Six Days in September: The 1967 AL Pennant Race, Part 1

The first week of September was a tight one at the top of the American League. (via Michelle Jay)

Baseball fans reading their morning newspapers on Sept. 1, 1967 had reason to anticipate a great month ahead. The National League race might be all but decided, with the St. Louis Cardinals 10 games clear of the field, but the American League was bunched tight at the top.

AL standings, before games of 9/1/1967
Team W L Pct. GB
Boston 76 59 .563    -
Minnesota 74 58 .561  0.5
Detroit 74 59 .556  1.0
Chicago 73 59 .553  1.5
California 66 65 .504  8.0
Washington 64 70 .478 11.5
Cleveland 63 71 .470 12.5
Baltimore 59 71 .454 14.5
New York 59 75 .440 16.5
Kansas City 55 76 .420 19.0

Three of the four teams in the scrum at the top would have been little surprise to preseason prognosticators. The two surprises were one team that was in the thick of the race, and one team that wasn’t.

The Baltimore Orioles had won the AL pennant in 1966, then swept the defending champion Dodgers in a World Series that they finished by pitching 33 consecutive scoreless innings. They were a consensus choice to repeat as pennant winners. Instead, by the start of September they were buried.

A rash of injuries to Oriole pitchers starting in spring training bears some responsibility, but didn’t weaken them that severely. Bad luck, possibly flavored with bad managing in tight games, was the greater culprit. They scored 62 more runs than they allowed in ’67, but would finish 76-85, a dozen games below their Pythagorean record. Manager Hank Bauer would be fired before the midpoint of the next campaign, not quite a season and a half after winning it all.

This shook up those preseason predictions, but didn’t fully jumble them. A Sporting News survey of over 250 sportswriters had Baltimore picked first, with Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago the next three choices. That trio was right in the mix as September rolled around.

That survey picked the Boston Red Sox for ninth, the position where they finished 1966. A Sporting News readers’ survey disagreed. Those 1,500-plus readers put Boston 10th and last. This is where the second surprise in the standings cropped up. Boston was not just in the thick of it, but at the top of it, at least for the moment.

What I’ll be doing today, and at intervals to come, is giving an overview of a portion of that spectacular pennant race, considered by some to be the greatest baseball will ever have. I will mix daily results with relevant personalities and historical perspectives, with a sprinkling of foreshadowing. Today I will cover the start of September, a first taste of the glorious chaos to come.

Games of Friday, Sept. 1, 1967

The league-leading Red Sox hosted the Chicago White Sox in the second of a four-game set at Fenway Park. Avenging a 4-2 loss the previous day, Boston pasted the Pale Hose 10-2. The game was put out of reach early, with a four-run first and a three-run second.

The day’s offensive hero was Ken Harrelson. He smacked a two-run triple in the four-run first, launched a solo homer in the fifth, and hit an RBI double in the seventh. He finished a single shy of the cycle, with four RBIs and three runs scored. Not bad for just his fourth game with the team.

Harrelson was scooped up by Boston on Aug. 28, after his release by the Kansas City A’s. Harrelson had gone on the record as saying A’s owner Charlie O. Finley was a menace to baseball. Finley, going through a periodic meltdown, intensified it by axing “Hawk,” one of his team’s most effective players.

Sadly, Boston’s acquisition came not from opportunism, but dire need. On Aug. 18, Red Sox right fielder Tony Conigliaro was hit in the face by a Jack Hamilton fastball. Suffering terrible injuries, the young slugger was not just finished for the season, but had a highly promising career derailed.

It was the kind of blow that could have ruined Boston’s year. The Red Sox were in fourth, three and a half back and just one game up on the very California Angels they were playing. Instead, they won one—make that seven—for the Gipper. A seven-game winning streak began by sweeping their four-game set with the Angels, effectively knocking them out of the pennant race. The seventh win put them in a tie atop the American League.

