Despite a ho-hum 4-3 week, the Pirates extended their division lead to a downright historic 12 games. The last time a Pittsburgh team led the National League by 12 games was in 1902.
Ron Santo of the second-place Chicago Cubs made a little history himself when he socked his 2,000th hit—appropriately a home run—in a free-swinging 10-9 win over the Giants. Santo had hit only two homers in the previous 47 games, and he matched that total in the shootout with San Francisco.
Another homer slump ended when Joe Torre of the Cardinals hit his first in two months during a game against San Diego. Torre had accepted the shortage philosophically. "I figured I'd probably hit another one before I retired," he said. And to prove perhaps that good things come in bunches, Torre's teammate. Pitcher Reggie Cleveland, finally won his 13th game that same night. The victory came after five consecutive unsuccessful starts.
Bad things also come in bunches. The New York Mets dropped out of second place for the first time in 68 days, and their injury list, which already read like the Titanic's passenger manifest, grew even longer. Shortstop Bud Harrelson, who had been sidelined 25 days with a bad back, came down with a strained right knee on the second night after his return to the lineup. Third Baseman Wayne Garrett hurt his foot with a foul tip in the same game.
Montreal's usually tough Relief Pitcher Mike Marshall has found it a mind-boggling experience pitching against his former Houston teammates. He had a typical case of mental strain last week when he gave up a two-run homer to Jimmy Wynn while trying to protect a 3-1 lead for Bill Stoneman. Still, Marshall won the game 4-3 by doubling home John Boccabella. Because a pitcher is paid for his throwing, not his hitting, Marshall remained disturbed. Manager Gene Mauch thinks he knows the cause of the problem, if not the cure. "Because of the animosity between Mike and the Houston club, he is trying too hard to beat them," Mauch explains.
There was also distress in Philadelphia, where Steve Carlton's 15-game winning streak was stopped when Atlanta's Mike Lum hit an 11th-inning broken-bat single. Then Shortstop Larry Bowa and Manager Paul Owens exchanged nasty words. Bowa was unhappy over being benched the day before a day off. "Who needs a rest?" he snapped. "No way I can buy that. I don't think they would be able to trade me for a star, but there are a couple of teams who might be willing to fork up a fringe player or two in a swap for me." Owens was not impressed with such touching modesty. "Doesn't he realize I'm trying to give him a rest? He's not too smart. The trouble with him is he gets two hits, and we lose, and he's happy. Then when he gets no hits, and we win, he's burned up."
Finally, there was Phillie Pitcher Ken Reynolds, who lost his 12th straight game. "When Steve Carlton was running up his winning streak he knew he was chasing Rube Marquard," said Reynolds, "but who am I chasing?" The answer, Ken, is H. John Nabors of the old Philadelphia Athletics, who lost 19 straight in 1916.
PITT 74-45 CHI 64-57 NY 61-56 ST. L 58-61 MONT 55-64 PHIL 44-75
The Astros, falling farther and farther behind Cincinnati, fired Manager Harry Walker and hired Leo Durocher, who had been fired last month by the Chicago Cubs. "We had to make a change," General Manager Spec Richardson explained. "We've still got a chance for the pennant, and here's Leo, a man who lit a fire under a team that was 13½ games out in August and took them to the pennant." True, but that was 21 years ago. Durocher is now 66 and there hasn't been a good fire in Chicago since the big one. Walker, never popular with his players, did have one well-wisher of sorts. Joe Morgan, who played for Walker last year and is now leading the Reds to a title, said he was sorry his old manager got the ax. "I didn't want to see him get fired," said Morgan. "Not now. I wanted to see him finish second to us, then invite him to our party when we clinched it."
Morgan's current manager, Sparky Anderson, has a firm hold on his job, but it has given him an ulcer, which is a little strange, since Anderson does not have much left to worry about. The Reds have pulled 8 games ahead of Houston.
There is nothing like a big lead to gladden the heart of a pitcher, not to say calm his ulcer. The Dodgers broke to a big lead over the Pirates as Don Sutton coasted to his 14th victory 7-3. "An early seven-run rally can make you the best pitcher in the big leagues," he said.
Henry Aaron of the Braves, who has 25 home runs for the season and 664 for his career and needs 51 more to surpass Babe Ruth, is not happy about his production this year. Nor is he pleased with his .259 batting average. "I'd like to hit maybe eight more homers," said he, "then forget about this year and start all over next year." For a slugger, even one 38 years old, 672 is not a bad spot to start from.
Another man thinking ahead to next year is San Francisco's Charlie Fox. Charlie sees his three top starting pitchers in 1973 as youngsters Jim Willoughby, Ron Bryant and Jim Barr. Where does that leave fading veterans Juan Marichal and Sam McDowell? "Juan and Sam will have a chance to prove themselves before this season ends," said Fox ominously.
Dave Roberts, San Diego's rookie whiz, had not played second base since he was 13 years old. He tried it in the late innings of both games of a doubleheader against St. Louis, and in five innings started four double plays. He could grow to like it there.
