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The 1968 World Series featured the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers, with the Tigers winning in 7 games for their first championship since 1945, and the third in their history. The Tigers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win three in a row, largely on the arm of MVP Mickey Lolich, who won three complete games in a single World Series, a feat that has not been duplicated since, as of 2006. In his third appearance in the Series, Lolich had to pitch after only two days' rest in the deciding Game 7, because regular-season 31-game winner Denny McLain had proven ineffective in the postseason. In Game 5, the Tigers' hopes for the title would have been very much in jeopardy had Bill Freehan not tagged out Lou Brock in a home plate collision when Brock mistakenly elected not to slide and went in standing up.
The narrow win for the Tigers was due, in small part, to a bold gamble by Manager Mayo Smith. The Tigers rotated 4 good hitting outfielders during the season (Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, Al Kaline, and Jim Northrup); in an effort to get all four into the lineup in the World Series, Smith moved center fielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop (replacing Ray Oyler, who batted .135 during the season) even though he had never played there in his minor or major league career. The gamble paid off as hall-of-famer Al Kaline batted .379 with 11 hits including 2 home runs and 8 RBIs, Jim Northrup knocked in 8 runs to go along with his 2 home runs, and Willie Horton hit .304 with a home run and 6 runs scored while Stanley made only 2 insignificant errors.
1968 was tagged "The Year of the Pitcher", and fittingly the Series featured dominant performances from Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, MVP of the 1964 World Series and 1967 World Series. Gibson came into the Series with a stunning regular-season Earned Run Average of just 1.12, and he would pitch complete games in Games 1, 4, and 7. He was the winning pitcher in Games 1 and 4. In Game 1, he threw a shutout, striking out 17 batters, besting Sandy Koufax's 1963 record by 2, and which still stands as the World Series record as of 2006. In Game 4, a solo home run by Jim Northrup was the only offense the Tigers were able to muster, as Gibson struck out 10 batters. In Game 7, Gibson was defeated by series MVP Mickey Lolich, allowing three runs on four straight hits in the decisive 7th inning, although the key play was a triple that was seemingly misplayed by Flood in center field which could have been the third out with no runs scoring.
The Series saw the Cardinals lose a Game 7 for the first time in their history. The Tigers were the third team to come back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to win a best of 7 World Series, the first two being the 1925 Pirates and the 1958 Yankees. Later, the 1979 Pirates, and 1985 Royals would accomplish this feat.
This was the last World Series before Divisional Play. In his book about the history of the World Series, historian Lee Allen made the point that it was the last "pure" Series in the sense that divisional play would raise the possibility that the team with the best record from one or both leagues might not get into the Series, which has proven to be an accurate prediction (both teams in 2006, for example).