Welcome back to September 30, 1967 the penultimate day of the last and perhaps greatest pennant race in history. Now three of the ten teams in the American League still have a chance to win the AL pennant: Red Sox, Tigers, and Twins. The White Sox were eliminated a day earlier after 91 days in first place. At the beginning of the day the Twins were one game in first place and the Red Sox and Tigers were one game back but the Tigers had four games to play at home against the Angels while the Twins would visit the Red Sox so the Twins and the Tigers controlled their own destiny. The Red Sox must beat the Twins twice to have a chance and hope for help from the Angels if they were to complete the improbable feat of going from ninth to first under new skipper Dick Williams.
The Twins were confident as they started Jim (why is he not in the Hall of Fame) Kaat against Jose Santigao. Kaat had won 25 games the previous year and was 16 and 13 with an ERA of just over 3 this year. Santiago, the second of three Jose Santiagos in MLB, was having a good year at 11 and 4 with an ERA of about 3.6 but he had only started 11 games in 1967.
The Twins scored in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead but left the bases loaded as Carew lined out to third and Uhlaender grounded to second. Kaat stuck out four Red Sox in the first time through the order although he did give up three hits. Pitching to the tenth batter, Mike Andrews, in the bottom of the third Kaat hurt his elbow and needed to be replaced. In came Jim Perry with an 8-7 record and a 3.03 ERA. He finished the inning with a strikeout of Carl Yastrzemski, the only time the Twins got him out that weekend.
In the top of the fourth, Uhlaender tripled. For the second time the Twins had a runner on third with one out. Again they failed to score him. In the bottom of the fifth the Red Sox took the lead in a inning that included a single by the pinch hitter for the number eight hitter and two out RBIs by Adair and Yastrzemski.
In the top of the sixth the Twins tied the score when Rich Reese hit an RBI single pinch hitting for the number eight hitter. The Twins then pinch hit for Jim Perry with Frank Castro who walked to load the bases but Versalles flied out and again the Twins left the bases loaded.
Perry’s replacement, Ron Kline immediately gave up a home run to George Scott but settled down to pitch into the fateful seventh. After one out Andrews singled and both Adair and Andrews were safe on an error by Zoilo Versalles, the 1965 MVP. That brought up Yaz and Cal Elmer, the Twins manager brought in Jim Merritt to get a left-left match up. Merritt was 13-7 with a 2.5 ERA. It looked like the right move but Yaz hit his 44th home run for a 6-2 lead. Killebrew hit his 44th in the ninth to close the margin 6-4 and that is where it ended leaving the Red Sox and Twins tied with one game against each other left but they had Tigers to worry about.
In Detroit Mickey Lolich pitched the Tigers into first place by shutting out the Angels 5-0 on three hits. Willie Horton’s two run first inning homer was all Lolich would need. Detroit was 90-69 for 56.60% while the Twins and Red Sox were 91-70 for 56.52%. The Tigers’ lead only lasted the intermission plus three hours and 25 minutes because in the nightcap the Angels won 8-6.
In the nightcap the Tigers seemed to have a comfortable 6-2 lead through seven innings but they couldn’t stop the Angels in the eighth until they had scored six. For the Tigers Earl Wilson pitched into the sixth and was relieved by Fred Lasher who shut down the Angels in the sixth and the seventh. In the eighth, a single, a walk, and two more singles brought lefty Hank Aguirre in to face Roger Repoz. The Angels countered with right handed Bubba Morton who grounded out but got an RBI. Aguirre then walked the switch hitting Buck Rodgers. That brought in Fred Gladding with an ERA under two. He gave up an infield single to Bobby Knoop. The Tigers went for the left-left matchup of Tom Satriano versus John Hiller. Satriano’s hit led to the right handed Jim Fregosi driving in the winning runs versus the left hander. The Tigers’ efforts to match up might have undone them them.
At the end of the day the race was really on because the Red Sox and Twins were tied and the Tigers were a few percentage points back but had one extra game to play. Thus on Sunday morning all three teams controlled their own destiny. Win and they were in.