This is a narrative of the outcomes of a league I set up to play solitaire on Out of the Park Baseball 14.
Unlike some other OOTP leagues I have played, in this one I decided to use the historical teams as they were historically in real life at the starting point which was the 1966 season.
I chose that year to start for a few reasons: I have run early '60s leagues a number of times, I wanted to start at the end of the Koufax era, and also find the early 60s Yankees teams that were so dominant quite boring compared with later ones.
Since I wanted to manage the Yankees starting with what they had to work with in 1966 when they finished last, but with an alternate history after that, the starting point was logical. So unlike other leagues in this one I did not empty the rosters for an inaugural draft but had all teams start the preseason 1966 with the rosters they had had at that time.
The only thing I did differently was to divide the two leagues into East and West Divisions ahead of when that happened historically in 1969. As you will see, the end result was a nail-biter of a division race on a couple of occasions.
A word about how OOTP works before you read the accounts below (the 1968 AL East:
You can have OOTP auto-play as much of a season as you like and as slowly or as quickly as you like. So you can have it run a single day, a week, a month or a whole season in between a few seconds and a few minutes, or you can set it to run real time and have it play out the season one day at a time in real time and take 6 full months to play the regular season.
You can also manage every or any individual game you choose - so I usually manage very important games and all playoff games my team is in when I play, even if I have auto-played a good chunk of the season (for sentimental reasons I usually manage and play the Opening Day game as well).
When you manage during a game, you can have each at bat occur with a click of the mouse, or you can auto-play a half-inning or an entire inning, or you can have it auto-play until there are runners in scoring position at which point you can then manage. You can also switch at key moments in an inning to a pitch-by-pitch sequence which is how you can get the close accounts below of the key NY-Boston games in 1968.
Also, just because you draft a player there is NO guarantee that they will sign with your team. So I have learned caution in drafting superstars whose bonus demands are too high who are considered "extremely hard " to sign. Sometimes they are irresistable but often you find that you have drafted the player of your dreams and ended up with no first round pick and only a compensation pick for next season's draft that will be useless too if you don't convince the player with a good enough offer.
Finally, I set the game to:
Keep the historical rosters for the opening of the 1966 season but after that to let things go on their own
Auto-manage all teams but mine (the NY Yankees).
To retire players when they had historically retired
To have players miss seasons with injuries when they did historically in real life
To make trading "hard" rather than "average" since I find "average" makes it too easy in OOTP to get great players for good ones if you are looking to the future. Still a bit too easy at times.
To make injuries "very rare" - apparently very rare means "very frequent" in OOTP-language and "rare" means "this is really a simulation of ER not baseball so expect to spend your time managing injuries not playing baseball".
So remember that the computer is trading players as it chooses based on its own evaluations for the other teams, and is bargaining with me, but is doing so starting with the actual rosters of the start of 1966.
Great Society League
What a season !
Henry Aaron led the Atlanta Braves to the NL East title with 88 wins by winning the triple crown AND breaking Roger Maris’ all-time home run record by hitting 63 !
Aaron batted .342 and had 149 RBI. Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox hit .315 to lead the AL but the Cleveland Indians held a narrow lead over the Sox all season long and held on to win the division by 3 games with an 83-79 record.
The incomparable rotation of the Dodgers’ Koufax, Drysdale, Sutton, and Osteen led the Dodgers to a 110-win season as all but Drysdale with 18 wins won well over 20 games. Koufax’ 1.63 ERA was the best in the majors.
The New York Yankees made a startling choice early in the season to go to a youth movement, trading superstars Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, and Tom Tresh and bench players like Horace Clark and obtaining young players like Willie Stargell, Ken Holtzman, Luis Aparicio, Ron Hunt and Nolan Ryan in return.
The Yankees went with a five-man rotation of Stottlemyre, Peterson, Downing, Holtzman and Ryan that they claim will in a few years be the class of the league, but the overall effort, troubling to fans to say the least was that for most of the season they remained in the basement, with only the lowly Mets for company in the W-L columns, until a late season surge took them into fourth place ahead of the Senators.
Roy White in Center and Bobby Murcer in Right , two rookies, stood alongside Stargell in left as Joe Pepitone moved to First Base to replace Mantle, the long-time favorite of Yankees fans. Roger Maris, never a favorite but a superstar had a tough year, demanding to be traded for much of the year, injured and on the DL three times for minor aches and pains and seeing his home run record overtaken by Aaron.
