While New York (6-0, page 23) took the Eastern Division championship, Chicago (2-3) continued to streak into oblivion. Cub Manager Leo Durocher even accused his team, which had the worst record in the major leagues during September, of quitting on him. His team, it was no secret, had its own ideas. Durocher's sudden midseason absence certainly did not make Cub hearts grow fonder, and the team fell from what looked like an insurmountable lead. While Pittsburgh (4-2) ran off a four-game win streak behind unusually strong pitching from Luke Walker, Dock Ellis, Steve Blass and Bob Moose, and Philadelphia (1-5) slumped 36½ games out of first, the hottest action in both Pennsylvania cities involved managers. The Pirates tired Larry Shepard, who was nearing the end of his second season. No replacement was named, but the most frequently mentioned candidate was fiery Don Hoak. The Phillies, who had been playing under interim Manager George Myatt since August, hired Frank Lucchesi to direct them next season. Lucchesi, who has spent 18 years in the minors as a player and a manager, quickly exhibited the kind of optimism that maybe the Phils do not need. "I'm not making predictions," he said, "but I think there has been only one man more optimistic than I am. That was General Custer, who told his men, 'Don't take any prisoners.' " St. Louis (3-3) Manager Red Schoendienst benched his high-priced regulars and allowed his rookies to play against the last-place Expos, who had defeated the Cards seven times this year. The result was a pair of old-fashioned Cardinal victories. As part of a 12-1 laugher, Outfielder Steve Huntz became the first Card all year to hit two homers in one game. The next day three new pitchers combined for a 2-1 victory with the winner, lefty Jerry Reuss, driving in the deciding run. Even though the 12-1 loss was its worst of the year, Montreal (1-4) could still finish the home season on a happy note. Drawing 1,200,000 fans, the Expos were the only solid success at the gate among the four new teams this year. Pontificated the financial section of one Canadian paper, "The club has proven to be a super catalyst in the city's economic and social milieu, and indications are that the trend, like the team, can go only one way: up." As the Western Division race narrowed to a battle between Atlanta (6-0, page 24) and San Francisco (3-3), Willie Mays came off the bench to provide the season with one of its most dramatic moments. Pinch-hitting in the seventh inning, he clouted a game-winning home run against the Padres—the 600th homer of his career. For the only player other than Babe Ruth to reach that figure, the blast could mean $30,000 in gifts. Adirondack, the company that makes Mays' bats, contributed a big share, including a $12,500 foreign car and $3,500 in stock. With just three games left to play, Cincinnati (7-2) was knocked from contention, but the Reds went down fighting. They swept four games from Los Angeles (1-6) to eliminate the Dodgers and then held on for three more days behind victories by Jim Maloney and Al Jackson. Maloney threw a one-hit shutout, and Jackson scored his first win of the year with 3‚Öî innings of scoreless relief. The Reds' hitting was strong, too, as Pete Rose (below) drove for another batting title and Johnny Bench hit three home runs. Both Houston (2-6) and San Diego (2-4) hurt the contenders. The Padres pushed the Giants out of first place with a pair of victories and the Astros eliminated the Reds.
Standings—East: NY 99-61, Chi 91-69, Pitt 86-74, StL 85-74, Phil 62-97, Mont 52-108. West: Atl 92-68, SF 89-70, Cin 88-72, LA 83-76, Hou 80-79, SD 50-109.
