Extra Info – Did Drysdale Really Carry a Tape of Kennedy’s Speech?
In my most recent posting, I was able share the story of a tumultuous week from June of 1968. During this short timeframe, the citizens of Los Angeles saw their star pitcher, Don Drysdale, break a Major League record for consecutive shutouts. Later in the same day, they shifted their focus to the California Democratic Primary, where Senator Robert F. Kennedy edged out his opponent Eugene McCarthy by a mere 4%. However, shortly after mentioning Drysdale’s record in his victory speech, Kennedy was shot and killed in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. After this unexpected turn of events, the city would once again turn to Drysdale to help cope with disaster, and he obliged by breaking baseball’s consecutive scoreless innings record several days later.
While the real meat and potatoes of the story had already been told, I was also curious about a story I kept seeing referred to on the Internet regarding Drysdale and a tape of Kennedy’s last speech.
For as often as the story is mentioned online, I had never found any legitimate proof and I was afraid the real culprit was this snippet from Wikipedia’s Drysdale entry:
Among the personal belongings found in Drysdale’s hotel room (upon his death) was a cassette tape of Robert F. Kennedy’s victory speech after the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary, a speech given only moments before Senator Kennedy’s assassination. In the speech, Kennedy had noted, to the cheers of the crowd, that Drysdale had pitched his sixth straight shutout that evening. Drysdale had apparently carried the tape with him wherever he went since Kennedy’s murder.
I also found it strange that the source and citation Wikipedia used never mentioned any sort of tape. Additionally, I was unable to find any archived articles or interviews that confirmed this. With that being the case, I curiously contacted a few people who might have knowledge of the situation.
The first of these contacts included former Dodger Claude Osteen, a teammate of Drysdale’s in 1968. Initially, I asked him about the buzz in Los Angeles surrounding Drysdale’s record and the Democratic Primary. He shared an interesting tidbit in the process:
L.A. was a buzz when that was going on. Drysdale’s streak was allowed to continue when the umpire ruled that Dick Dietz did not make an effort to keep the pitch from hitting him. He was ordered to come back to the plate to hit and made an out.
When I mentioned the rumor of the tape and asked him about any possible clubhouse reaction to the speech, he shared the following:
I remember the RFK congrats to Don and also the tragic ending. I wasn’t aware about the tape, but I remember Don speaking about the charisma of the Kennedy’s.
Claude was kind enough to answer several more questions for me, but I was still eager to find some sort of evidence to verify if such tape existed or not. It was time to move on to another source, Ann Myers Drysdale, Don’s wife at the time of his death and also a member of the basketball Hall of Fame. I jotted a quick note to her asking about the tape, and she replied in a timely manner:
Kyle – It is true, but Don never did mention it, or talk to me about his days with the Kennedy’s. I guess I was a new chapter for him in his life. :) Thank you for asking. - Ann
And so my curiosity was satisfied.
Ultimately, whether Drysdale actually kept a tape with him or not doesn’t alter the course of history at all. It does, however, provide an additional piece in an interesting saga between two friends that will forever be linked in history by that tumultuous week in 1968.
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