As time ran out on Maris and Mantle (three games to go for 154), Roger led Babe Ruth by a couple of games, but Mickey was apparently out of the race. Meanwhile, New York won two from Detroit, collected four magic numbers in the process and was two away from mathematically eliminating the Tigers. The for-real Cincinnati Reds cut their magic number of combined Red wins and Dodger losses to eight for the team's first pennant in 21 years. Oddly enough, the Dodgers once waited that long also (1920-1941) between pennants.
Another magic number for pitchers, 20 wins, was back in the American League after an absence of a season. Whitey Ford had 24 and Frank Lary 21. In batting, Pete Runnels, the 1960 leader, was only 10 points off his winning mark but 50 points behind Elston Howard and Norm Cash. Home run leaders were the same as 1960, but better. Mantle, who won last year with 40, had 53. Maris, who was second with 39, had 58. In the National League, Dick Groat, who did nothing wrong in 1960 as he led the Pirates to the championship, was just another shortstop. His fielding slipped, and his batting average fell 55 points. Roberto Clemente had a 15-point edge on Vada Pinson for this year's batting title. Orlando Cepeda led in the other two categories with 40 homers and 127 RBIs. Of last year's 20-game winners, Warren Spahn was on the threshold for the 12th time, but Ernie Broglio (with 12 wins) and Vernon Law (with a sore arm) were out of the running. Joey Jay (20) was also one of the reasons for the most surprising number of the year, 4½—the margin the Cincinnati Reds had over the Dodgers with 10 games to go.
The Reds won six straight, and the race was practically over. When Joey Jay won his 20th and became the prime candidate to pitch the World Series opener, he explained his success. "Opportunity," said Jay. "Last year I had 11 starts and won seven of them. This year I had 31 starts and won 20." The Los Angeles Dodgers had little hope for anything but second place after losing three games, including a shocking 19-10 defeat by the Phillies. The San Francisco Giants prepared for a head-to-head battle with the Braves for third place. Manager Dark brought minor leaguers Charlie Hiller and Jim Duffalo back to the team. It was streaky Willie McCovey, however, who helped the Giants most, with a one-swing pinch homer against the Cubs for a ninth-inning victory. Warren Spahn fell before an old jinx as Milwaukee slid to fourth. Spahn—who hasn't beaten a Dodger team in Brooklyn or Los Angeles for 13 years—was battered in the Coliseum. The St. Louis Cardinals took five of six, with 20-year-old Ray Sadecki winning his 14th and 20-year veteran Stan Musial batting .500. Vernon Law, who won 20 last year and has three this year, was in Pittsburgh to have his ailing arm checked. "I cry every time I look at the standings," said Law. He saw the Pirates 17 games out of first—the difference between his 1960 and 1961 wins. Bad flying connections, which left sleepy ballplayers hanging around airports for hours, were offered by the Chicago Cubs as an excuse for seven straight losses. The Phillies were wide awake, hitting homers (including three in one game in Los Angeles by ex-Dodger Don Demeter) and keeping their average at .500 since the famous 23-game losing streak.
Neither Roger Maris nor the Yankees clinched anything in Detroit (see page 26) but the champagne-popping wasn't far off. The Yanks and Maris can do it in Baltimore—where Babe Ruth's career began. The Orioles can do something, too—finish second, but only if their hitting improves. Said glum Baltimore Manager Lum Harris, 46, after putting Dave Philley, 41, into the starting lineup: "I can outhit anyone on this club." Luis Aparicio, who had two homers last year, hit two this week. His slugging failed to help the Chicago White Sox, who lost four out of six. Cleveland also plodded along, losing three out of five and earning a chewing-out from Manager Dykes: "You're not fooling that man [GM Gabe Paul] in the front office for one minute." Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox hit .400, moved his season average close to .270 as Boston split six games. Los Angeles hung on to seventh after splitting a series with the Twins. George Thomas, a converted outfielder, hit a homer but was not above kidding his inept fielding. "Most infielders," said Thomas, "endorse gloves for Wilson or Rawlings. I signed up with U.S. Steel. They call me the Iron Claw." Minnesota's Jim Kaat pitched a three-hitter against LA with a new technique: controlled wildness. "That means getting the ball over with something on it," explained Kaat, "even after I'm tired." Washington and Kansas City fought the battle of the bottom. Dartmouth graduate Pete Burnside won twice for the Senators, and Yankee graduate Norm Siebern hit well for the A's, who took over 10th from Washington.