Monday, June 27, 2022


While we're focusing on the Giants and Dodgers in this retrospective tour of the 1962 National League pennant race, we'd be remiss if we didn't examine several of the other teams that gave chase during the year. The most prominent of these: the Cincinnati Reds, who'd won the NL pennant in 1961 and still had a very strong team. 

Looking back on the '62 season, the reason the Reds fell short is that they had a poor June--a noticeably worse month, in fact, than the Giants and Dodgers, whose struggles in the month still managed to wind up "in the black" (Dodgers 17-14, Giants 16-13). As the chart at right shows, however, the Reds' pitching hit the skids in June: the team' aggregate ERA for the month was the worst in the league--worse even than the two league doormats, the Mets and Cubs.

That situation would turn around dramatically in July; after their third consecutive loss to the Giants on this day (June 27, 1962), the Reds would post the best record in the NL by a sizable margin (as shown at left). Known as a hitting team, they would actually have the best pitching in the NL during the second half of the season. The problem was their hitting became inconsistent: they continued to struggle against the Giants, Cardinals and Phillies, braking their momentum at crucial points --and the June 25-27 series at Candlestick was a good example of this. In retrospect, this series proved to a be a pivotal one: if its outcome had been reversed, the Reds would have played the Dodgers in a playoff series instead of the Giants. 

But on June 27, Reds' manager Fred Hutchinson was struggling to find starting pitching. Aside from Bob Purkey (4-0, 1.44 ERA), everyone else available to him was struggling. June was young Jim Maloney's worst month (7.04 ERA), and the balance of the Reds' top-end rotation (Joey Jay, Jim O'Toole) had been wildly inconsistent. Hutch was trying out relievers (Johnny Klippstein), suspects/rejects (Moe Drabowsky, soon to depart for Kansas City) and hope-against-hope reclamation projects (Ted Wills). It would all turn around in the next month, when Maloney improved, Jay and O'Toole snapped back into form, and veteran Joe Nuxhall joined the team to become a highly valuable swing man (5-0, 3.03 ERA, including a brilliant game against the Dodgers in August in which he fanned 11).

But tonight it was...Ted Wills. It was a game effort, but the home run ball continued to plague him. Harvey Kuenn hit a two-run homer off him in the first; the Reds got a run back in the top of the second when Wally Post homered off Mike McCormick. The Giants got a mid-60s Dodger-style run in the third when McCormick walked, took second on a wild pitch, was sacrificed to third by Jose Pagan, and scored when Kuenn laid down a suicide squeeze. (And that's something you'll likely never see in baseball again: a pitcher other than Shohei Ohtani scoring a run.) 

Post singled in a run in the fourth to narrow the gap again; in the sixth, Hank Foiles drove McCormick from the game with a run-scoring double, tying the score. But Hutchinson blinked, leaving Wills in to hit with two out and two on, squandering his best chance to take the lead. Wills hit a grounder back to the box; reliever Bobby Bolin threw him out.

Wills got the first two out in the bottom of the sixth, but then walked Jim Davenport. Ed Bailey, who'd already rung the bell against his former team the day before (a pinch-hit grand slam), then connected again, slamming a two-run homer to put the Giants back in front.

Bolin then reminded Hutchinson what a good reliever can do for a team by shutting down the Reds for the rest of the game--no hits and just one walk over 3 2/3 innings. It was a well-deserved win--but what if Hutch had batted for Wills in the top of the sixth? Final score: Giants 6, Reds 3.

DOWN in LA, the Dodgers and Braves had a scoreless game going until the bottom of the fifth, when Willie Davis hit a two-run homer off Bob Shaw. Down 2-1 in the top of the seventh and with the tying run on second with one out, Braves manager Birdie Tebbetts batted for Shaw, but Gus Bell tapped out to second and Milwaukee failed score. The Dodgers then put the game away with three in the bottom of the inning on a two-out, two-run single by Tommy Davis, followed by an extremely flashy double steal which included a steal of home by Jim Gilliam. As Vin Scully noted: "These Dodgers really are downright daffy--they're likely to do anything!" Don Drysdale went all the way for the win, improving his record to 13-4. Final score: Dodgers 6, Braves 2.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 49-27, LAD 49-28, PIT 43-31, STL 42-31, CIN 38-33, MIL 36-38, PHI 33-39, HOU 31-40, CHC 27-49, NYM 19-51