The Cincinnati Reds showed that they will have to be reckoned with in this year's typically hodgepodge National League race. Tremendous power hitting had been carrying the team, but that may not be enough, as the Reds sadly found out in 1956. However, when Don Newcombe, Brooks Lawrence and Bob Purkey all pitched complete-game victories last week it looked as if the much maligned pitching staff might be ready to carry its share of the load. The Milwaukee Braves found out that the road to the pennant this season won't be over the dead body of the Reds (whom they beat 35 times in 44 games the past two seasons). They lost their fourth in a row to the suddenly uncooperative Cincinnatians. Manager Fred Haney's gamble that maximum use of his two big pitching aces early in the season would be too much for the other teams to overcome backfired when Spahn and Burdette lost three games between them. The Los Angeles Dodgers, whose inability to beat the Giants last season (6 wins, 16 losses) dumped them into a seventh-place finish, are staying in this year's pennant race just because they can beat the San Franciscans (five wins in seven games). It hasn't been easy, though. Four of the Dodgers' wins were by one run, the other by two. The San Francisco Giants continued to bedevil everyone with their inconsistent play—especially Manager Rigney (two steel chairs in his office were knocked over and a stand-up ashtray broken into two pieces after a losing game in which Willie Mays ruined a rally by popping up on an intentional-walk pitch). A surprising bright spot is the pitching staff, which has the lowest ERA in the league. The Chicago Cubs finally got complete games out of their pitching staff after 12 straight starters failed to finish. Young Glen Hobbie pitched a six-hitter, and veteran Dave Hillman tossed a masterful two-hit shutout. ("My slip pitch was working real well but I made good use of a knuckle ball to set up a lot of the hitters.") Hillman learned the slip pitch—also called the palm ball—from Manager Scheffing, who picked it up from Baltimore Manager Paul Richards when the two played golf one day last winter. The singles-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates still aren't getting many runs (last in the league), but they can look forward to at least a few more now that Bob Skinner has erupted from his disastrous slump (0 for 30 AB). When he went 4 for 4, including two homers, the Pirates scored nine runs, their highest in two weeks. Every spring the Philadelphia Phillies come up with someone who is going to take veteran Willie Jones's spot at third base. This year it was Gene Freese, and Jones started spring training with the B team. Well, old (33) Willie has been at third since the season started, is batting over .300, and is playing some of the best ball of his 13-year career. Freese? He's sitting on the bench when he isn't pinch hitting or pinch running. The St. Louis Cardinals won two games in a row for the first time this season when a .247 hitter named Stan Musial whacked his first two home runs of the year.
Standings: Mil 14-9, LA 16-12, Cin 14-11, SF 13-12, Chi 14-14, Pitt 11-13, Phil 11-13, StL 9-18.
The Cleveland Indians put the brakes on Vic Power after his second unsuccessful attempt to steal home (earlier this season he had stolen home twice). Hereafter, Vic will go only when given the sign. Cal McLish coasted to his fourth straight win last week, and other less successful Indian pitchers began to borrow the heavy steel ball that Cal swings before warming up to stretch his arm and relieve stiffness. The opportunistic Baltimore Orioles kept on winning the close ones despite bad fielding (last in the league), weak hitting (next to last) and a mediocre pitching staff (4.11 ERA). The amazing Washington Senators lost four of last year's key men—Sievers, Courtney, Pearson and Zauchin—plus two of this year's big pitchers—Fischer and Kemmerer—to injuries and sickness. But with a patched-up lineup bolstered by the daily heroics of youngsters Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew (three homers apiece last week), the Senators knocked over three of baseball's best pitchers—Pierce, Wynn and Turley. The Chicago White Sox, blowing a grand opportunity to pile up some insurance while the Yanks were having their troubles, ran a losing streak to five before snapping out of their hitting and pitching doldrums. The team looked lethargic and made too many mental errors. Then the Sox began to hit, pitch and think once again and Chicago took three in a row from the Indians. The Boston Red Sox' bedraggled pitching staff finally showed some life. Bill Monbouquette and Frank Baumann both turned in strong relief wins and saved their jobs for the time being. Ex-Tiger Billy Hoeft claimed he had a sore arm (Red Sox veterans countered that he had a sore head) but pitched well after a shaky first inning in his first start for Boston. The Kansas City Athletics suddenly found themselves on a six-game losing streak. To make matters worse, portly Catcher Frank House, off to his best major league start, was put out of commission twice within three days. Returning to action after a spike wound, House was taking his batting practice swings. He leaned forward to see Pitcher Bud Daley's knuckle ball better. "Just one more," said House a moment before he was beaned. The New York Yankees (yes, they're still in the league) didn't exactly crush anyone to death but did start to snap out of their unprecedented slump. Well, it couldn't last forever, but what fun for the American League while it was on. The Detroit Tigers (see page 16) looked like a different team as new Manager Jimmie Dykes ignored statistics, played hunches, let the batters swing away and won seven out of eight games. Dykes's only complaint after a week on the job: "I smoke 10 to 20 cigars a day, and that's expensive. But it's damned expensive here because I never saw ballplayers run out of cigars the way these fellows do. They bum 'em like cigarettes."
Standings: Clev 15-9. Chi 14-11, Balt 14-12, Wash 14-13, Bost 12-12, NY 11-13, KC 11-14, Det 9-16.
Boxed statistics through Saturday, May 9