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The final week

New York won 109 games, Philadelphia lost 107. A look at what happened, and why it did, to the best and worst during 1961

Mayor Robert Wagner proposed a ticker-tape parade to honor the New York Yankees. Co-owner Dan Topping, however, cited "the pressure of getting ready for a World Series" and declined. There are no parades for second-place teams, but the Detroit Tigers can be proud of their record. Their 101 wins were the Tigers' highest total since 1934. Superb pitching by Jim Bunning, Don Mossi and Frank Lary (23-9) carried the team a long way. Bunning, however, won only two of his last seven starts, Mossi one of his last six. Hard hitting by Rocky Colavito (45 HRs and 140 RBIs), Norm Cash (41 HRs, 132 RBIs and a league-leading .361 BA) and Al Kaline (.324) also kept the Tigers in contention for a long time. Baltimore started poorly, then got exceptional pitching and won 60 of its last 94 games but was never really in the pennant race. Jack Fisher, at age 22, became one of baseball's most famous home run pitchers. In 1960 Ted Williams hit his 521st and final homer off Fisher, and last week Roger Maris got his 60th of the season against him. Chicago, too, got off to a bad start and was in last place on June 10. Most difficult to understand was the failure of 1960 ERA Champion Frank Baumann, who lost his sinker ball and finished with a 5.60 ERA, the second worst in the league. Cleveland Manager Jimmie Dykes was left standing, both literally and figuratively. One player last week told the driver of the airport bus to leave Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium 15 minutes early, stranding Dykes. On top of that, GM Gabe Paul, who apparently was displeased with Dykes's handling of players, would not reveal whether or not Jimmie would be replaced. Then, on the final day. Dykes got the news: he could go home and sit down, permanently. The Indians' decline could be traced back to June 18. They had won the first game of a double-header from the Orioles and led 5-0 after one inning of the second. Cleveland went on to lose that game and to struggle to stay in the first division. Boston's downfall stemmed from a lack of right-hand power, the failure of Pitchers Ike Delock (6-9), Tom Brewer (sore arm for much of the season) and Billy Muffett (2-11), and a road record of 26-55. Without Rookie Don Schwall, who joined the team late in May and won 15 games, the Red Sox would have wound up even lower. Schwall's natural sinker ball ("I even throw it to low-ball hitters such as Maris and Mantle") is ideal for Fenway Park's cigar-box dimensions, and he was 10-2 at home. Minnesota fans felt Pedro Ramos and Camilo Pascual might win 40 or more games between them. They came closer to losing 40: Ramos lost 20, Pascual 16. Another disappointment was Jim Lemon, whose home run total fell from 38 to 14. Los Angeles got fine results from several players picked up after the start of the season and completed its first season with 70 wins. The Angels, one year old by big league standards, accomplished this despite the fact that they made 189 errors and gave up 180 home runs, both major league highs. Lee Thomas, obtained from the Yankees, batted .285, hit 24 homers and had 70 RBIs. Leon Wagner was purchased from the minors and came through with 28 home runs and 78 RBIs. And Bob Rodgers, called up in the final weeks, delivered clutch hits and looked like a big league catcher. No team wanted to be the first to finish 10th in major league history, so it seemed fitting that Kansas City and Washington should share ninth. Norm Siebern (.296 and 98 RBIs) was the Athletics' only reliable hitter. Early in the season Manager Joe Gordon had said, "I can put a better team on the field than the Red Sox." On June 19 he was no longer fielding teams; he was replaced by Hank Bauer. The Athletics' 90 homers were the fewest hit by any team in either league, and their 4.76 ERA was the worst, so it made little difference who was putting the team on the field. Washington had the best spring training record (the Yankees and Reds, oddly, finished at the bottom of the preseason standings) and, with the best pitching in the league during the early weeks, stayed in the first division. Then, suddenly, the pitching turned into the worst in the AL and the team skidded. Dick Donovan, however, survived injuries that sidelined him for 66 days and had the best ERA in the majors, 2.40.

Any one of five teams, the experts said, could win the NL pennant. So Cincinnati, not one of the five, won it. Los Angeles had so much talent that Manager Walt Alston said, "If we lose a game before July 15th there will probably be an investigation." By July 15 the Dodgers had lost 37 times. Danny Murtaugh, the Pirate manager, may inadvertently have explained the Dodgers' trouble last spring. A sportscaster trying to get Murtaugh's opinion of the Dodgers asked, "They really have a plethora of talent, don't they?" To which Murtaugh said, "Yeah, but do they have any depth?" San Francisco's Orlando Cepeda (.311 BA, 46 HRs, 142 RBIs) outhit Willie Mays (.308, 40 HRs, 123 RBIs), but the infielders were erratic and the pitching was spotty. Still, the Giants' 85 wins were their best total since they won the 1954 pennant with 94. The Milwaukee Braves, the highest-salaried players in baseball, floundered in the second division for three months. When they did start to win it was too late. Warren Spahn will nevertheless long remember 1961. He pitched a no-hitter against the Giants in April, and in August won his 300th game. On July 24th his record was 9-12, but he then won 12 of his last 13, making him a 20-game winner for the 12th time. Milwaukee attendance was almost a million below its alltime high. Not even free key chains, change purses or the music of Steve Swedish's Dixieland band could lure the fans to County Stadium. St. Louis had the best at-home record in the league (48-29) but was last in home runs with 101. This dearth of power, coupled with the absence of a dependable shortstop and with Ernie Broglio's arm miseries and resultant 9-12 record, led to the Cardinals' fall from third to fifth. Pittsburgh fell even further. The much-talked-of spirit that spurred the Pirates on last year did not die easily, but a 12-11 loss to the Phillies late in June was a tip-off that the Pirates were in trouble. A major shortcoming was their inability to match their late-inning comebacks of a year earlier. Last season the Pirates won 28 games from the sixth inning on, this year just 15. Chicago's multiple-coach system did not help Phil Wrigley, owner and chewing-gum executive, double his pleasure. Don Cardwell learned to keep his fast ball low, and his ERA stayed down, too. In all, he won 15 games. George Altman (.303, 26 HRs, 96 RBIs) and Rookie Billy Williams (.278, 25 HRs, 86 RBIs) were solid hitters but shabby outfielders. Ernie Banks had eye and knee troubles, and the Cubs may trade him to get some pitching help. Now that the Reds have won, it is the Cubs who have gone the longest without a pennant. They last won in 1945. On opening day the Philadelphia Phillies were riding a bus through Los Angeles on their way to the game when Frank Sullivan said, "Isn't this season ever going to end?" That bus ride might have been long, but the season stretched on interminably for the Phillies, who lost 107 games, 23 of them in a row. Yes, Frank, it's all over now.

Boxed statistics for complete season