With Sam McDowell winner of 18 games and Sonny Siebert in the rotation, Max Alvis and Rocky Colavito supplying power and Luis Tiant in the bullpen, the Indians beat the twins and the Braves’ Ken Johnson, Denny Lemaster and Pat Jarvis amazingly outpitched the Dodgers in four close pitchers’ duels, the Dodgers winning two slugfests in between, to make it to the World Series.
Up 3 games to 2, with Aaron having hit 3 homers and batting .421, and despite Alvis and Vic Davilillo of the Indians both hitting near .500, the Braves needed just one more win to be World Champions.
In a nail-biter, Gary Bell outpitched Lemaster as Henry Aaron’s 6th inning RBI double and Rico Carty’s single brought in two runs to beat the Indians 2-1 and start the champagne flowing in Atlanta.
Davey Johnson 2B for the Orioles won Rookie of the Year in the AL and pitcher Don Sutton won the award in the NL.
Sutton’s 26-7 record and 2.29 ERA won him the Cy Young Award as well, beating out his teammate Koufax. The White Sox’ Tommy John, 19-7 with a 1.95 ERA won the Cy Young award in the AL.
Harmon Killebrew of the Twins hit 48 homers and had an astounding 141 walks to win the MVP award in the AL and the NL MVP was never in doubt as Henry Aaron’s triple crown season, all-time single season home run record of 63 and contributions to the Braves’ World Series championship year won him every first place vote.
The New York Yankees, having crumbled and reorganized last season, startled the baseball world in the offseason by promptly firing their entire coaching staff and pulling off a coup by hiring a number of big names of recently and in a few cases just retired players from major league baseball.
Sandy Koufax had already stunned the baseball world by announcing, after his amazing 1966 and his string of great seasons, that he was leaving baseball due to arm pain, and the Yankees quickly named him their new pitching coach, considering him ideal for their young staff in helping them avoid the kinds of errors that led him to suffer while learning how to pitch effectively.
The Yankees continued to hire former Dodgers as Gil Hodges became their new bench coach. Harvey Kuenn was named hitting coach.
But in the most surprising and pioneering move of all, former Dodger and Negro league player Jim Gilliam became the new manager of the New York Yankees, the first Black Manager in Major League History.
Major Offseason trades included the Reds dealing 2B Tommy Helms to the Twins along with 1B Bob Watson who had just been obtained in the first year player draft, for 1B Don Mincher. The Cubs traded pitcher Dick Ellsworth to the Red Sox for catcher Mike Ryan whom they had previously obtained from the Mets.
The New York Mets, with the first pick in the draft inexplicably drafted Catcher Frank Fernandez ahead of pitcher Tom Seaver, who went to the Senators instead. The NY Yankees sorely wanted a catcher as well, Johnny Bench, but Bench’s insistence on a huge bonus and the risk that he would not sign warned the Yankees off who drafted 3B Graig Nettles instead, seeing Clete Boyer’s career at 3B as not yet over but its end on the horizon, as they continued their youth movement. The Yankees took catcher Ray Fosse in round 2. The Kansas City Athletics drafted OF slugger Reggie Jackson, Boston took a chance on signing Bench and the Reds drafted Rod Carew.
Another catcher, Manny Sanguillen went to the California Angels. The Yankees then concentrated on their future bullpen as they see their rotation as solid for years to come and in successive rounds drafted Sparky Lyle and Mike Marshall.
Would these future potential stars sign contracts once drafted?
With VERY tough negotiations the Yankees did manage to sign all four of their major draft picks – Nettles – to a one-year contract for $90,000 (with the reserve clause in effect of course), Fosse to a multi-year contract for a little over half that, and Lyle and Marshall at first to minor league contracts with good bonuses.
Would it be enough for them to compete in the near future?
Maybe, but with injuries cancelling the season for Nolan Ryan, Stan Bahnsen and for most of the year also Bobby Murcer and with Fosse not yet ready for the majors, the Yankees, after playing .500 ball most of the year, fell to 73-89 and 8th place in a league that temporarily did without the divisional system (I forgot to set the league for divisions and playoffs in the offseason ).
