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Yankees Lose, Downing Injured on Yogi’s 39th Birthday

May 12, 1964 - Yogi Berra was 39 today, and it wasn’t a happy birthday. The manager has a heavy cold, the Yanks got only three hits as they were beaten by the Tigers in Detroit, 7-2, and pitcher Al Downing was injured.

Downing, in true Yankee style, injured himself warming up before the game. He pulled something in his lower back and had to quit after throwing only four pitches to leadoff hitter Don Wert. Left-hander Bob Meyer relieved Downing, and the Tigers teed off on him. Downing later said he believed he hurt himself while swinging a bat at Washington last Thursday.

Charley Dressen, Tiger manager, played the game under protest on the basis that Downing didn’t dispose of at least one batter, but his view was groundless and, of course, unnecessary because he won.

The rule says a pitcher doesn’t have to complete his job of facing the batter’s full time at bat provided that the umpire-in-chief judges him to be sufficiently injured. Jim Honochick, ump in charge, was behind the plate, and he was convinced of the honesty of the Yankee claim that Downing was hurt.

Dressen’s protest was understandable because, at the time, the Tigers trailed 2-0 due to Hector Lopez’s homer. In addition, the Bengals had a five-game losing streak going in and Chuck was somewhat sour at life.

The Yankees had a winning string of the same length snapped. After the big hitting weekend in Cleveland, they managed only three hits off Mickey Lolich, who became the first southpaw to beat the Yanks in nine attempts by lefties this season and the only man to pitch a complete game against them.

Lolich’s win was his first against the Yanks, who beat him three times when he was a rookie last year. The 24-year-old pitcher is right-handed in everything but throwing. He dislocated his left shoulder in a childhood accident, and the doctor suggested that he exercise with his left arm in order to strengthen the muscles. His father made him pitch with his left arm as a means of following the doctor’s advice, so the kid grew up to be a left-handed pitcher but otherwise righty.

In addition to Downing’s injury, Tony Kubek’s sore side kept him on the bench tonight, Roger Maris is still resting his tender hamstring, and Mickey Mantle can’t run hard because of a sore groin.

The matchup tomorrow is Whitey Ford vs. Hank Aguirre, so Maris will get another day of rest with the lefty opposing. “His left hamstring is a little sore, and the two days off should clear it up,” Berra said. “After that, he’s going to play every day.”

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