As the pennant tide rolled in and out last week, shortening the Dodger lead to three games, lengthening it to six, Dark said, "The race isn't settled by a long shot. There's a lot of time left, and you can gain or lose ground awfully fast. We have an advantage because we play most of our games at home from now on. That helps our pitching because we have only one doubleheader at Candlestick the rest of the season.
"Look. Each of the contenders has something special going for them. The Dodgers have those three big pitchers; they can shut you out three days in a row. The Cardinals have lots of hitting, the kind that keeps a rally going. The Reds have six good starters, and that's a big thing to have going down the stretch. We have Marichal and the home runs. But we have something else. We have Willie Mays. And Willie is the difference."
Dark is rapturous on the subject of Mays. "When I came to San Francisco I was determined that the first thing I would do is make people there realize how great Willie is. They didn't take to him at first. He was New York's, and they went instead for the new young players that developed in San Francisco, like Orlando Cepeda. Well, that's only natural—Orlando is great, a real bulldog, he'd play every inning every day if you'd let him—but what they didn't understand for a long time is that Willie is in a class by himself.
"They know it now. There is no one close to Mays. When he's on a hitting tear, like he's been this last month, everyone says he's the most exciting player in baseball. Well, I think he's the most exciting player even when he isn't hitting—he's still just as great in the field, he's still just as great on the bases. Willie is so much a part of every game. His reaction to any situation is instant. And he's the reason we're going to win."