The 1968 edition in Houston epitomizes this whole hitless year. It was a shutout, only the fourth in All-Star history. With the two teams scratching out just eight hits, the lowest total ever for a nine-inning game, the Nationals defeated the American Leaguers 1-0. Fittingly, the game's lone run, scored by the still-daring Willie Mays, was unearned. So overwhelming was the pitching that 20 of the AL's best hitters were put down in order over the first seven innings by four National League pitchers.
"I'm a scrambling type of manager," asserted Earl Weaver last week, after taking over the BALTIMORE (4-0) job. Lest there were any doubts, he had 246-pound Boog Powell steal second base—the fifth steal in Powell's seven-year career—and the revitalized Orioles soared into second place. Another Weaver move, the insertion of reserve infielder Don Buford in center to replace slumping Paul Blair, also paid dividends. Buford homered twice and, in one game, scored the only two runs. For the first time in nearly two years NEW YORK (3-1) swept a three-game road series as Tom Tresh hit two clutch homers and Mel Stottlemyre won his 12th game. One MINNESOTA (2-2) game lasted so long that Rod Carew (.444 for week) was back from Navy duty in time to pinch-hit and drive home the tying run in the 14th inning against the Tigers. The Twins, who had run out of pitchers, allowed Jim Roland, their sixth, to bat, and he walked with the bases loaded for the clincher. But the loss of slugger Harmon Killebrew, out six to eight weeks with a pulled hamstring muscle, dimmed any hopes of catching DETROIT (1-3), which maintained a 7½-game lead. the Tigers' usually reliable bullpen allowed eight runs in 12‚Öî innings, and only a three-hitter by Denny McLain—his 17th victory—averted a losing streak. Though BOSTON'S (3-1) Carl Yastrzemski continued his tailspin (1 for 15 for the week), Mike Andrews picked up the Sox with a homer and a game-winning squeeze bunt. Eddie Stanky lost his job, and Tommy John lost his first game of the season as CHICAGO (2-3) remained in ninth place. Led by Luis Aparicio (.522 BA), the Sox averaged .316 for the week and drew 40,575 in a Milwaukee appearance. Although Reggie Jackson and Campy Campaneris won games for OAKLAND (2-2), CLEVELAND'S (2-2) Sam McDowell remained impregnable. He fanned 15 A's, bringing his season strikeout total against them to 57 in 40 innings. CALIFORNIA (1-3) lost two one-run games and dropped to eighth. Despite a pair of four-hit efforts, WASHINGTON (0-4) averaged just .186 and dropped its 12th straight game to the Orioles. The last-place club also lost its top reliever, Darold Knowles, off on an 18-month Air Force hitch.
Standings: Det 56-31, Balt 47-37, Clev 49-41, Bos 45-39, Minn 41-44, Ca 41-45, Oak 41-45, NY 39-44, Chi 36-47, Wash 30-52
July 21, 1968
Thanks to a puddle, SAN FRANCISCO'S (3-1) Willie Mays moved into fourth place on the alltime extra-base-hit list (1,141) against Cincinnati. Mays stretched out a double when a fly ball rolled dead in an instant lake, allowing him to pass Ty Cobb in the rankings. The Giants didn't really need flukes, however, as they batted .309 and clouted seven home runs, more than a third of the rest of the league combined. Juan Marichal hurled his 12th consecutive complete game (his 16th victory) and Jim Hart hit .500. Still, the hottest-hitting club was ST. LOUIS (4-1). Paced by Lou Brock (.500) and Curt Flood (.435), the Cards averaged .331. Two pinch singles by Roger Maris won ball games, and Bob Gibson, who has allowed but two runs in his last 72 innings, won his ninth straight. PHILADELPHIA'S (6-0) Richie Allen continued his surge (.462 last week), and Rico Joseph won one game with a 16th-inning pinch single as the Phils moved into the first division. When Milt Pappas came down with influenza rookie Reliever Jim Britton was forced into a starting role for ATLANTA (4-0) and responded with a five-hit shutout. Hank Aaron slammed his 500th home run, the eighth player to do so, and the Braves moved to second, 9½ back of the Cards, NEW YORK'S (2-4) Jerry Koosman tied a club record with his fourth shutout of the season. Jerry Grote (.571 BA) feasted on CHICAGO (3-2) pitching, while the lethargic Cubs went 17 straight innings without a run. Only Glenn Beckert, who extended his hitting streak to 19 games, provided encouragement. LOS ANGELES (0-4), loser in 10 of its last 11 games, scored just two runs and hit .164 as it fell into ninth place. Pitching problems (16 hurlers gave up 26 runs in three games) sent CINCINNATI(0-5) down to fifth place. PITTSBURGH (0-5) tumbled, too, as league batting leader Matty Alou's .125 slump offset a surge by Roberto Clemente (.556 for week) HOUSTON (2-3) Manager Harry Walker stressed "patience" as his young club committed six errors in one game and remained mired in the cellar, despite a record-tying 18 strikeout effort by Don Wilson.
Standings: StL 57-31, Atl 47-40, Phil 44-40, SF 45-43, Cin 42-44, Chi 42-47, NY 41-47, Pitt 40-46, LA 41-48, Hou 38-51
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" Simon and Garfunkel and all baseball were asking as the big leaguers reached the midseason All-Star Game break with attendance figures spiraling downward almost as fast as the batting averages. Only two American and eight National League hitters were over .300 and, based on past years, there could be even fewer by season's end. Halfway through last season there were 22 players hitting .300, but only 16 at the finish fifteen of the 20 midyear leaders suffered slumps, their deficits totaling 201 percentage points in the National League and 184 in the American. Should the batters suffer similar dips this year it is conceivable that nobody in the American League and perhaps only two in the National will finish above .300. In fact, .275 could take the AL title, considerably beneath Elmer Flick's previous winning low of .306 in 1905. The midseason pitching figures are no less amazing. A year ago four pitchers with 11 victories apiece topped the majors at midseason. This year Denny McLain (16), Juan Marichal (15) and Luis Tiant (14) could win 30. The last time that happened was in 1934; the last time two pitchers won 30 in the same season was 1912. With combined earned run averages for both leagues under 300 it came as no surprise that not a single AL batter ranked above .300 by the end of last week. Only timely extra-base hits have allowed Detroit (.230 BA) and St. Louis (253) to open commanding leads. The rest of the teams need scapegoats, and four managers—the latest victim Chicago's Eddie Stanky—have departed clubs with a combined batting average of .224. "Joltin' Joe has left and gone away. Hey-hey-hey"