The 1965 Pennant Race
The Dodgers opened the month of August still in first place by a slim margin of 1 1/2 games over the Reds, 3 1/2 games over Milwaukee and four games over the Giants. The club was playing well, the pitching was still consistent, and interestingly enough, the club had scored enough runs to be seventh in the National League, one slot better than the Giants.
August brought a few shocks to the system. The Dodgers were in Cincinnati on August 8th and it looked to be a sensational pitching match-up with the Dodgers’ Drysdale against the Reds’ Jim Maloney. Maloney was regarded as one of the top pitchers in the National League. He threw a one-hit shutout in his first start of the season and on June 14th, he did not allow a hit in the first nine innings and struck out 18 Mets but was defeated on an 11th inning home run. Later in the month on August 19th, Maloney would throw a 10-inning no-hitter against the Cubs, but this Sunday he faced the Dodgers.
It was not even close. The Reds scored four runs in the first inning, two runs in the second, a run in the third inning and they just kept on going. When the dust finally settled in the ninth inning, the Reds had a 18-0 win over the Dodgers and Maloney cruised with a four-hit shutout. Were the Dodgers fazed by the 18-0 shellacking? They came home and showed their mettle and won the next four games, beating the Mets twice, 4-3 and 1-0, and the Pirates twice, 3-1 and 1-0. In the 1-0 game against the Pirates, Don Cardwell and Koufax had a pitchers’ duel with the game scoreless in the 10th inning. With two outs, Koufax walked and moved to second on a walk to Parker. Gilliam hit a ball to right field that was misplayed for an error and Koufax scored the winning run.
The Dodgers’ just did not have enough offense. And in this already very unusual season, Alston tried a very unusual lineup to help the offense in a game against Pittsburgh on August 15th, maybe one of the most unusual lineups ever devised by a Dodger manager. Maury Wills had been ailing with a sore leg, so Wes Parker led off and was followed by Don LeJohn. Jim Lefebvre hit third, Ron Fairly hit cleanup, Lou Johnson hit fifth, and center fielder Willie Davis hit sixth. The seventh hitter was a regular, but not a regular position player but he was hitting .295 and slugging .534 when he started the game, as the pitcher. Don Drysdale was put in the lineup at the seventh spot. John Roseboro batted eighth and John Kennedy hit ninth that day. It didn’t help. Drysdale went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts, the Dodgers had just four hits and lost 4-2.
The month of August is always a difficult one for baseball players. They refer to the latter two weeks of August as the “dog days” a term that refers to Sirius, known as the “dog star” that rises and sets with the sun. The star effect has no impact on the weather temperature, but the difficulty of playing major league baseball on an every day basis in an already long season with no relief in sight of the end shortens tempers. Add to that mix the civil disturbances in Los Angeles in August and a tight pennant race between the Giants and the Dodgers and a perfect storm was rapidly approaching.
And now perhaps the fiercest baseball rivalry of the era had the Dodgers and the Giants going head to head in four games in late August in San Francisco. The Braves led the Dodgers by 1/2 game and just one percentage point separating the Dodgers and Giants.Crime and Punishment, The Marichal-Roseboro Incident, Larry Gerlach Also, if the series didn’t need any more attention, the starting rotations for each side just happened to have Koufax for the Dodgers and Marichal for the Giants, arguably the top two pitchers in the National League, facing each other in the final game of the series.
The series opened on Thursday, August 19th, a day game. A large Candlestick Park crowd saw the Dodgers’ Drysdale start against 42-year-old left hander Warren Spahn. The Dodgers scored an early run, but Willie Mays delighted the partisan crowd with a two-run home run in the first inning and the Giants took an early 2-1 lead. The Giants moved to a 3-1 lead, but Drysdale’s sixth home run brought them within a run at 3-2. John Roseboro doubled home the tying run in the seventh inning.
The eighth inning saw the Dodgers get five hits to score twice and missed a third run when Lefebvre was thrown out at home. The Dodgers led 5-3 in the ninth inning and Drysdale was still on the mound. However, with two outs in the ninth inning, catcher Tom Haller of the Giants hit a two run home run and the game was again tied.
Alston stuck with Drysdale for the 10th and 11th inning and both clubs failed to score. In the 12th inning, Alston let Drysdale hit for himself and after he singled only then did Alston remove Drysdale from the game for a pinch-runner. Pinch-runner Willie Crawford was moved around to third base, but was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice. Ron Perranoski came into pitch for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers threatened in the 14th inning, but failed to score. Perranoski retired the first eight hitters he faced before allowing a single in the 14th inning and the game remained tied at 5-5. In the 15th inning, Johnson hit a two run home run to put the Dodgers ahead and they added an insurance run for an 8-5 lead to the bottom of the 15th inning. Perranoski blanked the Giants for the last three outs and the Dodgers came away with a 15-inning, 4 hour, 11 minute nailbiter. The Dodgers had 20 hits in the 15-inning game.
The next night, Bob Shaw throttled the Dodgers easily, 5-1. Willie Mays and Jim Ray Hart hit home runs to power the Giants to the win. Saturday’s game was another barnburner. The Dodgers led, 2-0 in the sixth inning when the Giants scored three runs to take the lead. The Dodgers countered with a dose of their own power as John Roseboro hit a two-run home run for a 4-3 lead. Back came the Giants with a Mays home run in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4-4.
