It took 174 days to set the stage for the final scene of the most pulsating of all American League pennant races (page 32). The tension-laden, four-team race was decided almost as much by who lost the least as by who won the most. MINNESOTA (1-4) lost twice to the Angels and then, on the final weekend, twice to the Red Sox. Mickey Lolich of DETROIT (3-3) pitched a pair of shutouts, but the Tigers themselves were blanked by Al Downing of the Yankees and, worse yet, they blew a 6-2 lead in the eighth when the Angels scored six times. A three-run homer by Carl Yastrzemski of BOSTON (2-2) enabled Jose Santiago to defeat the Twins 6-4, and a four-for-four day by Triple Crown Winner Carl on Sunday helped Jim Lonborg win his 22nd game. But earlier the Red Sox lost vital games, too. In Boston Stan Williams of CLEVELAND (2-2) came on in relief to squelch the Sox and preserve a 6-0 win for Sonny Siebert. A day earlier Luis Tiant had stopped Boston 6-3. Eddie Stanky of CHICAGO (0-5) got a new four-year contract, but two of his midseason remarks came back to haunt him. Back in June after Chuck Dobson of KANSAS CITY (2-4) failed to cover first base on a play, Stanky labeled him as "a donkey." At the All-Star Game he told Jim Hunter of the A's that he was on his side for the first and last time. Last week Dobson and Hunter beat the White Sox in a fateful doubleheader 5-2 and 4-0. Phil Ortega and Frank Bertaina of WASHINGTON (4-1) then added two more shutouts to Chicago's disastrous week. Those wins helped the Senators to tie for sixth place, their highest finish since they came into being before the 1961 season. Bill Rigney of CALIFORNIA (4-3), noting the way the contending clubs had stumbled, said, "I'm aiming to win it next year. I've seen what the contenders look like this year." Last season's winner, Hank Bauer of BALTIMORE (3-1), had three of his coaches fired from under him and said, "Next year I'll be rougher. Maybe a few players took too much for granted." NEW YORK (5-1) finished the year with a four-game winning streak as the Yankees ran the bases (and stole them) with new-found speed and abandon. And Mickey Mantle, who, after being hurt in the season's opener, remained relatively healthy, wound up with 22 homers and played more games than any other Yankee.
Standings: Bos 92-70, Det 91-71, Minn 91-71, Chi 89-73, Cal 84-77, Balt 76-85, Wash 76-85, Clev 75-87, NY 72-90, KC 62-99
There were numerous reasons why ST. LOUIS (3-1) won the pennant so decisively. For one thing, Cardinal pitchers gave up just 108 home runs this year as opposed to 130 last season. Then, too, there was Lou Brock and his wife Katie's lemon cream pies. From mid-August on, when Brock started gobbling up the pies, he hit .320, including a .625 spurt last week. A precursor of just how much the Cardinals would dominate this season came in spring training when Jim Maloney and John Edwards of the Reds went fishing. "Two Cardinals were in a boat right next to ours," Maloney recalled. "They caught 78 fish, and we got 10." Although Willie Mays had his poorest season, SAN FRANCISCO (6-2) overcame its worst start (1-7) since he joined the Giants in 1951 to finish second for the third time in a row. Willie's .266 average was his lowest ever for a full season, as were his 22 homers and 68 RBIs. What carried the Giants was a pitching staff that had an ERA of 2.28 from August 1 on and that wound up at 2.96, the best ever for the club. Chief among the resurgents was Ray Sadecki, who won his last six games. Third place was clinched by CHICAGO (3-1) when Ferguson Jenkins won his 20th game and Ken Holtzman his ninth without a loss. Both wins were against CINCINNATI (3-3), which had briefly ousted the Cubs from the No. 3 spot. The Reds, who led the league for 56 days until June 18, never did recover from the loss of Leo Cardenas, who suffered a broken hand in mid-June. Injuries to Bill White and Richie Allen of PHILADELPHIA (2-6) negated the fine hitting of Tony Gonzalez, whose .339 average placed him second in the batting race to Roberto Clemente of PITTSBURGH (4-2), who hit .357. It was Clemente's fourth batting championship and his third in four seasons. Hank Aaron of ATLANTA (1-5) won his fourth home-run title with a total of 39, the first time his winning figure has not been 44. Still, the Braves ended up in seventh place, their lowest finish since 1952. Billy Hitchcock was fired, the sixth manager to lose his job this season. (The others: Sam Mele of the Twins, Al Dark of the A's, Wes Westrum of the Mets, Harry Walker of the Pirates, Joe Adcock of the Indians.) The decline of LOS ANGELES (3-4) was even more pronounced, for the Dodgers were eighth for the first time since 1905. "I don't know of any player who has a job for next year," said Manager Walt Alston, implying a big shakeup. HOUSTON (4-2) won four of its final six games, including a 1-0 win for Mike Cuellar (his 16th) on Chuck Harrison's 11th-inning hit. Billy Graham led a brief NEW YORK (2-5) revival by beating the Dodgers 5-1.
Standings: StL 101-60, SF 91-71, Chi 87-74, Cin 87-75, Phil 82-80, Pitt 81-81, Atl 77-85, LA 73-89, Hou 70-93, NY 61-101
For some players the season just past was an up year, for some it was a down year and for others a combination of both. Mike McCormick of the Giants had an up year. In 1960, McCormick won 15 games for the Giants. Then came arm trouble, a trade to the Orioles, a trip to the minors and, last year, a mild comeback with the Senators, who dealt him to the Giants in the fall. Back with his old team, McCormick won 22 games. Boog Powell of the Orioles was down. In 1966 he hit .287, had 34 homers and 109 RBIs. This season he batted .234, hit 13 homers and had 55 RBIs. Mike Epstein went to the Senators in the most bizarre trade of the year and reached his zenith early with a grand slam in his first at bat against his former Oriole teammates. Alas, Epstein wound up hitting .215. Jack Lamabe's case was the reverse. His first pitch as a Met in Shea Stadium was hit for a homer, but then he was traded to the Cardinals and helped them win the pennant. For Jim Bunning of the Phillies the season was not so much up or down as it was a roller-coaster ride between the two. On April 21 at Shea, where, in three years, he had won eight times in a row (five by shutouts, once on a perfect game) he lost to the Mets. What's more, when Bunning fell off the mound as the result of his peculiar motion (right), he was hit on the rump by a line drive. His biggest upbeat moment came on Memorial Day at Candlestick Park when his high pop fly was picked up by a friendly gale and wafted over the fence for a game-winning homer. Bunning won 17 games and might have had 20 had he not lost five 1-0 games. On the up side, Bunning could at least take comfort from Walter Johnson, who lost 27 1-0 games during his career.