Still, they needed help. They had lost their right fielder, and bench player José Tartabull wasn’t filling the hole. Thus they signed Harrelson … but despite the day’s heroics, he didn’t help either. In his 23 games and 85 plate appearances with Boston in the homestretch, he accumulated -0.5 WAR. That was roughly as bad a value pace as Tartabull’s.

The signing was a sensible calculated risk, and Harrelson would be much more useful to Boston the next season. In 1967, though, the hole remained unfilled. Boston effectively would need one of its outfielders to produce the value of two the rest of the way. It turned out this wouldn’t be a problem.

In Minnesota, the Twins jumped on the Detroit Tigers for five early runs, three unearned, but had to hold on tight for a 5-4 victory. Jim Kaat notched the complete-game win, which only raised his record to a disappointing 10-13. It was the start of a roll for Kaat, though. He’d record six more wins in September without a defeat, all on a maximum of three days of rest.

Pitching had been a bone of contention for the Twins. Their pitching coach the previous two seasons had been Johnny Sain, today considered one of the greatest pitching coaches in baseball history. He’d won three straight pennants coaching the Yankees 1962 to 1964, then moved to Minnesota and helped them to their first pennant in ’65.

In 1966, however, he and Twins manager Sam Mele came into conflict. Mele would eventually ask owner Calvin Griffith to let Sain go. Kaat would later say that Sain was so valuable that Mele should have gone instead, but Griffith backed his manager. Sain and bullpen coach Hal Naragon departed at season’s end, the pair fetching up with … the Detroit Tigers.

Sain, and Kaat, would be vindicated. Sain got another championship ring with the Tigers in 1968. Sam Mele lasted 50 games into the 1967 season before being fired with his team mired at .500. Cal Ermer, manager of Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate in Denver, was installed to try to salvage the season. With his team hanging half a game behind the league leaders, Ermer had managed that so far.

AL standings, after games of 9/1/1967
Team W L Pct. GB
Boston 77 59 .566   -
Minnesota 75 58 .564 0.5
Detroit 74 60 .552 2.0
Chicago 73 60 .549 2.5

Games of Saturday, Sept. 2, 1967

Chicago regained the upper hand in its series at Fenway, downing the Red Sox 4-1. An RBI double by Rocky Colavito and a two-run single by Tommy McCraw capped a two-out rally in the first, giving the White Sox all the runs they’d need. Boston ace Jim Lonborg absorbed the loss, falling to 18-7. He’d go 4-2 the rest of the regular season, in games that were more and more high-pressure. He would lead the league with 246 strikeouts (and the majors with 19 hit batsmen) on the way to a Cy Young Award.

Chicago center fielder Tommie Agee had a good day, collecting two singles plus a walk and scoring the first run of the game. Catcher J.C. Martin, who started just under half Chicago’s games that season, did okay too, with a double and an intentional walk. They and a couple of teammates would appear together in the World Series—but two years later, and not for the White Sox.

In the coming offseason, a trade would send both Agee and Martin to the New York Mets. A separate Mets trade would ship over teammate Al Weis. Weis had been out since late June, after a take-out slide by Frank Robinson of the Orioles wrecked his knee and necessitated season-ending surgery. Weis would get his moment of payback when he, Agee, Martin and the Mets faced and defeated Robinson’s Orioles in the 1969 World Series. One of the players they would defeat was Don Buford—who had been their White Sox teammate before getting traded to Baltimore in that same busy offseason.

Minnesota cashed in on Chicago’s help, and with a 5-0 whitewashing of Detroit leapfrogged Boston into first place. Center fielder Ted Uhlaender was the offensive star, his three singles driving in three runs. Hurler Dave Boswell scattered six hits and did not walk a batter, as he notched the shutout in a brisk two hours, 15 minutes.

