Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 6/4/12
LOS ANGELES -- June 8, 1968. The country was mourning the assassination of Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, cut down by an assassin's bullet four nights prior at the Ambassador Hotel in downtown L.A.. On this Saturday, Kennedy's body was being transported by train to Arlington National Cemetery. He would be laid to rest on the same grounds as his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who had been murdered in the streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963. The nation's hearts and minds were focused on the sentimental sendoff being given to the third Kennedy brother to have died tragically while in service of the countryJoseph was killed when his military airplane exploded during a top secret mission in World War II. And Dodger pitcher Don Drysdalea friend of Robert Kennedy'swas particularly distraught. Four nights after Kennedy had mentioned Drysdale's ongoing shutout streak during his victory speech following the results of the California Primary, Drysdale was scheduled to pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium. Had it been any other game on any other night, Big D might have sat it out as he was he was trying to deal with the senseless murder of a friend. Then again, maybe not. Sure, I thought about (not pitching) Drysdale told me years later, but I really don't think that's what Bobby would have wanted. He was a huge fan, and even if I didn't have a chance to set the record, he would have been following the game if he could. So, with that and the chance to make history, I was going out (to the mound) that night. Drysdale had thrown shutouts in his six previous starts, and if he could pitch two-and-a-third scoreless innings against the Phils, he would break one of baseball's hallowed recordsHall of Famer Walter Johnson's 56 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, set during the 1913 season. The big righthander did thatand moresetting a new mark of 58 23 innings without being scored upon. He set the new milestone in the top of the third inning when Phils' shortstop Roberto Pena grounded a ball to Dodger third baseman Ken Boyer, who threw to Wes Parker at first and Big D was the new record-holder. He finally gave up a run in the fifth inning, as the Phillies' Howie Bedellwho had been in the minors for the last six seasonsgot to Drysdale. Tony Taylor led off the fifth with a single, followed by a Clay Dalrymple single which moved Taylor around to third. Bedellpinch hitting for pitcher Larry Jackson and batting in the big leagues for only the second time that seasonlifted a sacrifice to left fielder Len Gabrielson. Taylor scored and the history-making accomplishment was in the books. This gives somebody a target to shoot at, Drysdale said after the game. There is always someone around who can break a record. I think all good things have to come to an end, and I'm just happy I could break a record. My biggest hope was that we could win the game. (The Dodgers beat the Phillies 5-3 to remain two games behind St. Louis in the National League race). I wish all the luck to anybody who does (break the record), and I'll be the first to congratulate him if I'm still around to do it. Little did Drysdale know how prescient he was. Fast-forward twenty years; Drysdale was now a Dodger broadcaster and Orel Hershiser was in a hot streak similar to that of Big D in '68. The team was on it's way to a World Championship, but on the night of September 28 they were winding up the regular season, taking on the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. In the tenth inning, Hershiser got pinch hitter Keith Moreland to fly to right field. Jose Gonzalez squeezed it and Hershiser set a new mark of 59 consecutive scoreless innings. Waiting for Orel, as he said he would do twenty years earlier, was Drysdale, who hugged the man that just nudged him out of the record books. At least we kept it in the Dodger family, he told Hershiser, and it's a record that still stands and still remains in the Dodger family. Drysdale passed away in 1993 and Hershiser has moved on to be a top baseball analyst. And Dodger Stadium is still Dodger Stadiumthe site of so many memories for many, including me. I've attended thousands of games there as a fan and a reporter, more than most alive today. And my first game is the most memorable of all. Three thousand miles away, one of my heroes was being buried. And right before my eyes, one was reaching an individual pinnacle of his profession. June 8, 1968.
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