Furious pennant races used to be the exclusive property of the National League, but last week the action was in the American, five teams whaling away at one another, each with reason to believe it could be first in September. Chicago was on top, but Boston and California were streaking, while Detroit and Minnesota were close behind. It was a week of record crowds, rioting, thunderstorms, superstition, extra-inning games, arguments and slam-bang base running. Even the umpires seemed caught up in the drama, making their decisions with admirable flair. When it was over Chicago was still on top, with the others still chasing. There were still eight weeks left in the pennant race, and it looked as though the excitement would not fade. Covering last week's games in New York, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore and Washington were SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's William Leggett, Joe Jares, Herman Weiskopf, Curry Kirkpatrick and Walter Ward.
MONDAY, JULY 24
At Logan International Airport in Boston, a crowd of 10,000 showed up Sunday night to greet the returning Red Sox, winners of six straight games on the road. There was also a mob scene in Detroit, a city still in the grip of the year's most devastating riot. Tiger General Manager Jim Campbell sent Governor George Romney a wire offering to play Tuesday's game against the Orioles before empty stands but to have it televised locally to help keep people off the streets. Romney decided the lights of the ball park would only attract crowds, so the Tigers switched their series with the Orioles to Baltimore. In Chicago the International Graphoanalysis Society opened its annual convention and took a look at White Sox Manager Eddie Stanky's signature. "The Ds are comparatively large," it was noted, "indicating a level of pride that demands exacting performance from himself and others. He also writes a defiant K, a sign that he is vigilant to any encroachment on his rights." The Minnesota Twins, losers of six straight, arrived in New York for a four-game series. "Baseball is a game of cycles," said Club President Cal Griffith, "and we're just going through a bad one." The California Angels, who had won 33 of 45 games since June 7 to move from last place to third, arrived at Logan Airport 20 hours after the Red Sox and were greeted by no one.
TUESDAY, JULY 25
August 6, 1967
"Nothing can stop us now," said Boston's Carl Yastrzemski before the start of the Angel series, but he hadn't counted on The Thing, a little doll with long hair and a wide grin that for a month and a half had been the Angels' good-luck charm. Pitcher Clyde Wright brought the doll along with him when he was called up from Seattle, and immediately the team went on its extended winning streak. Shortstop Jim Fregosi keeps The Thing hooked to his locker and gives it a pat on the way out to the field. In the first game against Boston the spell continued as the Angels won 6-4, their seventh straight victory.
It was raining in New York, but the Yankees and Twins played anyway. The Twins, who had just lost three straight 2-1 games to California, again scored only one run but led 1-0 with two out in the ninth. Up came Mickey Mantle and, with the count 3-1, Pitcher Jim Kaat decided to go with his fast ball. It was, Kaat said later, "right down Broadway," and Mantle drove it 450 feet into the left-field bleachers to tie the score. Minutes later rain halted the game. In an effort to forget the lost victory a number of Minnesota players sought comfort in the night life of the big city, enjoying it well past the team curfew.
It had just started to drizzle in Baltimore when Umpire Frank Umont called for the tarpaulin, but a spectacularly shoddy performance by the Orioles' ground crew left the first-base line uncovered during the ensuing cloudburst and forced the game to be canceled.
"Too bad we can't play," said Pitcher Dave Wickersham. "We've been going good." Johnny Podres, kibitzing a card game, said: "If we can just get him back in there...." His voice trailed off. Him, of course, was Al Kaline, who had been out of the lineup since he broke his finger four weeks ago by slamming his bat into the rack. "I'm ready to play now," said Kaline. "Took batting practice tonight, and it hurt just a little." Manager Mayo Smith was optimistic. "We lost seven straight right after the All-Star Game, but we're still close. The question is whether Al can pick up where he left off."
It took the White Sox and Indians seven hours and 40 minutes to complete a doubleheader in Chicago, but when it was over the White Sox had two more victories for the man who demands exacting performance. "I guess when you're in first place you're like a man drowning," said Stanky later. "If you see a six-inch piece of wood you grab at it. You'll do anything to stay in first place—to keep those 25 ballplayers in first place." What Stanky did was use 16 players, including his two amazing ancients, to win the 16-inning second game. Hoyt Wilhelm, 44, who had relieved in the first game, pitched three and a third scoreless innings. Smoky Burgess, 40, hit a two-run pinch home run. Even so, Ken Berry had to hit a two-run homer in the 16th to win it for the Sox after the Indians had taken the lead. It was a long day but a good one. The White Sox lead over the second-place Red Sox had grown from half a game to two full ones.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26
Minnesota Manager Cal Ermer, it developed, had spent his time after Tuesday night's tie game walking the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel and making bed checks. As a result, about one-third of the team was fined $250 apiece for breaking curfew. That evening Ermer found another way to keep his players away from the lures of the city—a doubleheader with an 18-inning second game, the same sort of torture the White Sox and Indians had endured the night before. The Twins, still unable to score more than one run a game, lost the first 6-1, but in the second they exploded for three runs to win 3-2 and break their losing streak. One look at his weary players trooping back to the dressing room and Ermer knew there would be no need for a bed check that night.
