This Week in 1960s Baseball
(June 19, 1963) The Boston Red Sox today defeated the Detroit Tigers 9-2 behind the slugging bats of Frank Malzone and Carl Yastrzemski supporting the seven-hit pitching of Bob Heffner. Continue reading
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(June 15, 1965) – Denny McLain today set a single-game record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher as the Detroit Tigers scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to edge the Boston Red Sox 6-5.
McLain struck out 14 batters in 6.2 innings of relief work. He also struck out the first seven batters he faced, setting a major league record.
The Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning off Tigers starter Dave Wickersham. Wickersham lasted only one-third of an inning before giving way to McLain, who proceeded to strike out Eddie Bressoud and Bob Tillman to end the inning.
McLain allowed a pair of runs in the fifth inning, which put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers by a score of 5-2. The Tigers scored four runs in the eighth on Gates Brown’s RBI single and Willie Horton’s three-run home run off Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz (4-4). Fred Gladding (2-1) pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings for the Tigers and picked up the victory. Gladding allowed no hits and struck out four batters.
The 21-year-old McLain would finish the 1965 season at 16-6 with a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 192 batters in 220.1 innings pitched.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
Brown collected both walk-off hits as a pinch hitter.
In the first game, won by the Tigers 5-4, the Red Sox scored four runs in the first inning on home runs from Dalton Jones and Joe Foy. The Tigers chipped away at the lead and tied the game in the eighth inning. Brown came to bat with two outs in the fourteenth inning, batting for Mickey Lolich, who was the sixth Tigers pitcher. Brown hit his third home run of the season off Lee Stange (4-4). Lolich (10-7) picked up the victory.
In the second game, the Red Sox took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Consecutive RBI singles by Dick McAuliffe, Mickey Stanley and Al Kaline tied the game at 5-5 when Brown came to bat for Jerry Stephenson. With Kaline at second base, Brown singled to right field, scoring Kaline.
The 1968 season would turn out to be the best of Brown’s 13-year major league career. Brown finished that season batting a career high .370 with six home runs and 15 runs batted in.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Northrup
It would be hard to find a picture of Jim Northrup swinging a bat that didn’t reveal the beauty of his swing: level, compact with excellent arm extension, picture perfect.
He was also a solid fielder with a good arm who could play any of the outfield positions. He was a valuable member of the Detroit Tigers for more than a decade.
Northrup was signed by the Tigers in 1960 and made his major league debut at the end of the 1964 season. By 1966 he was playing regularly for the Tigers, sharing time on a talented outfield roster for Detroit that included Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Gates Brown.
His best season came in 1968, when Northrup played a pivotal role in the Tigers’ success that season. He hit .264 with 21 home runs and 90 RBIs. He also had 29 doubles and seven triples. He was outstanding in the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .250 with two home runs and eight RBIs, including a grand slam in Game Six and a key hit off Bob Gibson in the Tigers’ come-from-behind victory in the deciding seventh game.
Grand slams were something of a specialty for Northrup in 1968. In addition to his World Series blast, he hit four grand slams during the regular season, including two in one game and three in a single week.
He followed up in 1969 with another solid season, batting .295 with 25 home runs and 66 RBIs. From 1966 through 1972 as a regular for Detroit, Northrup hit .270 and averaged 24 doubles, 17 home runs and 67 RBIs per season.
After 11 seasons in Detroit, he was sent to the Montreal Expos and, 21 games later, was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles. He played for Baltimore in 1975 and then retired with 1,254 hits and a career batting average of .267.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Gates Brown
One of the most potent pinch hitters in major league history, Gates Brown was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1960 and made it to the big league club midway through the 1963 season, launching his career by hitting a home run in his first major league at-bat. He would never play for any team other than the Tigers.
Brown could play the outfield and first base, but his real contribution to the team came from his bat. In 1964, his first full season, Brown hit .272 with 22 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBIs. He also had 426 official at-bats that season, the most he would ever get in a single season.
Brown may have been a liability in the field, but he was a heckuva hitter. He would have thrived in the era of the designated hitter. In the 1960s, he turned pinch-hitting into an art form, and was almost certainly the American League’s MVPH (Most Valuable Pinch Hitter).
In his career, Brown collected 107 pinch hits, including 16 pinch homers, and twice led the American League in pinch hits (1968 and 1974). In 1968, he repeatedly came off the bench and delivered a clutch hit for Detroit. For that season, Brown appeared in 49 games as a pinch hitter, hitting for a .450 batting average, the eighth highest single season batting average for a pinch hitter (minimum 30 at bats) in major league history. Overall that season, Brown batted .370 with a .685 slugging percentage.
From 1971 through 1973, Brown strung together three terrific seasons as a pinch hitter, averaging 11 home runs and 37 RBIs per season. His on-base percentage for those three seasons was .339, with a high of .408 in 1971.
Brown retired after the 1975 season with 582 career hits and 84 home runs.