1962 was the last year of American innocence; before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, before Vietnam; before the protests, the drugs and the "sexual revolution"; before Watergate and the great division of American culture. But 1962 also represents one of those years that stand out in history, like 1776, 1865, 1927, 1945, 1989 and 2001. It was a year of enormous cultural change, in which the tides of modern politics were formed, thus shaping the world we have lived in ever since.
1962 was also one of the greatest years in the history of sports; a particularly great California sports season in which the Southern California Trojans won the national championship in football, the recently-arrived Los Angeles Lakers started their famed rivalry with the Boston Celtics; and the transplanted New York teams, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, intensified their rivalry in ways never even seen back east.
In one of the greatest pennant races of all time, the Giants survived to overtake the favored Dodgers, only to face the winner of New York’s war of baseball attrition, the fabled Yankees, in a classic World Series for the ages. While all of this was going on, events were taking place in Washington, Moscow and Cuba that would have profound consequences on the Cold War and beyond.
The easygoing Beach Boys persona of L.A., the last vestiges of San Francisco sophistication, and the final throes of Sinatra swank in the Big Apple, were threatened by the Earth-shaking fact that the Soviets were planting missiles in Fidel Castro’s enslaved Communist Cuba. While baseball games were being played, a deadly serious chess match was fought between President Kennedy, Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev.