Managers, pitchers and fans are right-home runs are being hit at a record pace. In 1956 an alltime high of 2,294 homers were hit—a rate of 1.76 a game. This season the per-game pace for both major leagues is 1.97. NL sluggers, averaging 1.98, are behind their best rate of 2.04 in 1955, but AL hitters have more than made up for this; their 1.97 rate is far ahead of their previous high (in 1959) of 1.77. Run scoring is, understandably, higher than last season. In the NL the runs-per-game average for both sides has gone from 8.45 to 8.75, and in the AL from 8.77 to 9.26. This heavy slugging has also brought a decline in shutouts. Last year one of 7.37 games in the NL was a shutout, against one of 8.66 games this season. In the AL the frequency has fallen from one in 8.23 to one in 9.31.
El Tappe, head coach of the Chicago Cubs, had unique tributes for two players. Of the Dodgers' Willie Davis he said, "He has a motor in his pants." This remark came after Davis walked, sped to second on a fly to left and to third on another fly to left. After Chicago slow-ball-specialist Jack Curtis beat the Braves, Tappe said, "He really tantalized them. I never saw him slower." It was Milwaukee's only defeat in five games. The Braves seemed to have more spark than at any time this season, and a dozen home runs also helped. Reliefer Don McMahon (5.91 ERA last year) used his new slider effectively and cut his ERA to 2.13. Warren Spahn (up to 296 lifetime wins) manipulated his screwball deftly, held the Giants to four hits and sliced his aggregate opponents' BA for the season down to .221. Willie McCovey (.467) was the only reliable San Francisco hitter. Poor hitting, plus the fact that they made just one double play, cost the Giants four straight games. Rookie Dick LeMay then defeated the Cardinals. St. Louis dropped four of six, winning only when Bob Gibson pitched a five-hitter against the Reds and when Stan Musial's seven RBIs beat the Giants. Charlie James hit .500, and over a 14-game span the pitchers batted .441, but the rest of the team lacked punch. Los Angeles had lots of punch both on and off the field. Maury Wills and Norm Larker threw fists at each other in the locker room and Frank Howard and Junior Gilliam hit ninth-inning home runs to beat the Reds 9-7. But Los Angeles' versatility—or depth—was demonstrated when the Dodgers won a double-header from the Cubs. Only two players—Wills and Charlie Neal—started both games. Philadelphia rooters showed versatility, too. At one game a half dozen of them got onto the field and ran around the bases, one sliding home with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Few Phillies, however, crossed home plate early in the week. Then they suddenly bombarded the Pirates 12-11 and 6-2. Pittsburgh made four errors in the ninth inning of that first loss and suddenly was struggling to stay in the first division. Cincinnati strengthened its surprisingly firm grip on first place, coming from behind to win four of six. Frank Robinson hit .647 for the week and had almost as many RBIs (13) as at bats (17).
Three weeks ago Chicago was batting .245 and was in last place, 14 games below .500. Since then the White Sox won 17 of 18 and passed the Angels, Twins, Athletics and Senators. Last week the Sox batted .337 and scored 60 runs in 56 innings. Leading the assault were Roy Sievers (.600), Al Smith (.500), Luis Aparicio (.455), Minnie Minoso (.450), Jim Landis (.389) and Andy Carey (.368). Also hitting well were New York's Mickey Mantle (.429 for the week) and Roger Maris (.391). They helped the Yankees win four of six, but first-place Detroit added another game to its lead by winning four in a row. The Tigers hit nine homers and scored 31 runs and looked more and more as if they deserved being in first place. Because of injuries to Steve Boros and Chico Fernandez changes were necessary at third base and shortstop. After 1,115 games in the outfield, Al Kaline played third for one game and handled the assignment perfectly. Boros then returned and got eight hits in his first 16 at bats. Dick McAuliffe was brought up from Denver to play short. At Denver he hit five homers in 64 games. With Detroit he hit two in his first three games, one a game-winner. Minnesota fans sang April Showers during rainy delays of 48 and 36 minutes during a night game but were rewarded for their cheerful patience when the Twins beat the Orioles 5-4; the game ended at 12:58 a.m. Harmon Killebrew hit six home runs during the week, drove in 15 and batted .542, but still the Twins won only two of five. Home runs did not do Cleveland much good, either. In one game the Indians hit five but lost. Poor pitching was the trouble; the staff gave up 15 homers and 51 runs and suffered five defeats. Washington pitchers had trouble, too. They yielded 7.9 runs a game and the Senators' losing streak reached 10 as they slid from fourth to seventh. Boston held on to fourth, thanks to fine relief work by Mike Fornieles, who allowed just four hits in 16 innings. Good relief jobs by Los Angeles' Art Fowler (three hits in 10 1/3 innings) and Johnny James (two hits in 16 2/3 innings) enabled the Angels to maintain their square-wheeled pace of two wins a week. For the fourth straight week Baltimore won only three games. Slumping Jim Gentile, who two months earlier had nine RBIs in one game, smiled when he hit a fly ball. "At least I'm getting the ball in the air," he said. Later in the week he hit two more in the air—and into the seats—to end his 17-game streak without a home run. Homers cost Kansas City Owner Charles Finley some money. Three times he disobeyed a city directive against exploding his aerial bombs—used to celebrate Athletics' home runs—after 10 p.m. There was a $10 fine for each offense, but Finley paid $100, certain the Athletics will hit another seven home runs shortly. He also hinted he has plans to build a $300,000 scoreboard that will emit a loud, raucous laugh as well as fireworks.
Boxed statistics through Saturday, June 24
PINCH HOMERS were hit by the Twins' Julio Becquer, the Cards' Carl Sawatski. Becquer's came in the ninth, Sawatski's with two on.