Denny McLain took the loss for Detroit, dropping him to 17-15. There was grumbling about his down year, after a combined 36-20 in his two previous campaigns, which would get worse mid-month when he claimed to have injured himself when his foot fell asleep while watching TV. His underlying stats weren’t materially worse than ’66, but the sum of his parts added up to a worse whole. The 23-year-old would end the year as Detroit’s goat. His next season would make fans forget that.

The shutout loss dropped Detroit two and a half games off the pace. The Tigers would not be that far behind again for the rest of the year.

AL standings, after games of 9/2/1967
Team W L Pct. GB
Minnesota 76 58 .567   -
Boston 77 60 .562 0.5
Chicago 74 60 .552 2.0
Detroit 74 61 .548 2.5

Games of Sunday, Sept. 3, 1967

Chicago wound up a successful series, taking three of four at Fenway with a 4-0 shutout of the Red Sox. Agee got three hits, and Martin notched an RBI and a run scored, but the game’s star was Tommy John. He scattered five hits going all the way, and while it was just his ninth win of the season, it was the sixth straight win he had recorded via shutout. Any time since May 14 that he had given up even one run, he lost or had no decision.

Even in a low-offense era like the late 1960s, the ’67 White Sox were a standout. They scored the second fewest runs in the AL that year, with 531. What kept them in the hunt was defense and pitching, limiting opponents to 491 runs on the year, 96 fewer than their nearest competitors. White Sox Park* had a Park Factor around 93 at this time, suppressing scoring by seven percent. White Sox pitchers knew they weren’t likely to be inundated with run support, and kept their opponents even more starved for runs.

* It was called this rather than Comiskey Park from 1962 to 1975. Well, I suppose it beats Guaranteed Rate Field.

Part of this came from a highly unusual incentive. Of the 32 batters Tommy John faced in that day’s game, he struck out four, allowed five flies, and produced 23 ground balls. This earned him a new suit of clothes from manager Eddie Stanky. The skipper encouraged his starters to pitch for ground-ball contact by buying a new suit for anyone who induced at least 20 grounders in a game. This came long before xFIP, and didn’t exactly reward strikeouts, but a look at Chicago’s runs allowed suggests Stanky’s giveaway plan helped his team.

In Minnesota, Detroit avoided the sweep with their own shutout, 5-0 over the Twins. This five-hit shutout was shared. Earl Wilson started the game, earning his 19th win to lead both leagues. When Wilson loaded the bases in the sixth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, Fred Lasher relieved him. Lasher doused the fire, and carded the 11-out save (or would when saves were officially introduced two years later and then calculated for previous seasons). Dean Chance lasted longer than Wilson, seven innings, but took the loss to fall to 17-11.

Wilson went 0 for 2 batting that day, which is not as normal as one might expect, given he was a pitcher. Wilson was one of the game’s most dangerous pitchers at the plate, piling up 35 homers and 111 RBIs in a career of just 837 plate appearances. Two days earlier, manager Mayo Smith had used him as a pinch-hitter, for the 13th time that season. This despite Wilson putting up a modest 64 OPS+ for the year, short of his lifetime 76 and his weakest mark since 1962.

Despite the loss to Johnny Sain’s new team, Johnny Sain’s old team still held the league lead … but the gap from first place to fourth had narrowed.

AL standings, after games of 9/3/1967
Team W L Pct. GB
Minnesota 76 59 .563   -
Boston 77 61 .558 0.5
Chicago 75 60 .556 1.0
Detroit 75 61 .551 1.5

Games of Monday, Sept. 4, 1967

Once upon a time, when the world was still in black-and-white with occasional sepia tinting, major American holidays meant doubleheaders at the ballpark. On Labor Day of 1967, every team in the American League, plus a majority in the Senior Circuit, played two. This was a chance for big movement in the AL pennant race, for someone to begin pulling away or start falling out of the hunt.

Baseball laughed at those expectations. Every contender split its twin-bill that day.

