Homestretch: The 1967 AL Pennant Race, Part 3

Just when a gap appeared, the race tightened back up. (via Michelle Jay)

In my previous installment of this series reliving the final weeks of the 1967 American League pennant race, we went from a virtual four-way tie to a mere two-way tie, with one of the competitors left hanging on the brink of effective elimination.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/14/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Minnesota 84 63 .571
Boston 84 63 .571
Detroit 83 64 1.0 .565
Chicago 82 66 2.5 .554

The coming week and a half would witness swings of fortune, hair’s-breadth escapes and shocking falls, disaster met with resilience, but never success met with a smooth path ahead. It also featured one player’s chance for individual immortality, previously fading, starting to burn again with a brightness suitable for a white-hot pennant race.

Games of Friday, Sept. 15, 1967

Minnesota entered White Sox Park that Friday with a share of the league lead, and an opportunity to knock Chicago out of the pennant race. White Sox fans responded to the showdown with a wave of enthusiasm. From the previous day’s meager attendance of 4,314, this game’s gate jumped past 25,000. It even had Mayor Richard J. Daley in attendance. (This was no cynical vote-getting ploy: Daley had won his latest re-election in April.)

Ken Boswell pitched for Minnesota, facing Joe Horlen in his first assignment since his no-hitter. In the second, after Tony Oliva walked, Rod Carew grounded one off Horlen toward third. Ken Boyer backhanded it, but fell down. The scorer ruled a hit, and a thrown-away pivot throw on an attempted double play hung an unearned run on Horlen.

Chicago retaliated fast, putting up three runs in their half of the second and chasing Boswell. They’d score on the next three relievers, including two Ron Hansen home runs, in building a 7-1 lead. Horlen, meanwhile, didn’t allow a hit in his next six innings, and for a time it looked like that debatable scorer’s ruling in the second might have deprived him of his second straight no-hitter. Two-out hits in the ninth by Harmon Killebrew and Oliva made that moot, and made the 7-3 final look closer than the game really was.

Detroit hosted Washington, and faced trouble early as the Senators put up three in the second, routing Joe Sparma from the mound. (It isn’t your imagination. Starting pitchers got early hooks more often back then, as well as going the distance more often.) Washington would carry a 4-1 lead into the eighth, but a three-run homer by catcher Bill Freehan against reliever Darold Knowles knotted the game.

In the home ninth, Dick McAuliffe got a one-out single. Fred Lasher, pitching in relief, then bunted him over. Yes, with one out. (I feel a great disturbance, as if Tom Tango cried out in terror, and was suddenly silenced.) Al Kaline was walked intentionally, to no avail. Willie Horton, aching heel and all, got his second walk-off hit in a week, giving his Tigers the 5-4 victory.

Boston could not overcome its own poor start at Fenway, as a steady Orioles attack produced a 6-2 final. Carl Yastrzemski had a strong 3-for-4 day, though without any RBIs. Frank Robinson went only 1-for-3, though his hit was a home run, and saw his lead in the batting race dwindle to two points, .315 to .313.

Robinson couldn’t help being aware of Yaz’s pursuit of the Triple Crown: Frank was the defending AL Triple Crown holder, as well as defending MVP. His .316/49/122 season in 1966 had made Cincinnati look like fools for trading him to Baltimore the previous winter, and put Reds general manager Bill Dewitt in the Foot-in-Mouth Hall of Fame for claiming that the veteran Robinson was “an old 30.” Robinson, always a proud competitor, had no interest in making Yaz’s pursuit of the Triple Crown easy.

The day had produced the exact results needed to create, 16 days from season’s end, a three-way logjam at the top of the standings.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/15/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Boston 84 64 .568
Detroit 84 64 .568
Minnesota 84 64 .568
Chicago 83 66 1.5 .557

Games of Saturday, Sept. 16, 1967

Saturday’s showdown between Minnesota and Chicago was scoreless through the first four, not too surprising with Dean Chance and Tommy John on the mound. It was John who cracked first, giving up three runs in the fifth on hits by Ted Uhlaender and César Tovar, as well as his own throwing error. A Bob Allison homer made it 4-0 Twins, and Chance entered the ninth holding a 4-1 lead that looked sturdy.

