For baseball fans who grew up near Boston, the 1967 season is the benchmark for the national pastime.
There were no playoffs back then. Only two teams went to the postseason, which back then was known as the World Series.
Three teams — Minnesota, Boston, and Detroit — went into the final weekend in a position to win the pennant. And the Twins and Boston were playing each other.
By the time Sunday — the last day of the season — rolled around, the Twins, Red Sox, and Tigers were all tied with 91-70 records.
On Sunday, the Twins had Dean Chance, a 20-game winner, on the mound against Jim Longborg, who won 21.
My dad took us water skiing down on Lake Whalom in the morning, as I rode in the boat watching a brother ski, I thought, “we’ll never beat Dean Chance.” You remember stuff like that as long as you remember a baseball game.
The game was — as the kids might say today — an instant classic.
A Tony Oliva double in the first scored Harmon Killebrew for a 1-0 Twins lead. Killebrew singled in the third to plate Cesar Tovar to make it 2-0.
That’s the kind of lead Dean Chance could make hold up. He was that good.
And he did until the bottom of the 6th when Lonborg reached on a bunt single, Jerry Adair singled, Dalton Jones singled, and then Carl Yastrzemski and Ken Harrelson followed with singles to tie the game and chase Chance from the mound. Al Worthington let another run in with a wild pitch, an error let in one more and Chance was tagged with all 5 runs.
The Twins never made a serious run. The Red Sox went to the World Series.
Dean chance flamed out a few years after that season.
Chance, Killebrew, Yastrzemski, Lonborg. Those were the names that a young kid from Massachusetts remembers forever. Maybe they weren’t as great as a kid’s memory remembers, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re a baseball fan’s childhood.
Nothing makes you feel older than when the baseball players of your childhood die.
Dean Chance died on Sunday. He was 74.