This day in baseball history — Dodgers retake first place

On September 28, 1965, the Los Angeles Dodgers moved into sole possession of first place in the National League for the first time since September 6. The Dodgers were hot, having won ten straight games. However, the San Francisco Giants had started off the month of September by winning 18 of 21 before finally cooling off to the tune of 2-4 in their most recent games.

Diabolically, the schedule-makers had arranged things so that these two arch-rivals did not play each other after August 22, the infamous game in which Juan Marichal attacked Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat. Thus, the Dodgers needed help down the stretch.

They had finally received some when Cincinnati and Milwaukee both took two of three games from the Giants. Meanwhile, the Dodgers swept Milwaukee and defending champions St. Louis, with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale winning the last two games 2-0 and 1-0, respectively.

Thanks to the resulting four game swing, the Dodgers and Giants came into the games of September 28 tied for first place. The Giants faced the Cardinals at Candlestick Park in a match-up between Ron Herbel (for San Francisco) and 21 year-old Larry Jaster, who was making only his third big league start. The Dodgers faced Cincinnati at Dodger Stadium in a duel of left-handers, Claude Osteen and Jim O’Toole.

The Giants-Cardinals game was no contest. Jaster allowed San Francisco 10 hits but limited them to one run, en route to a 9-1 complete game victory.

In Los Angeles, it took 12 innings to settle matters. Neither team scored until the bottom of the seventh, when LA broke through in their typical fashion.

With one out, reserve catcher Jeff Torborg singled off of O’Toole. Nate “Pee Wee” Oliver, called up late in the season to serve mainly as a pinch-runner (he played eight games but only had one plate appearance), ran for Torborg. After Osteen struck out trying to bunt Oliver to second, the young infielder stole the base. Maury Wills then delivered a clutch single to score Oliver. Wills too stole second (his 93rd steal of the year) but was left stranded there.

Cincinnati responded with a run in the top of the eighth. Tommy Harper led off with a walk; Pete Rose bunted him to second base; and Vada Pinson drove him home with a double. Ron Perranoski replaced Osteen and wisely walked Frank Robinson intentionally, before retiring Deron Johnson and Don Pavletich.

The Dodgers nearly regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth off of a tiring O’Toole. The veteran managed to pitch his way out of a bases loaded one out jam, however.

After that, the pitchers — Perranoski and Billy McCool on for O’Toole — were ascendant. There would be no more scoring until both had departed for pinch hitters.

In the top of the 12th, with Howie Reed on for Perranoski, Willie Davis made a great play to deny Harper with one out. Davis’ catch loomed even larger when Rose tripled. Reed escaped by inducing a pop-up from the dangerous Pinson.

In the bottom of the 12th, Cincinnati brought in Joey Jay. A two-time 21 game winner earlier in the decade, Jay was now a slightly below average pitcher.

Jay struck out Willie Davis to start the inning. But he then yielded a home run to Lou Johnson, the 31 year-old career minor leaguer who rose from obscurity to help save the Dodgers season after Tommy Davis, their best hitter, broke his leg at the beginning of May.

After three hours and 52 minutes, the game was over. After 157 games, the Dodgers were in first place to stay.