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Original Issue

A quick look back at a most peculiar season

It was a topsy-turvy scene. Last years pennant winners declined and fell into the second division while two sixth-place teams advanced to the World Series. Strikeouts were up, home runs were down, bats were in

Baseball news during the final week of the pennant race was concentrated in California (page 30), and only a few other things really seemed to matter. Roberto Clemente and Tony Oliva won the batting championships again, the White Sox caught the Orioles to give Al Lopez yet another second-place finish, and crowds, if that's the word, of 461 and 409 watched the Red Sox play on successive days. This final report of 1965 on baseball's week presents a condensed playback of each team's season.


On May 1, Tommy Davis of LOS ANGELES broke his right ankle sliding into second base. The Dodgers had not been rated too highly as a pennant contender before Davis' injury and after it everyone agreed they didn't have a chance. How could the weak-hitting Dodgers win a pennant without their only legitimate hitter? Now, as the Dodgers play the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, critics, fans and even some rival National League managers have learned that batting power and a pennant are not necessarily synonymous. The Dodgers hit only 78 home runs this year, the lowest total in the major leagues, yet they won by capitalizing on great pitching, bunts, stolen bases, infield outs, opponents' errors and last-inning base hits. Captain Maury Wills was the sparkplug of the Dodgers' one-cylinder attack; he harassed pitchers with his poke hits, his 92 stolen bases and his daring, evasive, aggressive base running. Whenever the Dodgers sorely needed a run, Wills seemed somehow always to wheedle it for them. The Dodgers avoided losing streaks—their longest was four games—because, as Cookie Rojas of the Phillies explained, "They have that great stopper in Sandy Koufax." Koufax won 26 games, pitched a perfect game and set a new major-league strikeout record with 382. He was indeed a stopper, and so was Don Drysdale, whose record of 23-12 was not far behind Sandy's. The Dodger pitching generally was overwhelming. In the stretch drive, when Los Angeles won 13 straight and 15 of 16 to move from a 4½-game deficit to the pennant, the pitchers allowed one run or none in 12 of the 16 games, had an 0.85 earned run average and at one point had yielded only two runs in 60 innings. Last week, when Dodger pitchers were allowing 1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 1 and 0 runs, SAN FRANCISCO pitchers gave up 4, 9, 8, 3, 17,2 and 3. The Giants were in the pennant scramble all the way because of Willie Mays, who led the majors in home runs with 52, and who set a National League record for home runs in one month with 17 in August (he hit 28 from August 1 to the end of the season). Willie also helped quell the near riot that developed after his teammate, Juan Marichal, hit John Roseboro of the Dodgers with a bat. The episode cost Marichal a $1,750 fine and a 10-day suspension. It may have cost the Giants the pennant, as well, for Marichal, who had a 19-9 record before the incident, was 3-4 after he returned. His failure in key games the last two weeks hurt the Giants badly. CINCINNATI, supposedly the best team in the league on paper, was a badly beaten fourth on the field. The Reds had the highest team batting average in the majors but never won more than four straight games all year. Jim Maloney pitched two no-hitters—but lost one when Johnny Lewis of the Mets hit a home run in the 11th inning. In the other, Maloney had to pitch a 10th hitless inning before winning 1-0. After losing 24 of its first 33 games, PITTSBURGH played 81-48 baseball—better than any other team in the league—from May 21 to the end of the year. MILWAUKEE, only one game out of first place on September 7, folded in the stretch, finished fifth, 11 games behind, and will move to Atlanta a loser. There was dissension in PHILADELPHIA, and the Phillies, picked by many to win everything back in the spring, finished in the second division. Frank Thomas swung a bat at Richie Allen during a fight near the batting cage. Art Mahaffey and Wes Covington were unhappy with Manager Gene Mauch, and Bo Belinsky and Dick Stuart talked of playing in Japan, ST. LOUIS started badly, rallied fitfully once or twice but really was never a threat to repeat last season's championship. Lou Brock stole 63 bases, but the team had a generally listless year. Ernie Banks hit his 400th career home run, Billy Williams had an outstanding season and Ron Santo hit well, but CHICAGO again finished eighth. HOUSTON was in second place in May, but then started a steady plunge to familiar ninth place. The Astros had three standout youngsters, Outfielder Jim Wynn, rookie Second Baseman Joe Morgan and 19-year-old Pitcher Larry Dierker. Once again, NEW YORK had the worst pitching and the worst hitting in the league. Injuries harassed the Mets' Ron Hunt, the All-Star second baseman, who dislocated his shoulder and was out for three months. Casey Stengel broke his wrist and later his hip and finally retired. The "Youth of America" that Casey left behind looked good at times, especially the night 20-year-old Tug McGraw beat Sandy Koufax before 45,950 in Shea Stadium, giving the Mets three straight wins over the Dodgers.

