After the 1968 World Series, Dodge sent MVP Mickey Lolich on a 10-day camping trip—or so it seemed
In the annals of professional baseball, there’s really only one Mickey. Except, perhaps, in Detroit.
While the vast majority of baseball fans immediately think of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle—and rightly so, since that Mickey clubbed 536 home runs and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974—Detroiters would be hard pressed to pick any other Mickey but their own Mickey Lolich. (Although the Tigers were actually blessed with two Mickeys at the time; Mickey Stanley was the other.)
Lolich, a left-handed pitcher who won 217 games and struck out 2832 batters in his 16-year career, will forever be No. 1 in the hearts of Motor City fans for his heroics in the 1968 World Series. Lolich, then 28, hurled three complete-game victories—he was the last to do it—and outdueled legendary St. Louis hurler Bob Gibson in the seventh and deciding game as the Tigers won the championship and helped heal a city torn by racial strife.
Following the World Series, Dodge rewarded Lolich and his young family (wife Joyce and three-year-old daughter Kim) with a “10-day camping tour of the country.” A photographer tagged along, and Dodge turned the vacation into an advertising brochure for its 1969 Dodge Trailblazer Sweepstakes. Lolich and family appeared to enjoy themselves, but the trip wasn’t exactly as it seemed. More about that later.
Dodge and its advertising partners played it up, perhaps attempting to set a record of their own for the most products mentioned in the first 10 sentences.
As the brochure explained, “Dodge and other camping specialists supplied the Lolichs with their equipment on a 10-day dream trip. Part of the travel time was spent in the comfortable Travco Model 270 Dodge Motor Home. During another segment of the trip, the Lolichs used a Nimrod Camelot Deluxe 10-foot all-steel trailer. This was easily towed behind a Dodge Polara, outfitted with Dodge’s Trailer-Towing Package. The Lolichs also traveled in a spacious Travco Family Wagon. And another leg of the camping trip was spent in an Airstream 25-foot Tradewind travel trailer. When they decided to camp out, the Lolichs found it easy to prepare meals on their Turner Deluxe camp stove. And in rough or calm weather, Mickey was comfortable in sportswear by MacGregor. For fun, the Lolichs took to the water in their Chrysler Charger 151 boat. Thus, Mickey and his family began with the best camping equipment available—just the kind you’d like to have on your camping outings.”
The Lolichs began their trip in California, although Dodge played cat and mouse with the location of each stop, encouraging you to “look closely at the pictures” and figure out where they were. Photos show a Dodge Corey Cruiser—kind of a Dodge A-108 with an additional upper level of windows—parked on the beach, with Lolich hitting ground balls to a couple of boys and then signing baseballs for his young fans … first outside the van, and then inside while the boys peered through the window. Dodge felt the need to let us know that “optional power steering, a Dodge exclusive on compact chassis, made Joyce’s turn at the wheel an adventure in handling ease.” A tad condescending, even for the era. And since when is making something easier to use considered adventurous? Ah, marketing.
The second stop featured the Lolichs in a Dodge Camper Special. “Recognize that famous man-made lake? Well, here’s a hint—it’s near Hoover Dam.” Answer: Lake Mead. The brochure claims the truck’s “close-coupled four-speed transmission reminded Mickey of driving a sports car.” Which immediately had us wondering if Mickey had ever driven a sports car.
Turning the page, “A nearby city had Mickey singing, “By the time I get to …” With apologies to country superstar Glen Campbell, that city would be Phoenix, and when Mickey saw Arizona’s Oak Creek Canyon, he apparently said that “he’d like to pitch in a ballpark about that size—no cheap home runs there.” Joking aside, this stop provided two awesome combinations: a Dodge Charger R/T towing an Airstream and a Polara hauling a Chrysler Charger 151 Hydro-Vee boat.
From there, the Lolichs hit the waves on Lake Pontchartrain in a Chrysler Courier 229 Hydro-Vee and then made their way to New Orleans in a Travco Family Wagon.
On to Florida, the family admired the waterskiing skills of the performers at the now-defunct Cypress Gardens near Winter Haven, proving “you can take your home right down to the water—as long as it’s a Dodge Motor Home built by Travco.” Inside the motorhome, Joyce is shown smiling at little Kim, who doesn’t appear to be having that much fun playing with a stuffed Tiger. In a moment, we’ll tell you why.
Turning to the last page, “the Lolichs finish their dream vacation … in a Nimrod.” That would be a Camelot Deluxe trailer. The following morning, Joyce—driving a Dodge Dart Swinger—drops off Mickey at Tigertown in Lakeland, Florida, for the start of 1969 training camp.
The ’69 season was a pretty good one for Lolich, who won 19 games and struck out 271 batters, but the Tigers finished a distant second to Baltimore in the division standings.
As for the Dodge Trailblazer Sweepstakes, it was among hundreds of promotional giveaways examined in a 1969 Congressional investigation by the Select Committee on Small Business. According to historymatters.com, pressure from citizens provoked the inquiry, led by Representatives John D. Dingell (D-Michigan) and Silvio O. Conte (R-Massachusetts). The congressmen charged that small businesses were threatened by the spread of big business-run sweepstakes and condemned deceptive practices in “preselected winners” promotions. Their compiled data revealed that only a small fraction of advertised prizes had actually been awarded. However, Congress failed to pass a regulatory bill.
Deciphering a chart included in the inquiry, three winners in the Dodge Trailblazer Sweepstakes were selected to receive new Dodge automobiles or other major prizes, but only one was awarded, valued at $11,455. That’s about $84,400 today.
As for what the public was told about the Lolich family’s camping trip, the real vacation was much shorter than 10 days. Several months ago, David Lubbers posted images of the sweepstakes brochure on the “Fans of the 1968 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers” Facebook page, and Joyce Lolich commented, “It was crunched into 4 days … It was a lot of fun but tiring to travel around to that many states. Our daughter got sick in New Orleans and very, very sick by the time we got to Florida … [she] was rushed to the hospital.”
Mrs. Lolich did not elaborate on the cause or extent of Kim Lolich’s illness, but she did reveal another PR sleight of hand. “We never actually traveled in the camper,” she wrote. “They flew us around the country.”
Wait a sec, that trip was mostly smoke and mirrors? Thankfully for Detroit Tigers fans, what Mickey Lolich and his teammates accomplished in 1968 was the real deal.