For the past several years CLEVELAND (6-1) managers have kept tight reins on the pitching habits of their overpowering young staff. Result? They rarely overpowered anyone. This season, new Manager Al Dark told his pitchers, "Here's the ball, do the job." Last week, the Indians' band of liberated young pitchers did the job. They allowed the opposition just 10 runs, ran their season total to nine shutouts in 16 wins. The freest flingers of them all were Luis Tiant, who rolled up his third and fourth straight shutouts, and Sam McDowell (4-1), who is suddenly the strike-out Sam of 1965. CHICAGO'S (5-2) pitchers, on a par with the Indians', enjoyed rare support from their hitters, who belted homers in eight straight games as the White Sox took 10 of 16 following their initial losing streak. DETROIT (4-2) combined tight pitching by all four starters and hot hitting by Al Kaline (.421 BA with eight RBIs for the week) and Jim Northrup (.412) to jump into the league lead. Carl Yastrzemski spent an off day looking at TV tapes of his hitting in 1967, hoping to find what was causing his early season slump this year. The BOSTON (4-3) star must have found a clue, because he batted .480 for the week and raised his season's average 63 points, NEW YORK'S (3-4) hitters scored just 10 runs all week, but that was enough to gain three wins when Bill Monbouquette, Joe Verbanic, Stan Bahnsen and Mel Stottlemyre combined to hold the opposition to two runs in the victories. CALIFORNIA (3-5) received strong performances from George Brunet (a two-hitter), Clyde Wright and Sam Ellis, but 14 pitchers allowed 21 runs in the team's losses. MINNESOTA (4-4) Manager Cal Ermer had to call in relief pitchers 15 times. Fortunately, on six of those occasions it was Ron Perranoski who walked in from the bullpen. He won three games and totaled 10‚Öì scoreless innings for the week. OAKLAND'S (4-4) pitching allowed just 12 runs, but the batters averaged .202 and scored only 16 themselves as the A's dropped to fifth. Frank Howard added three homers to bring his season's total to nine, but the rest of the WASHINGTON (2-4) hitters could produce only one and the pitchers twice allowed 12 runs in a game while the Senators fell to sixth place. After rookie Dave Leonhard started off the week by pitching his second win, a one-hitter, BALTIMORE (1-6) went into a nose dive. The Orioles scored only six runs in the losses and gave up the league lead.
Standings: Det 18-10, Balt 16-12, Clev 16-12, Minn 16-14, Oak 14-15, Bos 13-15. Wash 13-15, Cal 14-17, NY 13-17, Chi 10-16
May 19, 1968
After five straight tight games, the woes of managing were getting to ATLANTA'S (4-3) Lum Harris. They began, surprisingly, with Henry Aaron, whose average had dropped 62 points in two weeks. So, Harris told his star outfielder, "either start hitting or start managing, these one-run games are getting me down." Aaron promptly opted for the active life, busting out of his slump with two homers and four RBIs in the victory that brought the Braves over .500 for the first time since his nose dive began. Led by Jim Wynn, who hit .429 for the week, and Dennis Menke (.364 with six RBIs), HOUSTON (4-2) moved out of the cellar. Wynn's surge was particularly comforting to the Astros as the little slugger, who belted 37 homers in 1967, pulled out of a slump and more than doubled his average while hitting three home runs in the last 13 games. PITTSBURGH (4-2) moved up from eighth to second on tight relief pitching by Ron Kline and Elroy Face, who together allowed no runs in 8‚Öî innings and figured in three of the Pirates' wins. Orlando Cepeda (.053 for the week) was another batting star bogged down at the plate, but ST. LOUIS (3-2) still padded its league lead on the timely hits of lesser lights Dal Maxvill, Dick Simpson, Johnny Edwards and Julian Javier. CHICAGO'S (3-4) pitchers allowed the punchless Mets and Dodgers 10 homers, including the first National League round-trippers for ex-AL players Rocky Colavito, Zoilo Versalles and Tommie Agee. PHILADELPHIA (3-3) scored six runs a game to reel off three straight wins and jump into second. But the Phils' bats then went cold, causing them to lose twice by 2-1 scores and slip back to fourth. Bill Singer pitched LOS ANGELES'(3-3) first complete game in 17 starts when he shut out the Cubs, but the Dodgers' biggest pitching star was rookie John Billing-ham, who relieved brilliantly three times and figured in two wins. Willie McCovey, who hit three homers to raise his season's total to nine, could not provide enough power to balance out the 34 runs allowed by SAN FRANCISCO'S (3-4) shaky pitching, NEW YORK (3-4) had its usual solid pitching and got a special boost from Jerry Grote (.429 for the week), but the other batters averaged just .189 in the four losses. CINCINNATI (2-5) had plenty of hitting (.307 team average), especially from rookie John Bench and Alex Johnson (.462 and .400 for the week), and wasted it as the pitchers allowed 31 runs on 53 hits, dropping the Reds from second to seventh.
Standings: StL 18-10, Pitt 14-13, SF 15-14, Atl 15-15. Phil 14-14, LA 14-15, Cin 14-15, Chi 14-16, Hou 13-15, NY 12-16
As almost all boys do, James Augustus Hunter one day ran away from home. Predictably, he did not stay away from Hertford, N.C. long, and when he returned he had in hand a string of catfish. Ever since, Jimmy Hunter, who is now a 22-year-old right-hander with the Oakland Athletics, has been called Catfish. The name became a household word last week when Catfish pitched the American League's first regular-season perfect game in 46 years. The 4-0 win was all the more impressive since it was made at the expense of the slugging Minnesota Twins. After the game Catfish, who had never played in the minors, was razzed by a teammate. "If you'd had any experience," he said, "you might be pretty good by now." That hurt. Hunter, 3-2 this year, has managed to win 33 games while losing only 38 for the hapless A's. In the perfect game, which was watched by only 6,289 fans, Minnesota came close to a hit just once—a hard smash by Bob Allison in the fifth inning that was scooped up by Third Baseman Sal Bando. The rest was all Catfish. Relying mainly on a fast ball and slider, he struck out 11 batters. The last, Pinch Hitter Rich Reese, was the toughest. He fouled off five pitches before missing one to end the game. Flushed by the excitement of it all, Oakland Owner Charles Finley told Hunter he would increase his salary by $5,000 and Catcher Jim Pagliaroni's by $1,000 at a special home-plate ceremony before Saturday's game. Finley awarded the new contracts and Hunter was just as gracious. "Catching is 50% of the game," he said, and thereupon made a presentation of his own to Pagliaroni. It was a fancy gold watch, with an inscription that ended simply, "Thanks, Catfish."