Leo Durocher's secret meeting with Cub Owner Phil Wrigley lasted just 10 minutes. Wrigley had called the t√™te-√†-t√™te because Durocher had left the team complaining of stomach trouble during a day game with the Dodgers and then had appeared the next evening in apparent good health at his stepson's boys camp in Wisconsin. There were even some who believed Wrigley might fire The Lip, but Wrigley was satisfied. "'We just had our signals crossed," the owner said after hearing Leo's explanation. Durocher returned to the dugout and put Randy Hundley and Ernie Banks on the bench for a rest of their own. When they returned the following day against the Giants, Hundley and Banks both hit homers and drove in five runs between them. After the game Banks had yet another of his effervescent messages for his Chicago (5-2) teammates. He presented them with a sign that read WANT TO WAKE UP EACH MORNING WITH A SMILE? SLEEP WITH A HANGER IN YOUR MOUTH. Still smiling, but still trying to catch the Cubs, was St. Louis (5-1). Bob Gibson celebrated the 10th anniversary of his first major league victory by pitching a five-hitter against the Padres. Richie Allen, back in baseball after a celebrated retirement, was booed in Philadelphia (3-4). Allen retaliated by first blowing kisses to the crowd and then by hitting two home runs to beat the Braves 4-3. New York (3-3) began to worry when it lost three straight to the Astros and fell six games behind the Cubs. Bob Veale of Pittsburgh (4-3) completed his first game in 22 starts and Bo Belinsky got in his first major league game in 22 months. After making a fine 12-5 record, including nine consecutive wins in Hawaii, Bo was bought by the Pirates. He was disappointing, though, in his return appearance, giving up two runs in as many innings. Montreal (1-6) regained the honor of having the worst record among the four expansion teams. There were memorable home runs hit all over the Western Division. The Braves' Henry Aaron passed Mickey Mantle on the career list with number 537. "Now I'm shooting for second," Aaron said. "Ruth looks a long way off to me." Less memorable, but equally exciting, was Bob Tillman's performance during the same game. Tillman, who describes his last few years in the majors as "catch a little and sit around a lot," hit homers his first three times at the plate. A fourth would have tied the major league record shared by nine players. "I wanted it in the worst way," Tillman said. He swung at a 3-0 pitch and popped out to the catcher. Despite the long-ball dramatics, Atlanta (2-5) dropped out of first place. Willie McCovey hit three home runs for San Francisco (4-3), and one was his 300th since putting on a Giant uniform in 1959. But Juan Marichal lost his third start since the All-Star break. Even with its tandem grand slams (below), Houston (6-1) needed excellent pitching to keep its winning streak alive. Tom Griffin's four-hitter defeated the Mets' Tom Seaver 2-0, and Fred Gladding recorded his 23rd save of the year—a club record—in a 5-3 win over the Expos. There was help at last from the pitching staff in Cincinnati (5-1). Jim Merritt and Gerry Arrigo had impressive four-and six-hit victories and Jim Maloney hit his second homer of the season. Then the hitters took over again with a vengeance to carry the Reds into the league lead. They got 19 runs, 25 hits and four home runs to edge out the powder puff Phillies, who managed only 17 runs, 21 hits and three home runs. Los Angeles (3-5) tumbled into fourth place with an old Dodger problem—lack of power. Bill Sudakis hit the team's only home run. About all San Diego (0-6) Manager Preston Gomez could claim was that he got plenty of exercise last week—walking to the mound. He used 18 pitchers in five games.
Standings—East: Chi 67-41, NY 58-44, StL 57-50, Pitt 54-52, Phil 43-62, Mont 34-73. West: Cin 55-44, SF 59-48, Atl 60-49, LA 57-48, Hou 57-50, SD 34-74.
