The temperatures, which were unseasonably low for 22 of New York's early games, forced Houk to turn frequently to his bullpen, Lindy McDaniel, Jack Aker and Steve Hamilton, all of whom bounced around with other teams before coming to New York and are set apart from their younger teammates.
"I guess we're all pretty much alike. Jack's a pretty quiet guy who stays mostly to himself," said Hamilton. "Lindy and I have a lot in common. He's a preacher and I'm interested in religion, too. We spend a lot of time talking about what's going on today, the morality, the dope problems, the things that are making the kids react the way they have been." McDaniel preaches at the Pruett & Lobit Street Church of Christ in Bay-town, Texas in the off season and carries a typewriter on road trips to edit an evangelical newsletter called Pitching for the Master that is sent to all major-leaguers. Aker is handsome enough to be a matinee idol, but Hamilton and McDaniel both look older than their mid-'30s because they have had gray hair since they were in their late teens.
"Until this year I used to color my hair with a chemical, so I didn't look as gray as I do now," said McDaniel. '"I tried that once," said Hamilton. "It was when I was first going to spring training and someone convinced me that if I looked too old the Indians wouldn't take a chance on me. So I went out and bought the chemical the night before I was supposed to go. I took it in the shower and lathered it in my hair real good. Pretty soon I noticed my chest was striped with the dye and I looked in the mirror and my ears had turned black. I had to use Boraxo to get it off, but I didn't change my hair color at all."
Except for the relievers and sometime starter Mike Kekich, most of the pitching staff, like a majority of the team's hitters, have been developed in the club's farm system that has thrived under General Manager Lee MacPhail. While the new, lightweight Yankees were being built, New York fans slipped away in hordes to watch the Mets, and the loss has begun to show significantly at places other than just the gate, where it has been plenty noticeable. While Met attendance so far this year is up by approximately 240,000, the Yanks have lost 39,000. Worse, WHN—one of the most powerful New York radio stations—announced it would drop Yankee broadcasts next year. The Yankees bought time for 94 telecasts this season, the lowest number in years, and still have not sold all of the time for them.
As New York cut 2½ games off the slumping Orioles' lead last week, there were signs of a mild renewal of fan interest at Yankee Stadium. Bat Day, which normally draws a crowd of over 50,000 brought in 65,880, the largest gate in the majors in five years. (No other park except Cleveland's can hold that many people.) Two succeeding week-night games, which produced a sweep over the Twins, each drew around 20,000 spectators. And they were bright, cheering fans who enlivened the stadium, which, even in these days of the Astrodome and new, multitiered, multicolored stadia, remains the most majestic ball park in the country.
Yankee fans never learned how to cheer for a loser, something National League rooters in New York seem to know how to do instinctively. In recent years at Yankee Stadium the crowds have been hushed and bored, as if they had come on the odd chance that they might see something truly exciting happen, like a man falling out of the upper deck. But last week they were awake and yelling, their roars rolling loud and long from the shadowy recesses in the main deck and the mezzanine when Second Baseman Horace Clarke hit a two-run home run to defeat the Twins and bring New York's record on its latest home stand to seven wins in eight games.
The next two wins, both on the road against Kansas City, may prove to be more important because they came on days when the Orioles were losing at home and also helped to open additional ground between the Yanks and the Tigers and Red Sox. Peterson finished up the starters' revival that Houk had promised for the hot weather. They pitched five complete games over a span of six fairly temperate days and Stottlemyre edged his record to 6-4 with a five-hitter and a four-hitter.
"That's encouraging," said White. "We stayed close without our starters, just going with a bunch of young guys who like to talk hitting. Now if the starting pitchers are right, we can move up."
White himself did most of the moving last Saturday night with a boost from the two old gray hairs who two weeks before began to show signs of tiring after their hard month's work. The Yanks defeated the Royals 9-4 in 12 innings and went 11 games over .500 for the first time since the pennant year of 1964. It was an extraordinary game in which the Royals' new Manager Bob Lemon was ejected; New York Shortstop Gene Michael broke up a Royals' rally by pulling the hidden-ball trick on the go-ahead run at second base; Yankee Third Baseman Jerry Kenney was called out for interfering with the catcher; and White rapped five hits for the first time in his big league career. He drove in a run in the first with a single, another in the fourth with a home run. In the top of the 12th when New York scored five runs, he had the key hit, a line single to right that pushed the winning runner to third base with none out.
Hamilton came on in the seventh inning to close off a Royals' rally and he and McDaniel pitched the last five innings without allowing a run. Twinkling on the scoreboard late in the game when McDaniel was trotting to and from the mound (a frisky maneuver he adopted this year, perhaps to keep the crowd from noticing his gray hair) was the final score of another Baltimore loss.