The Twins and Red Sox battled down to the wire for the pennant in 1967, and despite 28 homers by Yaz and 25 each by Rico Petrocelli and Reggie Smith, and a good season by Jim Longborg, Dennis Bennet and Earl Wilson, the Twins held on to win by 3 games. Jim Kaat won 23 games for Minnesota, Harmon Killebrew hit 41 homers and Tony Oliva hit .309 with 30 home runs, but the Twins fell to the Pirates in the World Series in a 4-game sweep.
As close as the AL race was, the NL race went down to the last day as the Giants finished just 1 game back of the pennant winners. Frank Howard, obtained in a trade, Willie McCovey and Jim Ray Hart all hit over 30 home runs and Bobby Bolin won 20 games to lead a rotation that included Marichal and Gaylord Perry. But 1967 belonged to Pittsburg. With Mickey Mantle’s 35 homers backing up Roberto Clemente (.310), and a rotation of Veale, Cardwell, Fryman and Peters, the Pirates were unstoppable.
Despite a good rotation including Bob Gibson’s 15-12 record and 2.48 ERA, the Cards ended up 4th.
Willie Stargell , obtained in the Mantle trade, was spectacular for the Yankees, hitting .301 with 39 homers, but the rest of the lineup failed to hit even .250.
In one series against the Indians, the Yankees were first shutout by Luis Tiant and then no-hit by Sam McDowell.
The pitching was mostly good, though Mike Marshall had to fill in as 5th starter for the year, an experiment that was not successful. The rest of the staff was good however, with Peterson and Holtzman, despite losing records, posting ERAs under 3.00.
The Cy Young Awards went to Jim Kaat and LA’s Bill Singer (21-9 with a .190 OAV).
Baltimore’s Frank Robinson (.320 40 home runs) and the Giants’ Jim Ray Hart who hit .296 with 36 home runs, won their respective leagues’ MVP awards.
Tom Seaver went 17-18 with a 2.96 ERA for Washington and Rod Carew hit .324 for the Reds to win each league’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Hoyt Wilhelm finally retired to become a broadcaster.
The Yankees selected First baseman Al Oliver in the first round of the draft, but were unable to sign him, despite an offer of $127,000 bonus and a 5-year $75,000 salary. Oliver will be eligible for the draft in 1969 and the Yankees will be compensated with an additional first round pick.
They did draft, and sign, pitchers Tom Murphy and Marty Pattin , Luis Alvarado SS, and Walt Hriniak a backup catcher.
One big offseason trade involved Ralph Garr and Jimmy Hall, two young outfielders, going from the Twins to the Dodgers for pitcher Claude Osteen.
Another involved Eddie Mathews returning to the Braves from Pittsburgh, along with outfielder Dave May in exchange for pitcher Steve Blass.
Knowing they had an additional first round pick, the Yankees traded one of those picks and catchers Hriniak and Jerry May for Catcher Pat Corrales, OF Tito Francona, finally providing them with an additional OF backup and pinch hitter besides Roger Ropez (with Murcer out for the year) and a player whom they had passed up for Oliver in round 1 of the draft, John Mayberry, a big young power hitting first baseman whom they held on their 40-man reserve roster.
The Yankees were far from done wheeling and dealing however. They quickly turned around and traded the only just obtained Corrales and 19 year old SS Alvarado for Willie Davis, a sure to be star Centerfielder in a deal with the Dodgers.
This freed them to trade Repoz and relief pitcher Dooley Womack for catcher Bruce Look – ostensibly to backup Gibbs while the team waits on Fosse to mature, and three infielders – Al Weis, Woody Woodward and Sandy Alomar.
The Yankees then had one more upgrade, sending SS Gene Michael and Look to Cleveland for Joe Azcue and Hal Lanier.
They now felt that they had a good team and complete one, with no holes.
The Yankees thus started Opening Day 1968 with a rotation of Stottlemyre, Holtzman, Peterson, Ryan and Bahnsen, with Steve Hamilton as closer, Sparky Lyle as setup, Tom Murphy and Ron Kline as stoppers able to pitch more frequently, Al Downing for long relief and spot starting, and Marty Pattin at Middle Relief.
