Chance, the 1964 Cy Young Award winner who turned his back to the hitter before uncoiling with a devastating fastball-slider combination, had been roughed up by the World Series champion Baltimore Orioles two weeks earlier in his Twins debut. Then he ran off seven straight wins in eight starts to help keep the Twins afloat during a stumbling start in April and May.
When the 6-foot-3 righthander shut down the California Angels, his former teammates, for his seventh straight victory on May 20, the struggling Twins improved to 14-16. Chance had half of his team’s wins. He broke up what could have been a couple of lengthy losing streaks, and without him the Twins might never had managed to crawl into the 1967 American League pennant race.
With the Angels, Chance was famous for his playboy ways with teammate Bo Belinsky. Together they caroused after games, partying in the same circles as Frank Sinatra and Hollywood types. Occasionally they found trouble, which spurred the question: who was a bad influence on whom? The Angels pointed the finger at Belinsky and traded him in 1964, two years before Chance was moved to Minnesota.
With the Twins, the 25-year-old Chance connected with another free spirit, 22-year-old Dave Boswell. The master of the head-scratching malaprop, with an ability to mimic various animal and insect sounds, Boswell once had a team bus driver searching under the seats for a cricket. The confident, quirky righthander with an offbeat take on nearly everything was one of the characters of the game.
Boswell and Chance were frequent targets of Twins reliever Al Worthington, a deeply religious man who encouraged both pitchers to attend his Sunday morning prayer meetings. Chance always politely declined, but when Worthington told him that Baltimore Colts football star Mike Curtis would be a guest speaker at the next meeting, he said he would attend if he woke up in time. Worthington made sure of that, wrote longtime sportswriter Jeff Miller in his account of the 1967 season, Down to the Wire. He offered to provide a wakeup call, noted Miller, so Chance was there:
“Chance arrived and saw Boswell, each silently responding with looks that said, ‘What are you doing here?’ During the meeting, Worthington asked everyone to bow his head. He then noted that everyone in the group had sinned, and those who needed help should raise their hands. After the meeting ended, Boswell came straight over to Chance and shook his hand. Chance was puzzled, and Boswell explained: ‘Those hypocrites. When the guy asked if anybody there needed help, I peeked. Dean, you were the only guy in the room that had his hand raised.’”
After a disappointing 1966 season for the Angels, Chance regained his touch with Minnesota in ‘67. He won 20 games for the first time since his Cy Young season three years earlier, tossed a no-hitter and one-hitter, and was critical to the Twins’ success in one of the wildest pennant races in American League history.
Chance demonstrated that he was back on April 28, 1967, the day he defeated the Senators for his third straight win. That same day, however, the boxing career of world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali took a stunning downturn.
That day Ali and 25 recruits were to be inducted into the Army at the U.S. Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in Houston. They filled out paperwork and took physicals, but when the recruits lined up to take the symbolic step forward into the armed forces as their names were called, Ali, who might have been assigned a non-combat role, refused. He wasn’t taking the easy way out.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?” Ali told a Sports Illustrated reporter in the days before he was to report for induction. “If I thought going to war would bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my own people, they wouldn’t have to draft me. I’d join tomorrow.”
The antiwar movement had been underway for more than two years by then, but Ali, already a polarizing figure for his immodest manner and for joining the Nation of Islam, became the first high-profile American to refuse induction. On June 20, 1967, in Houston, Ali was sentenced to a five-year jail term and fined $1,000 for draft evasion.
A string of appeals kept Ali out of prison until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971, ruling that the Justice Department had never provided a reason for denying Ali’s conscientious objector exemption. Still, he had paid a substantial price for refusing induction.
An hour after Ali declined to take that symbolic step into the Army, before he had even been charged with a crime, the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license. Soon after he was stripped of his title. He was forced to surrender his passport, meaning that he couldn’t generate income by fighting overseas, and was targeted for constant FBI surveillance as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been. He didn’t box for nearly four years, losing his peak years as a boxer and millions of dollars in income.
“Some people thought I was a hero. Some people said that what I did was wrong. But everything I did was according to my conscience,” Ali said of the attention he received for refusing to enlist. “And I made a stand all people, not just black people, should have thought about making, because it wasn’t just black people being drafted. The government had a system where the rich man’s son went to college, and the poor man’s son went to war. . . So what I did was for me, but it was the kind of decision everyone has to make.”
I will post about the 1967 Twins and the wild AL pennant race all summer long, using material from my upcoming book, which I’ve tentatively titled: The Glory Years of the Minnesota Twins: Rock ‘n’ Roll, War and Peace, the Civil Rights Movement and Baseball in the 1960s. I also post on my author page on Facebook.