Bill Freehan hit two three-run homers in a 14-run third inning as the American League defeated the National League, 19-2, in the fifth annual National Old Timers Classic, a wacky game played before 25,730 fans last night at RFK Stadium.
"I'm so senile," joked the 44-year-old Freehan, "I can't remember if I've ever done that before."
The heroes were many for the AL, as four diffferent players homered. The most unlikely was Cookie Rojas, who hit only 54 homers in 16 years in the majors.
Rojas contributed a bases-empty homer and a single to the big inning. He said he couldn't figure out how the game got so out of hand, but he enjoyed it.
"The best thing is we kicked the NL's butt," Rojas said. "We put it all together, and we're going to bury them from now on."
The AL had lost the last three games here, but any doubt about this one was erased early. Ralph Houk, the AL manager, said with a laugh that his team's success could directly be attributed to its coaching staff.
"Chuck Stevens Houk's coach and I were up most of last night trying to figure out our lineup, get everyone in the right place . . . "
"Plus the fact we were lucky," Stevens said.
Much of the luck came from catcher Freehan's bat. His first homer barely cleared the short left field fence, but the second went 15 rows deep into the bleachers.
"The first one I hit off Hoyt Wilhelm, I was almost embarrassed to go around on," he said. "But I guess we were all playing by the same rules."
The NL got only six hits, compared to the AL's 16. But the mood in the locker room was far from dour.
"Winning, losing, what the hell?" said Wilhelm, who gave up nine runs, eight of them earned, in his one-third inning. "It was a bad night, but we'll get them next year. I still had fun."
That was the word to describe the game. Lou Brock set the pace for the evening early. Traditionally a left-handed batter, he took two strikes from Whitey Ford to open the game, then switched to the right hand side of the plate, drawing appreciative laughter from the crowd. He switched back after one pitch and grounded out.
The NL took its only lead in the top of the second when Willie McCovey, Bill Mazeroski and Dick Groat singled and Jerry Grote grounded out.
The AL quickly struck back on Rocky Colavito's two-run homer deep into the left field seats. He already had drawn a standing ovation from the crowd minutes earlier when he had rifled a perfect throw from deep right field to home plate.
The real damage was done in the third, when the AL sent 18 batters to the plate, got 11 hits and scored 14 times.
Even the scoreboard couldn't keep up. Having no double-digit capacity for runs scored in a single inning, the scoreboard operators credited the AL with nine runs in the third and five more in the fourth.
The big inning began innocently enough as Rojas singled. One out later, Kaline singled off Wilhelm and Gene Woodling walked to load the bases for Boog Powell.
To chants of "B-o-o-o-o-g-g," he lined a single to right to score two runs. Colavito's hard grounder to third was booted into left field by Logan, making it 5-1 and bringing up Freehan.
Freehan ended any semblance of closeness by barely clearing the left field fence for a three-run homer.
Catfish Hunter continued the barrage, singling to left. Tom Tresh's homer to right made it 10-1.
It wasn't even close to over. Rojas, who had led off the inning, hit the third homer off Wilhelm in the inning. Reliever Lindy McDaniel inherited an 11-1 deficit.
Brooks Robinson singled off McDaniel, and Kaline walked. Woodling struck out for the second out, and Bill Skowron walked to load the bases. Irv Noren then knocked in two more runs with a single to right.
Freehan then hit his second three-run homer of the inning. Tony Oliva singled to bring up Tresh again, the 18th batter of the inning. He mercifully flied to right to end the inning. The NL got one run back in the fourth as Woody Woodward tripled and Randy Hundley grounded out to second.
Although leading by 14 runs, the AL took its last bats in the bottom of the fifth. The teams had decided that they would play the full five innings no matter what. George Kell singled to lead off, moved to third on a throwing error by Tug McGraw and scored on Tresh's single. Larry Doby singled to drive in two more runs, for the final score of 19-2, before Woodling lined out to end the game.
Bob Feller got the victory, allowing one run in one inning pitched.
"I learned a long time ago it's not how you pitch, it's when," he said, enjoying the benefits of the 14-run inning.