Last year Dick Ellsworth of the Chicago Cubs did more throwing in the clubhouse (spikes, cap, glove, chairs) than on the mound. At this stage of the 1962 season, the big (6 feet 4) young (23) left-hander had 17 losses (he eventually wound up with 20) and a 5.03 ERA. Now he has 19 victories, an ERA of 1.99 and is the most improved pitcher in the major leagues. Most of the credit can go to a new pitch, the slider (which he learned with the help of teammates Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl), better control of his curve and fast ball (which he learned from Pitching Coach Fred Martin), and better control of his temper (which he learned from Dick Ellsworth). Funny thing Ellsworth has noticed: he can't sleep as well now as he did last year when he was losing. "I generally get only an hour or two of sleep the night before a game," he says. But even with circles under his eyes, Ellsworth is on his way to the first 20-victory season for a Cub pitcher since Hank Wyse in 1945.
Out of the anguish that was 1962, the Dodgers extracted a quiet determination that they would not make the same mistakes in 1963. Last week, as the Reds and Giants, still unbelieving, came to pry the Dodgers loose from the league lead, that determination began to show through. Cincinnati won two games—but that was all. The Dodgers prevented a disastrous sweep when Pete Richert came through with brilliant pressure pitching and Frank Howard hit a two-run homer. Then came two big wins against the Giants (see page 70), Sandy Koufax winning his 20th game in the opener and Don Drysdale his 17th the next night. This gave LA a commanding lead over the Giants and Cards. With a month left in the season, it seemed that the Dodgers, for the third time in their history, would have two 20-game winners. But there was a reminder that even this does not assure a pennant. In 1924 Dazzy Vance won 28 games for the Dodgers, and Burleigh Grimes added 22. In 1951 Preacher Roe won 22 games and Don Newcombe 20. The Giants, not the Dodgers, won both the 1924 and 1951 pennants, but this is another bit of history the determined Los Angeles team intends to ignore.
Everyone was ready with an excuse for Bernie Allen. The Minnesota second baseman was not fielding and hitting as well as he should because he was overweight, some said. Allen shook his head. He was worried about the arrival of his first child, others said. Allen shook his head again. Perhaps the former Purdue quarterback should have tried professional football instead, someone suggested. Allen glared. But for a full month Bernie Allen sat on the bench. Finally given a chance to play two weeks ago, he began hitting and fielding in his 1962 style. Since his return to the lineup Allen has hit .432 and has been superb in the field. Included in his dozen hits last week were two home runs, and in the first game of a showdown series for second place with Chicago, Allen drove in three runs in a 5-3 victory. Instead of making excuses for him, people are again comparing Allen to Hall of Famer Charley Gehringer—which is about as nice a compliment as a second baseman can hope to get.
Most of the season the Minnesota Twins have been hitting home runs as if they had invented the long ball, yet they have found themselves dropping further and further behind the Yankees. Last week, with hope all but gone, the Twins finally discovered a solution to their problem: hit even more home runs. In five games they hit 19, an American League record. It began against the long-suffering Senators, when Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison crashed one apiece. In the next game it was Allison, Don Mincher and Jimmie Hall. There was a two-day layoff and then, in a doubleheader, the Twins started to swing. Killebrew hit three, Hall two, Vic Power two, Bernie Allen two, Allison, Rich Rollins and Zoilo Versalles one each. Eight of the home runs were in the first game, tying another record. Back in Minnesota the next night, Killebrew and Allison homered again. To give Manager Sam Mele one of the most relaxing weeks of his life, the Twins also got good pitching from Camilo Pascual, Lee Stange and a newcomer named Dwight Siebler, who threw a three-hitter. What made the Minnesota pitchers particularly effective was that they gave up only three home runs all week.