At mid-point the season was full of surprises. The NL's consensus pick for sixth place, the Cincinnati Reds, threatened to run away from the field. The Detroit Tigers, relegated to the depths of the expanded AL in preseason estimates, grimly hung on to the Yankees. Washington and Los Angeles had a couple of teams beneath them, and both were close to 40 wins—their forecast quota for the full season. Minnesota, Kansas City and St. Louis floundered. As a result, Cookie Lavagetto, Joe Gordon and Solly Hemus were out. In came Sam Mele, Hank Bauer and Johnny Keane—with little noticeable improvement. The Cubs played without a manager but cut their head-coaching staff to one, El Tappe, and remained in seventh. Yankee Whitey Ford, who has never won 20 games, already had 16, has a chance for 30. Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers, who owns the NL record of 18 strikeouts in one game, was averaging a strikeout an inning and had as many wins (11) in half a season as he ever had in a full one. Norm Cash of the Tigers and George Altman of the Cubs were 100 points over their lifetime batting averages. Cash, with .355, 24 homers and 70 RBIs, was a candidate for the Triple Crown, last won by Mickey Mantle in 1956. Mantle and Roger Maris hit home runs (29 for Mantle, 33 for Maris) in 10 parks and had the purists arguing: would 61 homers in 162 games supersede Babe Ruth's 60 in a 154-game schedule? At least a good bet for extinction was the two-man homer mark of Ruth and Lou Gehrig (107) set in 1927.
Old pitcher Fred Hutchinson, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to batter his young pitcher Ken Hunt (22) for three runs in the first inning of the series between the two top teams. Hunt, responding to Hutchinson's patience, then settled down and won. The Reds took the second game behind Bob Purkey and stretched their streak to eight games before Johnny Podres' tantalizing changeup stopped them. Vernon Law of the Pirates took his sore shoulder, his 3-4 record and his 4.73 ERA home to Boise, Idaho. The pitching staff struggled along with help from rookie Al McBean and Bob Friend's second nine-inning performance since April 19, but the Beat 'em Bucs still could only win three games. The San Francisco Giants fell to fourth after five straight losses. Cast-offs Sherman Jones of the Reds and Don Taussig of the Cards had the Giants squirming. Jones beat them 3-2, and Taussig turned a game around with a triple in the ninth inning. Under new manager Johnny Keane, St. Louis won twice. The Braves won three games, but Warren Spahn lost another—his fourth in a row. "Even when I make good pitches they beat me," said Spahn, who is only four short of 300 victories. "I've got the feeling that once I get to 297, I'll be all right." The Chicago Cubs got to 34 wins on Barney Schultz's hitless relief pitching. El Tappe sent left-hander Dick Ellsworth to the Cubs' depleted bullpen with instructions to add a new pitch. "I'm a screwball man," says Tappe. The hapless Phillies crashed into each other under fly balls, gave up 41 runs in seven games and won only once.
The potent young pitching staff of the Orioles began to show why Baltimore—not Detroit—is the real threat to the Yankees. The Orioles allowed only six runs and 29 hits in seven games, winning six. Washington's pitching was almost as tough, yielding 10 runs in six games. The new Senators beat the old Senators two straight, led the Twins by five games and were a game and a half out of the first division. Zorro Versalles jumped the Minnesota club and prepared to return to Cuba, saying he was tired of baseball and missed his 17-year-old wife. After three losses to the Twins early in the week, the hot-and-cold Chicago White Sox were in trouble again. Two weeks ago they were seven and a half games out of first and in fourth place. Now 14 games back, the Sox were in danger of returning to the second division. Barry Latman and Jim Grant of the Indians pitched Cleveland out of a four-game skid. The victories couldn't halt the "Jimmie must go" rumors as Manager Dykes received the traditional kiss of death: a vote of confidence. The largest New York crowd in 14 years (74,246) saw the Yankees and Tigers split the July 4th double-header. When the day was over Detroit was in first place on Frank Lary's squeeze bunt and Chico Fernandez' steal of home with Rocky Colavito at bat. "If I don't make it, I'm in Denver," said Chico. But the Yankees made it back to first place three days later. The Los Angeles Angels climbed to eighth on the inspired hitting of retreads Steve Bilko (.308) and Rocky Bridges (first homer in two seasons). Said Bridges: "It really wasn't dramatic. No little boy in the hospital asked me to hit one. I didn't promise it to my kid for his birthday, and my wife will be too shocked to appreciate it." The A's were a little shocked, too. Golden Boy Lew Krausse was bombed twice (he's 1-4), the club lost seven of eight and KC faded to 10th. The powerless Boston Red Sox (58 homers compared to the Yankees' 118) lost six of seven. Manager Mike Higgins looked for a good second half from Jackie Jensen (337 RBIs in three seasons, only 33 this year).
BATTING LEADERS at midseason were Outfielder George Altman (.357) of the Cubs and Elston Howard (.363) of NY, both unexpected.