Final: LA 97-65, SF 95-67, Pitt 90-72, Cin 89-73, Mil 86-76, Phil 85-76, StL 80-81, Chi 72-90, Hou 65-97, NY 50-112


For years and years it was the custom each spring for managers of teams in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore and elsewhere to knock the Yankees, to predict that this would be the year that they would beat the New Yorkers. This season, of course, they were right: they all did beat the Yankees. The trouble was, none of them could beat MINNESOTA, a sad sixth last year, a dominant champion this season. Minnesota not only won, it won the way the Yankees used to—strongly and convincingly, and despite injuries and dissension that would have shattered a lesser team's pennant hopes. Versalles, the slashing, hard-running shortstop who scored 126 runs and batted in 77, was the leader in the drive to the pennant, and this was all the more remarkable because last spring Versalles was fined by Manager Sam Mele for insubordination. Minnesota's owner, Calvin Griffith, said, "That was the thing that woke up the club. It was a sign that Sam finally was getting tough with his players." Although Versalles was the keystone, the greatest moment of the year for the Twins was contributed by Killebrew, who with two out in the last of the ninth inning in the final game before the midseason All-Star break, hit a two-run home run that turned defeat into a startling victory over the then still-feared Yankees. That blow opened a five-game lead but, more than that, it told the Twins, the rest of the league and the whole world, for that matter, that the Yankees were indeed dead. CHICAGO, called in the spring "the best White Sox team I ever managed" by AI Lopez, collapsed when the three players Lopez most depended on, Gary Peters, Juan Pizarro and Pete Ward, all did poorly. Pizarro won only six games, Peters 10 and Ward batted a futile .247. Crushingly disappointing seasons by Boog Powell, Sam Bowens, John Orsino and Luis Aparicio wrecked BALTIMORE'S pennant hopes; the only bright spots were reliable Brooks Robinson, power-hitting rookie Curt Blefary and the soft-throwing reliever, Stu Miller. DETROIT was just three games off the lead on Memorial Day when Acting Manager Bob Swift returned the Tigers to Charley Dressen, who had suffered a heart attack in spring training. Swift told Dressen: "There's no reason why this club should not win the pennant." But Willie Horton slumped, Al Kaline had foot trouble, Dave Wickersham couldn't win—and the Tigers were 13 games out as the season ended. When CLEVELAND was in first place on July 3, Rocky Colavito had 19 home runs and Max Alvis was batting .287. Colavito hit only seven more homers the rest of the way, Alvis fell off to .247 and the Indians finished a sagging fifth. "Everyone expects the Yankees to win the pennant, and so do I," was one of Johnny Keane's first remarks when he arrived in NEW YORK in April. Keane realized, of course, that Mickey Mantle had become a part-time player, but he had no way of knowing that Elston Howard would be sidelined for two months with a bad elbow, that Roger Maris would miss more than half of the season because of a freak thumb injury, that Jim Bouton would drop from 18 wins in 1964 to four in 1965, that Tony Kubek would miss one game in three because of a chronically bad back, or that supersub Phil Linz would bat .207 and drive in all of 16 runs. Tom Tresh's bat and Mel Stottlemyre's 20-9 record kept the Yankees from an even more abysmal season. All-Stars Jim Fregosi and Dean Chance started badly for CALIFORNIA, which changed its name but not its feeble personality; both closed strongly, but it was too late for the weak-winged Angels. WASHINGTON finished a respectable eighth, mostly through the efforts of Manager Gil Hodges and five other members of the Dodger Alumni Association. Frank Howard led the Senators with .289, 21 home runs and 84 runs batted in. Third Baseman Ken McMullen hit .263 with 18 home runs, and Dick Nen took over at first base. Pete Richert won 15 games, Phil Ortega 12—and the Senators would like to make more trades with the Dodgers, BOSTON had the league's leading home-run hitter (Tony Conigliaro), the No. 2 batter (Carl Yastrzemski), and scored more runs than any teams except the Twins and Tigers, but the pitching and the fielding were the worst in the majors, and the Red Sox finished a shameful ninth. KANSAS CITY nearly edged past Boston and out of the cellar, and with their best players all in their mid-or early 20s the Athletics may have the nucleus of a sound—or, at least, improving—ball club.

Final: Minn 102-60, Chi 95-67, Balt 94-68. Det 89-73, Clev 87-75, NY 77-85, Cal 75-87, Wash 70-92, Bos 62-100, KC 59-103