In Boston the Angels were leading 4-1 in the seventh inning, headed for their eighth straight victory, when The Thing presumably fell from its hook in Fregosi's locker. Yastrzemski doubled with the bases loaded, and when the inning was over Boston had scored six runs and was ahead to stay. After the game a large part of the near-capacity crowd—Red Sox attendance is some 300,000 ahead of last year—waited outside Fenway Park to greet the players. In the Angel locker room Manager Bill Rigney bolted the door for 15 minutes, finally opening it only long enough to admit a few California newspapermen. "Nobody else," said a uniformed guard. "Rigney's too mad to talk."
It rained in Chicago, and the White Sox game with the Indians was called off in the third inning with Cleveland ahead 1-0. "If it had to rain," groaned Eddie Stanky, "I wish the whole game had been rained out. Now Fred Klages has been used up. If the game hadn't started I could have used Klages against Cleveland tomorrow and saved both Horlen and Peters for the Tiger series this weekend." It would never occur to a man who writes defiant Ks that the rain could have come at the end of five innings, making it a complete game and a White Sox loss.
THURSDAY, JULY 27
Because he was one of the players fined $250, Minnesota Pitcher Mudcat Grant asked to be traded. "I don't mind the fine so much," explained Grant. "I do object to Ermer not believing me."
According to Grant, his roommate, Catcher Earl Battey, did not want the air conditioner on in their room because he had a bruised arm. Grant, who was scheduled to pitch the next day, wanted air-conditioned comfort to insure himself of a good night's sleep, so he went to the hotel room clerk and was given another room. Thus Grant was not in his assigned room when Ermer checked it.
"I gave Ermer my oath that it happened just that way," Grant said.
Ermer seemed unperturbed. "He's asked to be traded before," he said.
What did perturb the Minnesota manager was the team's 6-2 loss to the Yankees, which put the Twins five full games behind the White Sox. "We've been making some fundamental mistakes—Kaat's pitch to Mantle, for instance—and we will have to stop making them. Our pitching has been all right, but we have been scratching for runs. Lately we haven't been able to get one lucky hit, not one damned blooper. Even so, we should be in this race all the way."
In Boston it was like New Year's Eve. Standing at the entrance to the Red Sox dressing room, Yastrzemski clapped teammates on the back as they trotted past. A few minutes earlier the Red Sox had gone into the ninth inning trailing the Angels 5-2, but a two-run home run by Joe Foy and another home run by Tony Conigliaro had tied the game, in the 10th the Red Sox had wrapped it up. Now the Boston players were feasting on watermelon, cold cuts and beer, a regular party.
In his office Manager Dick Williams shook his head. "This team just doesn't quit," he said, almost in wonder. "I've never seen a team with an average age of 24 so loose."
Out in the locker room Pitcher Gary Bell nodded toward Conigliaro. "That Conig is something," Bell said. "During the game, he told me: 'We'll get him [Pitcher Jim McGlothlin, who was working on a three-hitter], and in the ninth I'll hit him for a homer. And if he's not in there [he wasn't] I'll hit it off whoever is [Bill Kelso].' "
Over in the Angels' dressing room the door was open, at least, but there was no noise. "The Red Sox broke my winning streak last night," Rigney muttered, "but today they broke my heart."
In Baltimore the Tigers' clubhouse attendant wheeled a grocery cart past the mezzanine stands in search of a load of beer for the players' postgame relaxation. "The guys aren't particular," he said. "We usually give them the sponsor's beer. It's free."
The beer was the second gift of the night for the Tigers. The first was the ball game, which they won 4-0 behind Denny McLain, who is beginning to look like the 20-game winner of last season. The Orioles made it easy, committing several mental errors. Even Brooks Robinson was guilty, tagging a runner on a force play. Looking ahead to the Tigers' four-game series with the White Sox, Manager Mayo Smith said: "Sure, we've got to take three out of four to make a dent in their lead, but it's not the end of the world if we don't. There's still a lot of season left."