CIN 75-45 HOUS 68-54 LA 64-55 ATL 57-66 SF 54-68 SO 46-74
If there is a home-field advantage, Oakland is one team that is not enjoying it. The A's have defeated the Orioles five games out of six in Baltimore, but lost to them five straight in Oakland. At least two of those losses can be attributed to Tommy Davis, who was cut by the A's early in the season and joined the Orioles two weeks ago. Davis' pinch-hit single beat his former teammates one night, and the next afternoon the winning run scored when his bouncer to second base was thrown away by Tim Cullen. Said Davis: "Take that! Take that!" The only bright spot for the A's in a bleak (2-4) week was the return of Reggie Jackson, who had been on the disabled list with pulled muscles in his rib cage. Jackson came back with a bang, hitting a long home run on Friday.
Long is scarcely the word to describe the home run Dick Allen hit for the White Sox off the Yankees' Lindy McDaniel on Wednesday. The ball cleared the 16½-foot-high wall in dead center field, 440 feet from home plate, only the fourth homer hit that far in the history of White Sox Park. But Allen took the accomplishment in stride. After the game he was heard mischievously singing in the clubhouse, "Another day, another dollar...."
Minnesota Manager Frank Quilici is yet one more friend of the long ball. In the 11th inning of a game with Detroit he disdained the sacrifice bunt with the tying runs on base and no one out. Instead, he allowed batter Eric Soderholm to swing away. Quilici explained, "Eric is not an accomplished bunter. It is like asking a man to do a trick play." It all turned out to be a dirty trick for the Twins. Soderholm popped up and the next batter hit into a double play to end the rally.
A more successful slugger was Lou Piniella of Kansas City, who had been in a slump at the start of the week. First, broadcaster Buddy Blattner, a former major league infielder, advised him that he was crouching too much at the plate, then Coach Charlie Lau told him his stance was too wide. Piniella listened to both, then borrowed one of tiny teammate Fred Patek's 30-ounce bats. In the first three games of a series with the Yankees he had five hits. "I needed a quicker bat," said Piniella. "I feel tired."
Bob Oliver of California found his own way to shake a slump. In the second inning of a game with Cleveland the Indians walked the third hitter in the Angels' order, Leo Cardenas, in order to pitch to Oliver with two men on base. Angered by this slight, Oliver singled home both runners.
Deep in the heart of Texas, the Rangers' problems continued to mount. A fan survey revealed that they draw more spectators from the Dallas suburbs than from the city itself, where most of the people live. Then Pitcher Dick Bosman, who earns $50,000, said he wanted to be traded because he didn't think he was pitching enough to give the customers their money's worth. Looking at Bosman's 4.38 earned run average, the Rangers' few fans might not agree.
CHI 70-49 OAK 69-51 MINN 60-56 KC 58-60 CAL 52-67 TEX 48-72
Everybody gets into the act on Billy Martin's Detroit Tigers, whether it is playing or punching. The Tigers and the A's had a first-class brawl after Reliever Bill Slayback knocked down Oakland's Angel Mangual with a pitch that sailed over his head. The Tigers, who may fight better than they play, were awarded a split decision by ringside observers. The next night Martin handed the umpires a lineup card that included in the "extra man" listings Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Tony Galento, Rocky Marciano, Gene Tunney, Jim Jeffries and John L. Sullivan. None of them got into the game, although with Martin almost everyone else does. On fight night he used 18 players, including four pitchers. Then, four days later, perhaps afraid he might have missed somebody, Martin used 21 men, including eight pitchers.
Martin's nemesis at Baltimore, Earl Weaver, also plays a numbers game. "Would you believe me if I told you I know we're going to get seven runs tonight?" Weaver asked a dugout visitor before a game with California. Since the Orioles had scored only 11 runs in their past seven games, the visitor replied with withering logic, "No." The Orioles won 7-1. One number Weaver can forget about, however, is 100. When Nolan Ryan shut out the Orioles on Tuesday it was their 55th loss of the season. It is now impossible for them to give Weaver a fourth straight 100-victory season.
A team that normally loses 100 games, the Cleveland Indians, must now be considered a surprise addition to the tight Eastern race. By the end of the week they were only 6½ games behind the Orioles and Tigers, who shared first place. At the same time a year ago Cleveland was 30½ games off the pace. Still, Manager Ken Aspromonte is a realist. "There are four teams ahead of us now," he said. "We play each other the last month, and when one is winning, another is losing. If Detroit plays .500 ball the rest of the way, we'll have to play .800 ball."
The Red Sox, who are even closer to the top, have seven games left with Detroit and six with Baltimore, and there is plenty of pennant fever left in Boston. To strengthen themselves for the stretch run, the Sox called up Relief Pitcher Bob Bolin from Louisville, where he had a 6-1 record and six saves.
The Yankees, the division's fifth contender, returned to New York after a calamitous road trip on which they lost six of eight games. They quickly lost two of their first three at home against Kansas City. They also very nearly lost Third Baseman Celerino Sanchez when he was hit on the shoulder by a ball thrown in infield practice by Catcher Thurman Munson. The throw was on target, but Sanchez wasn't looking. Pity, because as a teammate quipped later, "That was the first good throw Thurman has made in two weeks."
The Milwaukee Brewers, the only Eastern team not in the race, lost three-fourths of their coaching staff. Wes Stock quit and Roy McMillan and Jackie Moore were advised to look elsewhere for work next season.
BALT 65-55 DET 65-55 BOST 61-57 NY 61-58 CLEV 58-61 MIL 47-73