Tigers left Chicago early last week with more walking wounded than the First
Marine Division on the way back from the Chosan Reservoir. Bill Freehan, the
most hit batsman in the major leagues, had got it on the left arm two times in
the four-game series with the White Sox, which culminated in the Black Sunday
doubleheader loss, including the no-hitter by Joe Horlen. Freehan had his arm
in a sling. Denny McLain had wrenched his back. Dick McAuliffe had another
upset stomach. Joe Sparma, who had been knocked out of the box in the first
inning by Eddie Stanky's White Sox, and the others needed time to salve their
pride. The Tigers had scored in only one of the last 27 innings. They had
Monday off, and they could use it.
went home to Milwaukee from Chicago for the off day and promptly fell down a
flight of stairs and injured his hand. The rest of the club was thin-lipped and
silent on the miserable trip home. The bus driver got lost on the way to O'Hare
Airport, and the plane was more than an hour late taking off. "From the
high point of my baseball career to the low point overnight," moaned Al
Kaline, recalling the seven-run, ninth-inning comeback against the Sox on
Saturday and the subsequent Sunday disasters.
miseries were going to end, however. The Tigers had a two-game series at
Detroit with the Baltimore Orioles, over whom they held a 13-3 season margin,
and Earl Wilson, Detroit's 20-game winner, was to pitch the opener. At first it
seemed as though the skids were still greased. The Orioles knocked out Wilson
in the second inning and bolted to a 3-0 lead. They stayed ahead until the
fifth when Freehan, who—despite his bad arm—had talked his way into the lineup,
singled to tie it at 4-4, and then Kaline hit his first home run in almost a
month to wrap up a 6-4 victory.
more of the same on Wednesday. Dick Tracewski hit his first American League
home run, Kaline followed with another and Mickey Lolich, who had lost 10
straight earlier in the season, ran his turnabout winning streak to six. "I
was throwing those soft curves," said Lolich. "There was one that I
wanted to run up and catch before it got to the plate, it was moving so
Smith wanted Mickey to knock off the slow stuff, too. "Don't you ever throw
a ball like that again," he warned. But, alas, how can you get mad at
Lolich? He stands there like a shmoo, pear-shaped, his belly hanging over his
belt buckle like old Dizzy Trout. "I pitch left-handed, eat right-handed
and think upside down," Lolich says. Detroit General Manager Jim Campbell
is afraid he will wind up upside down on the freeway some day. Lolich travels
to the park on a 250-cc. Kawasaki motorbike. "I'm getting one for Kaline
after the season," he says.
Mathews came out
of the hospital in time for Friday night's game against Washington, but Don
Wert, who had been injured earlier, was ready and eager to play third, and Norm
Cash played first. Sparma started, but he got only four batters out before the
Senators were ahead 3-0. One of the Tigers said later, "I thought, 'Oh, no,
not again,' " remembering Sparma's game against Chicago. And it looked much
the same. In the eighth inning the Senators still led, 4-1.
But with two out
in the eighth, the Tigers showed the late-inning fury they have been running
out for the folks. Five of their last seven wins had been by late home runs
( Mathews, Wilson, Kaline) or base hits (Cash, Jim Northrup). Northrup singled,
Cash walked and Freehan hit a fast ball into the second deck for his 20th home
run—most ever by a Detroit catcher—and a 4-4 tie. An inning later, with two out
and Dick McAuliffe on second, Willie Horton raised a soft foul pop-up toward
the field boxes. Washington Catcher Paul Casanova headed for the ball, and
Willie, dropping his bat in dejection, headed for the dugout. But somehow
Casanova missed the ball, and Willie was still alive. Two pitches later Horton
singled to left, scoring McAuliffe with the winning run.
Horton said he
was thankful for the break. Willie has been troubled by the pennant race. He
can't sleep. " Gates Brown and I sit up to 3 or 4 in the morning talking
baseball," he said. "If I try to sleep I can't." And the bone spur
on his left heel is constantly painful. "Sore, man," Willie says,
"I'm not gonna feel good till I get this foot operated on." As for
McAuliffe, pennant pressure is no problem. "I get to sleep real easy,"
Dick says, deadpan. "First, I take three tranquilizers, then..."
Wilson was going to try again after his faltering start against Baltimore. A
sharp dresser, with the outward appearance of a swinger, Wilson is moody and
stays to himself. "It's not that I'm cocky or stuck-up," he says,
"I'm just nervous. The night before a game I can't sleep. I keep waking up
thinking about the hitters. Then when I get to the ball park before the game
I'm plain scared. Not scared of losing, scared of failure. You know what I
mean. You can win and still lose."
Wilson arrived at
the ball park wearing one of his 50 custom-tailored suits and one of his 15
pairs of shoes and, though he tired in the eighth, won his 21st game 5-4.
Boston got knocked off by the Orioles, the White Sox downed the Twins and the
Tigers moved into undisputed possession of first place for the first time since
June 10. Their stay there might be brief, first place being a rather precarious
spot in the American League these days, but at least the Tigers had come back
from Black Sunday.