Again there was rain in Chicago, and again the game was stopped in the third inning. Stanky was depressed. Now he had used up two pitchers for no games and, with Tommy John on the disabled list, he was already short of pitchers. But at least he was still in first place.
FRIDAY, JULY 28
After two days of rain the weather in Chicago was beautiful for the opening of the series between the White Sox and the Tigers. Al Kaline was back in the lineup and, although he had no hits, the Tigers didn't mind, beating the Sox, and Gary Peters, 7-4.
Earl Wilson won his 13th game for the Tigers, but he needed relief from young Mike Marshall, a 24-year-old converted shortstop who a year ago was pitching in Montgomery. In the off season Marshall has been attending Michigan State, studying child growth and development. His thesis for his Masters and also for his Ph.D. is The Sexual Maturation of the Male.
Eddie Stanky, who got his own particular kind of Ph.D. in the minor leagues years ago, was not depressed, even though his Sox made four errors: "Despite all the errors, confusion, a 24-man roster, a slump, all the talk about us being a dull ball club, we're still in first place."
Rain in Boston delayed the start of the Red Sox-Twin game, so Foy entertained his teammates with a football story. "We had this one guy carrying the ball," said Foy, "and he got racked up pretty good by three linebackers. He came back to the huddle kinda wobbly, so the quarterback tells him they're gonna run the same play, only he's faking and the other halfback's carrying. The guy fakes real nice, and then he sees these same three linebackers coming at him again. So he throws up his hands and yells 'Fake, fake. See, I don't have the ball.' "
That was about the last bit of laughter from the Red Sox all night. The Twins, dead for so long, scored seven runs in the fourth inning to put away the game. Even Dean Chance got a hit, his first in 78 consecutive times at bat, an intended sacrifice bunt that no one could field. The victim of the Twin bombardment was Jim Lonborg, the Sox's 14-game winner. When the game was over he packed his bag and headed off for two weeks of military duty, one of a score of players on the contending teams to have done so.
The Angels, hoping to win again after the two disheartening losses to the Red Sox, arrived early at D.C. Stadium in Washington. Moose Skowron, Jim Fregosi and Don Mincher settled down to a game of crazy eights. Bobby Knoop, the second baseman, sat at the same table playing solitaire. "Anybody plays crazy eights is crazy," Knoop said. "Anyway, I'm a loner. I hate people."
"People hate you," said Fregosi, Knoop's roommate. "You're a miserable person."
The Angels' starting pitcher, Jack Hamilton, had awakened in the morning with a case of laryngitis and was unable to say a word all day. Leading 2-0 in the second inning, he was about to pitch to Mike Epstein when both Washington coaches began yelling and whistling at him, claiming spitball. Manager Gil Hodges, who had complained about Hamilton earlier this season (SI, July 31), bolted from the dugout and jawed with Plate Umpire Jim Odom. Rigney came out to defend his pitcher, and it was 10 minutes before the game resumed. All that time Hamilton, with no voice to defend himself, could only stand there. The spitball allegations continued for six innings, until Hamilton, now losing 3-2, was removed by Rigney. Angel relievers gave up five runs the next inning, and that was the game. Afterward Fregosi looked at The Thing hanging in his cubicle. "Thing," he said, "you're getting the hell kicked out of you lately."
SATURDAY, JULY 29
Despite their three straight losses, the Angels were still in a carefree mood before the afternoon game with the fast-improving Senators. Moose Skowron kidded his former teammate Tony Kubek, now a TV announcer. "With all the baseball you should have picked up playing on my team, you're really bad," Skowron told him. Fregosi did a tape for a Stay in School campaign. "This is Jimmy Fregosi of the California Angels," he said. "Kids, trying to get a job without a high school diploma is like trying to steal home with your shoelaces tied together. So stay in school, you little brats." As the radio men blanched, Fregosi howled with laughter and then did it over, straight.
A few hours later even Fregosi had stopped laughing, for the Angels had lost their fourth straight and a tough one, at that. "I am not in a very good mood to answer any silly questions," said Rigney, after keeping everyone out of the locker room for 20 minutes. The Angels, now four and a half games behind Chicago, were themselves only four games ahead of the charging Senators.
The largest Fenway Park crowd in 11 years—35,469—showed up to watch the Red Sox play a twi-night doubleheader with the Twins. During batting practice Coach Jim Lemon offered some advice to Tony Oliva, Minnesota's two-time batting champion whose average this year is only .254. "Try standing up straighter," said Lemon.
