On September 17, 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to stretch their lead over the idle St. Louis Cardinals to six and a half games. The Cincinnati Reds, 7-5 winners over the Chicago Cubs, remained seven and a half games behind.
The Phillies won the game in the ninth inning when Ruben Amaro scored from third as the Dodgers tried unsuccessfully to complete a double play on a Richie Allen grounder. Bobby Shantz, days shy of his 39th birthday, pitched seven and two-thirds innings of three-hit relief to pick up the win. It was a performance reminiscent of his heroic long-relief outing in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series.
The Phillies were sitting pretty with only 15 games left for them to play. But they would lose 12 of their next 13.
In the American League, the New York Yankees pulled into a three-way tie for first place via a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The other two contenders, Chicago and Baltimore, both had the day off.
Mickey Mantle supplied the Yankees offense with a double and a two-run home run. Mel Stottlemyre was the winning picture.
The Yanks had brought Stottlemyre up from their Richmond farm team in August. By September 17, his record was 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA (which he would go on to lower).
When pressed, the Yankees of that era always seemed to pull a rabbit out their hat. In 1964, they pulled out two — Stottlemyre and journeyman pitcher Pete Ramos, who saved 7 games, with a 1.25 ERA, after being acquired from Cleveland on September 5 for two players to be named later.
Though their teams were tied for first place, I suspect that optimism was in short supply among White Sox and Orioles fans.