It was not. Chance gave up three straight singles to open the ninth, putting the tying run aboard. Sox skipper Eddie Stanky played for the tie with a Duane Josephson bunt, but Chance fumbled it and all hands were safe. Lefty Jim Kaat entered in relief, promptly uncorked a wild pitch to make it 4-3, then gave up a sac fly to Wayne Causey that tied the game, and just as importantly advanced the winning run to third. Two intentional passes by new reliever Al Worthington put the force on at every base, and brought up Pete Ward.

Ward was living a nightmare, in an 0-for-21 slump. It almost went to 22 on a foul pop, but catcher Jerry Zimmerman, diving, couldn’t hold it. On a 2-2 count, Ward woke up. His liner went off Harmon Killebrew’s glove and into right field, driving home the winning run in a 5-4 cardiac special. The pain of Detroit’s seven-run ninth, exactly a week before, was assuaged just the right way: with a mirror-image win against another contender.

Detroit for its part repeated its previous day’s result, though not the path to get there. After falling behind Washington 1-0, they erupted in the middle innings, with three in the fourth and a two-run Norm Cash homer in the fifth. They entered the ninth ahead 5-2, but the Senators touched closer Fred Lasher for two tallies and had the winning runs aboard with one out. Lasher buckled down to get two fly outs and the save. The 5-4 win was Earl Wilson’s 21st, putting him back in sole possession of first in the American League.

It also put Detroit in sole possession of first. Boston could not keep pace, bowing 4-1 to the Orioles. Rico Petrocelli’s second-inning homer was the sole Red Sox offense. Boog Powell’s three-run tater in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie and hung the loss on Jim Lonborg, who would have kept pace with Earl Wilson at 21 wins with a better day. Carl Yastrzemski went hitless, dropping two more points behind a 1-for-3 Frank Robinson in the batting chase.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/16/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Detroit 85 64 .570
Boston 84 65 1.0 .564
Minnesota 84 65 1.0 .564
Chicago 84 66 1.5 .560

Games of Sunday, Sept. 17, 1967

Mayor Daley wrapped up his busy baseball weekend (he’d attended all three games), and the White Sox wrapped up their sweep of the Twins in decisive fashion. Gary Peters followed up the 11 scoreless innings he’d pitched in the marathon of the 13th with a four-hit shutout. Ken Berry had a homer and a RBI single to pace the Chicago bats, as they cruised to a 4-0 victory. The White Sox had their revenge for a Minnesota sweep in August that knocked them out of first place.

Detroit was set up for its own sweep, but came up empty. Frank Bertaina scattered seven hits and three walks in pitching a shutout for Washington. Senators batters, while actually producing fewer baserunners than the Tigers did, made runs out of them, the finishing blow being Hank Allen’s three-run homer in the fifth. Washington took the finale 5-0.

This gave Boston a chance to retake a piece of first, but they could not capitalize. Paul Blair put them in an early 2-0 hole with a first-inning home run, and Andy Etchebarren’s dinger a frame later made it 3-0. Carl Yastrzemski closed the gap to 3-2 with a double in the third, but Boston would not score again. Boog Powell added a longball, Davey Johnson scored from first on a stolen base plus two errors, and Baltimore handed the Red Sox a 5-2 defeat.

Boston and Minnesota entered the weekend tied for first. After both being swept, they now stood tied for third. Three days had been time enough to shake the race into a new order.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/17/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Detroit 85 65 .567
Chicago 85 66 0.5 .563
Boston 84 66 1.0 .560
Minnesota 84 66 1.0 .560

If anyone had the advantage now, it might well be Chicago. They had just played their final game against any of the contenders. Minnesota had two left, against Boston at season’s end, while Detroit had two looming with Boston in the next two days. That left Boston with the most games left against contenders, four, and the steepest hill to climb.

Games of Monday, Sept. 18, 1967

Monday might have been the best day of the pennant race, with four teams, all within one game, playing in three nail-biters, two going to extras.

