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In the beginning it was spring, and the world was wonderful. From the front office of the Detroit Tigers came the word: "Surrounded by an air of earnest enthusiasm and optimism, the Detroit Tigers go into spring training at Lakeland with but one idea in mind—to give the New York Yankees a run for the American League pennant in 1957."
Then it was August, and the world tasted like sixth place. Whoever heard of the Baltimore Orioles? But they, and not the Yankees, were the team Detroit was desperately trying to catch at one point. And the prize was not a pennant but possibly only fifth place.
What in the world had happened to the Tigers? It must be remembered that it was not only their own front office which rated them so high. Casey Stengel had said during the winter: "We gotta watch out for those Tigers. They'll have a real shot at it." The Associated Press poll of baseball writers had the Tigers as a solid second behind the Yankees. Conservatives warned that they might finish as low as third, but others, remembering Detroit's brilliant play over the last half of the 1956 season, felt that they might, with a little bit of luck, actually steal the pennant away from New York.
After all, in 1956 the Tigers had won 37 of their last 54 games and had gained seven full games on the Yanks in that last third of the season. The Tigers based their dreams of the future on that finish and these individual performances of the season past:
Al Kaline batted .314, with 27 home runs and 128 runs batted in.
Charley Maxwell batted .326, with 28 home runs and 87 runs batted in.
Harvey Kuenn batted .332, with 12 home runs and 88 runs batted in.
Ray Boone batted .308, with 25 home runs and 81 runs batted in.
Frank Lary won 21 games, 17 of his victories coming after July 1.
Billy Hoeft won 20 games.