With his eye on the surging White Sox (page 18), Oakland Manager Dick Williams said, "This close race is good for the American League but I don't like it." Dick Green was back at second base against the Orioles, and made a big rally-killing play beyond the range of any other A's infielder, and Reggie Jackson was expected back soon. But Vida Blue left after the first inning of his latest start with pains in his groin glands. John Odom outdueled Cleveland's Gaylord Perry, and Sal Bando said, "John is our smallest pitcher. He has lost a little off his fastball, but he knows a lot about moving the ball around." Like everyone else, Bando maintained that Perry was adept himself at moving something around: "He has it on his glove, on his elbow, on his cap, on his neck, and by the time you go out there to find it, he rubs it away."
In 1969, when he managed the Twins, Billy Martin developed Rod Carew as an aggressive base runner. Last week Carew made Martin regret his efforts, Carew went from first to third on a short single against the Tigers, then scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly. He was hitting well, too, raising his average to .313.
Kansas City's Hob lemon, usually an easygoing manager, lost his patience and benched starters Amos Otis and Fred Patek until they would assure him they'd give 100% Patek did the next day, but Otis waited for four days—while his replacement Steve Hovley went seven for 11 against the Yankees—before giving in. Otis was irked by Lemon's criticism that he let a flyball drop short of the outfield wall in Texas. Said Otis, who was recently injured bouncing off a fence, "Sure I'm shy of fences. Let Lemon run into one and see if he isn't." The Royals' Bruce Dal Canton hoaxed I ex-as writers by pretending to be teammate Roger Nelson—following the lead of Boston's Tommy Harper, who had pulled the same trick on the same writers by sitting on Reggie Smith's stool after a game. And Otis, shy of more than fences, tacked a sign over his dressing cubicle: "No Interviews, A.O." He meant it, 100%.
Leroy Stanton of the Angels was more accessible after hitting two home runs—his first since June 14th—and two singles in four times up against the Indians. Stanton, who had started off hot but slumped of late, called his four-for-four performance "the greatest night of my life." Andy Messersmith, recuperating from the rare misfortune of a midseason operation on his pitching hand, came back to post a complete-game victory, beating Cleveland 4-2.
The Texas Rangers suffered a notable set—back at least more notable than their other routine losses. Shortstop Toby Harrah, the closest thing the Rangers have had to hurrah about lately, had his appendix removed, and while the doctors trimmed Harrah the Yankees trimmed his teammates twice.
OAK 67-47 CHI 66-47 MINN 59-52 KC 55-57 CAL 51-63 TEX 46-68
Detroit lost two extraining games to the Twins, causing Manager Billy Martin to tear off his double-knit baseball shirt in the clubhouse. Even that did not satisfy him. "I must not be too strong any more," he said. "I wanted to tear my uniform apart. All I ripped off were the buttons." But new acquisition Woody Fryman kept winning, Mickey Lolich finally won his 19th and, despite being 7-13 for August, the Tigers were in first place.
Which meant the Orioles were slightly outslumping them. Jim Palmer stopped a four-game losing streak, the sixth time this year he has won after three or more Baltimore losses. Before the win Earl Weaver, who should be riding high this time of year, said, "When this thing is over, a couple of teams are going to feel they've won it three or lour times and they're going to feel like they've lost ii three or four times. Right now it doesn't look very good. Maybe tomorrow it will look better. All you can do is show up at the park and find out."
New York's Ron Blomberg and Mike Kekich are roommates on the road. Usually, Blomberg likes to take a bat back to the hotel to practice his swing.
"Don't bring your bat in the room again," warned Kekich.
"I'm going to bring my bat tonight," vowed Blomberg.
"I'll put the lamps and chairs around so you won't have room to swing it," replied Kekich.
"Then I'll hit the lamps and chairs when I swing the bat," said Blomberg.
"I'm glad there's something you think you can hit," said Kekich.
The Yankees were loose all right, but they weren't taking advantage of their chances to move into the lead. The Red Sox, by contrast, were not even loose. Reggie Smith, apparently stung by rookie Carlton Fisk's public suggestion that he wasn't bearing down, did produce 10 RBIs in three days. But he refused to produce any postgame quotes for the press.
Things looked bleak in Cleveland when Gaylord Perry, the man whose reportedly dewy fingers had given Indian fans some pretext on which to be dewy-eyed with hope, lost his fourth straight. For Milwaukee, Brock Davis played an enemy single into a home run. Rick Auerbach got tagged out oversliding second base and Ellie Rodriguez failed to tag a runner on an unusual play at the plate—all in one bad game against the White Sox.
On the whole it was the kind of week in the Eastern Division that led Western observer Ted Williams to remark that while the Orioles looked like the team to beat, they also looked dead.