Minnesota took its opener against the visiting Indians, 4-1. Harmon Killebrew, who had short-circuited a sixth-inning rally by getting thrown out at third, atoned with a two-run homer in the eighth to ice the victory. Twins bats failed them in the nightcap, as they scratched out just three hits, but they did get the game to extras tied at one. A Hank Izquierdo passed ball helped set up the go-ahead single by Fred Whitfield, who just beat Killebrew to first on an infield hit. Reliever George Culver nailed down Sonny Siebert’s 2-1 win. Both runs scored against Minnesota were unearned.

It was a hard way for a winning streak to end. Not Minnesota’s (at one), but Hubert Humphrey’s. The ex-mayor of Minneapolis and sitting Vice-President was a dedicated Twins fans. The nightcap was the sixth Twins game he had attended that year, and just the first they had lost. Fittingly, Humphrey would be involved in his own squeaker of an autumn race the next year.

The game did extend one Twins streak. It was Zoilo Versalles’s fifth straight hitless game, making him 0 for his last 16 and dropping his season average to .202. The surprise 1965 AL MVP had regressed in ’66, and crashed in ’67. Either from thinking his ’65 form would return eventually, or from having no better option at shortstop (plugging in the defensively Zobrist-like César Tovar would have been desperate but possibly workable), Mele and then Ermer kept sending Versalles out to the short patch. The sub-replacement hole he made there was as bad as right field for the Red Sox, only it lasted all year.

Boston dropped its third straight, 5-2, in the early game at Washington. Gil Hodges’ Senators posted single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth against Red Sox starter Dave Morehead. A Carl Yastrzemski homer closed the gap to 3-2 in the sixth, but Washington’s own slugger, Frank Howard, re-opened the gap with a two-run shot in the seventh.

Washington threatened the sweep early in game two, fighting to a 4-2 lead after five. The sixth came unglued when Senators reliever Dick Lines gave up a single and a walk, then threw Mike Ryan’s bunt away to score Rico Petrocelli. Jerry Adair knocked in two more, Dalton Jones pushed a fourth across against a new reliever, and Boston held the line there for the 6-4 win and the split.

Detroit threw the visiting Kansas City A’s back on their heels early, getting ahead 7-0 after four and shrugging off a KC rally to win the opener 8-4. The Tigers entered the latter innings of the nightcap ahead 2-0, but in the seventh A’s third baseman Dick Green hit his second three-run homer in as many games. This one got his team ahead, and to stay, as Kansas City got its revenge, 4-2.

Chicago lost its curtain-raiser against the host New York Yankees in gruesome fashion. In the fourth, a throw home by Don Buford on a grounder bounced wide of catcher J.C. Martin, allowing two unearned runs to score. The next inning, Buford drifted back for a pop fly that would have ended the inning, but got plowed into by Rocky Colavito, allowing a third unearned run to cross. New York let Chicago creep back to within 3-2 before reliever Dooley Womack’s two perfect innings slammed the door.

The nightcap stretched into extras, giving Buford his chance to balance the books. He drew a leadoff walk in the 10th, was sacrificed to second, then had to hold there on an infield single in front of him. He made third on a force-out, then came home on Duane Josephson’s single. Hoyt Wilhelm got the win, pitching the final two innings. Par for Hoyt’s course: he had pitched the last two innings of the day’s first game, allowing one single and again no runs.

Chicago’s rotation, while strong, was in flux during the season: 11 different pitchers started at least one game, nine starting at least seven. (This was high at the time, though it would probably pass unnoticed today). The bullpen provided crucial stability. Bob Locker, Don McMahon, and the 44-year-old knuckleballing wonder Wilhelm pitched over 300 combined innings in relief (and zero starts). Locker’s 2.09 ERA (144 ERA+) was the worst of the trio, in 124.2 innings; Wilhelm’s 1.31/230 was the best, in 89 frames.

Games of Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1967

Nobody moved up or down in the pennant race on Monday. Nobody would move up or down on Tuesday, as this time all four contenders won their games.

