While a crop of towering young pitchers has been dominating baseball this year (see page 10), Robin Roberts, at one time not a bad young pitcher himself, is easing into middle age on a cushion of big victories. No longer the flamethrower who led the Philadelphia Phillies into the 1950 World Series and went on to win 20 or more games for six straight years, Roberts, at 36, has won a starting position on the Baltimore Orioles' otherwise youthful pitching staff by giving the opposition what the Angels' Albie Pearson calls the "comfortable collar. That means you hit the ball pretty good, but when it's all over you still got that big 0 around your neck." As the Orioles clambered to make a race out of it in the American League last week, Roberts was throwing 0's. Using a mixture of off-speed breaking pitches, changeups and an occasional fast ball, all delivered with excellent control, he stopped the Tigers 2-1 on two hits and then beat the Yankees with a seven-hitter.
The Chicago White Sox have never had a flock of .300 hitters or 30-home-run sluggers. In the past, they have been consistent winners with little more than speed and defense; nowadays they lack even these gentle persuasions. Yet last week the Sox were in second place and, although they trailed the Yankees by eight games, they were not losing ground to the World Champions. The reason was a lion's share of the fine kid pitchers who have broken out in baseball like an epidemic. Of the five White Sox starters, only 33-year-old Ray Herbert (10-6) is over 27. Two of the younger men, Gary Peters (2.01) and Juan Pizarro (2.04), have been the standouts of the staff, currently ranking one-two among league starters in earned run average. Last week the youth group plus Herbert were especially stingy with hits and runs, even for this stingy season. While making a 4-2 record, the Sox pitchers gave up a slim 1.33 earned runs per game. Actually, they should have won all six games. The hitting failed in one game when Joel Horlen, recently up from the minors, lost a two-hitter. Later the White Six dropped a 16-inning game to the Angels 6-5, as the fielders gave up three unearned runs behind Peters.
Ever since he came into baseball with the Braves, Henry Aaron has been grabbing pieces of the triple crown. He twice led the National League in batting and RBIs, once in home runs. But for seven years now full title to the crown has been just a swing and a miss out of reach. However, this may well be Aaron's year. He is now way out front with 92 RBIs. With 31 home runs, he is only one behind the leader, Willie McCovey of San Francisco. Although his average has been lower than usual, last week Aaron batted well (.371) and climbed from seventh to fourth place with a .319. "If anyone wins the triple crown in this league, it has to be Aaron," says Milwaukee Manager Bobby Bragan, with superb confidence in his right fielder. "Why? He's simply the best hitter." The hitter himself was less confident. "I haven't had the real hot streak yet," Aaron says. Henry has plenty of time to get hot, and if he does, he will be the first National League player to win a triple crown in 30 years.
In their surprising surge into the first division the Chicago Cubs have leaned hard on their pitching. Just two weeks ago the slugging portion of the batting order—Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks—scraped along with a collective .195 BA. Then last week the bottom fell out of the pitching, too. In a doubleheader with St. Louis, seven Cub pitchers gave up 22 hits and 12 runs. But the Cub sluggers made 21 runs on 30 hits to win both games. The high mark of the week came, however, in a game with San Francisco. The Cubs pushed over six runs in the eighth to tie the score, and then went on to win 12-11 in the 10th. What miracle revived the batting? Well, just before the onslaught Head Coach Bob Kennedy had called a clubhouse meeting. "Ask yourself this question," he told his players. "Where am I looking when the pitcher throws the ball?" The startled Cubs, who earlier must have been contemplating their shoelaces, went on to hit .310 for the week. Everyone hit. "We don't have any big wheels," said Center Fielder Ellis Burton. "We just have a lot of good little ones." As if to prove his point, Burton hit two home runs in one game—one left-handed, one right-handed.