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The Cardinals and Tigers met once before in a World Series, and it turned into one of the most talked-about ever played. The year was 1934 and the city of Detroit had not seen a pennant fly above its ball park in 25 frustrating years. It was a memorable Tiger team, with Mickey Cochrane, Schoolboy Rowe, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg and Goose Goslin. St. Louis had to struggle to make it to the Series and entered only by beating out the New York Giants on the final day of the season. These were the Gashouse Cardinals of Frank Frisch, Leo Durocher, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin and the Dean Boys—"Me [Dizzy] and Paul." Dizzy was a spectacular 30-game winner that year. He got his 30 wins by winning six times in the final 21 days of the season.
The Series opened in Detroit and as the Cardinals pulled into Union Station on the Wabash Cannonball several hundred people were there to see what they looked like. The next day the front page of the Detroit News told them. "Of course," said the News, "everybody wanted to see the Dizzy Dean and the Daffy Dean, who are presumed to be here to teach America's Schoolboy a few lessons in speed-ball throwing. The Daffy Dean was first off the train, and the Dizzy Dean brought up the rear. Mrs. Dizzy Dean was with him, and they are a couple of nice folks."
It wasn't a World Series of niceties, however. The teams played six games even. In the sixth inning of the seventh game, with the Cardinals leading 8-0, Medwick slid hard into Tiger Third Baseman Marv Owen. The Tiger fans became enraged at the force of Medwick's slide, and when he tried to take his defensive position in left field fruit and vegetables cascaded down on him. Judge Landis, the Commissioner of Baseball, held court on the field with the two managers, Cochrane and Frisch, as well as Medwick and Owen. He removed Medwick from the game, .379 batting average and all, but the Cards won anyway.
What a marvelous paradox it is that in 1968, Detroit's biggest year, one of the men put into the Hall of Fame was Ducky Medwick. And before the start of the second game this year he will throw out the first ball. But there are other paradoxes. The two first basemen, Orlando Cepeda and Norm Cash, enter this Series as controversial men—Cepeda because he has been one of the finest hitters in the game but has compiled an All-Star and World Series batting average of just .093, and Cash because he has never come close to equaling his 1961 season when he hit 41 homers and led the league in batting with .361. Recently Cepeda has started to hit, but his average of .246 is the lowest in his career. Cash, who was batting .192 at the end of June, suddenly reverted to the Stormin' Norman of seven years ago and over the last two weeks has been hitting around .500. There are a lot of men who couldn't throw a ball safely into the outfield often enough to compile an average of .500.
Mayo Smith, Detroit's manager, is confronted by a unique situation—one of those damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't things. Al Kaline is one of the most respected men ever to play baseball and he has been in 14 All-Star Games and rung up an average of .340. Many years ago he promised himself that he would never go to a World Series unless he played in it. Now-he is going, but will he play? Injured twice this season, he has appeared in fewer than 100 games, but he has played well. Smith must decide whether to use him in right field or to rely on Jim Northrup, who won many games with his base-clearing homers; or should he put Kaline at first instead of Cash? Smith has the sympathy of everybody but the Cardinals.
Roger Maris, one of the stars of the Red Sox-Cards Series and one of the key St. Louis players, announced some weeks ago that he was retiring at the end of the season to run his beer distributorship in Gainesville, Fla. "I just can't keep that desire up anymore," he said recently. Consider some of the things Roger Maris has done:
1960—First game as a New York Yankee, four hits in five at bats, two home runs, four runs batted in. First time at bat in a World Series, home run off ElRoy Face.
1961—Hit 61 home runs. Sixty-second home run of that season came in third game of Series against Cincinnati, won game for Yanks.
1966—Last at bat as a Yankee, pinch-hit home run.
1967—First game as a St. Louis Cardinal, two hits in five at bats. First home stand as Cardinal, 8 for 17. First game back in New York (and receiving boos), 2 for 4; first series of games in New York, 5 for 11.