On the way back into the Tiger dugout Six was slapping Stanley on the back. "Now we go back to Detroit," said Kaline, "and after all these years without a World Series it should be something to see." It certainly was.
The city of Detroit was alive with anticipation of its first World Series game in 23 years, and civic pride burst forth in many directions. Washington Boulevard was renamed Tiger Drive and orange stripes ran down the center of it. There were banners and flags of every description, including one notable bumper sticker on a University of Michigan student's Mustang that said " George Wallace is Rosemary's Baby." But amid all the fun and flair and color there was an angry man—Mickey Lolich. During the workout on the day before Game Three the pitching and semihitting hero of the second game in St. Louis had some unkind things to say about Lou Brock, who had been stealing bases when his team was far behind. Lolich said he considered Brock's thefts a form of hot-dog baseball.
"It was definitely for his own self-glory," said Lolich. "He wants to set a record for stolen bases or something. If it was Early Wynn or someone like that, the next time Brock came up he'd be on his back on the first pitch."
Unknown to the Tigers was the fact that before the Series started, Brock had studied movies of the Detroit pitching staff's moves to first base and felt he had each of them down pat. When asked about Lolich's statement, Brock offered a slight smile and said, "I've been in the dirt before...and if he says it's for my self-glory, I'll do it anyway."
In this game he did. Brock opened the game with a tainted walk. The fourth ball was Called because Tiger Pitcher Earl Wilson was caught wetting his fingers, and in a Series already poorly handled by the umpires the call seemed ludicrous. Brock promptly stole second—the first of three steals for him—and after Curt Flood walked it looked like the Cardinals would erupt for a big inning. The rally stopped abruptly, however, when Brock was caught standing up as he went to third base on a play that aborted as Roger Maris was called out on strikes.
Ray Washburn, the Cardinal starting pitcher, was having almost as much trouble as Wilson. His breaking pitches were not getting over, and in the third inning he gave up a single to Dick McAuliffe and a homer to Al Kaline, bringing a rousing response from the stands. Until the fifth inning it seemed that Kaline was destined to be the game's hero. But in the fifth Tim McCarver, one of the St. Louis sleeping giants of 1968, came to life. In the seventh so did Orlando Cepeda. Kaline was back in the chorus carrying a spear.
The Cardinals' attack is this: their first three hitters—Brock, Flood, Roger Maris or sometimes Julian Javier—are meant to set the table and McCarver and Cepeda are supposed to carve the turkey. All season long the table setters had been models of efficiency, but the would-be carvers were more like turkeys. Now, in the fifth inning, Brock once again started a rally by getting a single and stealing second. Flood drove him home with a double, and after Maris walked McCarver hit his homer into the top deck in right field to make the score 4-2. In the seventh inning Flood singled and went to third when Roger Maris, trying to check his swing on an inside pitch, inadvertently blooped the ball into left field for a double. This brought Cepeda to the plate, and in the last two World Series watching Orlando Cepeda at bat has been about as exciting as watching the shadows lengthen in Tiger Stadium. This time he hit a line-drive homer that chilled for good the hopes of all of Detroit on this increasingly cool afternoon. Cepeda gleefully landed on home plate with both feet after a big jump. "I heet the ball good in batting practice," Cepeda said, "and when I go up to the plate I say to Timmy [ McCarver], 'I going to heet it out.' As I go around the bases I am happy for my brother, my mother, my team and for everybody in Puerto Rico." At the end of the third game one amazing statistic stood out: the first three hitters in the Cardinal lineup had been on base 21 times in 39 at bats.
Joe Hoerner came in for Washburn in the sixth inning and got the Cardinals out of a jam, giving up only a single and a walk to the next 13 batters he faced. Hoerner, a 31-year-old relief man, had appeared in three Series games before this one and had been bad in each. Back in 1958 he had a heart attack. Because one of the muscles around his heart was weak, he was told he could never pitch overhand again. In consequence, Hoerner developed his curious style of throwing somewhere between sidearmed and underhanded. "It's about time," said Hoerner, "that I did something in a Series besides hit fungoes and give up a lot of runs."
Much of the joy seemed to go out of the city of Detroit after the third game, but the next day Denny McLain would be meeting Bob Gibson again.