book so it both entertained me and filled a gap in my knowledge. It is very well written and has an excellent balance of baseball trivia and current history. Wendell manages to discuss the place of the baseball season within the larger context of political and social history without getting overly serious or self important. It is nearly a perfect balance, never trite but never preachy. He gives fascinating insights into ...more
Jim Townsend
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about one of the most turbulent years in American history, and sports' rule in it. My edition was 272 pages. ...more
Kenneth Gura
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second book I have read by Tim Wendel! I have to admit, I had started this book a year ago...but wasnt into it at the time. After hearing an interview with Mr.Wendel I decided I had to read it. I am glad I did! As a fan of Pitching over Hitting, this was a great book to read! I love reading books about specific seasons because of not nly the history in Baseball, but also the Social history as well. Mr. Wendel did not disappoint. The Assasination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kenne ...more
Mike Kennedy
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball

Good over view of the 1968 baseball season, and the turmoil surrounding it. Author did a good job explaining what was goiNg on in the world at the time and how it effected the players and the game as a whole. I also loved how the author took the last few pages to follow through on the major players in the book. Being that this era was before my time, I had limited knowledge of where everyone went the rest of their career and then after they retired. I also found the author's chronicling of who
Chris Witt
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Seems to be a popular read, but it was all a bit too cursory for me. Felt like I was missing something more in-depth like I got when I read Halberstam's book on the '64 season. Having read this immediately after Halberstam's, I couldn't help but keep seeing what this book could have been but clearly wasn't. If the 1964 book is the benchmark, this falls short.

Still, those looking for an overview of the 1968 season and a dash of commentary on world events, including other sporting events (the grow
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The '68 World Series was one of the epics in baseball history - arguably the greatest ever. It was set in an incredible year, and the civil unrest in Detroit was a particularly significant backdrop to the baseball championship. The book was good but didn't elicit the nostalgia, nor did it capitalize on the drama of the times as well as I had expected. Lou Brock has always been my favourite baseball player, and was probably the best post-season batter of all-time. The book tells some of his story ...more
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This book got me thinking so much of the summer of '68. Bad memories, likeMartin Luther King`s funeral. assasination of robert Kennedy and the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Good memories of the pennant race in Detroit where I lived in the inner city at that time. Even my children who were 2-9 years of age remember celebrating their victory. I was disappointed in the book, it didn`t tell of all the racial tension in the city or interview the players, both black and white of what ...more
Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I lived through this summer and remember it quite vividly. I liked the author's take on some of the issues, didn't care for some others. But I question his broad attempt to unite all these events under one theme as if they were all inter-related. Yes, there was some crossover, but I think the biggest stretch is trying to equate the retirement of Vince Lombardi with some of the racial issues the cut across society. I just thought it was an overly broad way to handle a great pennant race and an ev ...more
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Play Book Tag: Summer of '68 by Tim Wendel - 3 stars 3 9 Jun 26, 2021 10:37AM  

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Tim Wendel is an award-winning novelist and journalist. He is the author of 13 books, including Summer of '68: The Season When Baseball, and America, Changed Forever and Castro's Curveball: A Novel. His stories have appeared in Gargoyle and The Potomac Review, and his articles in The New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Washingtonian and USA Today. A writer-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University, Tim ...more

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