August 10, 1969
The Orioles' Dave McNally and his 17 consecutive victories was the topic of baseball last week, even on the floor of the Senate. Majority Leader Mike Mansfield concluded a speech on McNally, who just happens to come from his home state of Montana, by saying, "We are following every game with trepidation." After tying the 32-year-old record with a 4-2 win against Kansas City earlier in the week, McNally's streak ended in Minnesota with his first defeat since last September. Baltimore (4-2) extended its lead in the East to 14 games, but neither manager nor star were suffering from lethargy. Earl Weaver was thrown out of two games with the Twins, and the second time around Frank Robinson kept him company in the locker room. Also removed from a game was Boston's (2-5) Carl Yastrzemski. With two runs in and two out in the Red Sox half of the first inning, George Scott hit a slow roller that should have scored Yaz from third. He was thrown out at the plate. Manager Dick Williams benched the former triple-crown winner and topped that with a $500 penalty for not hustling. It was the first fine in Yastrzemski's eight-year major league career. "I was shocked when my running was questioned in the dugout," he said. "I thought I was running as hard as I could." Since the incident occurred, resentment has heightened between Williams and his players. Another feud, this one between Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain, has been resolved. But the two Detroit (3-4) pitchers still had their troubles on the field, losing a doubleheader to the Twins. Washington (4-2) won for Ted Williams with late-inning rallies. Frank Howard went 3 for 5 in one game, including a ninth-inning homer—his 35th of the season. The two Yankees who can still remember what it was like fighting for a pennant, Mel Stottlemyre and Joe Pepitone, were frustrated by lack of support from newer Yankees. Stottlemyre pitched another complete game—he leads the majors with 18—but lost to the A's. Despite Pepitone's two hits, one his 20th home run, New York (4-2) lost again to the A's 6-5. Cleveland (4-3) tried to dig its way out of the cellar, hitting .280 for the week. The mystery of the missing fans continues in Oakland (5-2). Reggie Jackson hits home runs, and the A's are within three games of the Western Division lead, and yet attendance is down 150,000 from last year. Jackson defeated the Yankees with his 40th homer of the year and then tied the Red Sox in the last of the ninth with number 41. Minnesota (5-2), in a likely preview of the league's divisional playoff, won two of a three-game series with Baltimore. Harmon Killebrew lifted his RBI total to an even 100 with his 31st home run, and Rod Carew continued to lead the league with a .368 batting average. But what the fans in the Twin Cities—who have seen their team win 21 of its last 25 home games—really enjoyed was Rich Reese's spoiler. He ended McNally's streak with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning of the rubber game of the series. With leading hitter Mike Hegan still ailing, all Seattle (1-5) could hope for was stolen bases from Tommy Harper, the league leader with 49. But Harper was restricted to the dugout by his .234 average. The last of the original Angels, Jim Fregosi, hit a triple and a home run as California's (3-3) Andy Messersmith threw a four-hitter. When Al Lopez managed the White Sox, he had difficulty eating and drank a lot of milk. Watching Chicago (2-5) has had a reverse effect on Lopez's replacement, Don Gutteridge. "They're driving me to eat," he says. "When things are going bad, and they're not going too good right now, I just want to go someplace to eat." One meal was delayed when the Sox got lost on a bus ride to a Cleveland hotel. While the driver was harassed by the tired athletes, Gutteridge said quietly, "Hang in there, bussie. We'll make it somehow." His reference was to the hotel, not the pennant.
Standings—East: Balt 73-33, Det 58-46, Bos 58-49, Wash 56-55, NY 52-56, Clev 44-64. West: Minn 66-41, Oak 61-41, KC 44-62, Sea 43-62, Cal 41-63, Chi 42-65.
The Astros were 3-10 in April, on their way to 4-20 for the month. "I'll bet you $100 right now," First Baseman Curt Blefary told Sportswriter Joe Heiling, "$100 that we win the Western Division. Put up your money." "Will you take an IOU?" Heiling asked. "I've only got $40 on me." But Blefary wanted cash on the barrel, so the bet was never made. Heiling was lucky. At the close of last week, Blefary and his teammates were enjoying an eight-game winning streak. Of course, they were still in next-to-last place in the Western Division, but they trailed the first-place Reds by only two games and no fifth-place team had ever been that close to the top in August. The Astros were not only back in contention, they were historic. In the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets, the bases were loaded with one out. Shortstop Denis Menke hit a fastball into the seats. With two outs, the bases were loaded again for Jim Wynn (SI, June 9). Mets Pitcher Ron Taylor threw a slider, low and away, and the Toy Cannon pulled the ball over the left field fence. It was the first time National League teammates had ever slammed in the same inning and Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison of the Twins are still the only American Leaguers to have accomplished the feat. Between games, Wynn remembered that Judge Roy Hofheinz had recently given the infielders wristwatches for establishing a league record with seven double plays. "If he is listening." Outfielder Wynn said, "all I want is a watch like the infielders got." Hofheinz called the locker room saying that two more watches were on the way. Shortstop Menke then made a request: "I've already got a watch for the double plays. If you will, I'd like to have a lady's watch this time for my wife Jean." Then Menke, Wynn and Co. went back out onto the field and scored 10 runs in the third inning. After the game, Blefary saw Heiling and grinned.