The biggest-profile game was Boston at Detroit. The teams traded three-run rallies in the first two innings, a Yaz double and a Norm Cash homer being the respective big hits. Boston edged ahead in the third, kayoing Denny McLain in the process. Detroit got the run back on Cash’s second longball in the sixth, then went ahead in the eighth on Jim Northrup’s double to score Al Kaline. Yaz pulled Boston from the brink with a home run in the ninth to force extra innings. Little-heralded utility infielder Dalton Jones then hit one out in the 10th, and reliever José Santiago made it stand up for the 6-5 win.

Yastrzemski had a highly productive day, going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. (We will overlook his getting caught stealing in the third.) The homer broke his tie with Harmon Killebrew, while the two RBIs moved him six ahead of Killer’s total (stuck at 101 for four straight games). With Frank Robinson holding at .312, Yaz’s three hits moved him two points ahead in the batting race. He now led all three Triple Crown categories.

Killebrew did get two hits that day against the Kansas City A’s, but both went for naught. Jim Kaat and Catfish Hunter were having the latest pitcher’s duel of the race, one that remained scoreless through nine. Kaat scattered six hits in regulation, Hunter just three. In the 10th, Bob Allison got a two-out single and Rod Carew walked (the first pass for either team). Ted Uhlaender then singled to center, plating Allison and then Carew on Joe Nossek’s bobble. Kaat pitched a scoreless 10th, including his 12th strikeout of the night, to seal the Twins’ 2-0 win.

The five times that rookie Cisco Carlos had pitched for the White Sox, they had won. The papers were starting to call him a good-luck charm. The lucky streak was in trouble when he started in California. He yielded an unearned run in the second, gave up another tally in the sixth, and was pulled with his team down 2-0. Their luck turned in the eighth, when a leadoff error led to RBIs by Rocky Colavito and Smoky Burgess to even the game, 2-2. Before that frame, Angels starter Rickey Clark had one hit them through seven.

Bob Locker threw a perfect eighth for Chicago, but gave up a one-out single to Don Mincher in the ninth. When Jimmie Hall flied out deep to right-center, Mincher’s pinch-runner Roger Repoz tagged and beat Tommie Agee’s throw to second. This became the critical play when Rick Reichardt served a full-count offering into right-center. Repoz scored, the Angels won 3-2, and the Cisco Carlos charm was broken.

Had the White Sox won that game, they would have been alone in first place. Instead, they were alone in fourth, as the three-way logjam returned.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/18/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Boston 85 66 .563
Detroit 85 66 .563
Minnesota 85 66 .563
Chicago 85 67 0.5 .559

Meanwhile in the National League, Bob Gibson limited the Phillies to three hits in a 5-1 win for St. Louis that officially clinched them the pennant. Their place was secure with 11 games to play. In the American League, with 11 games to play for the leaders, nothing was secure.

Games of Tuesday, Sept. 19, 1967

Chicago found an excellent way to rebound from its walk-off defeat the previous night: start Joe Horlen. He allowed California six hits and a walk, and only two Angels got past first base. The White Sox scored all three of their runs in the sixth, in a rally started by a Horlen single. The 3-0 blanking moved Horlen’s record to 18-6, and if Cisco Carlos was no longer their lucky charm, Horlen was establishing himself as a stopper, and ace of the White Sox staff

Minnesota scored in four of its first five innings against Kansas City, but after six had only a modest 4-2 lead over the A’s. The seventh solved that problem. Harmon Killebrew reaching on Sal Bando’s error at third opened the way to a four-run rally, keyed by Ted Uhlaender’s bases-clearing single. (Reggie Jackson’s error in right promoted it from a two-run single.) Dave Boswell went all the way in the 8-2 Twins triumph.

With those two teams winning, either Boston or Detroit was going to get dumped from the first-place tie into fourth. Boston drew first blood with a Russ Gibson RBI single in the second, which held up until Jim Northrup’s longball pushed Detroit ahead 2-1 after six. The Tigers threatened again in the seventh and eighth, but double plays stymied them both times. This left the fragile lead in the hands of starter Mickey Lolich as they entered the ninth.

Lolich was having a roller-coaster year. After a 5-2 start, he proceeded to lose his next 10 decisions. Then he was called up by the Michigan Air National Guard for two weeks, to help quell riots in Detroit. This jarring interval seemed to reset him as a pitcher. After his call-up, he went 9-1 the rest of the way.