Their opening day lineup was:
Ron Hunt 2B (backup Sandy Alomar)
Roy White LF (backup Tito Francona)
Willie Davis CF (backups Pepitone and Maris)
Willie Stargell RF (backups Maris and Nettles)
Joe Pepitone 1B (backups Francona and Stargell)
Graig Nettles 3B (platooned with Clete Boyer)
Luis Aparicio SS (backup Hal Lanier)
Joe Azcue C (backup Jake Gibbs)
It was a good fielding team, especially on the left side with Aparicio and Lanier, Nettles and Boyers at third and White in Left, plus Azcue was a fine fielding catcher and Gibbs not bad. Maris and Francona were also good defensive replacements in Right and at First Base.
It certainly did not look like a team that had finished last in 1966 and would have finished last in the division in 1967 had it not been for the temporary re-consolidation of the leagues.
Divisional play returned in 1968, in anticipation of expansion in 1969. Would the Yankees bench strength prove to be a liability as they were forced to let go strong players to hold on to the future? That remained to be seen after the ’68 season. The bet was that of the outfielders, with Murcer, highly anticipated as a future star, due to return to form in 1969, that the odd man out of the outfield/first base slots was Pepitone, though trading him before ’69 would perhaps be more fruitful than letting him go in the draft next season, with Stargell then moving to First.
Teams would be able to keep 15 players as protected.
At the end of April, despite an opening day injury to Lyle that sidelined him for two weeks, the Yankees found themselves atop the Eastern Division at 16-10, in a tie with 17-11 Cleveland. With only Willie Davis hitting much however so far, this situation was mostly owed to the brilliant pitching of Ken Holtzman who went 4-0 on the month and did not give up an earned run in his first three appearances.
Atlanta started out of the gate like gangbusters in the NL East at 23-6 with Lemaster and Jarvis a combined 9-0 and Aaron with 8 home runs.
The Yankees lost Ron Hunt for two weeks of May to an injury, and fell 3 games back of Cleveland during that time, though Alomar performed well hitting .250 with 3 stolen bases and Woodward, called up to fill the hole as backup had one hit in three times up as well.
By the end of May, only one game separated the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees. Cleveland rolled on the momentum of its three aces McDowell, Tiant and Siebert, and the unsuspected hitting power of Chuck Hinton (7 homers by the end of May). Meanwhile every member of the Red Sox starting lineup except for Gosger in RF had at least 6 home runs, including their young catcher Johnny Bench. In Atlanta, Aaron seemed determined to challenge his own HR record of 63 as he had 15 by the end of May. Aaron hit his career 500th home run in May. Frank Robinson got his 2,000th hit.
Fritz Peterson and Ken Holtzman were a combined 13-6 and both had ERAs under 2.00 while Stargell and Pepitone were driving in Hunt, White and Davis who despite modest batting averages were all getting on base one way or another often enough.
St. Louis’ Bob Gibson was 7-3 with a 2.25 ERA and the Cards were 5 games behind the NL West division leading Astros. In Houston it was 2B Joe Morgan leading the attack with a .323 average and Jim Wynn with 10 homers driving in runs. In the AL West, the Twins and Tigers battled it out for the lead.
Denny McLain started the season 8-1 with a low ERA and Jim McAndrew was 7-1 and the Tigers had a crew of sluggers, while the Oliva-Killebrew pair that had brought the Twins into the World Series the year before continued where they left off.
The Red Sox went on a 10-game winning streak in mid-June, led by Rico Petrocelli who got hot as the weather warmed up.
By the All-Star break on July 9th, the Red Sox were 6 ½ games ahead of the second place Yankees, who stood at 45-42, with the Indians a half game behind them in third.
The surprising Oakland Athletics had overtaken both Detroit and Minnesota and at 54-35 led the latter by two games as the Tigers fell 7 back. Catfish Hunter and Chuck Dobson were a combined 22-9 and young Reggie Jackson had hit 15 homers for Oakland.
The Astros had widened their lead over the Cardinals to 8 games as Don Wilson went 12-4 with an ERA of 1.62.
But the real powerhouse was Atlanta. The Braves had run up a 12 ½ game lead over the world champion Pirates by the All-Star break, and had a record of 62-27, best in the majors. Henry Aaron had 26 home runs and the rotation of Lemaster, Jarvis, Tommy John (obtained in a trade) and Phil Niekro was a combined 45-17. Aaron was not on pace to come close to his record 63 homers, but his 26 were 7 more than Killebrew, the next highest in homers.
