Despite sub-par hitting (though Yankee hitting can be sub-par without being weak), New Yorkers trotted off to huge early lead, opened it to 11 games at midseason. They did this on superb pitching by Turley, Ford, Larsen (combined record: 29-8), though highly effective and totally unanticipated aid from speedball Relief Pitcher Ryne Duren, whose 1.38 ERA is lowest in league, was—for other teams, at any rate—the crusher. Yankee Stadium attendance was down (see box) despite great performance, because crowds are attracted by: 1) competition, and Yanks had no competitors; 2) heroes, and Yankee heroes of the big bat (Mantle, Berra, et al.) were doing nothing to get excited about. At halfway point unsung Yanks like Siebern and Bauer were beginning to rip ball; all signs pointed to a last-half hitting surge and the easiest Yankee pennant since Joe McCarthy's 1941 team won by 17 games.
Adroit trading over past couple of years by General Manager Parke Carroll (41 players were involved in his big, publicized deals with Yanks, Tigers, Indians) produced an unspectacular team (only the powerful home-run hitter Bob Cerv is a real star) but a nicely balanced one whose midseason record is nine full games better than last year's (38-37 over 29-46). This new balance rests on Cerv's slugging, tighter defense, able pitching by oldsters Murry Dickson (6-3) and Ned Garver (8-5) and Harry Craft's sound managerial hand on the helm.
Sox are in usual position: first division but well behind Yankees. Bad fielding has aggravated weak pitching and both nullify Red Sox hitting. Despite spring slumps by Williams and Malzone, Boston leads league in runs scored, has four topflight run producers in these two, plus Jensen, Gernert. If defense (134 runs worse than the Yankees) improves, Sox should finish second. But...onetime Yankee-killer Nixon is 1-7, key starter Brewer 3-7. Ike Delock (7-0, one of best ERAs in league) has been drafted from bullpen to start.
When perennial disappointments sank into cellar in June, uneasy front office fired Manager Jack Tighe, hired Bill Norman. Team won nine of first 11 games for Norman, including a delightful six straight from Yankees. Attendance soared, all problems seemed solved. But after that initial surge, club subsided into familiar .500 pattern, lost all but one game of ground on Yanks. Midseason's 37-37 was match for last year's 38-39. Main fault: Tigers, first in team batting average but fifth in runs scored, still lack clutch hitters.
Herb Score, a decent fellow, has nonetheless been responsible for two Cleveland managers being fired inside a year. His terrible eye injury last season sidelined him, left him with 2-1 record that was no help to Indians or Kerby Farrell. This season he strained elbow on April 30, hasn't pitched since. His 2-2 mark has been no help to Indians or Bobby Bragan. Farrell and Bragan were fired, Joe Gordon now manages, Frank Lane has turned over two-thirds of the team (only eight men remain from last year's roster), and Indians still languish in second division. If they had a healthy Score all season and a healthy Vic Wertz (over 100 RBIs two years running, then a broken ankle in spring training) and if Larry Doby had got over his miseries earlier, Indians would probably be second, with Bragan in line for Manager of the Year.
Flop of year, Chicago's 36-39 record is 10½ games off 47-29 of year ago, when Sox were a good second, only three games behind Yanks. Sox took an all-out gamble on pitching in hopes of catching Yanks, but gamble looks bad. This lightly powered, fleet-footed team was not expected to score a great deal, but management certainly expected more runs than they've received thus far. And the sterling-silver pitching is sadly tarnished. Donovan, whose 16-6 was best in league last year, is 3-10, and big five (Donovan, Pierce, Wynn, Wilson, Moore) has combined record of 31-30 (Yank big three is 29-8). Manager Al Lopez, a percentage man, started big five in 70 of 75 games, waits patiently for pendulum, which insists this is great staff, to swing in his favor. Team is terribly inconsistent: slump two weeks, spurt one, fiddle around .500 another two.
Except for one agonizing eight-game losing streak in May, Orioles have played sound and consistent .500 ball, which is all they really aspired to this season. Aside from that eight-gamer, longest winning and losing streaks have halted at three. Airtight pitching and fielding explain steadiness; awful hitting (way last in averages, extra-base hits, runs scored) is reason club doesn't go higher. RBI-man Bob Nieman is injured. Al Pilarcik, limping along at .239 with just 12 runs batted in, is grave disappointment.
Things seemed to be working out well for the Senators this year—the tiniest rookie, Albie Pearson, came through in acceptable fashion in center field; Bridges and Plews provided surprisingly good hitting; Sievers and Lemon hit home runs steadily—but in June the truth caught up. Washington lost 18 of 23 games coming to midseason and plummeted out of the seven-team, tie-up chasing the Yankees. Pitching was to blame. Never really good, it declined from mediocrity to chaos; rivals won by scores like 10-1, 10-2, 9-2, 12-11, 10-5, 11-3, 13-2.