This was the “and one.” Jerry Adair led off with a single, Carl Yastrzemski walked, and George Scott singled in the tying run. Manager Mayo Smith sent Earl Wilson in to relieve, to no avail. A sacrifice bunt, wild pitch, and sacrifice fly brought in the go-ahead and insurance runs. Detroit got the tying runs aboard in the last of the ninth, but Dick Williams’ mix-and-match relievers set down Eddie Mathews and Al Kaline to preserve Boston’s 4-2 win, and their piece of the league lead.

The only dim spot for Boston was Yastrzemski’s hitless day. His batting average fell to .312, allowing Frank Robinson to edge back ahead at .313.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/19/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Boston 86 66 .566
Minnesota 86 66 .566
Chicago 86 67 0.5 .562
Detroit 85 67 1.0 .559

Games of Wednesday, Sept. 20, 1967

The short Boston-Detroit series was over, but both teams promptly faced other clubs. The Twins and A’s, having played two in Kansas City, shifted to Minneapolis for another two. Thus all four contenders remained in action. It was again possible for all four to win, and they did exactly that.

Fourth-place Detroit had the easiest time, thumping the visiting Yankees 10-1. The star of the game was Al Kaline, with a home run and a pair of doubles. Kaline, finishing up his 15th season at just age 32, was having one of his best years, really his last great campaign. (7.0 fWAR; 7.5 bWAR) His three hits kicked his batting average up to .309, four and three points behind where Frank and Yaz began the day. A continued surge could win him the batting title; a Tigers pennant might put him over the top to win his first MVP Award.

Chicago ambushed Angels starter George Brunet, two walks and two singles sending him to an early shower before he could record an out. The White Sox scored four in that first inning and another in the second, and while California chipped away diligently at that lead, they never overcame it. Tommie Agee had a single, double and homer, all three hits driving in runs. Bob Locker’s four innings of relief saved the 6-4 game for Tommy John.

Minnesota continued to control its home-and-home series against Kansas City. The A’s managed a two-run Dave Duncan homer against Dean Chance, but otherwise he was excellent, allowing only six baserunners and fanning 13. The Twins got two-RBI days from Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Bob Allison (on home runs by Oliva and Allison and two singles by Harmon). The 6-2 Minnesota win, its third straight after losing three in Chicago, wound up in a brisk hour and fifty-eight minutes.

The victory did veil some questionable strategy by Twins skipper Cal Ermer. He had Zoilo Versalles, with a .253 on-base percentage, lead off, and used the two-hitter to bunt him over in front of the power-hitting Killebrew. (I apologize to the several readers whose heads just exploded. Sorry.) But it worked. Zoilo got two singles, César Tovar bunted him over twice, and Killebrew singled him in both times. Well, at least it wasn’t Killebrew doing the bunting.

The game of the day was at Cleveland Stadium. The Red Sox and Indians were scoreless until the home fifth, when Larry Brown tattooed Jim Lonborg for a home run that put Cleveland up 2-0. Boston fired right back with homers by Yastrzemski and Petrocelli in the sixth and Mike Andrews in the seventh, forging ahead 4-2. Cleveland turned the tables again, back-to-back dingers by Tony Horton and Max Alvis tying the game.

The 4-4 score held until the ninth. With two out for Boston, Carl Yastrzemski singled, his fourth hit of the day. George Culver’s wild pitch sent him to second, and after a walk, Reggie Smith knocked Yaz home. John Wyatt closed the game with a double play, earning the relief win, and insuring all four contenders stayed where they were in the standings.

Yastrzemski’s big day did more than help keep Boston in first. It put Yaz back in first in batting average, four points past Frank Robinson and seven ahead of Al Kaline. His home run put him two ahead of Killebrew, and his RBI held Killebrew’s gain there to one, leaving Yaz five up. If the season ended today, the Triple Crown would be his—but it had plenty of distance left to run.

Games of Thursday, Sept. 21, 1967

Detroit and Chicago had travel days, leaving the league leaders the chance to extend their half-game edge, or lose it.