For the Yankees, there were some real bright spots. Nolan Ryan had pitched a complete game 6-hit shutout of the division leading Red Sox on July 7th. He, Holtzman and Peterson all had ERAs under 3.00. Sparky Lyle and Steve Hamilton were all but unhittable out of the bullpen, with ERAs of 1.59 and 1.71 respectively. The rest of the staff was not much behind these leaders. But only Stargell with 13 homers and Clete Boyer, platooned at 3B hitting .299 with 9 homers could be said to be hitting well. Only Ron Hunt’s still respectable OBP of .311 gave him an edge to start at 2B over Alomar as Hunt fell into a bad slump, hitting just .189 (Alomar stood at .250). Roy White’s .240 with 9 homers was respectable given the kind of season it was for most hitters in ’68. Willie Davis hit .268 before the All-Star break with 6 home runs.
None of the Yankees made the All-Star team.
An injury knocked Ken Holtzman out for 5 weeks in early August, bad timing as the clock was running on any Yankees effort to catch the Red Sox, and stay ahead of the Indians and surging Orioles. Al Downing filled in the rotations spot in the meantime. The Twins also lost Tony Oliva for several weeks starting in early August.
Nevertheless by September 1, the Yankees awoke to find themselves 71-63, just 4 ½ games behind Boston, as the Sox lost 4 in a row to finish August. With a four game set in Fenway Park scheduled for Sept. 23-26, before ending the regular season with 3 games against the AL champion Twins, the Yankees needed to cut that 4 game deficit in the next 3 weeks to have a shot at the division title.
The Athletics and Astros had already all but wrapped up their own division titles, with Minnesota and St. Louis 9 and 13 games back to start September respectively. As for the NL East, there was no division race in 1968, the Braves had already won 90 games by Sept. 1, and the Pirates were 13 ½ back.
By the 10th, Holtzman was back in the rotation, with Downing who had pitched well remaining and Bahnsen moved to the bullpen in long relief and spot starting. The Yankees had by that time cut the lead to 3 games.
Jim McAndrew of the Tigers pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox on Sept. 14.
On September 23, as the AL defending champion Twins were mathematically eliminated and the Athletics’ third baseman Sal Bando won the Player of the Week award for the previous week having gone 11 for 20, the Yankees’ record stood at 83-72, three games behind the Red Sox as they headed into Fenway Park for a four-game set.
Splitting four games with the Red Sox would leave them 3 out with 3 to play afterward, so only at least 3 out of 4 could give them a real shot at the division lead.
Game 1 was Nolan Ryan against Dick Ellsworth. The Red Sox lineup was impressive with Reggie Smith hitting .323 with 18 home runs, and Johnny Bench hitting .311 with 20, Petrocelli with 25 homers, with Yastrzemski, George Scott and Joe Foy.
The Yankees struck early, in the first inning, as Hunt led off with a double, White singled, Stargell homered and Boyer and Aparicio singled, to end the first inning with the Yankees up 3-0.
A solo homer by Roy White in the 2nd made it 4-0. But the Red Sox came back with runs in the 4th and 5th, as Gosger, the weakest hitter in their lineup drove in George Scott with a single in the 4th and the following inning Yastrzemski hit a solo homer.
It was 4-2 New York after 5. Ryan was tiring though, and with the score still 4-2 to start the home 7th Sparky Lyle came in to pitch for New York. Yastrzemski hit his second home run of the game off Lyle and it was now a one-run game heading into the 8th.
Neither team threatened or scored in the 8th. The Yankees came to bat in the top of the 9th and with Right-hander Tom Dukes now pitching for Boston, Tito Francona, who hit .283 on the season in 127 at bats, came in to pinch-hit for Lyle. Francona led off the 9th with a single and moved to second when Hunt grounded out to Foy. Roy White walked. Runners at first and second, one out and Willie Davis up for New York. Sandy Alomar came on to run for Francona.
The Yankees hit and run, and Davis lined a shot up the middle, but Petrocelli fielded it and threw Davis out at first. The Yankees had avoided the double play, and had runners on first and second but with two out and Willie Stargell up to bat. But Stargell grounded sharply to Andrews at second and was thrown out to end the inning.
