BASEBALL'S WEEK - Sports Illustrated Vault |
Publish date:




Chicago's (2-3) run production is up more than 200% over the opening weeks of last season and White Sox General Manager Ed Short knows who should get the credit. "Well, it looks like our kids are here to stay," he said last week when the Sox' young foursome of Buddy Bradford, Carlos May, Bill Melton and Gail Hopkins brought their team back up to first place in the tight Western Division race. Outfielder Bradford, who hit just .217 as a part-time player in 1968, led the way, batting .530 with two home runs and seven RBIs as the Sox' newcomers—who average just 23 years old—increased their share of the White Sox' runs scored and RBIs this year to 50%. Minnesota (4-3) and Oakland (4-3) battled the Sox for the top spot and each other for blood. After the A's Reggie Jackson belted two homers in one game, Twins Reliever Dick Woodson knocked the slugger down on two consecutive pitches and ended up paying for each of them. First, Jackson cleared both benches when he charged the mound and bowled over Woodson with a body block. Then, on a later play at the plate, the A's Rick Monday tore a five-inch gash in Woodson's leg as the pitcher tagged him out. The style of play was more peaceful, but no less productive in Kansas City (2-3), where hitters Jerry Adair and Chuck Harrison helped the surprising Royals remain within 1½ games of first. Adair, who is playing for his fourth team in four years, hit .526 and Harrison won one game with a ninth-inning, two-run, pinch single. A shutout by Jim McGlothlin, California's (3-1) second complete game of the year, ended a six-game losing streak for the Angels. Clutch pitching by Seattle's (2-4) Steve Barber couldn't prevent the Pilots from slipping behind the Angels into last place. The former Orioles 20-game winner combined with Reliever Diego Segui to throw a two-hitter that halted their team's skid at three straight losses. New York's (4-3) Mel Stottlemyre, with five of his team's first nine victories, almost singlehandedly has put the Yankees into the thick of the Eastern Division's first-place battle. The righthander won twice last week to become the majors' top pitcher. Boog Powell of Baltimore (6-2) is 6'4" and 240 pounds, but last week his hitting reminded people more of another famous Oriole batter, 140-pound Wee Willie Keeler. Facing overshifted defenses designed to stop his pull hitting, the lefthanded Powell began hitting 'em where they ain't, punching to left field instead of pulling to right. He connected for a single, double and sacrifice fly in his team's 5-2 win over Detroit (3-4). The defending champion Tigers dropped to fourth place because of weak hitting. With sluggers Willie Horton (.217), Bill Freehan (.174) and Norm Cash (.074) all in slumps, the Tigers' team average fell to .188 for the week. Hitting was hardly a problem at either Boston (3-3) or Washington (4-2). The Red Sox blasted 13 home runs for the week, setting a record for homers over a 10-game streak with 26. And the Sox had good news from their pitching staff when Jim Lonborg, who had been out with an injury since opening day, returned to defeat the Tigers for his first win of the year. Some of Manager Ted Williams' expertise must be rubbing off on the Senators, who average .267. The best student was Hank Allen, unnoticed older brother of Phils slugger Richie. Allen lifted his season's average to .442 with a 10-for-19 surge. Cleveland (0-6) ran its losing streak to nine games with a combination of pitiful hitting (.200) and pathetic pitching that allowed eight runs a game. Manager Alvin Dark tried to rally his team by telling them of the 1951 Giants with whom he played. That team lost 11 straight early in the season and still won the pennant. But, as Dark no doubt remembers, the Giants' win was considered a miracle.

Standings—East: Balt 15-7, Bos 10-7, NY 10-8, Det 9-8, Wash 10-10, Clev 1-15. West: Minn 10-7, Oak 10-8, Chi 8-7, KC 8-8, Cal 6-8, Sea 6-10.


