aimed at me by men in the Secret Service. a.k.a. the day Mickey Lolich saved my life.
Early November of 1968 found me shopping in downtown Detroit for a Christmas present for my husband, Dave, who was in Vietnam. Laden with a couple of large packages, I headed along Woodward Avenue toward Fort Street to catch the bus out to Lincoln Park. I encountered a large crowd gathered around the fountain at the intersection of those two streets. With the water drained out, it made a great stage for visiting celebrities. Hubert Humphrey was running for president that year and stood on one of its ledges.
Across Fort street, behind barriers, a large group of noisy, sign carrying protesters shouted, “Hell no. We won’t go!” and “Peace now!” With their long hair, festooned with feathers, tie dyed shirts and dresses, and fringed jackets, they looked like wild birds.
At this point you need to know my height measured five foot nothing and I weighted about 99 pounds. I couldn’t see and, because of the shouts of the protesters, I couldn’t hear Humphrey. I began saying excuse me, excuse me, and making my way forward. I ended up in the front row of the crowd.
Being (proudly) a blue collar town, Detroit had sent many young men (no deferments available to them!) to Vietnam. They became infantrymen. A very large number of them died in combat. When Humphrey said he was for the war and conjoled the audience to laugh at the protesters, who were effectively disrupting his speach, the audience booed.
After Humphrey finished speaking, he stepped down from the ledge and began shaking hands. The crowd (more of a mob by then) surged forward. Body guards formed a protective ring around him. He worked the crowd as best he could through the wall of men. There was a lot of pushing and shoving.
My feet came off the ground. My head and shoulders moved forward faster than my body and legs. The crush of people carried me along like roiling water. I sank towaed the pavement. I could hardly breathe, let alone get my footing. I felt like I was going to drown. Then a huge, strong hand grab me uunder my upper arm. A man said, “I got ya.”
I looked up to see my savior was none other than Mickey Lolich, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Just a month ago, he had pitched magnificently during the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, winning three games – including number seven to win the championship. He had been named MVP
He stood me up inside the cordon of body guards. It was just Humphrey and me in the open space, his safe zone. He was a little distance from me. I took a moment to look around. Six Secret Service men, on top of the tall buildings that surrounded the fountain, all had their high powered rifles trained on me. I was shocked and very scared. But I stood there waiting for Humphrey to come closer.
When he saw me, a look of fear crossed his face. He recovered quickly and stuck out his hand. Because of my packages, I could not take it. I shrugged. He stepped closer. Towering over me, he patted my shoulder. The man who might become one of the most powerful men in the world, was less than an arm’s length from me! I took advantage of what I knew was going to be the briefest moment with him and said very loudly, “Stop laughing at those who want peace.”
He frowned, patted my shoulder again, and said, “Thank you for coming, young lady.”
IHis body guards instantly and quite roughly pushed me to the outside of the circle. Humphrey moved on. The Secret Service men trained their rifles on someone else. Thank you for coming, young lady? I was horribly disappointed.
Humphrey lost the election to Nixon. During his campaign, Tricky Dick said he had a plan to end the war, but he couldn’t reveal it because then it would be less affective. Yeah, right.
On election day, I cast a write-in vote for Eldridge Cleaver, leader of the Black Panthers, who was the presidentual candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party. I never had the chance to thank Mr. Lolich for saving my life. So, thanks, Mickey!
7 thoughts on “ME AND…six high powered rifles”
That’s quite a story Jean. It caught the drama of that incredible year, 1968. Thank you Mickey Lolich for your strong left arm.
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At first I was touched by your reply. But having been married to you for nearly half a century, I thought wait a minute. Thanks for Mickey Lolich’s left arm because it saved my life or because it won the 1968 World Series? Ha!
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Thank you so much for your comments. Very interesting and informative. As for my vote, I stand by it as a protest. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t know much about Eldrige Cleaver beyond his association with a party for peace and freedom. My bad.
Since I served as a Secret Service agent for 21 years, I found your incident entertaining to say the least. ’63 and ’68 were tremendous turning points within the agency. In ’63 they had only 353 agents worldwide and no counter-sniper teams. They covered no candidates until the President ordered their activation for candidates following Bobby’s assassination in ’68. Following military service after my LPHS graduation in ’61, I went to MSU and graduated in ’69. After a year with NCIS, I was hired by the USSS in ’70. When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I never worked a day. Troubling was your write-in for Eldridge Cleaver. That guy was a convicted rapist. In his essays he would write he used rape to to trample on “white man’s law” by forcibly taking their women. His words. He also called for the murder of police officers. You wasted a vote!
That was a awesome story, I don’t recall ever hearing it before. What’s on the slate for next Friday.
Next Friday = Seeing Clint Eastwood in HANG ‘EM HIGH at the drive in movie. Pop corn and gun play. What could be more fun than that?