Winning streaks and losing streaks, firings and hirings, resignations and promotions, charges and countercharges, all merely meant that baseball was reacting as it always does in the exciting warmth of pennant races and the taxing heat of August.
"It's a game of momentum," said San Francisco Manager Alvin Dark after his Giants lost three in a row. Before that they had won six straight and started talk about another Giant "miracle." The Braves lost their forward progress, too. Inching up in the National League race on the strength of 10 straight, Milwaukee slipped back by losing three in a row. Playing the best ball in the league since Johnny Keane was made manager, St. Louis took six in a row to get within 9½ games of the top. The Dodgers, meanwhile, staggered under 10 consecutive defeats, then came back against the first-place Reds, winning two before losing a crucial Sunday double-header.
In the American League, Maris and Mantle continued hot after Ruth's record (Maris 51, Mantle 46) while Frank Lane and Kansas City Owner Charles Finley were hot after each other. Finley fired Lane as Kansas City general manager amidst mutual charges of "lying." Finley's business associate, Pat Friday (baseball experience: eight months), became the new GM. In Chicago, Hank Greenberg resigned as White Sox GM, explaining he "wanted to take it easy." On the field the dogged Detroit Tigers refused to fold, matching New York win for win. If the Yankees were to be taken, it would have to be Detroit that would do it. The Tigers have their chance. Seven games remain between the contenders, the first three this weekend.
The New York Yankees exhibited even more pitching muscle than home run muscle as Ralph Terry threw two shutouts, Roland Sheldon whipped Cleveland and Bill Stafford gave Kansas City three hits. The Detroit Tigers, meanwhile, got some able pitching too. Frank Lary (see page 16) won his 19th (18 complete games); Jim Bunning, Detroit's last 20-game winner, blanked Washington on two hits, and Paul Foytack won his first game in a month. Jim Gentile of the Baltimore Orioles hit three home runs, bringing his total to 39. It was becoming obvious to Manager Paul Richards that "it can't be done in '61." Said Richards: "Those Yankees just won't lose." Juan Pizarro gave up nine hits while winning two games, and Al Smith hit two homers in one game as the Chicago White Sox moved into fourth place, displacing the Cleveland Indians. The Indians lost six of seven, and Jimmie Dykes implored his troops to win. "Hell's fires," said Jimmie, "do you want to fritter away the first division in the final weeks?" Three home runs by Jackie Jensen powered the Boston Red Sox to three straight over the Senators. Despite his batting success, Jensen refused to make the long plane flight to Los Angeles. Earl Averill of the Angels hit his 19th home run of the season (lifetime total in four previous years: 16) as LA gave the Yankees trouble as usual, taking two of three. Rocky Bridges also had a homer for LA and climbed to within 698 of Babe Ruth's career total of 714. Minnesota won three games, two of them shutouts by Camilo Pascual (2 hits) and Jim Kaat (5 hits). Poor pitching, a porous defense (nine errors in four games) and a team batting average of .200 gave the Washington Senators a winless week and a chance for the bottom after all. More than 60,000 came out to watch the Yankee homer hitters in Kansas City in two games and cheered when onetime local boy Roger Maris hit No. 51.
Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres left-handed the Dodgers back from total disaster. Stopper Koufax beat Cincinnati (see page 12) to end the LA losing streak. Podres won his 16th (his highest career total) the next day, when the Dodgers mashed the Reds with 16 hits. The San Francisco Giants also feasted on the slumping Reds. In one game Juan Marichal was given 14 runs as the Giants hit five homers in a 12-run ninth inning. The Milwaukee Braves could win only three of seven. Two of these victories came from faithful Warren Spahn. In his 600th game, Spahn beat Chris Short of the Phillies; Short was 2 years old when Spahn began pitching. Ray Sadecki (who wasn't even born when Spahn started) got two wins for the Cardinals. Each Sadecki win is worth free coffee to the customers in Ray's Coffee Shop in St. Petersburg, Fla., owned by the 20-year-old left-hander. The Pirates split six games; victories included a 1-0 shutout by Yankee reject Tom Sturdivant. Last year's hero, Manager Danny Murtaugh, was exonerated for the Bucs' flop and signed for next year. Catcher Dick Bertell of the Chicago Cubs suffered a knee injury in a collision at Philadelphia. To save the knee, Bertell swung harder at the plate in order to avoid so much running. The result: four hits against Pittsburgh, including a home run. Catcher Clay Dalrymple of the Phillies used his knee to advantage also. He placed it on the ground to give Pitchers John Buzhardt and Art Mahaffey lower targets to shoot at. The trick worked as the Phils won four of six.
OLD PINCH HITTERS Dave Philley, 41, of the Orioles and Elmer Valo, 40, of the Phils excelled. Dave set hit record, Elmer homered.