Don Mincher first joined the Minnesota Twins in 1960, when they were still the Washington Senators. Each April he would start off with a barrage of home runs, only to fade in May and disappear completely by June. One year he was sent to Charleston, the next year to Buffalo. Last season Mincher stayed with the Twins all the way, but because he is a first baseman and Vic Power is also a first baseman, Mincher spent most of his time on the bench. Nor was the first half of this season any different. When Power slumped recently, Manager Sam Mele crossed his fingers and put his perennial bench warmer into the starting lineup. "I made up my mind to swing at the first good pitch I got," Mincher said. Mincher got a good pitch, and hit it for a grand-slam home run. By the end of the week he had hit five more good pitches and lifted his batting average from .045 to a robust .315. The Twins won seven of their nine games and Vic Power was getting used to the bench.
As the season progresses, it becomes increasingly evident that this is the year the Yankees should have lost the pennant. Beset by misfortunes ranging from broken bones to German measles, they have been operating with a skeleton crew for most of the season. Yet no one has been able to catch them, and it does not look like anyone will. Last week the Yankees seemed more vulnerable than ever, and played harder than ever. Their entire first-string outfield was sidelined: Mickey Mantle's broken foot had not healed, Roger Maris was recovering from minor surgery, Tom Tresh was out with a neck injury. Manager Ralph Houk assembled a makeshift outfield for the final game of the week against Cleveland. He used a former infielder (Hector Lopez) in left field, his regular first baseman (Joe Pepitone) in center, and a converted catcher (John Blanchard) in right. All three came through with run-producing hits. Harry Bright, filling in at first base, added a two-run homer as the Yankees won the game 5-4. This gave them a 5½-game lead over the second-place Chicago White Sox, their biggest lead at this stage of the season since 1958. The rest of the American League should be so sick.
It was the bottom of the 11th inning of a 7-7 game against the Giants when Joe Hicks of the Mets stepped to the plate. There was a runner on first base. Hicks looked at Third Base Coach Cookie Lavagetto and did not like what he saw, namely, the bunt sign. In came the pitch. Down went the bunt. Foul. Hicks glanced at Lavagetto again and smiled inwardly when he saw the hit sign. In came the pitch. Hicks swung, and the ball landed in the right center field stands for a home run. It was the highlight of a big week for the 30-year-old Hicks, who 10 days earlier had been shuffling around in the Buffalo outfield. His three home runs, nine runs batted in and .406 hitting helped win three games for the Mets. Hicks always felt he could hit, even if he did not prove it in trials with the White Sox and Senators. "When I first came up in 1960 with the White Sox they were fighting for the pennant and I didn't play much." That is one worry he is not likely to have with the Mets.
When the Phillies won 30 of their last 44 games in 1962 to finish the season above .500 for the first time in nine years, the word went around the National League: "This is a good, young team. Look out for them next year." From the way the Phillies started this season, the word on them should have been "ugh." Effortlessly, they waded hip-deep into the second division. Late in June they suffered the ultimate indignity: a doubleheader loss to the New York Mets. That did it. Philadelphia snapped out of it, winning 11 of its last 14 games. Tony Gonzalez and Johnny Callison have been hitting, as have two veterans, Roy Sievers and Don Hoak. Sievers hit his 300th home run last week to take a victory away from the Mets in the last of the ninth. Although Art Mahaffey has not been pitching as he did last year, Rookie Ray Culp (10-7) has made up for it. Durable Cal McLish (9-5) and Reliever Jack Baldschun (8-4) have been the other strong men in the Philadelphia rush. By last week the Phillies were still in the second division, but second place was a mere four games away. Over the last half of a long season the frisky young Phils could make things rough for the rest of the league.