SI Vault
Dick Russell
July 01, 1968
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July 01, 1968

Baseball's Week

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Suddenly there was an old, familiar look to the pennant race. The same heroes, Orlando Cepeda (.346 average and three homers for the week) and Bob Gibson (four straight shutouts) and the same team, ST. LOUIS (6-1), seemed intent on making a second consecutive travesty of the league chase. Losers in only four of their last 25 games, the Cardinals rode three shutouts to a 6�-game lead, 3� ahead of last year's pace. Bob Skinner, PHILADELPHIA'S (4-3) new, manager, received quick results from his plea for an "offense-minded" club. Led by Richie Allen (below), the Phils averaged nearly 10 hits a game and closed on second-place SAN FRANCISCO (4-3). Willie McCovey's four homers and eight RBIs, Jim Hart's .417 week and Bob Bolin's four-hitter kept the Giants within range. It was a memorable week for NEW YORK (4-3). Never had the Mets ranked so high so late in their seven previous seasons. Rookie Jerry Koosman, who won his 11th, and 35-year-old Ed Charles (.500 for the week) led the Mets into sixth place, one game from .500. Going like '60 for a while, PITTSBURGH (4-4) stretched its victory streak to nine before losing four straight. Maury Wills (.444 for the week) hit safely in his 22nd straight game, and Matty Alou (.393), promoted to cleanup, maintained the league batting lead. ATLANTA (4-4) remained plagued by two old nemeses: the Cardinals (three losses left the Braves with a 2-10 mark against them) and a failure to drive home runners (seven stranded per contest). Henry Aaron, who clouted two homers to take eighth place on the all-time list, was, as usual, the team's exception. Denny Lemaster won two games for new Manager Harry Walker as 10th-place HOUSTON (4-4) began emerging from its lethargy. CINCINNATI (4-4), 29 of whose 35 losses have been to right handers, tried stacking its lineup with lefties, and one, Mack Jones, bounced a ninth-inning fly off a fielder's glove and into the stands for a game-winning home run. CHICAGO (1-6), rarely managing a long fly and held scoreless for 48 straight innings to equal a 62-year-old major league mark, had Manager Leo Durocher superstitiously changing his seat on the team bus daily. LOS ANGELES (2-4), which now supports three of the league's 10 worst batsmen, found solace only in Jim Fairey's game-winning homer—his first in the majors—and the fine hurling of rookie Mike Kekich.

Standings: StL 44-26, SF 38-33, Atl 36-33, Phil 32-31, LA 36-36, NY 33-34, Cin 33-35, Pitt 31-35, Chi 31-37, Hou 27-41


When MINNESOTA (4-2) Second Baseman Rod Carew left for two weeks with the Marine Corps Reserve his .294 average seemed to guarantee security upon return. That was before sub Frank Quilici, a .196 lifetime hitter, began clouting at a .524 pace and started seven double plays in six games. Quilici and Ted Uhlaender (.536 for the week) led the Twins to six straight victories and a .324 team batting average. Home runs by Tony Horton and Max Alvis, plus two brilliant three-hitters by Luis Tiant boosted CLEVELAND (5-3) which took the first three of a five-game set with the league-leading Tigers. Jim Fregosi, with only two homers for the year, suddenly hit three to rally CALIFORNIA (5-1) in four games. Rookie Tom Murphy, who used to trade an entire team for one Mickey Mantle card, struck out his boyhood idol and hurled a four-hitter to help the Angels win eight of their last 10 games. Teams weren't pitching to BOSTON'S (4-3) Carl Yastrzemski (13 walks for the week), so Ken Harrelson kept pace with 10 RBIs and Reggie Smith hit in 15 straight games. Jim Lonborg was sent home to Boston after tossing only five pitches against the White Sox. Possibly he was suffering from tendonitis in his right shoulder. OAKLAND (4-2) moved into the first division behind Rick Monday (.350 for the week) and complete game victories from Jim Hunter, Lew Krausse and Jim Nash. Denny McLain's 12th victory, a three-hitter, was DETROIT'S (3-4) only bright spot. When the Tigers led by 8� at midweek Manager Mayo Smith said, "We've got to try to avoid a losing streak. That's the whole thing." Part of the thing was hits. Detroit averaged five hits, two runs per game, and lost three straight. Military decisions proved discouraging for CHICAGO (4-5), heartening for BALTIMORE (2-4). Tommy John and Tommy McCraw, the White Sox's best pitcher and hottest hitter respectively, were called for two-week stints. Paul Blair's orders were canceled because the Oriole outfielder has four dependents. Frank Robinson, meanwhile, showed signs of breaking a season-long slump (.450 for the week). "I'm seeing the ball better now and not jumping at it," said Robinson, who previously had produced just two homers and a .254 average. NEW YORK (2-4) got a surprise lift from eight-year minor leaguer Bobby Cox, who drove in four runs in one game to insure Mel Stottlemyre's ninth victory. WASHINGTON (1-5) halted an eight-game losing streak but could not find answers for slumping Frank Howard (.150 for the week) and Mike Epstein (5 for 21).

Standings: Det 44-26, Clev 38-33 Balt 34-32, Minn 35-33, Oak 34-33, Bos 33-33, Cal 33-34, NY 31-36, Chi 30-37, Wash 25-40