I remember where I was when I learned that he was shot. I was “up north” at the cabin playing out in the yard with my older brother and a local kid from across the street, Matthew H. Matthew was older, we were probably playing baseball or football. I did not really know who Dr. King was–I was in 5th grade and totally apolitical back then. I lived in a small community that was 100% white. I could go months without seeing a person of color.
What I remember more than his death were the riots afterwards. Detroit had just had a riot the year before where great damage was done. According to this article, “The result was forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests and more than 2,000 buildings burned down.” The police and national guard were shooting people in the streets. Then, when MLK was murdered, there were supposedly riots in at least 110 U.S. cities. It seemed as though the country was coming apart for a few days.
Ironically, at least for Detroit what seemed to wash away some of the ill will and mutual distrust between the races was that the Detroit Tigers went on to win the World Series that year against the Lou Brock and Bob Gibson lead St. Louis Cardinals. I was at the 5th game–the only World Series game that I ever attended. Tigers were down 3 games to 1 and absolutely had to win.
Cards scored three times in the first inning and it looked bleak. Lou Brock, the best base stealer in baseball at the time got thrown out trying to steal second in the 3rd inning; and then in the 5th he hit a double with one out. The next man hit a single and Lou Brock failed to slide while attempting to score. Bill Freehan blocked the plate and Brock was called out. We had decent seats, just a few rows back close to home on the 3rd base side. We went nuts. The Tigs went on to win 5-3, and won the final two games in St. Louis. And “Laugh In” was a big hit nationally at the time. A favorite saying there was “Sock it to me!” I remember Tiger fans adopted the saying and everybody always saying “Sock it to me Tigers.” Weird stuff you remember when you get old…