Expansion may have watered down the talent on other major league teams, but spare the Merv Rettenmund fans that argument in BALTIMORE. Rettenmund is now leading the Orioles in hitting at .318 and still hasn't made the regular outfield. Saturday he went three for five and got his 14th home run and 47th RBI in only 260 at-bats, but he was playing only because Frank Robinson was feeling poorly.
Second-place NEW YORK won its eighth straight victory over Kansas City, an accomplishment overshadowed by Baltimore's own string of 23 straight over the Royals. DETROIT lost three games by one run after having been ahead in all three.
Boston was an unfortunate 13 games out, but Manager Eddie Kasko was unbowed after a doubleheader victory over Minnesota (page 18) and attendance beanstalked high above the million mark. Charlie Finley chilled a deal Alvin Dark tried to make for Reggie Jackson—"Jackson isn't available now, tomorrow, or in the foreseeable future," Finley told Dark—and Dark's CLEVELAND Indians cooled their heels on an August Saturday while a pro football exhibition game was played. WASHINGTON won five straight, the Senators' longest winning streak of the season, as Dick Bosnian and Jackie Brown gave them complete games and the relief staff did not yield a run.
BALT 75-44 NY 66-52 DET 63-56 BOS 60-57 CLEV 57-62 WASH 57-62
The MINNESOTA Twins, who hadn't been shut out in their last 125 games, were blanked twice in their recent nine-game losing streak. Their eight-game lead, which Bill Rigney had called "comfortable but not secure," was down to 4½ games, and in one infamous game against the Senators, the Twins were rescued from a no-hitter only by Cesar Tovar's leadoff bunt single.
"I definitely feel it now," said OAKLAND'S Tommy Davis. "This club gives me a pennant feeling." Chuck Dobson pitched his sixth shutout and eighth straight victory, Jim Roland threw nine scoreless innings in relief before injuring his knee and the A's won five in a row before Sudden Sam McDowell struck out nine and beat them 4-3. Just prior to the game, when SI's Aug. 17 article on his erraticism was the topic of clubhouse discussion, McDowell said, "Pat Jordan is just some old ballplayer turned psychoanalyst. How's he going to know what's wrong with me when I don't know myself?" After the game, McDowell said, "I just decided to throw hard all night."
"For the first time in our history," said CALIFORNIA General Manager Dick Walsh, "the American League asked us to the World Series ticket meeting. They liked our ticket design. And the way we're going we may use them." The Angels had already cut 3½ games off Minnesota's lead before Friday. As they assembled for the pregame meeting, their towering, haloed, A-shaped scoreboard flashed still another Twin loss. "That will serve as our meeting," Lefty Phillips said. The Angels went out and won again.
For the MILWAUKEE Brewers it was a case of the kiss of the good hops. They won three straight one-run games, including a 4-3 thriller in 11 innings over Cleveland that tied them for fourth place. Dropping as fast as the Brewers rose, KANSAS CITY did have the consolation of ending a losing streak of 10 straight against Boston, but streaks of eight and 23 games against New York and Baltimore remained intact. Still faced with the worst record in the majors (43-79), White Sox supporters found their sole satisfaction in informing Northsiders that Leo Durocher's Cubs were stuck on automatic choke.
MINN 70-47 OAK 67-53 CAL 66-53 MIL 46-74 KC 44-75 CHI 43-79
As a near-capacity crowd watched the final warmup pitch at Three Rivers Stadium, the lights went out. Management blamed a four-alarm fire elsewhere. Duquesne Light tacitly blamed stadium maintenance, the responsibility of Broadway Maintenance, and Broadway Maintenance blamed Duquesne Light. If blame was never fixed, the lights were, which was unfortunate for the PITTSBURGH Pirates, who played as if they preferred darkness. The Pirates walked 11, allowed 11 hits, threw two wild pitches, committed three errors and lost to the NEW YORK Mets 10-2. The next night, with a kind of batty logic—there was a big black bat, flying-rodent variety, dive-bombing the mound—Pittsburgh gained half a game on the Mets, who were flattered by Danny Murtaugh's feeling that tying them in a four-game series was at least as good as kissing somebody else's sister. The Mets should have stayed in Pittsburgh. At Atlanta they split a doubleheader, then saw Tom Seaver lose two runs and the game in the last of the ninth on a third-strike passed ball with the bases loaded.
The CHICAGO Cubs Friday signed Leo Durocher to a new one-year contract, blew a five-run lead based on a first-inning grand slam home run, and lost 13-9. Critics noted that Durocher's first contract had been for three years, his second for two years. Billy Williams hit three home runs in three days, raising his total to 34. Booed roundly on the road, Joe Pepitone arrived in Chicago to be met by a limousine and a red carpet. The significance of this reception was somewhat blurred by the fact that Pepitone had ordered and paid for it himself. Doctors said that Ernie Banks may not reappear before September 1.
St. Louis lost four out of five after having won 14 of the previous 17. The Cardinals and San Francisco, both with artificial turf, have allowed the biggest increases in runs in the majors. Double Distelfink Day or no, PHILADELPHIA was 2-4 for the week. MONTREAL won its first indoor baseball game, juiced up by two homers from Le Grande Orange, Rusty Staub's first in the Astrodome since he was traded by the Astros.
PITT 67-54 NY 63-56 CHI 62-59 ST. L 56-64 PHIL 54-64 MONT 51-70
Could the invincible Red Army be in trouble? Going into the week, CINCINNATI had struggled to a 15-13 record since the All-Star Game. Forget it. Johnny Bench hit his 40th home run, Tony Perez connected with his 36th and Lee May slammed four homers in five games to raise his total to 27. Jim Merritt struck out 13 men in one appearance and Gary Nolan got his 15th victory. Saturday, Aug. 15, the Reds stepped to their 80th victory, the earliest any National League team has ever won that many.
Los Angeles Outfielder Willie Davis has a full-length mirror in the clubhouse in which he scrutinizes his follow-through with the bottle bat. Davis' average has risen to .324; meanwhile, the Dodgers have won six of their last eight.
Atlanta, some 20 games back, was leading the league in excuses. Henry Aaron maintained that injuries to Pitchers Ron Reed and Cecil Upshaw accounted for at least 20 games.
Former SAN FRANCISCO Manager Clyde King might have taken offense. Charlie Fox, burned by bad base running, barked, "Those things should have been worked on in spring." HOUSTON'S Jesus Alou went six for 23 and lowered his average to .313. SAN DIEGO scored 23 runs in three games and lost two of them. Rumor said that Don Drysdale would replace Preston Gomez as manager.
CINN 81-41 LA 67-51 SF 59-60 ATL 59-61 HOU 54-66 SD 47-74