Steve Hamilton came on to shut the door on the Red Sox in the 9th. Hamilton got Freddy Patek for the first out but Dalton Jones, batting for Dukes doubled. Foy was the batter with one out and the tying run in scoring position. Walking Foy to set up a double play meant pitching to Yastrzemski and putting the winning run on base. The Yankees chose to pitch to Foy.
Hamilton struck out Foy on a 1-2 pitch for the second out. Up to the plate came Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz, who had already homered twice in the game, fouled the first pitch back into the seats. Strike one. The next pitch was low. The count was 1-1. The next pitch was inside. Hamilton was pitching VERY carefully to Yastrzemski with the game on the line. Ball three inside. At that point Hamilton threw a pitch well out of the strike zone and Yaz took first base. But now Reggie Smith, a switch-hitter batting right was up with the winning runs on base and the Green Monster beckoning to a right-hand hitter facing a lefty on the mound in Fenway.
Baseball didn’t get better than this.
Ball one outside. Rico Petrocelli in the on-deck circle. Hamilton dealt and Smith swung and hit it to the left side just out of reach of Aparicio. White was on the ball immediately and so Dalton Jones had to stop at third, Yastrzemski at second and Smith at first. Bases loaded, two outs, Yankees ahead 4-3 and the winning runs for Boston in scoring position for Rico Petrocelli who had led the Red Sox with 25 homers on the year so far. Another right-hand hitter.
Jim Gilliam had seen enough. He went to Stan Bahnsen, the right-handed rookie pitcher to get the last out, 8-8 on the season with a 3.86 ERA.
Bahnsen’s first pitch was outside for ball one. Petrocelli swung hard at the next pitch and lined it down the first base line – foul into the seats.
Count 1-1. Bahnsen threw a slider and Petrocelli swung and missed. Strike two. The next pitch was low to even the count at 2-2. The next pitch came in and Petrocelli hit it hard on the ground to Aparicio who fielded it cleanly but threw it in the dirt to first, Pepitone dug it out on a hop a step ahead of Petrocelli to get the last out and hold on to the Yankees’ 4-3 victory.
With 6 games left in the season, and three more to play in Boston between the Yankees and Red Sox, the Yankees had cut the Red Sox ‘ division lead to just 2 games.
In the second game, Al Downing was slated to go against Jim Lonborg. Two run homers by Willie Davis in the first inning and Azcue in the 4th, and a solo shot by Reggie Smith made it 4-1 Yankees in the 5th inning. The Yankees manufactured two more runs in the 6th. That is how it stayed through 8 and a half innings. Downing tired and Murphy relieved in the 9th with the rest of the bullpen tired. He got one out but gave up a hit and a walk with Petrocelli due up.
Gilliam went to Marty Pattin who had been anything but hot coming into the series. He quickly got the last two outs and the Yankees had won 6-1 and were only one game behind the Red Sox with two games left in Boston and then 3 more to go for the season.
Ken Holtzman versus Earl Wilson for game 3 at Fenway. No score in the third inning and it was again the Yankees who struck first, on a 3-run homer by Stargell. 3-0 Yankees. A Johnny Bench solo homer made it 3-1 after 4. A single by Gosger and an error by Pepitone in the 5th made it 3-2. Another ballgame.
With one out in the top of the 7th, and Holtzman tiring, Gilliam had Francona pinch – hit and he hit Wilson’s second delivery over the right field wall to make it 4-2. Sparky Lyle got three quick outs in the bottom half of the inning. The Yankees then manufactured a run on a walk and three singles in the top of the 8th to make it 5-2.
Again Lyle retired the Red Sox and the Yankees broke the game open in the top half of the 9th thanks to a 3-run home run by Graig Nettles. Pattin finished it and the Yankees had won 8-2 and were now tied with the Red Sox for first place.
Only one game in Fenway remained and then the Yankees had three to play at the Stadium in the Bronx with Minnesota while the Sox would go to Washington for 3 against the Senators.
Jose RA Santiago started for the Red Sox and Fritz Peterson for the Yankees. This time it was Boston that drew first blood as Yastrzemski singled in Reggie Smith for a 1-0 Boston lead. A George Scott double and a Jim Gosger single made it 2-0 Red Sox after 4. In the fifth the Yankees got the lead runner on but Aparcio was cut down trying to take second base when Jake Gibbs missed a third strike.
