With six weeks to go, three names were monopolizing attention in National and American League cities alike: Roger Eugene Maris, Mickey Charles Mantle and George Herman Ruth. Partially overlooked amidst this fuss and furor, unfortunately, was a great number of other exciting baseball matters that in more ordinary times would have received their due.
In the National League the upstart Cincinnati Reds, who haven't won since 1940, swept over the Los Angeles Dodgers in their own Coliseum with quite unexpected ease. Led by the thumping bats of Frank Robinson (.339) and Vada Pinson (.333), the Reds in a week came from six games back in the loss column to a three-game first-place edge. Four games between the contenders in Cincinnati this weekend could nearly end the issue. Warren Spahn of the Braves won his 301st to become the winningest pitcher alive (Lefty Grove at exactly 300 is the only other man in that select group still living). Spahn's next goal: seven more wins for his 12th 20-game season. Roberto Clemente of the Pirates, who manages to crush a baseball while looking as though he is trying to get out of its way, took an impressive 30-point lead for the batting title. Joey Jay (18-7) and Jim Brosnan (2.75), pitchers nobody wanted a-couple of years ago, led the league in wins and ERA. Contrasting with these successes was the piteous plight of the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 straight, setting a record for the modern era of baseball.
In the American League, though overshadowed by his slugging teammates, Yankee Catcher Elston Howard (lifetime .273 BA) waged a quiet duel with Tiger First Baseman Norm Cash (lifetime .275 BA) for the AL batting lead in the lofty .350 area. Whitey Ford had 21 wins, Frank Lary had 18 and Luis Arroyo ignored a crank's note ("You'll be shot in the head") to save two more games and continue as ERA leader. Detroit refused to quit, and Baltimore's imposing pitching was a reminder of another pennant-race fact: there were still 40 games to go, and the Yankees could be caught, home-run hitters and all.
Cincinnati humbled Los Angeles in the great grudge series on the Coast. Bob Purkey and Jim O'Toole shut out the Dodgers in a double-header to complete the three-game Los Angeles disaster. Frank Robinson, bristling from LA Coach Leo Durocher's taunts ("You're gutless") was on base nine times in three games, helped power the Reds back to the top. Nor could the Dodgers find solace in San Francisco. In six games Los Angeles scored three runs. Giant Manager Alvin Dark lifted Willie McCovey from the bench and put Orlando Cepeda in left field against LA. McCovey, the favorite target of Candlestick Park's loudest booers, responded with his first homer in two months, and Cepeda knocked in four runs to offset the loss of Willie Mays with an injured thumb. Milwaukee won nine in a row with steady pitching by Spahn, Lou Burdette and Bob Buhl and the hitting of Ed Mathews and Hank Aaron. Lack of punch cost the St. Louis Cardinals five defeats. Bill White didn't have an RBI in 10 games, and the combined batting average of Joe Cunningham, Carl Sawatski and Charley James was a minuscle .104. Pittsburgh turned its attention from the inept Bucs to past glories. Local papers ran stories about Ralph Kiner's 1949 challenge to Ruth and the resurgence of Dick Groat, 1960 MVP. Two wins by Dick Ellsworth and three homers by Ron Santo, both 21, gave the Cubs hope for something better than seventh place in the future. The Phillies? "All we want is one. Is that too much to ask?" said Manager Mauch forlornly. They got it, finally, against the Braves.
Neither Maris nor Mantle hit a homer in the first two games against Cleveland, yet they saved Whitey Ford's 21st win with spectacular plays. Maris took a homer away from Willie Kirkland with a leaping catch, and Mantle caught Vic Power's long liner to keep New York three games ahead of the dogged Tigers. Unexpected help from Reno Bertoia, Bubba Morton and George Alusik's first big-league hit salvaged a winning week for Detroit. "We aren't out of it yet," said Manager Bob Scheffing. For Baltimore, Billy Hoeft threw a one-hitter, Milt Pappas a two-hitter, Chuck Estrada a four-hitter and Jack Fisher and Steve Barber five-hitters as the Orioles kept their slim hopes alive. Manager Al Lopez soured on three of his Chicago White Sox regulars as the Sox split six games. He benched Luis Aparicio, Minnie Minoso and Roy Sievers. "They were dead out there," said Lopez. "I thought I'd shake them up." Nothing could shake up the Boston Red Sox, who lumbered through a 1-7 road trip and were in danger of falling to seventh. Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew hit four home runs as the Twins won four of six. Los Angeles stayed ahead of Washington 8-7 in the expansion-team series by splitting four games with the Senators. Six errors in two games by the Angels gave Washington two gift wins and kept LA, the Twins and the Senators bunched in a fight for seventh. Kansas City was all alone in 10th, 35½ games behind New York.
Boxed statistics through Saturday, August 19