Minnesota elected to extend. Jim Merritt pitched them a two-hit shutout, facing one Athletic over the minimum. The Twins broke their goose-egg in the sixth on homers by Killebrew and Oliva, on the way to a 4-0 whitewash. (And yes, Ermer had Versalles batting leadoff again.)

Boston opened its scoring against Cleveland in the third, when Richie Scheinblum dropped Yastrzemski’s liner then threw it into a dugout, letting Mike Andrews score from first. The Red Sox broke forth with five more runs in the sixth and seventh to pull ahead 6-1. Cleveland did not fold. They used five pinch-hitters from the sixth to the eighth: four of them got hits, tying an American League record. Riding this flurry, they closed to 6-5 after eight innings, but although an hour-long rain delay in the ninth added tension, they could put nothing together with their last licks. Boston held on for the 6-5 win, keeping pace with Minnesota.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/21/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Boston 88 66 .571
Minnesota 88 86 .571
Chicago 87 67 1.0 .565
Detroit 86 67 1.5 .562

Games of Friday, Sept. 22, 1967

Thanks to two doubleheaders, the contenders played six games to open the next-to-last weekend of the season. They couldn’t expand suspense as much, as only two of the games were remotely close in the late going.

Boston began its latest series against Baltimore, bringing Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson back into direct competition. The first game was an Orioles rout, 10-0. After spotting Baltimore a 2-0 edge in the nightcap, the Red Sox reeled off the next 10 runs to win that game 10-3. Ken Harrelson and Joe Foy both went 3-for-5 with two RBIs in that game. Yaz and Frank were both 1-for-3 in the first game and 1-for-4 in the second, neither gaining in the batting race.

Minnesota hosted, and toasted, the Yankees, winning 8-2. Jim Kaat scattered seven singles while walking nobody, and his two runs came in unearned in the eighth, when Kaat had a seven-run cushion. César Tovar had two homers and a single, and struggling shortstop Zoilo Versalles also had three hits, including a homer and a double. Harmon Killebrew notched an RBI, keeping him three behind Yastrzemski.

Detroit opened its series in Washington with a twin-bill. Earl Wilson, who pitched an inning in relief of Mickey Lolich three days before in Boston, started the first game. Tigers bats gave him ample support with a 13-hit attack. Every Detroit starter got at least one safety, Wilson contributing two to his own cause. Detroit never trailed, or was even tied after the top of the first, and won 8-3, giving Wilson his 22nd victory.

In the second game, Mickey Lolich, who had pitched eight-plus innings three days before in Boston, took the hill. He allowed four hits and two walks, but was still stuck in a scoreless tie after six despite Senators starter Barry Moore having walked seven so far. Moore finally bent in the seventh, a two-out rally of two walks and two singles pushing across two runs. A Norm Cash homer and a Don Wert base hit would add single runs in the final two innings, giving Detroit the 4-0 win and the sweep. Al Kaline ended the day 2-for-7, leaving him at .309, six points behind Yaz.

Chicago provided most of the excitement that day, in its usual style: a pitcher’s duel taken into extra innings. The host Cleveland Indians nicked Gary Peters for a run in the second. It looked like this would hold up going into the ninth, as Cleveland’s Luis Tiant had allowed just three hits and a walk while whiffing nine. He made it 10 to start the ninth by fanning Wayne Causey, but Don Buford doubled and Smoky Burgess, batting for Tommie Agee, knocked him in. Tiant limited the damage there, two Chicago relievers held Cleveland off the board in their half, and they went to extras.

Hoyt Wilhelm pitched the 10th through 12th for the White Sox, allowing just one hit. Stan Williams did one better for Cleveland, permitting just one walk (plus an E-6) through four extra innings. Rookie call-up Roger Nelson came on to pitch the 13th for Chicago, as the 23rd player Eddie Stanky had used in the contest. He was the last, as Tony Horton led off by smacking one into the seats.

