I got “in-country” Viet Nam in very late September 1967. That’s the way we described Viet Nam. When you were there, you were “in-country.” Everywhere else was “the world.” I recognize the built in bias of that statement, but that’s the way we looked at it then. When you talked about going anywhere else, you talked about going back to “the world.” R and R (Rest and Recreation, a five day break from the war in some nearby place–in my case Bangkok) was in “the world.” Going home was back to “the world.” But even when you were “in-country” who were never far away from American sports (which were happening back in “the world”). October was the World Series and I was “in-country” with a bunch of other baseball fans.
This was the year of the Boston “Impossible Dream” Red Sox. For the first time since 1946, the BoSox were pennant winners and had home field in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. For some reason that I never quite understood, most of the guys I knew were Red Sox supporters. That’s to say they were rooting for the Sox, not that they were lifelong fans. Only one guy was from New England and a lifelong fan. The rest were from all over the country and were fans of various teams. But for some reason most of them were pulling for Boston.
Now I grew up in a home where Stan Musial was something just short of God himself (and the order of precedence got kind of fuzzy sometimes), so I was inclined to root for the Cardinals, and might have been read out of the family if I hadn’t. I’m a Dodgers fan, but the Cards were my second choice (as, apparently, Boston was most everyone else’s second choice). So I found myself in a minority around a bunch of Boston rooters.
I kept telling them Bob Gibson wasn’t going to let Boston win. Their response was that Carl Yastrzemski would crush Gibson and that Boston would win in five. It was almost always five because everyone accepted that Gibson would probably win one. I kept disagreeing, which led finally to that classic American sports rejoiner, “Wanna bet?” Well, it was Viet Nam, there weren’t a lot of places to spend your money and the money looked funny (MPC replaced dollars “in-country”), and I had some that I’d brought with me, so the answer was “sure.” I ended up putting up about $100 at 2-1 with a number of guys, then went out and agonized every time Boston won a game. I was wrong about Yaz, he hit Gibson and everybody else well. But I was right about Gibson. He won three games, including game 7 (hitting a home run in the process) and the Cards won the World Series. It seems Boston’s “Impossible Dream” really was impossible.
We met the next day at the enlisted club. Being basically honest types, everybody paid up, so I bought a round for all the losers. I sent almost all the rest of the money home and it made a nice start on the purchase of a used car when I got back to “the world.” For years I called the car “Gibby.” Damned thing ran pretty well.