According to TV ratings, 56 million people got to see Yastrzemski's versatility in this year's All-Star Game in Cincinnati's new Riverfront Stadium. For his four hits and his play, both at first base and in center field on the fast Astro Turf surface, he was chosen the game's Most Valuable Player. Estimates on Yaz' salary range as high as $130,000, and this year he is on the final season of a two-year contract. "I have never used a batting championship as a wedge in bargaining with the ball club," he says. "I feel I know how much I have done, and there is seldom a problem. This year I want to hit for a higher average than I have reached before [.326 in 1967] and want to get up around .340 by the end of the season. My stolen bases are up this year, because I have been concentrating on the moves of the pitchers more and more. I believe that it takes just as much concentration to be a good base stealer as it does to be a good hitter."
Minnesota's losing streak has been the shock of the season in the American League, coming as it did after the Twins had spun so far into orbit. Minnesota has taken a crushing number of injuries, and maybe now those will put a further burden on the club. Rod Carew, 1969's American League batting champion with a .332 average, was lost from May at least into September, and Dave Boswell, a 20-game winner, has only three wins, seven losses and a lot of problems. With a splendid 7-0 record, Tiant went on the disabled list and has only recently returned. Even so, the Twins had not lost more than three games in a row before their nose dive sent them staggering into Boston.
In a period of only a little more than 24 hours every pitcher on the staff except two was thrown in against the Red Sox, and one of those, Tiant, had to be the starting pitcher on Sunday. Although the Twins had built the best earned run average of any American League team this year, they did that with only 16 complete games from their starting pitchers, eight by Perry. Baltimore, the Eastern Division leader, has had 42 complete games.
The way the Twins lost last Saturday night in Boston should have caused the team to sit down and compose a group letter of apology to the game's founding fathers. Although Ken Brett of the Red Sox threw 94 pitches in the first 3⅓ innings, the Twins could not do enough damage to him to put the game out of sight. Carrying a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning, they did some remarkable things, fielding easy-out balls like so many live hand grenades. The Sox manhandled Minnesota's relief pitching, and when a ball was not reaching that great, green wall in left field it was knocking the Twin pitcher down. Cesar Tovar dived for a shoestring catch in center field only to discover that there was no ball in his glove when he got up. Third Baseman Rick Renick came running in for a dribbling grounder only to run right past it when the thing took a weird bounce. Screaming from the dugout on a pitch to George Thomas that the Twins thought should have been called strike three, Minnesota watched in horror as the next pitch went sailing into the nets for a homer, and a ground ball jumped up over Killebrew's glove after he stretched out and dived to try to cut it off.
It was at Fenway in 1967 that the Twins—seemingly home free with two games to go—had to contend with Carl Yastrzemski and their own inability to glove anything that moved. It was at home in Minnesota that the Twins, after losing two fine playoff games at Baltimore, threw in a clinker of classic proportions that had the people in Metropolitan Stadium hooting and booing. This week they return to "The Met" and will hope to regroup for what is now anything but a Cakewalk. They still have 13 games to play against Oakland and third-place California. But, thankfully, they have only three more scheduled against the Boston Yastrzemskis.