Chicago’s 2-1 loss put them in a bad spot: two games out of first with seven left to play, and the only contender of the four with fewer games left at home than on the road.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/22/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Minnesota 89 66 .574
Boston 89 67 0.5 .571
Detroit 88 67 1.0 .568
Chicago 87 68 2.0 .561

Games of Saturday, Sept. 23, 1967

Due to a scheduling quirk, the Detroit-Washington series took a hiatus this day. Due to another quirk, the Twins played their own game at 10 in the morning, so as not to conflict with a University of Minnesota football game. (They still drew over 32,000.) Football season, pro and college, was now underway, but the American League race was denying it dominance of the sports pages.

Reeling from the previous night’s 13-inning defeat, the White Sox needed a stopper. Luckily for them, Joe Horlen was due to pitch, and the game was never in doubt. Horlen yielded three hits and a walk, and erased half his baserunners on double plays. On offense, Rocky Colavito drove in four, Ken Boyer added a pair, and Chicago breezed to an 8-1 win.

Horlen had a peculiar habit of chewing facial tissue while he pitched. Chewing tobacco made him nauseated, and chewing gum left him feeling bloated. Any relevance of this fact derives from his treating opposing teams like tissue recently. He was 5-0 in September, giving up four runs on 23 hits in 53 innings, and with a no-hitter and two other shutouts in his last four games. Chicago was still in the race, and Joe Horlen was a big reason why.

Minnesota hoped for as easy a time against the Yankees, losers of six straight, but were denied. The big blow against them came from Tom Shopay, a September call-up playing only because several other Yankee outfielders were hurt or away on military service. His three-run home run in the third—the first of just three in his big-league career—put Dave Boswell and the Twins in a 4-0 hole. They would get half of that back, lose it again to a Joe Pepitone homer in the eighth, and fall 6-2.

This gave Boston a chance to pull back into first place, one that began inauspiciously. Curt Blefary homered off Lee Stange in the first, and a three-run rally capped by a Frank Robinson round-tripper put Baltimore up 4-0 after three. Boston scraped to get one back in the fourth, then erupted for four in the fifth, climaxing with a two-run round-tripper by Yastrzemski. Baltimore pieced together a run in the seventh to tie.

In the eighth, a one-out single by Frank Robinson brought up Brooks Robinson. He had thrown away a Joe Foy infield hit in the fifth, contributing to Boston’s big rally. Perhaps not wanting a repeat of the plane trouble that followed his most recent notable error, he compensated for his miscue with something else in the air: a home run that put the Orioles ahead 7-5. Stu Miller shut down Boston for the last two frames, and Boston lost by that score.

In the Triple Crown watch, Yaz was now two up on Killebrew in homers, and five in RBIs. His 2-for-3 day lost him ground in the batting race, though, as Frank Robinson went 3-for-4, inching within two points.

The bigger result, however, was Boston’s defeat, at a time when every game was precious. Instead of leaping into first, the Red Sox had stumbled into third, a percentage point behind the idle Tigers. The race was still gut-wrenchingly close, and it looked no clearer to the participants. “I still think it will be a playoff,” White Sox manager Eddie Stanky told reporters, “maybe with all four teams in it.”

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/23/1967
Team W L GB Pct.
Minnesota 89 67 .571
Detroit 88 67 0.5 .568
Boston 89 68 0.5 .567
Chicago 88 68 1.0 .564

This would be an excellent place to leave off, with eight days left in the season and four teams within a game of the top. Breaking up weekend series, though, is like stopping music in mid-stanza, disrupting the natural flow of events. One more day we go.

Games of Sunday, Sept. 24, 1967

Minnesota started its game at a more regular hour today, and that seemed to help. They peppered the Yankees for seven runs in the first two innings, and didn’t look back, even though nothing was gaining on them. Killebrew added a homer and two RBIs to his totals. Tom Shopay had another good day, with two singles and a sac fly driving in two, but he was only one man. Dean Chance didn’t dominate, but he went the route for his 20th win against 12 losses. Minnesota took the rubber game 9-4.

Boston’s opening flurry in Baltimore wasn’t as intense, but it lasted longer. They scored in the first five innings, opening up a 7-0 lead. Baltimore would only begin climbing back after the stretch, scoring one in the seventh and two in the eighth, all the runs coming in on two-out errors. In the ninth, they erupted for five straight hits, producing four runs. This would have meant more had Boston not scored four of their own in the top of the inning, including their latest double-steal of second and home (José Tartabull on the front end) and a George Scott home run. Boston won the shootout 11-7.

