WASHINGTON — The National League hit four home runs in winning its third Cracker Jack Old-Timers Game in a row Monday night, defeating the American League, 7-3, in front of 26,770 fans at RFK Stadium.
Clearing the accommodatingly close-in fences for the winners were Hank Aaron, Bill Mazeroski, Joe Torre and Tommy Davis. It was a close game until the bottom of the fifth and final inning, when the National League, batting even though it was ahead, scored three runs.
Hoyt Wilhelm was the winning pitcher and his opposing starter, Early Wynn, took the loss. Neither pitched for more than an inning.
It was a chance for Washington baseball fans to relive part of their past as former Senator Jim Lemon led off the American League fourth with a home run. But the biggest hand was reserved for former Yankee center fielder Joe DiMaggio, who did not play.
Luke Appling, who opened the first Cracker Jack game in 1982 with a home run when he was 75, was the first batter Monday night.
Wilhelm, the reliever converted into a starter for this occasion, threw one down the middle that umpire Jim Honochick called a strike. After a mock argument, Appling retired, with Chuck Stevens taking his spot. Stevens singled to right.
George Kell walked, then Al Kaline singled to load the bases. Frank Robinson singled home Stevens for a 1-0 lead. Harmon Killebrew struck out and Boog Powell lined out to Willie McCovey, but not before he and Honochick re-enacted their Miller Lite beer commercial at home plate, Honochick borrowing Powell's glasses to reverse a strike he had just called.
Wynn, former Senator and Hall of Fame right-hander, retired leadoff batter Lou Brock on a grounder nicely played by second baseman Kell, who in his major league career played 1,692 games at third base and one at second. Robinson caught Ernie Banks' towering fly to left for the second out.
Eddie Mathews singled, then Aaron, Mathews' teammate for many years with the Braves, put a ball 20 rows deep in left field for a 2-1 lead. Kell made another nice play on Enos Slaughter to end the inning.
In the second, 363-game winner Warren Spahn got Bill Freehan to pop out to Torre. Wynn, who besides being a pitcher was occasionally used as a pinch hitter, hit for himself. With the count at 2-2, Robin Roberts came on to pitch and made Wynn pop to McCovey, and Johnny Pesky pop out to end the inning.
Whitey Ford entered to pitch the bottom of the second and struck out McCovey, but the Yankees' Hall of Fame left-hander faltered. First, Mazeroski, whose home run against the Yankees in 1960 won the World Series for Pittsburgh, reached the seats with a drive to left.
Torre followed with a line shot to left-center that just made it into the first row for a 4-1 lead. Powell got the last out with a nice catch of Brock's pop-up and the stadium resonated with the sound of "Booooooog!"
In the top of the third, Harvey Haddix got Bobby Richardson out on a line drive to former Cub Billy Williams in right field. Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax came on to pitch to former Tiger Al Kaline, who popped out to McCovey, and Robinson was out on a good play by third baseman Ron Hunt.
Luis Tiant came on for the American League in the bottom of the inning. He induced Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, to pop out and Hunt to ground to Bobby Richardson, the South Carolina Yankee, at second. Mickey Lolich relieved to face Aaron. The former Tiger got the former Brave to pop out to Freehan, another former Tiger, to end the inning.
Lemon led off the American League fourth with a home run to left off Mike McCormick to cut the National League lead to 4-2. After former Minnesota Twin Tony Oliva doubled to right center, another former Senator, Eddie Yost, singled to right to send Oliva to third. John Roseboro drove home Oliva with a sacrifice fly to Williams in right field, but the rally fizzled at 4-3 when Dick McAuliffe's ground ball forced Yost at second.
In the National League's fourth, Williams' sharp grounder was scooped up by Oliva at first for the first out. Earlier, during batting practice, Banks was conducting a batting lesson to those near the cage, and he used Williams, his former teammate, as an example.
"Wanna see a guy who can hit the ball?" Banks said of Williams. "Watch his hands. Watch his hands. When you hit line drives like that, it's all in the hands."
Former Indian Bob Feller came on and finished off the National League in the fourth. In last year's game, Feller laid a pitch over the plate that Johnny Bench drove into the seats.
"This game is for one thing," Feller said. "We're supposed to lay it over the plate. The people don't come out to see Bob Feller throw curves and sliders, even though I could. I proved what I could do in my prime. If the game is way off, maybe I'll bear down.
"You see, you want to keep the score even. The ideal situation is for it to end up in a tie. Who wins this game means absolutely nothing. It's all show business."