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The 49th Anniversary Of Jose Feliciano’s Controversial National Anthem In Detroit [Video]

This Sunday Vice President Mike Pence left the Indianapolis Colts/San Francisco 49ers game because he felt the 49er players disrespected the country by kneeling during the National Anthem.

Our nation’s anthem has long been a point of contention in our nation. It was 49 years ago this week when folk singer Jose Feliciano caused a stir with his version before the Tigers-Cardinals World Series game at the old Tiger Stadium.

Listening to Feliciano’s mild, almost gentle take on Francis Scott Key’s stirring anthem now, one finds it hard to believe it caused any grief, but on that day in 1968, he gained fans and lost fans with his contentious take on it.

According to the New York Times:

Boos were heard from the stands, but the real blowup came afterward.

“It was a disgrace, an insult,” a baseball fan, Arlene Raicevich of Detroit, told The Associated Press. “I’m going to write my senator about it.”

“It sounded like a hippie was singing it,” said another Detroiter, Bernie Gray.

The players at the game were divided on the performance. “I don’t think it was the proper place for that kind of treatment,” Roger Maris of the St. Louis Cardinals told The Boston Globe. “Maybe I’m a conservative.”

Pitcher Dick Hughes said: “Thumbs down all the way. That’s a conformist’s song and should be sung the way it was written.”

In 1968, we were a country divided (sound familiar?), the war in Vietnam was being questioned, Robert kennedy and Martin Luther King had both been assassinated that year,  and violent race riots had torn Detroit apart the year before.

Listen to Feliciano’s take from October 7, 1968, before the fifth game of the World Series, eventually won by the Tigers, and see if you can find any objection. I think it sounds almost peaceful.

FYI — It was iconic Tiger play by play announcer Ernie harwell who suggested Feliciano perform the anthem that day, because he was a big fan of Feliciano’s hit version of the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’.

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