Outfielder Frank Howard of the Los Angeles Dodgers was talking about his team's chances of holding onto the National League lead. "All we need is a few hot bats; most of ours have been pretty cold lately. At least, I know mine's been cold all year." If cold bats—particularly Howard's—have been the Dodgers' problem during their recent slide, there were signs last week that the big freeze was over. Howard, who seldom played except when the Dodgers faced left-handers, was put into the lineup on a full-time basis by Manager Walter Alston to try and get some power into the sagging attack. The biggest Dodger (6 feet 7, 255 pounds) responded. He hit often (.500 BA for the week) and hard (4 HRs, 7 RBIs), raising his average 16 points to .262. One homer was a frightening blow that went over the roof of the Polo Grounds. As the ball sailed out of sight, there was reason to believe that Howard and the Dodgers have become too hot for the rest of the league to handle.
During July, the Phillies were one of the best clubs in baseball, winning 21 of 31 games and climbing from eighth place to a tie for fifth. Then, in the first 11 days of August, the pitching sagged and the batting slumped, and the Phillies slid back to seventh. Last week, however, they were once again the Phillies of July. After dropping one game, Manager Gene Mauch's team reeled off six straight victories and bounded back to fourth. Leading the resurgence was Tony Gonzalez, a fine outfielder whose inability to hit home runs has kept him from national recognition, but not from being third in the batting race with a .327 average. During the week, Gonzalez whacked even more than his usual quota of line drives as he batted .440. Right next to him were Tony Taylor (.400 BA for week) and slugging Johnny Callison (.375 and 2 HRs). The pitchers were no less effective, particularly Chris Short, who won two games as he allowed only one run in 18 innings. The whole team played so well that a thoroughly dazzled opponent, Roberto Clemente of Pittsburgh, went out on what may well have been the season's longest limb. "These guys," said Clemente, "have a real chance to win the pennant."
At the beginning of the season the Chicago White Sox had enough pitchers to sate the appetite of even the greediest of managers. Thus, when the Sox scouts were combing the minors for big-league material last winter, they hardly gave a second thought to Gary Peters. Peters had spent seven undistinguished years at places like Dubuque and Davenport as a first baseman and a pitcher. At the latter position, he gained a reputation as a left-hander with but one pitch, an uncontrolled fast ball. Last winter Peters worked on his control in the Puerto Rican League. By spring training he had improved enough to pitch his way onto the Sox roster. But by July 4 his record was a mediocre 5-5. Since then he has been unbeatable, and last week ran his record to 13-5 with an 11-inning win over Detroit and a four-hit shutout over the Yankees. In the process, Peters lowered his ERA to 1.88, best of any starter in the majors. And for an encore, he hit .667, including a home run and a double.
The Boston Red Sox play their home games at Fenway Park, a stadium well loved by right-handed home run hitters for its close-in left-field wall. But even the Red Sox have failed on most occasions in the past to appreciate Fenway's friendly wall the way they did last week. After splitting the final two games of a long and dreary road trip, the Sox came home and opened up on the opposing pitchers. While winning four and losing one at home, Boston hit nine home runs. The sweetest victories came in the sweep of a doubleheader from the Yankees. In the two games, the Red Sox scored 19 runs on 27 hits. The wins were particularly satisfying to First Baseman Dick Stuart, who has been aching to get at the Yanks ever since their manager, Ralph Houk, left him off the All-Star team. Stuart, who leads the league in homers with 30 and RBIs with 87, hit two home runs against the Yankees and collected eight hits and seven runs batted in. Busily pursuing the other third of the triple crown, Carl Yastrzemski batted .407 for the week and raised his league-leading BA to .336. Swept up in the heroics, Lou Clinton, a .231 hitter with no hopes for any crowns, chipped in with four homers and 11 teammates batted in.