Jim Lonborg got the win to go 21-8, though he was taken out after six scoreless innings. Manager Dick Williams had the future schedule in mind: he wanted Lonborg to pitch twice in the final week, Wednesday and Sunday, and a short game before a short-rest start made sense. The game’s offensive hero was Dalton Jones, with four hits and five RBIs. George Scott and Jerry Adair also collected four hits. Carl Yastrzemski’s 1-for-4 day gained him a fraction on the 1-for-5 Frank Robinson, and his one run batted in kept him four clear of Killebrew.

Chicago scored in each of its first three innings against Cleveland, on a Don Buford single, a Don Buford groundout, and a Ken Boyer home run. Cisco Carlos was pulled early from his start, without allowing any runs, and Don McMahon threw five in relief. Cleveland knocked one across in the eighth, and got the tying runs aboard in the ninth before Bob Locker coaxed a double-play ball to wrap up a 3-1 White Sox win.

In Washington, the Senators and Tigers traded home runs by Frank Howard and Eddie Mathews to stand even at one after six innings. Detroit broke the tie in the seventh on Jerry Lumpe’s homer, then continued the rally with singles by Kaline, Horton, and Mathews to add a second. Jim Northrup’s walk jammed the bags, and Bill Freehan made it 4-1 when his grounder played Horton’s pinch-runner, Mickey Stanley.

(Horton was still having bone spur problems. Around this time, he told his wife not to expect him home for dinner after the last game of the season, whenever that would be. He would instead be going straight to the hospital for surgery on his bedeviled heel.)

Washington responded fast after the stretch, with two walks and a Dick McAuliffe error loading the bases with nobody out. Reliever Fred Lasher got out of the jam with only one run. He’d be less lucky in the ninth, when three singles sandwiching a groundout sent him to the showers. John Hiller got a Cap Peterson line-out to left to get one out from safety, but Doug Camilli singled in the tying run, and Paul Casanova knocked home the game-winner. Detroit’s walk-off 5-4 defeat dumped them from second place into fourth. It was their turn to teeter on the edge of elimination.

A.L. Standings, After Games of 9/24/1967
Team W L GB Pct. Games Left
Minnesota 90 67 .573 5
Boston 90 68 0.5 .570 4
Chicago 89 68 1.0 .567 5
Detroit 88 68 1.5 .564 6
A.L. Triple Crown Leaders, as of 9/24/1967
Player BA HR RBI
Yastrzemski .317 42 111
F. Robinson .314
Kaline .310
Killebrew 41 108

Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown surge wasn’t a case of exploiting competitors’ slumps. Robinson had shed just one point of batting average in the previous 10 days, but Yaz had gained eight. Killebrew had two homers and seven RBIs in that week and a half, but Carl had produced three and nine. The Red Sox left fielder was simply getting hot, at a time when his team needed it the most.

By now, all four teams needed it the most, from whomever on their rosters could produce the key hit, the defensive gems, or the line of zeroes across the scoreboard. Three of those teams would have their hopes dashed, and nobody yet could say which they would be, as the final week of the season began.

References and Resources


A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard
Not Ken Boswell but Dave Boswell! Ken played second base for the Mets during the late 60’s and started on the ’69 WS team. Dave is the one you wanted to reference. He pitched for the Twins and gained infamy two years later when Billy Martin managed him. The so called “infamy” should not come as a surprise to Billy Martin aficionados: he and Boswell duked it out in a Detroit bar after a game. Here is a Martin quote from the NY Times after his TKO: “Martin retaliated by landing “about five or six punches to the stomach, a… Read more »
GFrankovich
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GFrankovich

If the Martin/Boswell fracas happened today, someone would have covered it by phone and the world would see it(at least what could be caught on phone).

Paul G.
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Paul G.

The triple crown race coinciding with the pennant race had eluded me before now. This is a whole lot of fun to read.

GFrankovich
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GFrankovich

The little things can make a difference. Al Kaline broke his hand and missed a number of games at midseason(including the AS game). Wonder how much of a difference that could have made?