- Dick Young:Not So "Young Ideas" on the Barricades in 1968
Some scholars termed 1968 as the year of the barricades, for the world seemingly teetered on the brink of revolutionary change in Algeria, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, and even the United States. Americans in 1968 lurched from one crisis to the next: the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and racial unrest in the nation's cities, campus insurrections at such influential institutions of higher learning as Columbia University, the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, the police riot at the Democratic National Convention, and the election of Richard Nixon as President. During this turbulent period, I was making the difficult transition from high school to being the first in my family to attend college.
I identified with the youthful activists who were questioning American military and social policies. After all, I had only decided to try my hand at college after learning about the possibility of a college deferment from the draft. I let my hair grow and joined Students for a Democratic Society (sds). However, at West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas, not exactly a hotbed of radicalism, the three or four students who attended sds meetings were not about to foster a revolution. But my long hair and revolutionary rhetoric, as opposed to action, were enough to drive a wedge between myself and my father—a hard working man who dropped out of elementary school to pick cotton with his family during the depression era. With the exception of baseball, we seemed to have little in common during the generational conflict of the 1960s. Baseball was the one safe topic. When discussions of politics, religion, and music veered into dangerous terrain, I could always get us back to safety by commenting, "How about those Yankees."
It appears that baseball was the remaining link with mainstream America for many young men (as well as women) in the 1960s who were questioning the establishment. Thus, after reading such literature as the Berkeley Barb, Black Panther, and Ramparts, I would seek to reconnect with my roots by perusing The Sporting News. It was comforting and therapeutic to lose oneself [End Page 45] in the box scores and rekindle the youthful romance with America's pastime. It was reassuring to know that I really was an American and not a freak as some called me. All was again right in the universe, until I encountered the biweekly column by Dick Young of the New York Daily News. Inappropriately entitled "Young Ideas," the column was often vitriolic and suggested that young people who shared my values had no place in Dick Young's "real" America.
Of course, it would have been possible to simply ignore the column, but I took some type of perverse masochistic pleasure in reading Young's prose. The result on my part was often an increase in blood pressure as I angrily tossed my copy of The Sporting News across the room. It was as if by reading Young I wanted to remind myself that I had crossed a personal Rubicon and could not return to the idyllic pursuits of my youth. For a period in my life, Young helped convince me to abandon baseball.
In the late 1970s, I and many others of my generation, made my peace with my father and the country, returning somewhat into the fold but never totally abandoning my leftist politics of the 1960s. I rediscovered baseball as I began to form a family of my own. It seems that baseball was more forgiving and all encompassing than the ranting of Dick Young might have one believe. As I move into my late fifties, life is more focused on family and career, with baseball providing considerable comfort and joy as the sport is passed along to another generation. I'm no longer the angry young man, and perhaps now I'm a little more capable of coming to grips with Young. It may now be possible to take a second look at those "Young Ideas" pieces from 1968 and try to reach some understanding of Young and why he was so threatened by...