DET 62-53 BALT 61-53 NY 59-54 BOST 57-55 CLEV 53-61 MIL 44-70
The Pirates, still tooling right along despite Roberto Clemente's sore Achilles' on top of a two-week intestinal virus, won in their final at bat for the 18th time this year and came from behind to win for the 36th time, when Willie Stargell hit a 3-0 pitch for a two-run ninth-inning homer to beat Los Angeles 3-2.
"Nothing is impossible," said Jim McAndrew who, having been a '69 Met, ought to know. McAndrew and Tug McGraw combined to shut out the Braves, but at week's end the Mets stood 23-32 since the day Rusty Staub broke his hand. McGraw enlivened Camera Day at Shea Stadium by making himself up as Willie Mays, who did not seem to think it was such a great idea. When asked to pose with his imitator, Willie refused.
In August there have been 24 stolen-base attempts against the Cubs, 23 of them successful. The score is 11 for 11 against slow-delivering rookie Rick Reuschel alone. "I just don't think about the runners all during the game," confessed Mill Pappas, who picked up his 194th lifetime victory and a back spasm as the Cubs went three for six in the week.
The Cardinals, still struggling in fourth place, haven't had a home run out of cleanup hitter Joe Torre since June, but then pitchers have hit seven this year—lour by Bob Gibson, one by Rick Wise and two by slender rookie Don (Bull) Durham, whose fourth and fifth straight hits against the Giants helped him to his first majors win.
The Expos' 17-5 defeat by the Astros was described by the Montreal Star as "one of the most degrading spectacles in modern professional sport in Montreal—a callous slap in the face to the paying customers." Manager Gene Mauch went so far as to send in utility Infielder Hector lories to pitch the last two-thirds of an inning. He gave up live hits. Expo General Manager Jim Fanning said, "You should look at it this way. The people saw great hitting tonight." Houston's Doug Rader, who must have been kidding, said sometimes it's harder to get a hit off someone like Torres. "You're afraid of not getting one and looking like an ass."
PITT 70-42 NY 59-52 CHI 60-55 ST.L 55-57 MONT 52-60 PHIL 43-70
There are various ways of getting out of a batting slump. A player can watch movies of himself, he can concentrate on stroking the ball up the middle or, like Cincinnati's Johnny Bench, he can dress up in uniform shirt and short pants, sweep off the bases with a broom and kiss Jerry Quarry, the boxer. Bench, who had not been hitting up to par, was doing an imitation of Atlanta's base-sweeper Susie during a Braves' players-vs.-wives pregame exhibition. Quarry was umpiring. Then Bench put on his knickers and drove in live runs to beat the Braves.
Tony Perez was hitting the long ball without having to kiss anybody in public, and Pete Rose was back up around his perennial .300. Even with two of their best pitchers, Gary Nolan and Wayne Simpson, out with injuries, the Reds were rolling.
The Houston Astros jumped up and down on Montreal, 17-5, then arose at dawn to catch a seven a.m. Might to Philadelphia. "Imagine that," said Outfielder Norm Miller. "We beat a team by 12 runs and have-to sneak out of town at sunrise the next day." I very player in the Houston lineup hit safely during the Montreal laugher except Shortstop Roger Metzger. "I sure felt sandwiched," he said.
Tommy John, the man the Dodgers got for Dick Allen, four-hit the Cubs to win his eighth game in his last 10 decisions. Cub Coach Pete Reiser called for an examination of John's glove, saying it "looked awfully shiny, as if something was on it. John's sinker had been sinking awfully well, and I wanted to be sure it was just a sinker." The pitch that was really working, said John, was "my half screwgie."
In three different losses Atlanta loaded the bases with one out in the ninth without scoring. Once Larvell (Sugar Bear) Blanks, a .425-hitting rookie who had up until then done no wrong, stood on second base when a bases-loaded grounder was hit allowing the catcher to trot all the way to third and force him out. But Henry Aaron was hitting home runs. Only 50 shy of 714, Aquarian Aaron said, "I have to make it, because this is the Age of Aquarius." The Babe was born under the same sign, Henry pointed out. I he key to such matters might well be located more precisely in the wrists than in the stars, however. Less awesome Aquarians include Dal Maxvill, Dick Tracewski and Hank Aguirre.
For the Giants, Juan Marichal picked up a win after being advised by Coach Don McMahon and Manager Charlie Fox to cut down on his famous high kick. Kicking lower made his back feel better. "I am very happy," said Marichal. "You know, everybody talks about my high kick, but when I first started with the Giants I was a side-arm pitcher."
San Diego was still not setting the league-on lire, but the Padres hosted an oldtimers game that brought together Casey Stengel, Babe Herman and Frenchy Bordagaray, Frenchy said it was true that he once stopped to pick up his cap while going after a flyball, but "I got them both—the ball and the cap. And let me tell you, it wasn't easy." Yes, he said, he also was once picked off second base while standing on it. He was conversing at the time with the shortstop, who had the ball, and "I was tapping my foot. He must of got me between taps."
CIN 70-43 HOUS 65-51 LA 60-52 ATL 52-65 SF 51-66 SD 44-68