With the Eastern Division's fourth-place Washington (6-0) guaranteed its first winning season in 17 years and its most victories since World War II, Ted Williams, whose hiring was initially viewed as perhaps nothing more than an attempt to perk up the lusterless Senators' gate appeal, stands as a contender for Manager of the Year. Williams raised his team's average from .224 in 1968 to .250 this season and, surprisingly, he was equally effective with his pitchers. In a year when most staffs' ERAs increased, the Senators lowered theirs, with Dick Bosman certain to become only the fourth Senator since Walter Johnson to win the earned-run title. After six professional seasons during which he compiled a 7-16 major league record with a 3.93 ERA, the righthander, who threw a three-hitter last week, blossomed with a 13-5 record and a 2.18 earned run average. The East's other Williams, Boston's (5-2) Dick, was Manager of the Year two seasons ago, when he led the Impossible Dream Red Sox to the pennant. Even as the Sox were trying to put a happy ending on a nightmarish season with a late drive for second place last week, he suddenly was aware of what can happen to managers whose dreams truly become impossible. Told by the Sox he would not be rehired for next year, Williams quit before the season was over. Tight, complete-game pitching by New York's (3-4) Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson defeated Baltimore (2-4) twice and cost the Orioles the chance to break the American League record for most wins in a season. The defeats also prevented the champions from compiling a .700 won-lost percentage, a mark no team has reached since the schedule was expanded to 162 games eight years ago. Cleveland (1-5) finished its home schedule with two losses, giving the Indians their worst record (33-48) at Municipal Stadium in 25 scars. Denny McLain's 24th win stopped a four-game Detroit (2-4) losing streak, but the omens were not good as the Tigers struggled to finish second. Reliever Pat Dobson suffered a fractured foot when jittery rookie Wayne Redmond, startled by a mouse running through the dugout, jumped and landed on Dobson. Harmon Killebrew's 47th and 48th home runs put him into the major league lead, and one of them sparked Minnesota (4-3) to its Western Division championship-clinching victory. The Twins were not the only ones enjoying their big win. Kansas City (2-5) Manager Joe Gordon got a few laughs, too, from a congratulatory telegram he sent Twin Manager Billy Martin. Martin, who played under Gordon in Cleveland 10 years ago, this season called his old boss a poor manager. Returning Martin's volley, Gordon wired, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU DID A GREAT JOB FOR AN IMMATURE ROOKIE MANAGER. FROM THE GUY WHO TAUGHT YOU ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT MANAGING. Returning from the hospital after a stint with hives, Oakland's (5-2) Reggie Jackson stayed in the race for the home run championship. He averaged .318 for the week and clouted his 47th homer to remain one under the lead. Fast-closing Chicago (3-4) held fourth place as stubby Walt Williams struggled to become the first .300 Sox hitter in five years. Williams, who had been averaging .305, hit .250 for the week and was just at his goal with three games to play. Rookie Reliever Ken Tatum's seventh win helped California (3-3) hold third place. Since joining the Angels in May, Tatum has also recorded 22 saves and a 1.36 ERA and is a strong candidate to become the first reliever to win the American League Rookie of the Year award. "This city has one more year to prove itself," said Seattle (3-3) Board Chairman William Daley. The last-place Pilots drew only 650,000 in their first season and have been fighting with the city over improvements at Sicks Stadium. Meanwhile two Texas industrialists have been in touch with Daley about buying the team and moving it to Dallas.
Standings—East: Balt 108-51, Det 88-71, Bos 86-73, Wash 84-75, NY 78-81, Clev 62-97. West: Minn 95-64, Oak 86-73, Cal 71-88, Chi 67-92, KC 66-93, Sea 63-96.
Sitting down, as everybody now knows, is not part of Pete Rose's Style. It was, therefore, hardly a surprise when the Reds' sprinting outfielder hinted a week ago, with just the faintest air of derision, that he would not allow the Mets' Cleon Jones to win the National League batting championship while riding on the bench. At the start of the week Jones, who had led the league's hitters most of the season, held an eight-point edge over Rose but, beset by injuries, he had sat out 18 of New York's games during September. The Cincinnati switch hitter suspected that when Jones returned to the lineup he would have trouble "finding his strike." That was all the incentive Rose, the majors' best batter in 1968 at .335, needed. In eight games last week he collected 18 hits in 39 at bats to raise his average to .347. And his guess about Jones was correct. The New York outfielder had just two hits in his first 14 appearances at the plate, dropping his percentage to .340. The surge not only made Rose an almost certain back-to-back batting champion, but it established him as one of the best hitters in the history of baseball. With at least 215 hits this year the Cincinnati native passed the 200-hit mark for the fourth time in his seven-season career. Rose considers the ability to reach 200 the true test of a player's skill at the plate, and the facts—only 11 players, all but one in the Hall of Fame, have had more 200-hit seasons than Rose—bear him out. Still only 27 years old, Cincinnati's Charlie Hustle has a good chance to equal or surpass them. Among other things, sitting down does not seem to bother him. Rose missed three weeks of play a year ago with a broken thumb and still had 210 hits.