Petrocelli doubled in Scott in the 5th and it was 3-0 Sox. Murphy came in to pitch the 7th, was pinch-hit for by Francona but no heroics tonight as Francona flied out, and it was still 3-0 as Ron Kline came on to pitch the bottom half of the 8th.
Kline got the Sox one, two, three in the 8th. Jack Billingham came on to pitch for Boston and quickly got Willie Davis to ground out to Andrews at Second. But Willie Stargell hit his first pitch up the middle for a single with one out.
Joe Pepitone now worked the count to 2-2. Then he hit a perfect double play ball to Dalton Jones at third who bobbled it as he hurried – despite the poor speed of both Yankees runners. Both were safe and the tying run to the plate with one out. Nettles up to bat. Nettles hit it to Jones who this time fielded it cleanly for a 5-4-3 double play.
After the dust had settled, the Red Sox were again alone in first place by a game with three to play.
Back in the Bronx, Mel Stottlemyre against Jim Merritt for the Twins, and the game was scoreless until consecutive singles by Davis, Stargell and Pepitone and a throwing error got the Yankees 2 runs in the fourth. Watching the scoreboard, Boston was leading Washington 3-1 after four with Dennis Bennett on the mound for the Red Sox.
With the pressure on, Stotlemyre bore down but so did Merritt – still 2-0 after 7. Boston leading Washington now 7-3 after 7, Joe Foy with a homer, a double and 3 RBI so far. In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees still up only 2-0 pinch hit Graig Nettles for a tiring Stottlemyre, but Nettles grounded out. Hunt got on base though and was driven in by a 2-run homer by Roy White. 4-0 Yankees.
Boston up 7-4 going into the 8th. The two insurance runs by the Yankees in the 8th made the difference when Tommy Helms doubled in two runs with two out off Steve Hamilton who managed to get the third out and save the win. Boston won 11-4, dealing Tom Seaver, despite his pitching well all season, his 22nd loss of the season – as the hapless Senators had two 20 game losers, the other being Joe Coleman and were now 47-113. Hoping for a Washington win against the Red Sox was not betting the odds, and Seaver was the Yankees best hope to pull off the one game minimum the Yankees needed the Senators to win to keep them in it.
But the Twins had Jim Kaat going in the next to last game of the season and he was in form as the Twins scored early off of Nolan Ryan to win 5-1.
All seemed surely lost now except that the Yankees got a small miracle: Phil Ortega pitched a complete game 4-hit masterpiece, outpitching Dick Ellsworth to beat Boston 2-1.
The Yankees were a game out of first with one game to go. Downing against Osteen for the Yankees and Twins, Coleman versus Earl Wilson for the Senators and Red Sox.
Cesar Tovar drove in Zoilo Versalles with the first run of the game for Minnesota in the third to take a 1-0. Boston led 3-0 already over Washington at that point. The 1-0 score held up through 8 innings, but the Yankees already knew their season was over: Boston now led 8-1 in the 7th in Washington.
With two outs Aparicio singled up the middle and it was Roger Maris’ last major league at-bat that would determine the fate of the team before events in DC could do it for them. Maris worked the count to 1-2 and then hit one sharply to short for a force play and the game, and the season, were over for the Yankees.
The Red Sox won 11-1 in Washington and now prepared to face the Athletics in the League Championship Series, as the Braves and Astros prepared to meet for the NL title.
The Yankees had ended up 87-75, two games out of first. Nolan Ryan went 14-8 with a 2.78 ERA and Ken Holtzman 13-7 with 2.89. Stargell hit 29 home runs in a pitchers’ season if there ever was one.
In the playoffs, the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the Series, as Smith and Gosger each homered in two games and Johnny Bench in one, but Reggie Jackson homered in two for Oakland the Athletics were not dead yet.
Dave Giusti, Don Wilson and Larry Dierker won three pitchers’ duels against the Braves after Atlanta won the first two to also lead the Braves 3-2 after 5 games.
Jim Wynn, and Roger Repoz traded from the Yankees in the preseason had the only home runs in a pitchers’ series in the first five games.
Phil Niekro pitched well for the Braves but a Joe Morgan 3-run homer in the third and solo shot in the 7th meant a 4-1 Astros lead. Giusti was keeping the Braves hitters off balance until the 8th when the Braves manufactured 2 runs on singles. But Danny Coombs came in to shut the door in the 9th and the Astros won 4-3 and won the National League pennant.
