1968—Last appearance in New York, 3 for 4.
The Series this year is being compared—without much sense or originality—to the race between the tortoise and the hare. The premise is faulty. Detroit has hit many more home runs than the Cardinals (at the end of last week it was 182 to 72) but St. Louis has power in its lineup almost all the way down. As the Boston Red Sox remember, Julian Javier is stronger than he seems. Detroit is not really a speed team but it runs the bases well. It need not live and die by the home run, although it sure makes living a lot easier when the Tigers have it. Dick McAuliffe, one of the most aggressive hitters in baseball, can open a game with a homer and has true power, as his 16 homers, 24 doubles and 10 triples will attest. Willie Horton looks like he may someday hit a ball out of Tiger Stadium all the way to Willow Run, and Northrup and Cash can be hard on any right-handed pitcher.
Bill Freehan is Detroit's leader. Had it not been for super years by Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and McLain this season, he also would have been the American League's leader as Most Valuable Player two years running. Late in August, when the Tiger lead was cut to five games as Detroit lost four straight to the New York Yankees (all by one run), a lot of baseball writers thought they could sniff panic in the air. Freehan did not. He took a piece of chalk and wrote on the blackboard, "Anybody who thinks the world ended today doesn't belong here." Freehan, however, has had problems throwing out base runners, and the Cardinals will certainly test his arm during the Series.
Since the first of August, St. Louis has been playing unconvincing ball. It has, in fact, lost four more games than it has won, and that hardly seems like the stuff of champions. Being so far in front for two straight seasons might have caused a psychological letdown, but St. Louis has been making far too many mental mistakes. It is important that the Cards enter the Series in the right frame of mind because the Tigers are not the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Atlanta Braves.
Detroit, by contrast, has been all but unbeatable during the last few weeks. It has been getting excellent pitching, and at one point the staff ran off 12 straight complete games. Mickey Lolich, as usual, is having a fine second half of the season despite having to take care of his seven motorcycles, and Earl Wilson, a good pitcher who has been hit three times by line drives this year, has pitched some excellent games. Wilson has also hit seven home runs. For most of the season Detroit's bullpen has been splendid. The Cardinal bullpen, with the exception of Joe Hoerner, has been inconsistent.
But the St. Louis pitching situation behind Gibson is not exactly grim. Manager Red Schoendienst also has a man named Nelson Briles, an 18-game winner who won a well-pitched game in last year's Series. Recently Ray Washburn, who has been a solid performer for the Cards all season long (15-7), threw a no-hitter. Lefthander Steve Carlton still has a tremendous amount of promise, even if his recent performances have not been as good as his early ones.
This year's Series, of course, will be the last true World Series. Next year, under new divisional setups, teams will arrive at a "Series" by some silly system that includes almost everything but tossing the rosters up Commissioner Eckert's stairs and seeing in what order they land. The Cardinals and Tigers are two fine teams to have in any Series, and both have a lively baseball tradition besides. Outside of Tiger Stadium in Detroit is a plaque of Ty Cobb with the simple inscription "Greatest Tiger of All—A Genius in Spikes." In front of Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis is a recently unveiled statue of Stan Musial. Through the years these two teams have given baseball many extraordinary players—Hornsby, Heilmann, Manush, Frisch, the Deans, Cochrane, Alexander, Gehringer, Greenberg. They now give Gibson against McLain.