McLain Leads Tigers to Opening Win

Filed under World Series
October 2, 1968
Denny McLain did not humiliate the Cardinals, but another one-run victory gives Detroit an early Series lead on the road.

St. Louis, Oct. 2 – The sellout crowd of 54,692 at Busch Stadium and national television audience expected a showdown on the mound by the aces of the Series, St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain. But, McLain surprised them all with a three-hit performance at the plate, including a double in the seventh which led to him scoring the go-ahead run following a Dick McAuliffe double as the Tigers handed St. Louis another one-run loss, 2-1, in the opener of the 1968 World Series.

The first five innings of the contest was the pitching duel America expected. Both McLain and Gibson dodged third inning bullets. McLain reached third on a Mickey Stanley two-out single down the left field line. Gibson induced a harmless fly out to left off the bat of Al Kaline to end the threat. The Redbirds put McLain on the ropes in the bottom of the frame with runners at second and third with out out. Flood had singled past second with out and Maris pushed him to third on a double to right that Kaline nearly overran down the right field line. McLain got Orlando Cepeda to hit a blooper to right that Kaline charged in to corral. McCarver ended the inning with a soft floater to second caught by McAuliffe. The Cardinals also failed to convert on a similar opportunity in the following frame. Mike Shannon opened with a drive to third that Don Wert smothered but had no play to get Shannon at first. After Julian Javier flied to center, Dal Maxvill drew a walk. Gibson followed by also coaxing a free pass on a 3-2 count, and the bases were loaded for Lou Brock. McLain quickly put Brock in an 0-2 hole, but Brock lined a shot to second on the next pitch. McAuliffe snagged the ball and deftly tossed to Stanley at short who then turned a nifty double play to end the threat.

The scoreless drought was ended in the top of the sixth. With Norm Cash on first and two outs, Jim Northrup hit a liner to right field. Roger Maris made an ill-advised diving attempt on the ball, and could not get it. As the ball scooted to the wall, Cash scored. Curt Flood retrieved the ball and cut down Northrup at third base to end the inning. However, another one-run deficit to these Tigers resurrected a sense of dread among the Cardinal faithful. Mike Shannon erased these fears in the bottom of the sixth with a two out home run that just cleared the wall along the left field line.

Before the Series started, McLain declared the he did not just want to just beat the Cardinals, he wanted to humiliate them. In the seventh, McLain backed this boast with a two-out double, his third hit against Gibson, to the left field wall. McAuliffe proved again to be one of the most valuable of Tigers, following with another double splitting the difference between Flood and Maris in right. McLain chugged around the bases with the Tigers go-ahead run, and then shut down the Cardinals in the final two frames.

With one out remaining, Cardinal Bobby Tolan hit a pinch-hit single in front of Horton in left field. Pinch hitter Phil Gagliano followed with a bouncer over McLain. Mickey Stanley, the outfielder playing short, fielded the ball in front of second and cut down Gagliano for the final out. Tiger Manager Mayo Smith’s gamble paid off for the first game, and McLain strode off the field with a victory. The Cardinals were not humiliated, but the fifth consecutive one-run World Series loss left a sickening feeling in the pits of their fans’ stomaches.

10/2/1968, DET68-STL68, Busch Stadium

                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
1968 Detroit           0  0  0  0  0  1  1  0  0     2  8  1     6  1
1968 St. Louis         0  0  0  0  0  1  0  0  0     1  7  0     8  0

Detroit              AB  R  H BI   AVG    St. Louis            AB  R  H BI   AVG
McAuliffe         2b  4  0  1  1  .250    Brock             lf  4  0  0  0  .000
Stanley           ss  4  0  1  0  .250    Flood             cf  4  0  1  0  .250
Kaline            rf  4  0  0  0  .000    Maris             rf  4  0  1  0  .250
Cash              1b  3  1  1  0  .333    Cepeda            1b  4  0  0  0  .000
Horton            lf  4  0  0  0  .000    McCarver          c   4  0  0  0  .000
Northrup          cf  4  0  2  1  .500    Shannon           3b  4  1  3  1  .750
Freehan           c   4  0  0  0  .000    Javier            2b  4  0  0  0  .000
Wert              3b  4  0  0  0  .000    Maxvill           ss  2  0  1  0  .500
McLain            p   3  1  3  0 1.000     Tolan            ph  1  0  1  0 1.000
                     34  2  8  2          Gibson            p   2  0  0  0  .000
                                           Gagliano         ph  1  0  0  0  .000
                                                               34  1  7  1

Detroit                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
McLain           W 1-0           9.0  7  1  1  2  1  97  67  1.00
                                 9.0  7  1  1  2  1  97  67

St. Louis                        INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Gibson           L 0-1           9.0  8  2  2  1  8 111  73  2.00
                                 9.0  8  2  2  1  8 111  73

STL: Tolan batted for Maxvill in the 9th
     Gagliano batted for Gibson in the 9th

E-Wert. 2B-McAuliffe(1), Northrup(1), McLain(1), Maris(1). HR-Shannon(1).
RBI-McAuliffe(1), Northrup(1), Shannon(1). K-Stanley, Kaline, Horton 4,
Freehan, Wert, Cepeda. BB-Cash, Maxvill, Gibson.
GWRBI: McAuliffe
Temperature: 78, Sky: clear, Wind: left to right at 1 MPH.

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