After all the hand-wringing in New England, the fact remains that it is the Detroit Tigers, not the Boston Red Sox, facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the latest edition of the World Series. The Cardinals are the favorites, but most experts do not predict any easy ride for the Redbirds. These two clubs ranked second (St. Louis, 2.88 team ERA) and third (Detroit, 3.03) in pitching among all clubs. Only the Chicago White Sox could boast a finer pitching staff. The key is whether the Cardinals’ young arms will perform in this series as they had over the summer. The Cardinals also finished second in batting (.265) in the major leagues while the Tigers (.243) were tenth among the twenty clubs. On the field, the Tigers hold a slight advantage over the Cardinals in team fielding percentage. Here’s a position by position comparison:
First base: Norm Cash (Det.) vs. Orlando Cepeda (StL)
Despite Cash’s heroics against the Red Sox, Cepeda gets the nod here. Cha Cha is the inspirational leader of El Birdos and is receiving MVP consideration in the National League. Eddie Mathews may also see some time at first for the Tigers.
Second base: Jerry Lumpe (Det) vs. Julian Javier (StL)
Javier. Though Tiger manager Mayo Smith may shift Dick McAuliffe to second, Joolie has been a key ingredient in the Cardinals resurgence.
Third base: Don Wert (Det) vs. Mike Shannon (StL)
The edge goes to St. Louis again. Shannon moved from the outfield to third base this season to open space for another bat. But it was Shannon’s bat that provided key hits time after time.
Shortstop: Dick McAuliffe (Det) vs. Dal Maxvill (StL)
The slick-fielding Maxvill was second in the NL in RBIs among shortstops, but McAuliffe led his club in home runs and runs scored. Slight nod to McAuliffe.
Left Field: Willie Horton (Det) vs. Lou Brock (StL)
A complete contrast in style. Horton was the club leader down the stretch with his power and timely hits. Brock is a speed demon and a distraction on the base paths to opposing hurlers. It is possible Brock will provide the greater threat if he gets on base, but this race is too close to call.
Center Field: Jim Northrup (Det) vs. Curt Flood (StL)
Northrup led the league in triples, and Flood was fifth in the senior circuit in batting. Give the edge to Flood and his Gold Glove.
Right Field: Al Kaline (Det) vs. Roger Maris (StL)
The veteran Al Kaline gets the nod over the 1967 edition of Roger Maris who contributed but clearly is not the threat he once was. The 32-year-old Kaline led his club in batting, doubles, and was tied with the 25-year-old Mickey Stanley in stolen bases.
Catching: Bill Freehan (Det) vs. Tim McCarver (StL)
A pair of All-Stars wear the tools of ignorance for these clubs, and neither can claim a true advantage over the other at or behind the plate.
Starting Pitching: Wilson, McLain, Lolich (Det) vs. Gibson, Hughes, Briles (StL)
Gibson (8-11) will be the first pitcher with a losing record to start a World Series Game One since 1944. His mound opponent will be 20-game winner Earl Wilson for a historic match-up of black aces. Lolich was the best Tiger pitcher down the stretch and could be a key ingredient for a championship. Should each manager decide to go with four starters, Carlton of the Cardinals has a decided edge over Detroit’s Joe Sparma. Even.
Bull Pen: Both managers were still using a piecemeal approach to their bull pens in September. Joe Hoerner and Ron Willis were the Schoendienst’s short men. Mayo Smith turned to a trio of rookies, Fred Lasher, Mike Marshall and John Hiller, after Fred Gladding was derailed with a sore wing. Slight edge to Detroit.
Bench: The Cardinals typically played a set nine all season while Mayo Smith rotated and platooned his players all season. Therefore, Smith’s players are experienced and game-tested. Detroit can boast of a 500 HR slugger in Eddie Mathews on their bench, and Mickey Stanley, Lenny Green and Jim Price are contributors. The Cardinals have rookie Bobby Tolan as a threat off their bench. Advantage Detroit.
This side-by-side comparison certainly predicts a tight series. Though the Redbirds are the listed favorites, the Tigers are entering the Series with the hotter hand. The key for St. Louis is Bob Gibson who has pitched much better than his losing record indicates. Gibson was a big-time performer on this World Series stage three years ago, and nobody is doubting the big right hander’s ability for a repeat performance. Detroit will rely on its deep pitching staff and bench to overcome the Cardinals’ starting nine.
Prediction: Cardinals in seven.