Tuesday, June 28, 2022


The Mets and the Phillies would swap places on a late June-early July west coast swing, with the two teams continuing to manifest their strange variations on streakiness that dominated their performance in the '62 season. 

One reason for this streakiness might be the structure of the NL schedule in 1962, reaching an apex of extremity due to the combination of geographical and franchise expansion; two additional teams in the league added to two teams on the west coast created a domino effect of very long homestands and roadtrips, as can be seen in the diagram at right. (Road trips shown in shades of orange; homestands in yellow.) Both the Dodgers and the Giants were in the midst of exceptionally long homestands during June, which would extend into July.

The Phillies had recovered from their late May smashup and had won 16 of 25 as they arrived in SF on June 28th. Aside from weak-hitting SS Bobby Wine and the aging, slump-ridden Roy Sievers, the team was hitting well and they would stay focused in their opener against the Giants, adjusting to what they were seeing from Juan Marichal. Early in the game, however, Phils' manager Gene Mauch had to make a pitching intervention when the Giants cuffed around eternally struggling starter Jim Owens

The reliever he selected was a 28-year-old rookie lefthander named Billy Smith, a not-overpowering pitcher who nevertheless just kept winning at Triple-A (137-93 lifetime). He'd come over to the Phillies from the Cardinals in the 1959-60 offseason, but even a 47-107 crash-and-burn in '61 had not prompted the Phils' brain trust to give him a look; in '62, however, he started the year 7-1 at Buffalo, so he'd gotten the summons, losing his first start on June 23 against his former club.

On this day, however, Smith proceeded to throw 7 1/3 scoreless innings against SF, who'd taken a 2-1 lead in the second before Mauch had summoned him. Marichal nursed that lead into the sixth, but the play-him-for-his-glove Wine homered to tie the score. That seemed to unsettle Marichal, who'd already given up a homer to Don Demeter in the second (remember, we mentioned that the gopher ball would contribute to a tailspin for Juan in the early summer of '62). In the seventh, Demeter homered again, this one a two-run shot, putting the Phils ahead 4-2. After an out, Wine singled, took second on a passed ball, and scored when pitcher Smith launched one over Willie Mays' head that one-hopped the center-field fence for a double. Final score: Phillies 7, Giants 2.

On the basis of this performance, Smith was given a shot in the Phillies' rotation, but it didn't pan out--he was relegated to the bullpen in mid-July, where he was intermittently effective. He would return to AAA in '63, hurt his arm the following year, and retire. His win (and his RBI) in this game would be the only one in his major-league career.

IN LA, the Dodgers were playing one of their favorite patsies in '62--the New York Mets. Even though they were patsies, however, the Mets could still be pesky--and Walt Alston could still manage to leave Johnny Podres in the game for one inning too many, as he discovered again in the eighth, when, nursing s 3-1 lead, Johnny gave up two hits to open in the inning. Larry Sherry and Ron Perranoski were both wild as they attempted to get things under control; it took Ed Roebuck to finally close out the inning, but not before the Mets had scored three runs to take a 4-3 lead. 

The Dodgers got even when Maury Wills greeted Ken McKenzie with one of the hardest hit balls of his career--a drive that just missed clearing the bullpen gate in right field. Maury wound up on third with a triple; Jim Gilliam brought him in with a single through the drawn-in infield.

And then it was HLRA ("hell-ra"...you know, "heroic lengthy relief appearance") time again, as Roebuck trudged to the mound in the ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth AND thirteenth innings to stave off the Mets. He was matched by a very game McKenzie, who retired nine Dodgers in a row as the game moved into the wee hours. Finally, in the thirteenth, Ken surrendered a walk to Jim Gilliam. Willie Davis' topper to first got him to second. Mets manager Casey Stengel decided to intentionally walk Tommy Davis--probably because Davis was leading the league in RBI and the man behind him, Frank Howard, was 0-for-5 in the game.

That proved to be a mistake, as Howard scorched one into left center for a double for a walk-off win. It was twelve minutes after midnight when Gilliam touched home plate with the winning run. Final score: Dodgers 5, Mets 4 (13 innings)