1968 was the year of the pitcher in baseball. The American League ERA was 2.98 overall. The overall batting average was .230. Carl Yastrzemski led the league in batting average with an alltime low of .301 and was the only qualifier to top .300. But on this one night in Anaheim, the Detroit Tigers and California Angels combined for 13 runs and 29 hits, including 3 home runs as the Angels defeated the Tigers 7-6 in 12 innings. The Tigers were still a half game ahead of Baltimore and the Angels were 4 1/2 games out in sixth place. 8,712 showed up for the game.
All three homers were hit by the Tigers, two of them by Eddie Mathews. Those homers were the 511th and 512nd of his career and it moved him past Mel Ott into sixth place on the alltime list of home run hitters at the time. They would also be the last home runs hit by Mathews in his career as he would play in just 13 more games. Presently, Mathews total is tied for 17th most in major league history. Ernie Banks also hit 512 home runs.
Mathews had started his career in 1952 with the Boston Braves and would be only person to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. Mathews led the NL in home runs twice, once in 1953 and again in 1959. Both of those years he would be the runnerup for the MVP award. In 1953, Roy Campanella beat him out and in 1959, it was Banks.
Lolich gave up single runs to the Angels in each of the first three innings to put his team in a hole. Chuck Hinton had an RBI grounder in the first. Bobby Knoop singled in Bubba Morton in the second. And in the third, Rick Reichardt singled home Hinton.
Mathews put the Tigers on the board in the fifth with a two-run homer off of Ellis with Willie Horton aboard. But the Angels got the two runs back on an RBI double from Reichardt and an RBI single by Morton off of reliever Pat Dobson.
Tigers second baseman Tom Matchick led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Jim Northrup to make it 5-3. Matchick was starting in place of regular second baseman Dick McAuliffe.
Mathews chased Ellis in the seventh after he led off the inning with a home run. Minnie Rojas relieved and promptly gave up a double to third baseman Don Wert. Norm Cash was called off the bench to bat for shortstop Ray Oyler, who was batting .182 at the time and would finish the year at .135. Cash broke out of his slump with a home run to put the Tigers ahead 6-5.
The Angels bounced back in the seventh. Shortstop Jim Fregosi led off with a single. Hinton sacrificed him over and Reichardt grounded out, sending Fregosi to third. Morton singled home Fregosi to tie the game. Bobby Trevino followed with a double to send Morton to third and Dobson was pulled in favor of Fred Lasher, who got Buck Rodgers to ground out to end the inning.
The game dragged on to extra innings. Clyde Wright came into pitch in the 9th for the Angels and Daryl Patterson came in to relieve in the 10th.
In the twelfth inning, Reichardt led off with a single. Patterson balked Reichardt to second. Patterson then hit Morton with a pitch. Bobby Trevino popped out, but Tom Satriano doubled to left to score Reichardt and give the Angels the win. It was the second straight night that the Tigers had lost 7-6 in extra innings. They had lost to Oakland by the same score on May 26.
But the Tigers wouldn't lose a lot of games in 1968. They won the AL by 12 games with a 103-59 record. Denny McLain would win the Cy Young Award and the MVP with a 31-6 record and a 1.96 ERA. But in the World Series against the Cardinals, Lolich would be the hero, winning three games in the Tigers seven game victory. Mathews would finish his major league career when he started at third base in Game 4. His final plate appearance was a walk against Bob Gibson.
The Angels had an awful 1968, finishing tied for eighth with a 67-95 record, 36 games behind the Tigers. The Angels scored just 498 runs and batted just .227. Reichardt led the regulars with a .255 average and 21 home runs. Rigney, the Angels first manager, would only get to stay on the job until May 25 of the next season.