The Cleveland Indians were just barely leading the league at the Memorial Day quarter-season mark. After a runaway 10-1 start, the Indians have played at a below-.500 percentage (15-16). A long batting slump has been responsible (last week Cleveland averaged only two runs a game), and only good pitching has kept the team from really skidding. "We have too many good hitters to stay in this slump," said Manager Gordon. "I may rest a player for a day now and then, but I'm not pushing the panic button." The Chicago White Sox pitching suddenly went sour after the team had won 12 out of 14. The starting pitcher failed to finish in eight straight games and the Sox lost six of them. Usually reliable Billy Pierce started twice, gave up 14 hits, 11 runs in just 6‚Öî innings. The only happy note for the Baltimore Orioles was the ease with which Knuckleball Expert Hoyt Wilhelm continued to beat the Yankees (second straight shutout, only five hits in two games). Again, the Orioles came within a game and a half of first place but then lost three in a row, as the pitching started to match the weak hitting and terrible fielding (especially at third base). The Kansas City Athletics had to field a different lineup every day, since star hitters Bob Cerv and Roger Maris, plus regular starters Bob Grim and Ray Herbert, were out with injuries or illness. Yet the team managed to knock over the Indians two out of three games. Part of the early season success of the Washington Senators was due to the strong pitching of Russ Kemmerer and Hal Griggs. Last week Kemmerer lost his third and fourth games in a row and Griggs his third straight. Faye Throneberry, after five irregular years in the majors (.229 BA), was stuck into the Senator outfield to fill in while Roy Sievers recuperated from an injury. He surprised everyone by batting around .300. The Detroit Tigers continued their long climb back as they won five in a row, moved to within one game of the first division. The Boston Red Sox were all set to trade off Frank Sullivan and Vic Wertz. Then Sullivan pitched a two-hitter ("Coach Boo Ferriss told me to stand up straight and throw hard instead of crouching. I'll be O.K. from here on"), and Wertz hit hard after being on the bench four weeks with a back injury ("Just let it be hot and old Vic will hit"). The trade is off. The New York Yankees got good pitching and hitting at the same time for a change and won four easy games in a row, vaulting up to sixth place. Best of all, Mickey Mantle started to hit (11 for 23) and to run (four stolen bases, nine out of 10 this year).
Standings: Clev 25-17, Chi 25-19, Bait 25-21, KC 20-21, Det 20-23, NY 19-23, Wash 21-26, Bos 19-24.
The Milwaukee Braves, clearly the strongest team in the league at this point (see page 46), were getting the breaks too. They won that Harvey Haddix game and later beat the Phils when Joe Adcock, who was being intentionally walked, reached out and hit the first wide pitch. The ball dribbled to the right and the surprised second baseman delayed fielding it long enough for the surprised third base coach to send the surprised runner on third home with the winning run. "We'll take 'em anyway we can get 'em," grinned surprised Manager Haney. The San Francisco Giants finally got some opportune hitting to complement their fine pitching. In one game Leon Wagner whacked a pinch-hit grand-slam home run in the bottom of the ninth to win it 6-4. Said Wagner after his dramatic hit: "I sure didn't know them bases was bulging until Mays told me. I just wanted a hit." The Pittsburgh Pirates lost one big game (for details of the Haddix epic, see page SU) but won another that might be more significant. Bob Friend, who had lost seven straight, won at last with a four-hit shutout. "After six weeks in the snake pit you begin to wonder if you'll ever win another one," said Friend. "Now I'm over the psychological hump." The Los Angeles Dodgers got occasional good pitching but most of the time the starters couldn't hold a lead and the relievers couldn't get anyone out. Chicago Cubs' Manager Bob Scheffing used his 30th different batting order in 43 games in an attempt to end a dismal batting slump (the Cubs had fallen to the bottom of the league in hitting). In the next two games the Cubs made 19 hits, scored 16 runs. "If we continue that way, we'll be O.K.," said Scheffing. "It isn't only the hits but the way we hit the ball." The next day the Cubs could get only five singles and the slump was on again. The Cincinnati Reds, who had a disastrous 6-12 road trip, returned home and immediately won three of their first four games, hit 10 home runs. Said Frank Robinson, who hit five of them: "It would be nice to take Crosley Field around the league with us. The best thing here is you don't have to worry about pulling the ball. You can hit one in center as easy as left." The St. Louis Cardinals got bad pitching, especially in relief, where three games were lost. The Philadelphia Phillies found some solace when Robin Roberts (who earlier in the week had a locker room flare-up with Teammate Dave Philley) threw a four-hit shutout at the Braves. He hadn't got past the fourth inning in his three previous starts.
Standings: Mil 28-16, SF 26-19, Pitt 24-21, LA 25-23, Chi 23-24, Cin 21-25, StL 18-26, Phil 17-28.
Boxed statistics through Saturday, May 30
BACK FROM THE DEPTHS are Ted Williams (left), who finally hit a home run, and Bob Friend, who gained his first win.