SI Vault
Mark Mulvoy
April 29, 1968
The American League race is taking off right where it stopped last season—with a murderous difference. For every homer hit at least two men hit the dust as Detroit, Boston and Minnesota battle for the lead
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April 29, 1968

Knockout, Knockdown

The American League race is taking off right where it stopped last season—with a murderous difference. For every homer hit at least two men hit the dust as Detroit, Boston and Minnesota battle for the lead

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"I remember in 1966 Stanky fined one of his pitchers, Bruce Howard, $25 because he would not hit Joe Sparma with a pitch. Later Stanky told Johnny Buzhardt to hit Jim Perry, the Twins' pitcher. Sure enough, Perry was hit. Well, that night someone told Sam Mele, who was managing the Twins (he's my nephew, you know), about Howard and Buzhardt, and Stanky found out about it. He blamed me, for obvious reasons, but I hadn't said anything to Sam. Stanky called a clubhouse meeting back in Chicago and called everyone a Benedict Arnold. He got so mad he punched a blackboard, knocked it over and bruised his knuckles."

This year Chicago pitchers have hit seven different batters: Dick McAuliffe of the Tigers after he had singled; Freehan, who happens always to be in the way; Sims of the Indians, who had earlier hit two home runs; Vic Davalillo of the Indians after he had tripled; Ellsworth of the Red Sox after he had hit Carlos; Yastrzemski, because he was there; and on Sunday, Detroit's Northrup.

Still, no matter what he has tried the last few weeks, Stanky has not been able to excite his White Sox. Now he even is reading Combat Karate and Air Force Major Kenneth H. Cooper's book called Aerobics, which claims that the secret to health and longevity lies in regular exercise, measured by an intricate point system. After another Chicago loss last week, Stanky must have scored 10 points by walking around center field for 18 minutes and swinging a fungo bat at rocks in the ground.

There is reason, of course, for this frustration. Every move Stanky has made this year has backfired, and the people in Comiskey Park—the 2,000 or so that actually show up, not the 4,000 that are announced—now are booing him with inning-by-inning regularity. Last Saturday, when the White Sox and Tigers were involved in a scoreless tie after eight innings, Stanley led off the Detroit ninth with a single, but then Tommy John, who had pitched brilliantly, got McAuliffe on a routine fly.

Now Stanky appeared, and players started to move. Bob Locker relieved John, Ken Boyer came into the game to play third base and Pete Ward moved from third to first. In a matter of moments the Tigers were ahead 1-0 on Freehan's double. Chicago managed to tie the game—typically, with an unearned run—but in the top of the 10th, Stanky moved No-Neck Williams to left field and put Russ Snyder in right—moves that seemed quite logical. Almost immediately, Williams pounded his glove once, twice, three times, under an easy fly and, surprise, the ball dropped 10 feet behind him. With one out, Snyder moved back under another easy fly, and suddenly he was running furiously toward the wall. The ball bounced down for a hit. Detroit scored three runs that inning to win the game 4-1.

"I'm not quitting," Stanky said later. "I still sleep every night without pills. I'm still eating well. I don't drink, though I take a beer. Because of the training and breeding by my parents, I still answer the phone to my friends and critics alike: 'Good morning, how are you?' I'm not bending. If you can't stand the heat, then don't work in the kitchen—and, after all, I'm the chef. I turn my cheeks and they're both red—from slapping, not embarrassment. The cellar is dark. I like brightfulness, cheerfulness. I've never been associated with last is not my personality. Perhaps they think I took dumb pills during the winter."

Everyone, of course, has advice for Stanky these days, even the Tigers. One spotted a bus with a long sign along its side, THE SOX HAVE TRADED FOR APARICIO, DAVIS AND CHANNEL 32, the placard read. "Hmmm," said the Detroit critic. "Maybe Stanky should play that Channel 32. Its got to hit better than the people he's playing now."

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