"I can't," replied Oliva. "I always bat with my feet apart, and I can't do that."
"Your feet have nothing to do with it," said Lemon.
Oliva looked at Lemon, shrugged and walked away.
In the first game Oliva, using the same old stance, hit a home run, but the Red Sox again came from behind to win, scoring four runs in the eighth inning. In the second game Oliva hit another home run, as did a flock of other Twins, including Harmon Killebrew, who got No. 31. After six innings Minnesota had scored 10 runs, and even the Red Sox were not able to rally from that.
In Chicago the game had reached the ninth inning, and again the Tigers were threatening. Detroit had made 14 hits to the White Sox's five, yet the score was 4-3 Chicago, thanks in part to a two-run homer by Ken Boyer, recently acquired from the Mets. But now there were Tiger runners on first and third with no one out as Stanky called for Reliever Don McMahon. The first batter McMahon had to face was Bill Freehan, the American League's All-Star Game catcher. The White Sox infield played back, ready to concede the tying run for a double play, but Freehan did the worst possible thing—he struck out. Now came the most critical play of the game. Norm Cash swung at the first pitch and lifted a fly ball down the line in right field. Chicago's Jim King ran to his left, caught the ball, turned and threw home. At third base, Al Kaline, who had made three hits in the game, broke for the plate and then stopped. The throw from King came in on one hop about two feet up the third-base line, bounced off Catcher Gerry McNertney's glove and rolled a few feet away. But Kaline was in no position to score. Seconds later McMahon got Mickey Stanley to pop up, and the White Sox had a good win.
Should Kaline have been sent home on the fly ball? The Tigers maintained that the ball was not deep enough and that, naturally, there was no way of knowing that the throw would get away from the catcher. Yet it is a fact of baseball that aggressive teams force errors, win games and pennants. Chances are good that Eddie Stanky, if he had been the third-base coach, would have sent Kaline home.
Even as King was accepting congratulations for his throw, the White Sox were announcing that he had been traded to Cleveland for none other than the Rock himself, Rocky Colavito. Rocky, the announcement said, was due in town for Sunday's big doubleheader.
SUNDAY, JULY 30
"Some weekend," said Rod Carew, Minnesota's second baseman, who had arrived in Boston at 1:30 in the morning after two days of military duty in Minneapolis.
"Don't feel bad," Coach Billy Martin told him. "I was drafted twice."
"They drafted you twice?" Earl Battey asked. "No way they could have made that mistake twice."
Jerry Adair, an infielder, was discussing the difference between his former manager, Stanky, and his current one, Dick Williams. "Stanky, well, let's just say he's different," he said. "Before the season he wrote a message on a blackboard that was something like: 'From now until the end of the season you belong to me.' Williams makes you feel more at ease."
For the fourth time in the week the Red Sox came on strong in the late innings, scoring one in the eighth and four in the ninth, but the Twins won 7-5. Rod Carew may have been tired from his military duties, but he still managed to get four hits, one of them a home run. Killebrew also had another homer. It looked as though the Minnesota hitting famine was over.
"Where's my Rock," shouted Stanky as he came out of his office in Chicago. Colavito had arrived too late to take batting practice, so he went through his own self-prescribed limbering-up exercises in the clubhouse. "Now that we have Boyer and Colavito, maybe teams will look at us in a different way," said Stanky.
The White Sox's business manager, Rudie Schaffer, asked Stanky if he had any objections to using a snowmobile to cart in relief pitchers. "No," said Stanky, "but I hope we don't have to use it."
They didn't in the first game. Joe Horlen pitched a four-hitter as the Sox won 4-1. But in the second the snowmobile got a road test as the White Sox used two relievers in a futile attempt to stem the Detroit attack. The Tigers scored five runs in the third inning to win easily 7-1. They had failed to win three out of four as they had hoped but, as Mayo Smith had said, it was not the end of the world. Kaline was back and hitting, and there were plenty of games left. As for Eddie Stanky—vigilant, defiant Eddie Stanky—he was in first place by an even greater margin than he had had at the start of the week, and he in no way looked like a drowning man.
For the Angels, the week was turning into a nightmare. In the first game of a doubleheader the Senators scored 11 times to run Rigney's losing streak to five. But in the second game the frustrated Angels struck for nine runs in the seventh inning to win at last. Packing for the trip to New York, Jim Fregosi decided to take his doll along. As he had said, The Thing had gotten the hell kicked out of it all week, but you couldn't leave it behind.