"Where'll we meet you after you win the game today, Denny?"
"You guys are presuming a lot, aren't you?"
And so out to the field for batting practice, more interviews, the warmup and finally the game. The crowd of 44,087, which surprisingly failed to fill Tiger Stadium on this balmy, climactic afternoon, emptied its throats at the sight of, uh, Denny. They had forgotten he once called them "the world's worst fans." The edgiest man on the premises was white-haired Dizzy Dean, who had come all the way from his home in Mississippi to watch Denny tie the record he made on the last day of the 1934 season to put St. Louis into the World Series. "You got a cigarette, podner?" Dean asked a man in the press dining room. "I'm so nervous I can't eat."
The game began placidly despite all the tension. Denny threw 44 pitches in the first three innings, allowing only a harmless single to Danny Cater in the first. He felt good and he had his stuff. But in the fourth with one man on, Reggie Jackson hit "a good curveball," as Denny later described it, into the lower stands in right field for a home run, and Denny was behind 2-0. Later that inning when he reached first base on a walk, Denny said to Cater, "Tell Jackson to be expecting that same pitch the next time he comes up." Denny considers it an accident if anyone hits one of his good pitches.
Norm Cash hit a three-run homer for the Tigers to give Detroit a one-run lead, but Denny quickly lost it. He walked Dave Duncan, the catcher, and the Athletics worked him around the bases. Reggie Jackson reappeared in the sixth inning, and Denny threw him what he called "my only bad pitch of the game." It was a changeup that just hung there, and Jackson put it in the upper deck.
The score stayed 4-3 for the A's until the Tigers came to bat in the ninth, their last chance. Denny was first up, so Manager Mayo Smith replaced him with Pinch Hitter Al Kaline. Now it would take two Detroit runs to bring Denny his victory. Kaline walked, and Mickey Stanley moved him to third with a single. Frenzy shook Tiger Stadium as Jim Northrup came to bat. He topped a ball halfway to first, which Cater fielded and threw over the catcher's head as Kaline scored to tie the game. Next came Willie Horton, a fireplug of a man with 35 home runs so far. With only one out, the Athletics moved everyone including the outfielders in close to cut off the run from third. Horton drove a 2-2 pitch past the leftfielder for the winning run.
All this while, Denny had been pacing up and down the silent Detroit dugout, hatless and shouting exhortations. "Calm down," Mayo Smith told him. Denny calmed down until Horton's hit, then he rushed on the field like Zsa Zsa Gabor at a party, embracing everyone he saw. His teammates made an awkward attempt to hoist him to their shoulders in reciprocity, for, after all, it was Denny's pitching that had carried them to within sight of Detroit's first pennant in 23 years. Miraculously, Denny would not levitate.
Fittingly, Denny's big week began alongside the Smothers Brothers' swimming pool in Los Angeles, discussing an hour-long Special in which the Smothers wanted to star him. He read the mimeographed "presentation" they gave him and liked it. "I don't want any gimmicks," Denny told his agent later. "If it's going to be a Special, I just want me alone and nobody else. That's what I like about this show."
"Yeah, Denny," the agent said.
After the Smothers stopover, Denny just did get to Anaheim in time to check into the hotel and get to the ball park for the pregame warmup. It is things like that that can make life a drudgery. Denny was not due to pitch again for another 24 hours, so he spent most of the game leaning on the rail in front of the dugout, ostensibly to study the Angels but more realistically to let his mind wander around among some new arrangements for the combo or a weekend booking in Saginaw.