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"You just get through hearing him mention your name," Drysdale said recently, "and then bang!"
Later that day, Wednesday, June 5, Kennedy lay in a coma at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles: that night in Detroit, McLain beat the Red Sox to run his record to 9-1. At 1:44 a.m. on Thursday, June 6, Senator Kennedy was pronounced dead; in Houston that night, Gibson threw a three-hitter against the Astros to even his record at 5-5. Two days later, Kennedy's body was borne by train from his funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The second story on the news that evening was of the arrest of the suspected assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.—James Earl Ray had been picked up by Scotland Yard at Heathrow Airport in London.
Not that it mattered, but Drysdale's scoreless streak ended that night against the Philadelphia Phillies at 58⅔ consecutive innings, a record that would stand for two decades. For the rest of his life, he kept a tape of Kennedy's victory speech.
Anyone will tell you: Never mix organs and airplanes, Bach and Mach, the first two loves of Denny McLain. "Aviation and keyboards," he likes to say. "The two bugs that bit me in the ass."
The Tigers and the Cardinals had 9½- and 10-game leads, respectively, at the All-Star break. Gibson had won eight consecutive games, including live straight shutouts, and was 11-5. McLain was 16-2. His road roommate was Ray Oyler, who asked McLain at the All-Star break if he could win 30 games.
"Book it," said McLain, who could have then done just that, in the gaming capital of the world. The Tigers finished the first half of the season in Detroit, whereupon McLain enjoyed this itinerary: After beating the A's on Sunday, he chartered a jet to Las Vegas for Monday, flew to Houston and pitched two scoreless innings in the All-Star Game on Tuesday (it was, fittingly, a 1-0 contest), returned to Vegas (perhaps to book an off-season engagement at the Riviera for his band) on Wednesday, then flew on to Minnesota to rejoin the Tigers for their game against the Twins on Thursday.
Which reminds us: McLain was in Minneapolis to play an organ gig sometime before the '68 season. Suddenly, he remembered an engagement scheduled for that same afternoon at a music store in Detroit. So he flew to the Motor City and hustled to the store and was startled to find it virtually empty.
"Isn't Denny McLain supposed to be playing the organ here?" McLain asked the store manager.
"Yes," said the manager. "Next Saturday."
"Thank you," said McLain, who left the store, returned to the airport and caught the next flight back to Minneapolis.