History shows that this season's second-place teams still have a chance of winning, though each would need a comeback equal to baseball's most dramatic to do it. The most extraordinary pennant drive was pulled off by the 1914 Miracle Braves, who rallied from eighth and last place, 15 games behind, on July 4. It should be a source of encouragement in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Oakland and Pittsburgh that the seven other most startling comebacks began in August and that miracle finishes have occurred most often in recent seasons. In fact, four have happened in the past 12 years.
1938 Cubs trailed the Pirates by eight games on Aug. 20. Chicago then won 30 of 42 while Pittsburgh went 20-24. The Cubs were still second when they opened a season-ending series with the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Chicago won all three games. In the second victory, which gave the Cubs the league lead, Player-Manager Gabby Hartnett hit his two-out, ninth-inning Homer in the Gloamin' to clinch a 6-5 win. During the surge Stan Hack batted .358 and Pitchers Bill Lee and Clay Bryant won 16 of 19 decisions.
1942 Cardinals, 9� behind the Dodgers on Aug. 15, ran off a 37-6 streak to take the pennant, though Brooklyn won 25 of its last 42. The Cards' most dramatic victory came on Sept. 17 in Boston. Down 3-1 with two on in the ninth, Billy Southworth had decided to pinch-hit with Ken O'Dea when Johnny Hopp, the runner on second, waved his manager onto the field and advised him to use Ray Sanders instead. Sanders singled in a run, O'Dea followed with an RBI bunt and Enos Slaughter drove in the winner with a single.
1951 Giants were 13� back of the Dodgers after Brooklyn's win in the opener of an Aug. 11 doubleheader. Then, led by Monte Irvin (35 RBIs) and Bobby Thomson (.386, 10 homers, 30 RBIs), New York went on a 39-8 tear—Brooklyn was 27-24—and tied for first at the season's end. The teams split the first two playoff games, and the Dodgers led 4-1 going into the last of the ninth of the deciding contest. The Giants got a run on Whitey Lockman's double before Thomson hit Ralph Branca's pitch for a three-run, pennant-winning homer.
1964 Cardinals stood fourth, 11 games behind Philadelphia, on Aug. 24. St. Louis won 28 of 39 thereafter, but the race really was decided in the final two weeks when the Phils lost 10 in a row. Three of the defeats came on Sept. 28-30 in St. Louis when the Cards took the lead. The irony of St. Louis' win was the August firing of G.M. Bing Devine, who shortly before had traded for Lou Brock and called up Reliever Barney Schultz. Brock hit .348 as a Card, and Schultz pitched in seven of the last nine games, allowing no runs.
1969 Mets trailed the Cubs by 9� on Aug. 13, then took 38 of 49 to win by an astounding eight games. New York all but clinched the title by beating Chicago (19-27 down the stretch) two straight in September, but three other victories better demonstrated the Mets' invincibility. On Sept. 15 Cardinal Steve Carlton set a record by fanning 19 Mets and still lost as Ron Swoboda hit two two-run homers. Later the Mets swept a doubleheader when Pitchers Don Cardwell and Jerry Koosman helped themselves to 1-0 wins by driving in the only runs.
1973 Mets, 11� out on Aug. 5 and last as late as Aug. 30, won 34 of their final 53. During a key September series with the Pirates, New York took four of five. In the first win, the Mets scored five runs in the ninth to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Two nights later, the teams were tied when Pittsburgh put two on with two out. Dave Augustine's drive to left hit on top of the wall, but instead of bouncing over for a homer, kicked back to Cleon Jones. He threw to Wayne Garrett, whose relay cut down Richie Zisk at the plate.
1974 Orioles were eight back of Boston on Aug. 29 when they began a 27-6 run and the Sox started a 12-21 slump. Included in the Birds' surge was a 10-game win string, during which their pitchers had five shut-outs, and a three-game, mid-September sweep in New York, after the Yanks had moved 2� in front. Thereafter, Baltimore held on with almost daily heroics. Paul Blair's back-to-the-plate catch in center ended one win, Boog Powell's single capped a 17-inning victory and Bob Oliver's squibber drove in the only run in another 17-inning affair.