On This Day In 1968: Denny McLain Wins 30! [Video]
The 1968 Detroit Tigers were known for their come from behind victories, and Denny McLain's thirtieth win was no exception.
It was 52 years ago today that McLain became the Major League's first 30 game winner in 34 years. It has not been done since. The closest anyone has come was the Phillies' Steve Carlton's 27 wins in 1972. (Carlton pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, giving up three runs in four innings of relief work.)
McLain's 30th came in a Saturday afternoon game at Tiger Stadium that was broadcast nationally on NBC.
As Detroit Free Press writer Jack Saylor put it, “This was the World Series, Mardi Gras, and the Academy Awards all wrapped up in one.”
In Fact, Dizzy Dean, the last guy to win thirty games, was in the stands that day, rooting for McLain.
The opponent that day was a lackluster Oakland A's team, known then only for their young power hitter, future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who opened the scoring in the fourth with a two run homer and then homered again in the sixth to give the A's a 4-3 lead.
That lead held until the bottom of the ninth, when in their last at bat, the Tigers came through for Denny. In fact they had to, because Al Kaline pinch hit for McLain to lead off the inning (yes, American league pitchers used to bat back then), drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch to get on base.
Mickey Stanley then singled with one out, sending Kaline to third.
The drama built as Jim Northrup sent a slow rolling dribbler down the first base line, allowing Kaline to race home from third, avoiding the tag to tie the game, 4-4.
The Tigers big power hitter, local legend Willie Horton was due up next, and with the winning run on third, Oakland drew their outfield in a little to try and set up a throw to the plate.
Horton took advantage and lined over left fielder Jim Gosger's head to drive in Stanley and win number thirty for Denny.
Here's Tiger legend Ernie Harwell's call of the winning play.
And here's NBC's call.
These days, McLain can be heard on the 'No Filter Sports' podcast, where he frequently gets into arguments with his co-hosts, Eli Zaret and Bob Page.