As a MEARS researcher, I grab photo images from various sources, and add them to the database almost every day. One thing I’ll do on occasion is grab a notable sports name…Hall of Famer, popular player, team fan icon…and just grab whatever’s on Getty than has a verifiable date…no easy task with older Getty entries. If a date given seems odd or generic, then I don’t use it unless something in the photo can verify it’s origins, at least pertinent to the year…a uniform style, a background item, a sleeve patch, or something similar.

That’s what happened before my recent battle with the flu when I decided to drum up playing career photos of the late Dodgers Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale. I found a number of photos of the game, all of which showed something I never noticed before…Drysdale was wearing a thick, black memoriam armband on his left sleeve.

I began doing further research, and tried to conjure up photos taken of Dodgers during the 1968 regular season. Corbis offered almost the same as Getty did…lots on the Drysdale scoreless innings record (which the photo from Getty depicted).

Next I went to eBay and tried to find an image of a Dodgers jersey (particularly a home, which was what Big D wore in that game), and results were, at best, inconclusive. The 1969 Topps cards would be the most likely to carry 1968 regular season photos. Unfortunately, as a card collector for years in the past, I also remember that the ’69 Topps set was notorious for Big Head, No Hat cards, as Kit Kiefer once called them…close ups of players sans caps. The set also had a lot of older photos of traded players with cap logos airbrushed out and jersey fronts conveniently obscured by arms and a glove of a pitcher doing the stretch, or views that had a player’s swing conveniently obscure the front team ID. There was even at least one photo in the set that was taken way back in 1962! That was a Tommie Aaron card with the same pose as the younger Aaron’s card carried in the 1963 set. In short, while nothing in the set showed the armband, there was no sound certainty that the photos were from 1968. Photos of longtime Dodgers like Jim Brewer, Jim Lefebvre and Don Sutton could easily have been pre-1968, given the set’s tendencies.

Next stop to view photos was my Street & Smith’s 1969 Yearbook. Space constraints in my apartment don’t allow me to keep much hard copy material around, but the S&Ss go everywhere I go. I use them for spring training rosters, coaching assignments, and the occasional photo reference. They’re no longer in collectible sale condition, but they’re more than adequate for what I need them for.

I paged through my yearbook, and found two pictures of Tom Haller, a catcher who joined the Dodgers for the 1968 season. Two home uniform pictures, both of which had to be from 1968, neither with an armband. Later on in the yearbook, though, was an even more important photo…a shot of Drysdale on the mound at home with the scoreboard in the shot. The score at the time was 5-0 in favor of L.A. in the top of the 8th, and the caption described the photo as one from Drysdale’s 6th consecutive shutout…the game before he broke the record. No band was present. This game was played on June 4th of ’68. The record-breaking game…where Big D and the other Dodgers wore the black band…took place on June 8th. So now, the questions are: 1) Who was being eulogized with the black band, and (b) how long did the Dodgers wear it that year?

The first question was eventually solved, as whomever had died would have had to do so between those two Big D starts, I did a lot of checking up on Dodger players, front office types, Hall of Famers, etc., and found nothing that fit. So the time came to start looking outside the box, and consider non-baseball personalities as the possibility.

No local politicians ( the first thought I had ) were deceased in that time, but expanding the base to the national scope of the political agenda, I recalled the 1968 assassination of Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy. His candidacy was a popular one with a lot of Democrats eager to keep the Oval Office in the blue and extend the run that his brother began and Lyndon B. Johnson assumed upon JFK’s assassination. Kennedy was shot and killed while on the campaign trail at a hotel in the Dodgers’ home city of Los Angeles. I looked up a little more, and found the time/date of the crime…shortly after midnight, June 5th, 1968.


The second question will require more research, that being the duration of time the Dodgers wore the RFK memoriam band. The Dodgers were in the middle of a 10-game homestand when the RFK shooting occurred. It may have been removed after the last game of that homestand against the Mets, or it could have run further…any information MEARS Online readers have to share would be appreciated and welcomed. The journey has so far been a fun one.


Pete Case, a guard who played for the NFL Eagles and Giants from 1962-70, died after a long illness. He was 67.

Nick Willhite, a pitcher in the show for 5 seasons (1963-67) died in Utah on the 14th. He, too, was 67. Willhite’s time in the Bigs was primarily with the Dodgers, and also included brief stints with the Senators, Angels and Mets.

Finally, Dave Smith, long-time Astros closer and a Cub reliever in his career twilight, died of a heart attack in San Diego this past Wednesday. He was 53. Smith pitched for the ‘Stros from 1980-90, and then spent his last two MLB seasons as a Cub. I recall him as a great person and autograph signer, and he closed pretty well, too, in his prime.