The American League experienced a thrilling four-team pennant race in 1967 that went right down to the season’s final day. The Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox spent most of the year vying for the top spot in the American League, with the four clubs engaged in a four-way tie as late as September 7. The White Sox ended up being the first team to fall out of contention, although they still had a mathematical chance to capture their first league championship in eight years going into the final week of the season.
Boston, Detroit, and Minnesota all entered the last day of the regular season with an opportunity to claim the American League flag. The Red Sox clinched at least a tie for first place when they defeated the Twins in a head-to-head match-up. They then clinched their first league championship in 21 years when the Angels defeated the Tigers later in the day. The Red Sox finished the regular season with a record of 92-70, just one game ahead of both the Twins and Tigers. The White Sox finished fourth, only three games back, while the Angels came in fifth, 7 ½ games off the pace.
The White Sox remained in contention as long as they did even though they posted a team batting average of just .225, had no one in their everyday lineup that batted higher than .241, and finished ninth in the league with only 531 runs scored. The White Sox owed whatever success they experienced solely to their pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading 2.45 team ERA. Joe Horlen finished 19-7, threw 258 innings, and led all A.L. hurlers with a 2.06 ERA and six shutouts. Gary Peters won 16 games, struck out 215 batters, tossed 260 innings, and placed second to his teammate with an ERA of 2.28. Although Chicago’s feeble offense limited Tommy John to 10 victories, he finished fourth in the league with a 2.47 ERA.
While the White Sox depended heavily on their superior pitching, the Twins, Tigers, and Red Sox were more balanced ball clubs. Minnesota placed near the top of the league rankings in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed. Harmon Killebrew paced the Twins on offense, tying for the league lead with 44 home runs, topping the circuit with 131 walks, and also finishing among the leaders with 113 runs batted in and 105 runs scored. Dean Chance headed Minnesota’s pitching staff, posting 20 victories, a 2.73 ERA, and 220 strikeouts, and topping the circuit with 283 innings pitched and 18 complete games.
Detroit’s offense, which finished second in the league with 683 runs scored, featured Al Kaline. The veteran right-fielder hit 25 home runs and placed among the league leaders with 94 runs scored and a .308 batting average. Detroit’s starting rotation included Earl Wilson, who tied for the league lead with 22 victories, compiled a 3.27 ERA, and finished third in the league with 264 innings pitched.
The pennant-winning Red Sox had the American League’s best pitcher in Jim Lonborg. The big right-hander finished 22-9, to tie Wilson for the league-lead in wins. He also compiled a 3.16 ERA, threw 273 innings and 15 complete games, and led all A.L. hurlers with 246 strikeouts. George Scott contributed significantly to Boston’s league-leading offense, hitting 19 home runs, driving in 82 runs, and batting .303. Tony Conigliaro also posted outstanding numbers before a serious beaning ended his season prematurely in mid-August. The All-Star right-fielder hit 20 homers, knocked in 67 runs, and batted .287 in his 95 games with the club.
However, Boston’s unrivaled leader throughout the 1967 campaign was left-fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who carried the team on his back for much of the year. Yaz earned A.L. MVP honors by winning the Triple Crown with a batting average of .326, 44 home runs, and 121 runs batted in. He also topped the circuit with 112 runs scored, 189 hits, 360 total bases, a .421 on-base percentage, and a .622 slugging percentage - all while playing a brilliant left field. Particularly effective down the stretch, Yastrzemski batted .522, hit five homers, and drove in 22 runs during the final two weeks of the season. His magnificent play made Boston’s “impossible dream” a reality, leading the Red Sox into the World Series after they finished ninth in the American League one year earlier, 26 games off the pace, with a record of only 72-90.
Yastrzemski continued to perform at an extremely high level against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, batting .400, with three home runs and five runs batted in. In the end, though, the Cardinals’ superior team balance and the dominating pitching of Bob Gibson proved to be too much for the Red Sox to overcome. Lou Brock hit .414 for St. Louis, scored eight runs, and stole seven bases. Roger Maris batted .385 and knocked in seven runs. Meanwhile, Gibson earned Series MVP honors by defeating the Red Sox three times. After posting earlier victories in Games One and Four, Gibson threw his third complete game of the Series in the decisive seventh contest, beating the Red Sox by a score of 7-2. He ended the Series with 26 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.00. Jim Lonborg also pitched extremely well for Boston winning his first two starts by scores of 5-0 and 3-1. However, working on only two days’ rest, he failed to match Gibson in Game Seven.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 14 - In his major league debut, Billy Rohr of the Boston Red Sox had a no-hitter broken up with two men out in the ninth inning on a single by Yankee catcher Elston Howard. Rohr finished the game with a one-hit, 3-0 victory.
• May 14 - Mickey Mantle became the sixth member of the 500-home run club when he homered against Baltimore’s Stu Miller during a 6-5 Yankee victory at Yankee Stadium.
• August 18 – California’s Jack Hamilton ended Tony Conigliaro’s season (and almost his life) when he beaned the Red Sox slugger. Hit on the left cheekbone, just below the eye socket, Conigliaro missed the rest of 1967 and all of 1968.
• October 5 – Boston’s Jim Lonborg turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history in Game Two of the Fall Classic. Lonborg retired the first 19 Cardinal batters he faced, before he allowed Curt Flood to reach first base on a walk with one man out in the top of the seventh inning. He subsequently had his no-hit bid broken up with two out in the eighth by a Julian Javier double. Lonborg ended up settling for a one-hit shutout, as the Red Sox evened the Series at one game apiece with a 5-0 victory. The one-hitter was the fourth in the history of the Fall Classic.
• Boston’s jump from ninth place in 1966 to the top of the league standings in 1967 made them the first team to do so in the 20th Century.
• Each league presented its own Cy Young Award for the first time.
• Al Kaline won the last of his 10 Gold Gloves as an American League outfielder.
• Dean Chance of Minnesota threw a no-hitter against Cleveland on August 25.
• Joe Horlen of Chicago tossed a no-hitter against Detroit on September 10.
• On April 30, Baltimore’s Steve Barber and Stu Miller lost a combined no-hitter to Detroit, 2-1, in nine innings.
• Whitey Ford retired with a .690 career winning percentage - the best in history among 200-game winners. He ended his career with a record of 236-106. Ford also retired with a 2.74 career ERA – the lowest of any pitcher who competed exclusively after the end of the Dead-ball Era.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Red Ruffing, Branch Rickey, and Lloyd Waner.
• Minnesota's Rod Carew captured A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Jimmie Foxx died.
• Bert Campaneris captured his third straight stolen base title, leading the league with 55 steals.
- 1967 World Series, Al Kaline, Bert Campaneris, Billy Rohr, Bob Gibson, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Dean Chance, Earl Wilson, Elston Howard, Gary Peters, George Scott, Harmon Killebrew, Jack Hamilton, Jim Lonborg, Joe Horlen, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, Steve Barber, Stu Miller, Tommy John, Tony Conigliaro, Whitey Ford