There hasn't been this much fun and excitement in the American League in years. At one point last week, only one and a half games separated first place from fifth. The Cleveland Indians, who swept seven in a row and then blew three straight, managed to hang in there on the gutty pitching of old vet Cal McLish (he won two complete games, including a big one over the Yanks). The Chicago White Sox collapsed with a thud for want of a power hitter. It was the same old story as the Sox, in losing five straight, left 42 men on base. Singles-hitter Nellie Fox, batting second behind Luis Aparicio, was the team's leading RBI man. "Keep Fox and Aparicio off the bases," said Casey Stengel, "and that team is done." The Baltimore Orioles burst loose with a batch of unexpected home runs (eight), received their usual strong pitching—two fine shutouts—and won four in a row to climb within one game of first. But two unexpected losses by Hoyt Wilhelm (see page 14) kept the team from advancing any further. The Detroit Tigers' drive toward the top slowed down for the first time in a month. But in the three games they won last week, the team came from behind each time, a trait sadly missing in past seasons. "Pressure doesn't bother these guys," commented Manager Dykes. "They're as free as they can be." Well, the New York Yankees almost did it. Running off five straight wins over the White Sox and Indians, they made up 3½ more games and could have jumped from fifth to first by the end of the week. But a double-header loss to the Indians on Sunday set them back, momentarily. The Boston Red Sox suddenly rebounded from the cellar—for a day—with their first sustained hitting attack of the year. Led by Vic Wertz (five hits, six RBIs in two games), the Sox piled up 24 runs in winning three straight. And, just as suddenly, the pitching started to jell as Tom Brewer and Jerry Casale pitched back-to-back complete-game wins for the second straight time. The Kansas City Athletics, who were within a game and a half of first just three weeks ago, lost seven in a row and slid quietly down as far as seventh. The Washington Senators slapped home runs (tops in majors with 86) at a rate calculated to set a new league record. By the way, they won five out of seven.
Standings: Clev 35-27, Chi 34-30, Det 34-31, Balt 34-31, NY 32-31, KC 28-33, Wash 29-36, Bos 28-35.
The Milwaukee Braves' surprising skid (lost 11 out of 17 games) saw the team drop out of the lead for the first time since early May. Hitting, which had been the Braves' strong suit all season, was practically nonexistent. And with the hitting tailing off, the lack of a sound second baseman became more telling. Six have been tried so far (three last week) and collectively they were hitting .165. But Aaron and Co. started banging the ball again and the Braves jumped quickly back into first. The San Francisco Giants, taking advantage of the "jet stream" blowing from right to left field in Seals Stadium ("You can't take your eye off the ball a minute," said Willie Mays. "If you do, it's shifted 20 feet on you") romped briefly into first place. Manager Rigney solved his bullpen problem, for the moment at least, by using Sam Jones in relief when he wasn't starting. "You've got a good thing when you've got somebody who can come in and strike somebody out," beamed Rigney, after Jones saved an important game. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who have been hampered by injuries at various times to key regulars (Skinner, Clemente, Burgess, Stuart, Witt and, last week, Mazeroski), nevertheless stayed in good position. Without the incredible Roy Face, though, the Pirates would be in trouble. He saved his fifth game and won his 11th in a row. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who seem to have learned at last to live with the Coliseum, banged out 73 hits in winning five games out of seven. Better yet, the five wins were low-hit, complete-game performances by Don Drysdale (twice), Sandy Koufax, Danny McDevitt and Roger Craig (just recalled from the minors). The Chicago Cubs' hitting (which never has been robust this year) and fielding (six errors in two games) collapsed; the team leveled at the .500 mark for the 23rd time this season. The St. Louis Cardinals again played the best ball in the league (11 wins in 15 games). The key has been good hitting (first in team averages'). Manager Hemus felt so good about things that he took himself off the active list, despite a fine pinch-hitting record. "The day I let a good pitch go by while trying to think of my next move in the game decided me," said Hemus. The only measure of solace last week for the slumping Cincinnati Reds was the pitching of Don Newcombe (he won two, giving him seven complete-game wins in a row) and, at last, the long-distance slugging of Frank Thomas (he came off the bench and hit two homers). Four straight losses plunged the team closer to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, who continued to get only occasional flashes of good hitting and pitching.
Standings: Mil 38-28, SF 37-30, Pitt 36-32, LA 36-33, Chi 33-33, StL 30-35, Cin 30-36, Phil 25-38.
Boxed statistics through Saturday, June 20
TORRID BATS of Bill White (left) and Don Hoak sparked the Cards and Pirates. White had 13 hits, Hoak 10 last week.