Player of the Year Frank Robinson homered in each of his first three games for BALTIMORE last April and kept right on hitting all season, becoming the first player since Mickey Mantle in 1956 to win the triple crown (.316, 49 HRs, 122 RBIs). Others chipped in: Boog Powell (34 HRs, 109 RBIs), Brooks Robinson (99 RBIs), and the bullpen won seven games in one 10-day stretch. Still, it was Frank, playing with a verve all his own, who was the dominant force as the Orioles won the pennant. DETROIT was staggered by the illness and death of Manager Charlie Dressen. It was in the handling of young pitchers that Dressen was truly gifted, and young pitchers were expected to be the Tigers' strength. Three of them slumped badly this year. Mickey Lo-lich, 4-1 in early May, wound up 14-14. Denny McLain was 13-4 at the All-Star break, then lost seven of eight and did not win his 20th until the final week. Joe Sparma, who won 13 games last season, won only two this time. On July 3 MINNESOTA, last year's pennant winner, sank to seventh place. From then on, though, the Twins played the best ball in the league (54-30). The pitching of Jim Kaat (25-13) and the slugging of Harmon Killebrew (39 HRs, 109 RBIs) helped the most. What hurt the most was the letdown of Zoilo Versalles, Most Valuable Player in 1965, who had the worst fielding percentage of any shortstop in the majors and whose runs produced fell from 184 to 103. CHICAGO, despite having a better team ERA (2.70) than any club in the league this year, was still short on power (.231, 87 HRs). Tommy John took enough time off from reading such tomes as The Universe and Dr. Einstein to become the team's big winner (14-11). Don Buford was second in the league in stolen bases with 51, and rookie Tommie Agee was third with 44. CLEVELAND, as usual, got off fast and, as usual, then fell flat. The Indians tied a major league record by winning their first 10 games and still led the league as late as June 14. Good spring pitching—Luis Tiant pitched shutouts in his first three games; Sam McDowell had consecutive one-hitters; Sonny Siebert pitched a no-hitter against the Senators—carried the team. Then the pitching collapsed, and so did the Indians. When CALIFORNIA, a first-division club in the early going, lost rookie Rick Reichardt because of a midseason kidney operation, it also lost a large chunk of its offense, and the team plummeted. The move to Anaheim, though, was a financial success, for attendance jumped from last year's 566,727 to 1,400,321. Back in May, after 17 games, KANSAS CITY had only three wins, and after 22 games it had just one homer. Then the nightmare ended, and the A's, crammed with youth, speed and pitching, began to move. Among the young standouts were Jim Nash, 21, who was 12-1; Lew Krausse, 23, who was 14-9; Jack Aker, 26, who was 8-4 with 26 saves in relief; and Bert Campaneris, 24, who led the league in stolen bases with 52. WASHINGTON won 71 times, its best showing in six years. The relief trio of Dick Lines, Ron Kline and Bob Humphreys—all with ERAs under 2.85—had a combined 18-9 record, BOSTON players had a spring revival meeting dedicated to renewed spirit and an all-out effort to win. They lost their first five games, had losing streaks of five or more six other times and finished a dispirited ninth.
When Ralph Houk replaced Johnny Keane as NEW YORK manager on May 7 the team was in last place. There followed an immediate spurt and a few days in sixth place. "I'd follow Ralph anywhere and feel things would come out all right," said one starry-eyed Yankee. The Yankees followed, but where they came out was right where Ralph came in—last place.
Standings: Balt 97-63, Minn 89 73, Det 88-74, Chi 83-79, Clev 81-81, Cal 80-82, KC 74 86, Wash 71-88, Bos 72 90, NY 70-89
Before taking over first place for keeps on September 11, LOS ANGELES had been in the lead only seven days all season. What got the Dodgers to the top and what kept them there was an assortment of clutch hits, heads-up running and plenty of strong pitching. Sandy Koufax (27-9) won six of his last seven decisions, including the clincher against the Phils in the final game of the season. Don Drysdale, 9-16 into mid-September, reared back and won four straight games. SAN FRANCISCO, next to last in both fielding and batting and with highly erratic pitching, seemed to have no right being in the pennant race and no right finishing second. But with Juan Marichal (25-6) and Gaylord Perry (21-8) winning a lot of games and with Willie Mays (37 HRs, 103 RBIs) and Willie McCovey (36 HRs, 96 RBIs) doing a lot of hitting, the Giants were alive to the very last pitch of the season. PITTSBURGH, paced by the strong hitting of Roberto Clemente (.317, 29 HRs, 119 RBIs), Willie Stargell (.315, 33 HRs, 102 RBIs), new batting champion Matty Alou (.342) and others, showed tremendous zest but lacked pitching. The loss of Richie Allen for a month with a shoulder injury crippled PHILADELPHIA. In spite of his long absence, Allen wound up with 40 homers, 110 RBIs and a .317 average. Chris Short won his 20th game on the final day, and Jim Bunning won 19 for the third straight year. The Braves made their first year in ATLANTA a success after a disappointing start. They won 26 of their last 39 games, finished a good fifth and drew a total attendance of 1,539,801. Hank Aaron failed to hit .300 for the first time in six years (he was .279) but led the league with 44 homers and 127 RBIs. ST. LOUIS got 21 wins from Bob Gibson and rookie Larry Jaster tied a record with five straight shutouts against the Dodgers. Lou Brock led the majors in stolen bases with 74. And Orlando Cepeda (.301, 20 HRs) turned the lackluster Cards into a ball club after he was acquired from the Giants in May. Standouts for CINCINNATI were Pete Rose (.313) and Jim Maloney (16-8), but Sammy Ellis (12-19) and Milt Pappas (12-11) were major disappointments. Midseason injuries to Joe Morgan and Jim Wynn led to the downfall of HOUSTON. Sonny Jackson tied a record for rookies by stealing 49 bases. Mike Cuellar (12-10) finished second to Koufax (1.73) with a 2.22 ERA. For the first time in its five-year history, NEW YORK finished out of the cellar. The Mets were 25-24 in one-run games. CHICAGO, all optimism in the spring, finished dead last. All was not bleak, however. Ken Holtzman, 20, won 11 games. Randy Hundley, 24, hit 19 homers. Glenn Beckert, 25, batted .287. And Ron Santo, still only 26, batted .312, hit 30 HRs and had 94 RBIs.
Standings: LA 95-67, SF 93-68, Pitt 92-70, Phil 87-75, Atl 85-77, StL 83-79, Cin 76-84, Hou 72-90, NY 66-95, Chi 59-103