Minnesota hung up a four-spot in its first inning against Cleveland and never looked back, winning 9-2 for Jim Kaat’s 11th victory. The Twins actually did start César Tovar at short this game, but slid him to third and put in Zoilo after they pushed their lead to 6-0. The shake-up seemed to help Versalles, as he broke his oh-fer with a sixth-inning double.

Having an even better day was his rookie double-play partner. Rod Carew got two singles and two walks (one intentional) in five trips, boosting his batting line to .296/.346/.413. For context, just four AL players would finish the season with batting averages of .300 or better. Carew finished sixth on that list at .292, and would be a near-unanimous Rookie of the Year choice. (The lone dissenting vote was for Boston’s Reggie Smith, who, with his fine defensive play in center field, had a decent argument.)

Boston matched Minnesota’s blowout with one of its own. A six-run fourth propelled the Red Sox to an 8-2 downing of the Senators. Carl Yastrzemski capped that eruption with a three-run homer, then added a solo shot in the seventh to round out Boston’s scoring. His three-hit day was matched by Ken Harrelson, while winning pitcher Gary Bell added two knocks of his own.

Yaz’s outstanding season, his seventh in Boston, hadn’t made Fenway fans forget the team’s previous left fielder, Ted Williams, but had made them forget any disparaging comparisons they might once have made. His two round-trippers raised his total to 38 on the year, far ahead of his previous high of 20 and three up on Harmon Killebrew for tops in the circuit. His four RBIs lifted his season total to 102, again past his previous best and 10 better than Killebrew for the league lead.

His batting average, now .312, didn’t beat 1963, when he led the league with .321, but considering the harsher offensive environment it was probably a greater achievement. It still left him 10 points behind Frank Robinson. Talk of a possible Triple Crown was starting to mute. Yaz would have to get hot pretty soon to chase down Robinson.

Detroit smothered Kansas City, 4-0, as Joe Sparma twirled a two-hit shutout, his fifth blanking of the year. The hapless A’s got two baserunners in an inning just once, in the seventh, when Ramón Webster walked and Jim Gosger singled. However, Gosger’s hit struck Webster, putting him out and undermining any semblance of a rally.

Yankee Stadium had the only close game of the day in the American League. Chicago and New York traded three-spots in the first two frames, knocking out both starting pitchers. The White Sox bullpen proceeded to toss seven and two-thirds shutout innings, while a bases-loaded walk in the third and a Don Buford homer in the eighth gave Chicago the 5-3 win.

Once again, the standings did not move. That wouldn’t be the case the next day.

Games of Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1967

For the first time in six days, one of the AL contenders would not be playing. Boston had a travel day to return home for an upcoming four-game set with the Yankees. For their part, the Tigers had another double-header with the A’s. The stasis of the last two days was going to break, in one direction or another.

Minnesota sent Dave Boswell to the mound to face Cleveland’s Luis Tiant. This wasn’t the Tiant most are familiar with today, the junkballer with the contortionist deliveries that baffled hitters. This was the fireballing Tiant, who would post the highest strikeout rate in the majors that year, and would break out with a 21-9, 1.60 ERA campaign the next year. He was a challenging foe, and would defeat Minnesota with his arm … and his bat.

Cleveland scored the game’s first run in the visitors’ fourth. With two outs and runners on second and third, Boswell intentionally passed Larry Brown to see Tiant, hoping to hold the rally to one run. Instead, Tiant tomahawked a high and tight offering into left field to drive in two more.

The damage ended there, but it was enough. Tiant held firm until the sixth, when rookie sensation Rod Carew’s bases-loaded single closed the gap to 3-2. The Twins never seriously threatened again, and fell by that score.

Two Twins, September call-ups, had their major league debuts that day. The lesser light was Pat Kelly, who would last 15 years in the bigs and make an All-Star team with the 1973 White Sox. As a pinch-runner, he was stranded on first when the game ended. The bigger name was Graig Nettles, a 22-year player who would win two World Series and two Gold Gloves with the ‘70s Yankees, and make the Midsummer Classic six times. He pinch-hit in the fifth, but could only fly to right against El TIante.