Alston made every move he could to win the game. He batted Drysdale for Ron Perranoski, but when the Dodgers failed to score, he turned to starting pitcher Johnny Podres to begin the 10th inning. Podres had been a Dodger starting pitcher, but with a tired bullpen and Koufax starting the next day, Alston could use Podres. Podres set the Giants down in order in the 10th inning, and in the 11th inning, Dodger power struck the Giants again. Parker hit a two out, two-run home run and Podres set the Giants down in the 11th inning. The Dodgers would earn at least a split of the series and leave San Francisco with a lead.
Sunday, August 22nd had both teams and Candlestick Park fans ready for the Koufax-Marichal matchup. Marichal had already won 19 games for the Giants and Koufax had 21 victories for the Dodgers. The Dodgers scored single runs in the first two innings and led the Giants 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Marichal came to the plate.
It had been a difficult pennant race for both clubs. Both clubs were fierce rivals. Koufax and Marichal were the top two pitchers in the league. Civil disturbances in Los Angeles and United States soldiers deployed to the Dominican Republic were on the minds of all players. During Marichal’s at bat at home plate, Roseboro and Marichal exchanged harsh words regarding previous incidents in the series that upset both players. A melee erupted. When the umpires restored order 15 minutes later, Marichal was ejected from the game, and Roseboro left the game with a two-inch cut at his scalp. Superstar outfielder Willie Mays was one of the main peacekeepers to get the players settled down and it was also Mays who then hit a three-run home run off Koufax for the difference in the game. The four game donnybrook left the Giants and Dodgers with a split and the Dodgers left town with a 1/2 game lead, but the pennant race had taken a very serious turn, and it was still only August.
Despite the hard feelings of that weekend, Marichal and Roseboro both realized over time the need to move on from that moment. After each player retired, they knew they had been very competitive players in a heated pennant race. And they also knew the importance of showing the baseball world even the harshest emotions can be healed.
Roseboro explained, “There were no hard feelings on my part and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with. So I saw him (Marichal) at a Dodger old-timers’ game and we posed for pictures together and I actually visited him in the Dominican.”Richard Goldstein, New York Times, August 20, 2002 Marichal was in accordance with Roseboro regarding their relationship. “Our friendship is very good,” said Marichal in 1990, the 25th anniversary of the event.Richard Goldstein, New York Times, August 20, 2002
Leaving San Francisco, the Dodgers traveled to play the New York Mets. The Mets entered the National League in 1962 and the early years were rough going. The 1965 season had them on their way to losing 112 games and it was felt that the Dodgers would do well in the four game series. In the first game of the series, the Dodgers won 8-4 in a ragged game that saw both clubs make four errors and Drysdale allowed 11 hits in seven innings. Still, the Dodgers looked forward to the remainder of the series with Osteen and Koufax in the final two games.
There is an axiom in baseball that while you may be playing a bad major league club, it is still a major league club and a major league club is always capable of defeating their opponent. The Dodgers led the Mets 3-1 in the second game of their series on August 24th, but a ninth inning error followed by three straight Met hits gave them a come from behind 4-3 win. The next night, the Mets scored five runs in the first two innings off Claude Osteen for a 7-5 win. In the final game of the series, the Dodgers may have had Koufax on the mound, but the Mets had Tug McGraw starting. The future great relief pitcher held the Dodgers to two runs in 7 2/3 innings and the Mets put enough hits together to beat Koufax. A New York political cartoonist characterized the Dodger frustration as he showed a person in a Dodger uniform and the laughter of New York City seen in the background. Four teams were now within 1 1/2 games of each as the Dodgers were in first, the Reds and Braves trailed by 1/2 game and the Giants were just 1 1/2 games behind. The Pirates were a fifth team that had a real interest in the race and they were just 4 1/2 games behind.
Leaving New York behind, the Dodgers traveled to Philadelphia for better things, but the Phillies rocked Drysdale for four runs in the first inning. The Dodgers scored in four consecutive innings to take the lead, and would start the ninth inning leading 9-6. Relief pitcher Howie Reed got the first two outs in the ninth inning, and struck out Dick Stuart, but the third strike eluded Roseboro. Reed allowed two more hits for two runs, but left the tying run on second base and earned a save in the wild 9-8 win.
The next night, the Dodgers dreaded facing the Phillies’ Chris Short. Short had already beaten the Dodgers three times in 1965 and had won seven straight games against the Dodgers. And so what did the light hitting Dodgers do? They scored seven runs in the first inning and drove Short from the game after he retired just one hitter. John Purdin started the game and was the beneficiary of the big lead, but when the Phillies got to within 7-4 in the fourth inning, Alston relieved Purdin with Jim Brewer. Brewer pitched an excellent game as he pitched five shutout innings with seven strike outs for the win. Brewer did not pitch the ninth inning. That was left to the lefthander Koufax and Sandy pitched a scoreless inning for a save. It was Koufax’s first save of the season and his eighth career save. Nothing made sense any more in this pennant race.