San Francisco's (6-1) Gaylord Perry, who was bombed for seven runs in his initial start of the year, was one of the first pitchers to admit that the lower mound caused him trouble. Now he appears to be one of the first pitchers to have adjusted to the new height. "All the pitchers are having more trouble with the new mound than we expected," says Perry. "I'm now using a higher kick and taking more time to hide the ball from the hitters." Perry has won all three of his starts since his opening failure with strong, complete-game performances. His victory last week sustained a Giants drive that brought them into a tie for the Western Division lead. Cincinnati (4-4) moved up on the leaders too after Manager Dave Bristol juggled his batting order. Catcher Johnny Bench, shifted up to the fifth spot in the lineup, promptly sparked a Reds barrage of 53 runs in eight games. During that span Bench drove in 12 runs to take over the league leadership. Atlanta (2-4) played at Los Angeles (4-3) in a battle for the division lead, but Braves Manager Luman Harris spent most of his time fighting for enforcement of the spitball rule. Fuming that four of the seven losses his team had suffered had been to spitballers, Harris accused umpires, owners and the league presidents of failing to stand behind the spitball ban. He then prepared his players to face the Dodgers' Bill Singer—an ace, he claimed, with the Vaseline pitch—by having his own batting practice pitchers throw greased-up balls during the pregame hitting drills. Singer still stopped Atlanta on four hits for his fourth win. Having lost that battle, Harris prepared for war. He promised to teach everyone on his staff how to throw the forbidden pitch and then demand that they use it during games. "The Braves are going to start throwing the spitter now and I don't want to hear anyone complaining about it," said Harris. San Diego (5-3), which has made three trades involving 11 players since the expansion draft last fall, may have made its best deal by signing unwanted free agent Jack Baldschun after the Reds and A's rejected him. Baldschun was a two-time winner in relief last week and the only member of the Padres staff with that many wins for the season. Both victories came when rookie Nate Colbert hit three-run, eighth-inning home runs. Houston's (1-7) only win came on a two-hit shutout by Larry Dierker, but pitching was the missing ingredient in four of the Astros' other games as the staff allowed 41 runs. Even with Chicago (3-4) and Pittsburgh (4-2) locked in a rollicking duel for first place (see page 20), Philadelphia (4-1) was the hottest team in the Eastern Division. Despite the loss of ace lefthander Chris Short to the disabled list, the Phillies' pitching was strong. Woody Fryman and Rick Wise each allowed just one run in their wins, but the most impressive victories came from unknowns Grant Jackson and Jerry Johnson. Jackson, a lefthander who finished 1-6 last season, matched St. Louis' (3-3) Bob Gibson for seven innings until the Phillies' hitters broke loose for a four-run rally that allowed him to coast to a 5-1 win. Johnson, 4-4 a year ago, shut out the Cardinals two days later with a gritty 1-0 performance. Even a .478 week by the league's top hitter, Cleon Jones, could not prevent New York (2-4) from dropping into last place. Montreal's (2-4) no-hit Pitcher Bill Stoneman added a shutout over the Cards to his record before the Pirates nicked him for a run and ended his scoreless inning streak at 21. The little righthander and his teammates were finding life north of the border downright flattering too. Once thought to be the weakest of the new franchises, Montreal has turned out to be easily the strongest, drawing an average of 19,000 for home games despite cold weather and competition from hockey's Stanley Cup.

Standings—East: Chi 14-6. Pitt 12-6, Phil 7-9, StL 7-11, Mont 7-11, NY 7-11. West: LA 12-6, SF 12-6, Atl 11-7, Cin 8-9, SD 9-11, Hou 4-17.




"First Babe Ruth and now the Hawk," complained a Boston teeny-bopper's banner after the Red Sox traded mod slugger Ken Harrelson to Cleveland in a six-player deal. The reference was to the lamented 1920 deal with New York, but the fears it might have evoked were insufficient to keep Harrelson in Boston. The 27-year-old outfielder, who had abruptly retired when he figured the trade might mean a loss of more than $500,000 in nonbaseball bread, just as quickly unretired himself after talking things over with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Dressed in cowboy boots, bell-bottoms and an ascot tie, the Hawk met last week for four hours with the Commissioner and then announced the expected: there is baseball to be played and money to be made even in Cleveland. There are fans to be won, too—and the league's RBI champ began by sweeping them off their feet. A rock band and 500 young rooters raucously welcomed him at the airport and the Hawk returned the greeting, saying, "I'm happier than a pig in mud to be here." That night his new boosters quickly forgave a first game fielding blunder when Harrelson slugged a triple in his first at bat as an Indian. The hit and a two-run homer in his second game helped put Cleveland ahead both times, but Harrelson could not do it all alone. With the Tribe's pitching, the best in the league a year ago, still mysteriously ineffective so far this season, his new team lost those games and by week's end had yet to win with him in the lineup. Still, optimistic Harrelson found something to cheer about after being told a Playboy Club would open soon in Cleveland. Said the Hawk: "I've been here just a few hours and already the town is opening up."