Chicago flew home for a single game against the California Angels, but the airlines lost both teams’ bats. Their game stayed scoreless for 10 innings, as one almost expects with a White Sox game this season. The best Chicago threat in regulation came in the third, with one out and runners on the corners. Tommy McCraw attempted a suicide squeeze, but missed the ball. Runner Joe Horlen (the pitcher) would have been dead even if he hadn’t fallen down four yards shy of the plate.

The Angels’ big early threat was in the sixth. Jimmie Hall got to second on a one-out grounder that second baseman Don Buford booted. Don Mincher then singled into right, but Ken Berry’s throw home cut down Hall. Hall and Mincher had both been Twins the previous year, but they were traded to California for pitcher Dean Chance, another move engineered by Sam Mele before his departure early in 1967. They had nearly helped the Twins as though they were still on the team, but only nearly.

Mincher took a second shot at boosting Minnesota in the visitors’ 11th, opening a rally with a one-out double. California would score two, on a Bubba Morton single and a Buck Rodgers grounder. Chicago was down, but not out. The White Sox  scored on a Smokey Burgess double, then loaded the bases with one down. Rodgers gave back the insurance run he’d driven in when he let a Pete Cimino pitch past him to tie the game. Cimino bore down to keep the winning run off the board, for now.

In the home 13th, Duane Josephson touched Cimino for a one-out single. Ken Berry laced a double into left field. Bubba Morton, whose shoe-top grab had closed the 11th and temporarily saved the game, fielded the one-hopper in the gap, but slipped and fell. Josephson took advantage, tearing home to win the game 3-2 for the White Sox and pull them even with Minnesota.

Out in Detroit, the Tigers would play their fourth and fifth games against Kansas City in three days. The opener began well for Detroit, with an Al Kaline RBI single in the first and an Eddie Mathews solo home run in the fourth putting them up 2-0. The tail-end A’s struck back, though, with two homers in the fifth and a two-run rally in the sixth putting them up 4-2. After the stretch, Detroit rallied. Willie Horton knocked in two to tie the game, bringing up Mathews again.

Eddie Mathews had bashed 493 home runs in his 16 years with the Braves, in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. After a 1966 with just 16 homers, the lowest total of his career, he found himself traded to Houston. In mid-August, he suffered the indignity of being traded to Detroit for two players to be named later. He was almost at the end of the line—but not quite yet.

His second home run of the day, and fourth in three weeks with Detroit, put the Tigers ahead 6-4. A bases-loaded single by Al Kaline in the eighth pushed it to 8-4, and Detroit won the opener by 8-5.

Now came the nightcap. Starting it for Detroit, on two days’ rest, would be Earl Wilson. The offense would pick at him and K.C. starter Roberto Rodríguez for six innings with modest effect, and the score was 2-2 at the stretch. Bill Freehan led off the home seventh with a walk, and one out later, trotted to the plate on a home run … by Earl Wilson.

If Mayo Smith had pulled Wilson out of Sunday’s game early with the double-headers ahead in mind, the maneuver worked like a charm. If he hadn’t, it still worked. Wilson went all the way in the 6-3 capper, pushing his record to 20-10. This made him the second black pitcher in American League history to have a 20-win season, after Jim “Mudcat” Grant of the 1965 Twins. Grant was still pitching for Minnesota, but injury and ineffectiveness had reduced him to 5-6 and a bullpen role in ’67.

Wilson’s 22-11 season would get him no Cy Young support (writers voted only for first place on their ballots in 1967), and by his peripherals, this was honestly the right call. Still, it was a fine career high-water mark, unless that was 1966, with an 18-11 record and better ERA and FIP. Imagine what might have been different in 1967 if Wilson hadn’t been traded away partway through ’66—by the Boston Red Sox. (Of course, then Wilson wouldn’t have come under Johnny Sain’s care, so who knows?)

