Furious pennant races used to be the exclusive property of the National League, but last week the action was in the American, five teams whaling away at one another, each with reason to believe it could be first in September. Chicago was on top, but Boston and California were streaking, while Detroit and Minnesota were close behind. It was a week of record crowds, rioting, thunderstorms, superstition, extra-inning games, arguments and slam-bang base running. Even the umpires seemed caught up in the drama, making their decisions with admirable flair. When it was over Chicago was still on top, with the others still chasing. There were still eight weeks left in the pennant race, and it looked as though the excitement would not fade. Covering last week's games in New York, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore and Washington were SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's
William Leggett, Joe Jares, Herman Weiskopf, Curry Kirkpatrick and Walter Ward.
MONDAY, JULY 24
At Logan International Airport in Boston, a crowd of 10,000 showed up Sunday night to greet the returning Red Sox, winners of six straight games on the road. There was also a mob scene in Detroit, a city still in the grip of the year's most devastating riot. Tiger General Manager Jim Campbell sent Governor George Romney a wire offering to play Tuesday's game against the Orioles before empty stands but to have it televised locally to help keep people off the streets. Romney decided the lights of the ball park would only attract crowds, so the Tigers switched their series with the Orioles to Baltimore. In Chicago the International Graphoanalysis Society opened its annual convention and took a look at White Sox Manager Eddie Stanky's signature. "The Ds are comparatively large," it was noted, "indicating a level of pride that demands exacting performance from himself and others. He also writes a defiant K, a sign that he is vigilant to any encroachment on his rights." The Minnesota Twins, losers of six straight, arrived in New York for a four-game series. "Baseball is a game of cycles," said Club President Cal Griffith, "and we're just going through a bad one." The California Angels, who had won 33 of 45 games since June 7 to move from last place to third, arrived at Logan Airport 20 hours after the Red Sox and were greeted by no one.
TUESDAY, JULY 25
"Nothing can stop us now," said Boston's Carl Yastrzemski before the start of the Angel series, but he hadn't counted on The Thing, a little doll with long hair and a wide grin that for a month and a half had been the Angels' good-luck charm. Pitcher Clyde Wright brought the doll along with him when he was called up from Seattle, and immediately the team went on its extended winning streak. Shortstop Jim Fregosi keeps The Thing hooked to his locker and gives it a pat on the way out to the field. In the first game against Boston the spell continued as the Angels won 6-4, their seventh straight victory.
It was raining in New York, but the Yankees and Twins played anyway. The Twins, who had just lost three straight 2-1 games to California, again scored only one run but led 1-0 with two out in the ninth. Up came Mickey Mantle and, with the count 3-1, Pitcher Jim Kaat decided to go with his fast ball. It was, Kaat said later, "right down Broadway," and Mantle drove it 450 feet into the left-field bleachers to tie the score. Minutes later rain halted the game. In an effort to forget the lost victory a number of Minnesota players sought comfort in the night life of the big city, enjoying it well past the team curfew.
It had just started to drizzle in Baltimore when Umpire Frank Umont called for the tarpaulin, but a spectacularly shoddy performance by the Orioles' ground crew left the first-base line uncovered during the ensuing cloudburst and forced the game to be canceled.
"Too bad we can't play," said Pitcher Dave Wickersham. "We've been going good." Johnny Podres, kibitzing a card game, said: "If we can just get him back in there...." His voice trailed off. Him, of course, was Al Kaline, who had been out of the lineup since he broke his finger four weeks ago by slamming his bat into the rack. "I'm ready to play now," said Kaline. "Took batting practice tonight, and it hurt just a little." Manager Mayo Smith was optimistic. "We lost seven straight right after the All-Star Game, but we're still close. The question is whether Al can pick up where he left off."
It took the White Sox and Indians seven hours and 40 minutes to complete a doubleheader in Chicago, but when it was over the White Sox had two more victories for the man who demands exacting performance. "I guess when you're in first place you're like a man drowning," said Stanky later. "If you see a six-inch piece of wood you grab at it. You'll do anything to stay in first place—to keep those 25 ballplayers in first place." What Stanky did was use 16 players, including his two amazing ancients, to win the 16-inning second game. Hoyt Wilhelm, 44, who had relieved in the first game, pitched three and a third scoreless innings. Smoky Burgess, 40, hit a two-run pinch home run. Even so, Ken Berry had to hit a two-run homer in the 16th to win it for the Sox after the Indians had taken the lead. It was a long day but a good one. The White Sox lead over the second-place Red Sox had grown from half a game to two full ones.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26