Ernie Banks (.480 for the week) claimed he was in his second childhood, Leo Durocher praised Glenn Beckert as "the best second baseman in a long time," and CHICAGO (5-2) was suddenly casting its eyes on second place. Though still four games from second, the Cubs rose to sixth as Beckert extended his hitting streak to 26 games, longest in the majors this year, and Ferguson Jenkins showed his '67 form with two low-hit victories. Banks even borrowed from Broadway and belted out a clubhouse solo of "Let a winner lead the way," and the team was relaxed for a change. Another midseason disappointment, CINCINNATI (4-1), shook its lethargy with three straight wins. Mack Jones, recently sidelined with a pulled thigh muscle, twice rescued games with key pinch hits, and Ted Abernathy turned in two more brilliant relief jobs as his ERA spirited to 0.76. ST. LOUIS (4-3), which had won on Memorial Day and Independence Day also, remained undefeated on Payday. The Cards, who get paychecks on the first and 15th of each month, claimed their seventh straight "money" victory. Low-hit efforts by Bob Veale and Bob Moose plus Matty Alou's .333 week helped PITTSBURGH (5-3) break a 10-game losing streak, but Veale could not understand a rush of congratulations after the ninth inning of his 2-1 win. Changing shirts in the clubhouse, he'd missed seeing the winning run and thought it was still a 1-1 tie. Al Jackson, the "player to be named later" in a winter trade, made a rare start for NEW YORK (4-5) and defeated his old Cardinal mates. ATLANTA (3-4) got a lift from Bob Johnson, who produced seven hits in four games while subbing for ailing Clete Boyer, but gained no ground on the Cards. At SAN FRANCISCO (3-4) discouraged Manager Herman Franks announced he'd quit unless the Giants won the pennant. But the bats remained numb (2.1 runs per game), and only shutouts by Ray Sadecki and Juan Marichal averted a plunge to the second division. Nothing went right for PHILADELPHIA (2-5) either, as Richie Allen batted .192 and booted one game with two errors after his equipment bag—including his 41-ounce bat—was lost following an exhibition game in Reading, Pa. Two wins by Don Drysdale and a 10 RBI week from .188 hitter Ron Fairly kept LOS ANGELES (2-4) from losing more ground. HOUSTON (3-4) hit only .187 and, with three starting pitchers on the shelf, bullpen regulars had to start both ends of one doubleheader.
Standings: StL 61-34 Atl 50-44 Phil 46-45, Cin 46-45, SF 48-47, Chi 47-49, Pitt 45-49, NY 45-52, LA 43-52, Hou 41-55
July 28, 1968
Until recently, CLEVELAND'S (5-1) Stan Williams was most remembered as the guy who walked in the deciding run of the 1962 National League playoff series. The managerial recipient of that gift, Alvin Dark, is ironically gaining new dividends from the 31-year-old journeyman—only now they are on the same team. Williams, who quit the game briefly three years ago, won one game (his seventh) and saved another as Dark's Indians cut three games from the Tigers' lead. "Who put Butazolidin in the Orioles' bran flakes?" a BALTIMORE (5-3) writer wondered after Dave McNally, previously 0-for-41 at bat, stroked a home run to beat the Tigers and gain his second victory of the week. When MINNESOTA (4-4) scored 12 runs in four innings of one game, another possible stimulant was suggested. "Marijuana?" responded Manager Cal Ermer to a reporter's jest. "Is that supposed to produce base hits and get players high and all that?" Rich Reese, subbing at first for the injured Harmon Killebrew, batted .412 and was by far the highest Twin. OAKLAND (4-4) moved back into the first division behind Campy Campaneris (.417), Sal Bando (.467) and Diego Segui, who pitched nine scoreless innings in five relief appearances. After revealing he had been plagued all season by a sore arm, CHICAGO'S (4-4) Joel Horlen promptly won two games and the White Sox, winners in only 15 of 37 previous one-run decisions, claimed three of four close ones. Anemic hitting (.184 for the week) had league-leading DETROIT (3-5) looking back, but the Tigers' largest home crowd in seven years—53,208—watched rookie Tom Matchick win one game with a two-out ninth-inning homer. The Tigers dropped the next three, however, to the Orioles and saw their lead dwindle to five and a half games. CALIFORNIA'S (4-3) George Brunet suddenly developed a sinker pitch that behaved suspiciously like a spitball and hurled two five-hit shutouts. BOSTON (3-5) received four homers apiece from Reggie Smith and Ken Harrelson, plus a game-winning three-run double from recalled veteran Russ Nixon, and clung to fourth place. Bronx boy Rocky Colavito, who says home-town NEW YORK (4-4) always was his favorite team, was picked up from the Dodgers and produced a decisive homer in his first night in a Yankee uniform. WASHINGTON (3-6) got a closed-door pep talk from player rep Bernie Allen that proved helpful in ending a nine-game losing streak.
Standings: Det 59-36, Balt 52-40, Clev 54-42, Bos 48-44, Cal 45-48, Minn 45-48, Oak 45-49, NY 43-48, Chi 40-51, Wash 33-58
Sometime soon, maybe before he celebrates his 45th birthday this Friday, Hoyt Wilhelm will hop a White Sox bullpen cart and disembark exactly 60'6" from home plate for the 907th time in his 18-year major league career. He will dig his right fingertips into the ball, float it evasively toward the plate and, no matter what happens next, one of baseball's oldest records will knuckle under. In 1911 Cy Young retired after 906 pitching appearances. Wilhelm will surpass that in four fewer seasons and he has no intention of stopping now. "I feel like pitching until I'm 60," he shrugged after hurling in five more games last week. Hoyt's secret remains his knuckleball, a delivery that has been baffling batters—and his own catchers—since boyhood days in Huntersville, N.C. It's easy on his arm "because there's no twist of the elbow or wrist and no need for speed to make it effective," and Wilhelm throws it "90% of the time if I'm getting it over." Wilhelm owns a 1.31 ERA through 40 appearances this season and has been the White Sox' top reliever since 1963. He pitched a no-hitter with Baltimore in 1958, but he can't remember when last he started a game. Former White Sox J. C. Martin, however, vividly recalls catching a Wilhelm start against Boston five years ago. "For the first five innings he threw nothin' but fast balls and he had a 1-0 lead. Then he went to the knuckler, like he was relievin' himself. Never will forget Eddie Bressoud. Eddie lunged at one outside, he swung at one inside, and the umpire called him out on the next pitch with Eddie lyin' flat on the ground." Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckler had again turned on, tuned in and suddenly dropped out. Never trust any knuckleballer over 40.