Rico Petrocelli and Tony Horton hit homers off Catfish Hunter in the middle innings and Earl Wilson held the Athletics to just 4 hits for a complete game 5-0 win and the AL title.
Boston Red Sox versus Houston Astros in the 1968 World Series.
Game 1 was Don Wilson 19-12 2.39 ERA for Houston versus Dick Ellsworth 16-11 2.65 for Boston, the first two games to be played in Fenway Park.
The Astros hit doubles off the Green Monster as if they were on hitters’ vacation from the Astrodome and won game 1 easily 6-1.
Game 2 was Dierker versus Lonborg. The pitching match-up held for two innings and then the floodgates opened. Boston won 12-1, Rico Petrocelli hit two homers. The Series was tied.
Game 3, with Giusti versus Earl Wilson had perhaps the two most effective starters down the stretch and in the playoffs for each team. Again a pitchers’ duel started but the Sox started to whittle away at Giusti, a hit of singles and doubles here and again there and won game 3 by a score of 5-3, Tony Horton supplying a solo homer.
Gary Nolan versus Jose RA Santiago in game 4 at the Astrodome. Nolan had been brilliant – 18-6 with a 1.95 ERA on the season, Santiago 14-10 for Boston. Tony Horton homered again but the rest of the game was all Houston as Johnny Edwards, who had been driving in runs all postseason and Jim Wynn had key hits and the Astros walked away with a 10-2 victory and Series tied at 2-2.
Tony Horton and Rico Petrocelli again supplied the RBIs and the Astros could not hit Dick Ellsworth who outpitched Dierker for a 3-1 Boston victory.
The Red Sox were one win away from their first World Championship since 1918 !
With Dave Giusti on the mound for Houston and Jim Lonborg for Boston the Series returned to Fenway for game 6. Both pitchers took shutouts into the 7th, but the Astros broke through for a 2-1 lead after 8. Lee Maye hit a home run in the top of the 9th to make it 3-1 and the Sox could not get a rally going against Giusti. The Series was tied and wold go to game 7.
Don Wilson versus Jim Lonborg. Another Johnny Edwards double makes it 1-0 Houston into the 5th. But in the bottom of the 5th the Red Sox started hitting and didn’t stop. 5-1 Boston. Solo homers in the 7th by Mike Andrews and fittingly by Rico Petrocelli in the 8th sealed it. Boston 7, Houston 1 and the Boston Red Sox had won the World Series for the first time in exactly 50 years, with Jim Lonborg the winner in game 7.
Tony Horton was Series MVP and the Boston fans partied all Winter long.
Taking stock of the rest of the season’s outcomes, Rusty Staub of Houston won the batting title in the NL with .322, one point better than his AL batting champ counterpart Reggie Smith of the Red Sox.
Hank Aaron hit 37 homers to lead both leagues, a sure sign of a pitchers’ season, Norm Cash of the Tigers leading the AL with only 32. Bert Campaneris of Oakland stole 95 bases. Bob Gibson’s 1.85 ERA was the best in the majors, Gibson going 19-10 on the season for the Cardinals. Ray Washburn won 22 games for the Twins to lead the majors. Sam McDowell’s 274 strikeouts for the Indians led the majors. Jerry Koosman pitched 307 innings for the Cubs, most in the majors and went 19-12 with a 2.73 ERA.
1968 was in the books.
1969 would not happen until the Expansion Draft and teams now needed to prepare lists of 15 protected players (players with 3 seasons or less of service were automatically exempt).
The Yankees chose to protect Nettles and Hal Lanier and Sandy Alomar, and leave unprotected veterans Joe Pepitone, Clete Boyer and Luis Aparicio. The latter two were drafted by expansion teams. The Yankees continued their policy of going with prospects when in doubt. It had, after all, lifted them from last place to a hair’s breadth of first place in the space of a season.
The Pirates traded Lee May to the Reds fro Dusty Baker and RP Steve Jones.
Jim McAndrews of the Tigers and Ken Boswell 2B for the Pirates were the rookies of the year in their leagues.
Bob Gibson and Catfish Hunter (19-10, 2.38 ERA) won the Cy Young Awards in each league. Harmon Killebrew and Rusty Staub won the MVP awards.