But in the 1967 we got, a great race had just turned into something remarkable.

AL standings, after games of 9/6/1967
Team W L Pct. GB
Minnesota 78 61 .561    -
Chicago 78 61 .561    -
Boston 79 62 .560    -
Detroit 79 62 .560    -
California 72 67 .518  6.0
Washington 66 74 .471 12.5
Cleveland 65 76 .461 14.0
Baltimore 62 75 .453 15.0
New York 62 78 .443 16.5
Kansas City 57 82 .410 21.0

Four teams one percentage point from each other. Four lines in the American League standings with a dash in the Games Behind column. There were 25 days left in the season, but it felt like nothing had been decided. Even three days from the season’s end, all four teams would still have a mathematical chance of winning the pennant.

It is arguable whether there has been a better pennant race before or since. What is clear is that there will never be one like it again. With multiple divisions and multiple wild cards, the chance for the best teams in today’s league to end the regular season in an all-or-nothing trophy dash is nil. MLB changing its playoff structure back to something that allowed a race like this is almost unimaginable.

Whether that change is more like ditching the reserve clause or losing the Fourth of July doubleheader, I leave to each individual reader. What it does mean for everyone is that the unique excitement and tension of a pennant race like this is part of baseball history, past instead of future. Fortunately, even after half a century, it still has the power to thrill.

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
5 years ago

Three observations:
1. Camilo Pasquale never played for Boston.
2. Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox were never a great draw in the 60’s. There were two games in late September at home against Cleveland where they only drew 16,652 and 18,415. These numbers would be unheard of today. And even the next to last game against Minnesota was not a sellout.
3. I love the mention of Hubert Humphrey’s love for the Twins. The reality is that a lot of that team was built in Washington where they used to be the Senators. The only reason they did not win the WS in ’65 was because of someone named Koufax. Washington had the dubious distinction of being jilted twice in two decades.

Paul Swydanmember
5 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Bedard

Fixed No. 1. Thanks.

Don Smythe
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul Swydan

It’s Camilo Pascual.

Red Sox led AL in attendance in 1957 (1,727,832), up from 811,182 the year before. Averaged 21,331. Only MLB team to draw more was Dodgers (2,090,145). Nine of 20 teams didn’t reach 1 million.

5 years ago

Having avidly followed the pennant race that year I would rate the ’67 AL second to the ’64 NL in terms of best pennant races of the era. Five teams finished within FIVE games of first place, and two others, the Pirates and the Dodgers, with breaks and changes, could have been right there at the end. There is no longer a “pennant race,” with the winner of the league going to the World Series, and something valuable has been lost to history. Finishing first was the only thing that counted back in the day.

You write, “A rash of injuries to Oriole pitchers starting in spring training bears some responsibility, but didn’t weaken them that severely.” Yes, it did.

You continue, “Bad luck, possibly flavored with bad managing in tight games, was the greater culprit.” What a terribly disparaging thing to write! PROVE IT! Did Hank’s bad moves in late innings work in ’66 while his good moves did not work in ’67? Show me the evidence! Much has been written about the Baltimor Orioles of the late ’60s, early 70s. Where is the research?

The ’70 Cubs pythWL was TEN games better than their actual record. The reason being that their bullpen tanked. The ’67 O’s pythWL was TWELVE games better than their actual record, and most of it can be blamed on awful starting pitching.

The hardest thing to do in MLB is to repeat. There are many more “one-hit wonders” than there are teams that repeat. Only great organizations repeat. I am reminded of what is written about Dick Willams and the Boston Red Sox. He has written that the team bought into his system for the ’67 season, but decided to (I’m paraphrasing here) “rest on their laurels” in ’68. This can be found in the “Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s,” by Jason Turbow.

5 years ago


Greatest race was the 1978 AL East race. Second was 1951 NL pennant race. 1967 AL? maybe third