Braves have been stumbling along in National League pennant race, yet came to the halfway point in first place. On May 17 team had 17-8 record, half-game lead. Next six weeks saw dawdling 22-20 pace, but lead opened to 3½. Then came July drought when Braves, scoring average of less than one run per game, lost five in row and just barely kept grasp on first place. But, everyone says, if team can hold onto lead playing like that, they'll run away with pennant once they straighten out. Trouble is, maybe they can't. Injuries hit Bruton, Covington, Buhl, Schoendienst. Outfield is thin (at one point Infielders Adcock, Mantilla, Hanebrink comprised starting trio). Aaron and Mathews hit occasional game-winning homers, but over-all are disappointing. Secondary pitching, McMahon, Jay, Willey, Johnson, Robinson, has been bulwark of team.
Marvelous run-producing team, Giants lead league in hits, runs, RBIs, stolen bases, are at or near top in doubles, triples and home runs. But wonderful early surge—sparked by grand-looking rookies (Cepeda, Davenport, Schmidt, Kirkland), rejuvenated veterans (Spencer, O'Connell, Sauer, Jablonski), and the hot-and-cold Willie Mays—has ground to halt. Club hit peak May 25, day of great fight in Pittsburgh. Then 26-13, first by 2½ games, Giants skidded to 15-23 gait, held second one game out only because of pedestrian pace of Braves. Erratic pitching (Gomez hasn't won since the fight) hurts.
Cards have had two seasons this year. In one, ending May 8, they were 3-14, in eighth place, eight games behind Milwaukee. In other, still under way, they're 34-21, best in league and pressing in on first-place Braves. In that bad start, fielding was poor, pitching worse, hitting ineffective (seventh in runs scored, despite Musial's fabulous .529 average). Changes have been made. Young Curt Flood was put in center, Ken Boyer on third, Ed Kasko at short. Al Dark was traded for Jim Brosnan, Rookie Gene Green became big hitter, Sal Maglie was bought from Yanks. Big difference has been in defense, since Cards still don't score (tied for last in runs, last in homers). Steady starters are Mizell, Jones, McDaniel, Brosnan, Maglie, backed by sound Relievers Jackson, Paine, Muffett. If Fred Hutchinson can shuffle Cards into run-producing lineup, then they, rather than Braves, may run away with pennant.
Sudden seven-game win streak focused attention on Phils at midseason, as club moved from seventh up through league to first division. Streak coincided with Ed Bouchee's return; his hitting helped win at least two of the games and should continue to provide runs-batted-in power so badly needed by run-poor (lowest in league) Phils. An extraordinary "five-man" pitching staff has heretofore been prime strength of team. Roberts, Sanford, Semproch, Simmons started all but six of club's games, had most complete games in league. Dick Farrell (6-2, best ERA in majors) is finest relief pitcher in game.
Vice-President John Holland has been trading vigorously since he took over Cubs before 1957 season, with impressive results—for the moment, at least. Onetime patsies, the Cubs now trail only Giants in scoring runs and in hitting homers. Except for one bad losing streak (six to Cards, one to Reds) in May, they've kept close to .500 mark all year. Banks, Walls, Moryn, Thomson, Long, Taylor are solid hitters. Fielding isn't too good, however, and pitching is much below hoped-for standard. But last year's rookie stars, Moe Drabowsky and Dick Drott, are just beginning to round into top form.
When Reds rose out of dungeon of second division two years ago, they did it on broad backs of musclemen like Kluszewski, Post, Bell, Bailey, Robinson. But pennant drive tripped on miserable pitching. Reds regrouped, recruited for pitchers (new ones this year include Haddix, Newcombe, Purkey, Schmidt, Kellner). From dead last in team ERA, Reds have advanced to efficient second. But the once frightening hitting retrogressed proportionately: no more Klu, no more Post, a slumping Bell, Bailey, Robinson. Result: Reds are worse off than last year, less exciting, drawing lots less people.
Curious team, composed of unknowns a year or so ago, is laced with stars now (same people, mostly, grown up) but is still fiddling near bottom of league. No real reason for it, either, except pitching went sour in June. Only one starter in 16 games before All-Star break could finish; team lost 12 of those 16 games, fell from third place to seventh. Thomas is a feared hitter, Mazeroski a great second baseman, Groat a fine shortstop, Skinner, Virdon, Kluszewski, Clemente good hitters. But club has bad habit of making mistakes, loses games it should win.
People talk of the Dodgers' old men, like Hodges, Snider, Furillo and Reese, and lay blame for the shockingly bad play of Los Angeles club at their ancient feet. Truth is, the old Dodgers aren't the great players they used to be, but failure of the team lies not with age but youth. Preseason estimates of Dodgers stressed over and over again the "great, young pitching." But at midyear the pitching was by far the worst in the league: a team earned run average of close to five runs per game, unbelievably bad. So don't blame Pee Wee, don't blame Duke. Don't even blame the screen.