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Original Issue

A Race to Keep the Title Out of Bed

In 92 years of major league baseball no player has ever won a batting title with an average of less than .300. Now Carl Yastrzemski (left), with a stirring late-season drive, is in danger of taking the American League championship again. If he does—and that is not at all certain with so many others challenging with blistering .280 averages—he will find himself in the embarrassing position of entering the record books with the lowest average in history. So, is the Boston slugger worried? Well, yes and no. "If I can't hit higher than .300," he said last week, "I don't want the title." Then he reconsidered. "Come to think of it, I'll take it with what I'm hitting now. Next year .220 may be good enough." The venerable Elmer Flick, who had the misfortune to win with the alltime low of .306 in 1905 but has long survived his detractors, says at a spry 92 that things are bound to pick up. If they do, players like Washington's Frank Howard, Oakland's Danny Cater and Detroit's Willie Horton may not be so pleased. All, oddly, are hitting above their lifetime averages and are in the thick of a batting race for the first time. Chances are, they will find their natural level. The title, in fact, could go to the Twins' Tony Oliva, who reached .289 before a dislocated shoulder put him out for the last five weeks of the season. Said the Angels' Bill Rigney, "He could be the first player to win the championship in bed."

Up, up goes a pop fly, but the Athletics' Danny Cater has not lost hope of pushing his batting average to the top.

Willie Horton, who cemented Detroit's hold on first place with timely power batting, is another surprised candidate.