Mighty Mouth, who is known in the box scores as Denny McLain (see cover), expresses his attitude toward life quite bluntly. "When you can do it out there between the white lines," he says, "then you can live any way you want. Me? I like to travel fast—and always first class. Why, there's no other way to go, is there?" McLain has won 18 games already, and it looks as though he will pitch the Detroit Tigers to the American League pennant. He may even become the first pitcher in 34 years to win 30 games. He is, as he says, "doing it between the white lines." Outside the white lines, Denny travels with his own antic, diamond-in-the-rough version of the jet set.
During the All-Star break a few weeks ago, Denny borrowed a friend's Lear jet, complete with pilots and stereo and liquor drawer, and flew to Las Vegas with his wife Sharyn. After checking their luggage with a bellman, he dragged Sharyn to the craps table. "She turned out to be a lousy roller but real good with the one-arms," he says. Denny himself rolled all Sunday night and most of Monday morning. "I had $500 when I started and four-something when I quit," he explains, "so I didn't do too bad."
Early Monday afternoon the McLains reboarded the Lear and popped over to Disneyland, where they played tourist for several hours. Then, after dinner, they abandoned Mickey Mouse for Houston and Tuesday night's All-Star Game. Denny pitched the fifth and sixth innings, shutting out the National League hitters, and before the game was even over he was back in the Lear en route again to—you guessed it—Vegas.
"I shot craps until I got tired," he says, "and then I switched to blackjack. That's easier on the mind. Hell, I hadn't slept more than four-five hours in almost three days. It kind of gets to you after a while."
The McLains finally flew home to Detroit Wednesday evening. Denny stayed about 10 minutes, just long enough to pack another suitcase, and then he was back in the Lear and flying to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where the Tigers were playing the Twins Thursday night. "Something went wrong with the door, and we had to fly pretty low all the way up there," he says. "We even had to crawl out a window hatch when we landed. It was all pretty scary, now that I think about it."
In Minneapolis, McLain and his roommate, Shortstop Ray Oyler, were quartered in something called the Hacienda Suite of the Radisson Hotel. The average room for two baseball players has two small beds, a fuzzy television set, a telephone, a Bible and dirty socks hanging on chairs. The Hacienda Suite is not an average baseball player's room. It includes a large bedroom and an even larger living room, two color-TV sets, real shuttered windows, telephones everywhere and maybe even two Bibles. "Yes, operator," McLain would begin about every 20 minutes, "I'd like to place a credit-card call to...."
A few days later the Tigers had moved on to Anaheim, across the freeway from Disneyland, but not much else had changed. The room-service waiter knocked on the door of No. 906 every half hour. The refreshments arrived first. "Thank you, Mr. McLain," the waiter said. The appetizers, shrimp or crabmeat. came next. "Thank you, Mr. McLain," the man said again. And a bit later the entrees—filet mignon, medium rare—were wheeled in. "Thank you, Mr. McLain," the waiter said once more.
That, unhappily for the waiter, was all. There was no dessert. Denny McLain does not need the weight, thank you. He is listed at 5'11" and 185 pounds, but he seems shorter and heavier. His Chicago tough-kid face is shaded by the blue Tiger hat that perches on his head, looking at least a size too small. He wears contact lenses, and he is at present in the middle of a mouth-lift—half his teeth are capped, and the other half soon will be. You would never mistake Dennis McLain for a professional organist, which he is.
The next day, in fact, was a business day for Denny in Anaheim. First some executives from a record company dropped by to discuss a contract with McLain the Organist. Then some booking agents from Las Vegas called to inquire about possible dates for a winter appearance by the Denny McLain Trio.
"Ah," said Denny, reflecting on the good life. "Just imagine what will happen if I win 30."