One instant the ball was over home plate. Then the Cubs" Billy Williams swung savagely and the next instant the ball was disappearing over Houston's right-center-field wall where the sign reads "427 feet." It was a terrible thing to happen to a young man on the verge of becoming the best hitter in the National League. So satisfying was the sweet sting of the monster home run that Williams set out to duplicate it with every swing and even a bad hitter can tell you what happens next. Nineteen times Williams swung from the heels. The sound and the fury was good for only two hits and finally Manager Bob Kennedy took Williams aside. '"Remember that home run in Houston?" he asked. "Well, forget it. Hit straightaway." Williams did just that and went 13 for 22. Mostly Williams' hits were crisp singles but, to no one's surprise, a couple left the ball park. At the end of the week Williams was right there where everyone expects him to be: among the top hitters.
The last Red clattered into the clubhouse. Slam went the door. Clank went the bolt. Club officials stirred uneasily. Manager Fred Hutchinson has been known to demolish chairs, lockers, mirrors—just about anything he can get his hands on after losing games, and the Reds had just dropped their second straight. Old Crosley Field was in definite trouble. No outsider knows for sure what Hutchinson did in there but it must have been dramatic because the Reds have lost only one game since. Jim O'Toole and Jim Maloney won four games, hardly surprising since they have been doing most of the winning for the Reds all season. Then floundering Bob Purkey put in a quick call to his mother-in-law asking her to send on a film made of him in action. "I discovered a flaw," said Purkey, who then went out and helped beat the Phillies' Ray Culp 2-1. Vada Pinson's freak triple was the big hit. "It was a shame for Culp to lose it," said Hutch with a mournful look that quickly changed into a wide grin. Then John Tsitouris shut out the Colt .45s and Hutchinson's face almost split. "I think we're going to be in it," he said. With the Reds just off the pace it had the sound of a classic understatement.
Like clever women shoppers, general managers have discovered that the way to come up with a bargain is to check labels. On today's market, players with Milwaukee tags are preferred 2 to 1 over all Brand X products. Joey Jay, Ed Charles, Joe Adcock, Carlton Willey and Juan Pizarro are among the bargains culled from the Braves in recent years. Now comes joe Azcue, currently catching for Cleveland. Last season, after being packed off to the Athletics by the Braves, Azcue hit .229. A month ago, however, General Manager Gabe Paul of the Indians went shopping. Seeking a shortstop, he obtained Dick Howser of the Athletics and, noting the ex-Milwaukee label, grabbed Azcue, too. A day later All-Star Catcher John Romano was hurt. Azcue jumped right in and for a while hit over .400. Last week he slumped, getting only seven hits, but these were hardly ordinary hits. They produced eight RBIs and led to three victories, one win coming on a ninth-inning homer.
With Mickey Mantle out with a broken foot, the New York Yankees lost three games in a row and fell to third place. Just as great nations crumble because of internal disorders, the Yankees appeared doomed by internal disorders, too, of bones, muscles and ligaments. This was the moment for some team, any team, to move into first as if it belonged there. Well, one did. The Yankees. They regrouped, won 12 of their next 15 games, and personally took care of the threatening Red Sox. Jim Bouton, his chin marked with a dozen stitches as the result of a line drive, came back to win twice. Phil Linz took over for the injured Tony Kubek at shortstop and hit .321. When Linz twisted his knee, Clete Boyer moved over from third base and batted .355. Bobby Richardson, shaken by the death of his father, returned to the lineup earlier than expected, went 5-for-9 and won a game with a ninth-inning double. No one, however, did more than Roger Maris to fill the void left by Mantle. In one 11-day stretch he came through with hits that won four games. Last week he drove in 10 runs, winning two contests with homers and another with a squeeze bunt to put the Yankees back on top.