"They've Put the rabbit back into the baseball," said Gaylord Perry of the Indians. "Those are rockets going out of here.... For sure they've jacked up the ball." After 15 games in Municipal Stadium last year 19 homers had been hit; this year 35 have gone out. What is more, league home-run output is up a whopping 38%, a difference too great to be attributed solely to the use of designated hitters. Perry's complaints were not the grousing of a loser, for he won twice last week. Milt Wilcox also won, presumably with the assistance of a wooden statuette of a Hawaiian war god his father sent him.
Last season Boston's Luis Tiant gave up seven homers in 179 innings; in 56 innings this year he has allowed 11, three last week, as the Red Sox went 3-3. Ron Blomberg of the Yankees pulled a 440-footer in Minnesota that had it been straighter might have netted him $50,000. George Medich and Fritz Peterson hurled shutouts as the Yankees leapfrogged from fifth to third.
Still, no team could reach .500, Milwaukee moving in front after a 3-2 week. Jim Colborn subdued Texas on one hit and Darrell Porter's eighth-inning homer squelched Kansas City 3-2. Latest of the ball park gimmicks is the chap in Milwaukee who commemorates Brewer home runs by sliding down a chute into a huge beer stein. Alas, the chute was not greased properly for his first trip, but he made it to the mug anyway.
"When they got me only six runs in my first five starts I decided to pitch shutouts," said Baltimore's Jim Palmer. He blanked the Angels, then the Yankees, and the Orioles managed a 4-2 week.
These were trying times for the Tigers. They lost four of six, Woodie Fryman committed the first Tiger balk since 1971, Willie Horton and Gates Brown wound up on third base at the same time and Shortstop Eddie Brinkman, who set five fielding records last season, made four errors.
MIL 13-14 DET 14-16 BALT 13-15 NY 13-15 CLEV 14-17 BOST 12-15
Ed Kirkpatrick, a .233 lifetime batter, hit .400 for the Royals and raised his average to .386, second highest in the majors, as Kansas City went 4-2 for the week. Kirkpatrick attributed much of his success to Dr. Ray Reilly, a psychologist: "He seems to know a lot about how athletes' minds work."
The Angels are already in a stretch drive of sorts, indulging in what Manager Bobby Winkles calls "static stretching exercises." This latest of Winkles' Wrinkles is designed to cut down on injuries, particularly pulled hamstrings. But last week little worked as California lost five of six.
Manager Frank Quilici objected when the Minnesota organist played Roll out the Barrel as portly Harmon Killebrew came to bat. Deadpanned the organist: "I just thought the Twins were going to have a barrel of fun with Harmon coming up." There was little fun for the Twins, however, as they lost big (14-4) and small (2-0). It was the A's who enjoyed themselves. Their 6-0 record included two wins for Ken Holtzman. Bert Campaneris hit .500 and DH Deron Johnson smashed three homers.
Rich Hand of Texas got tangled up on the mound and fell on his face, but he came up smiling with a 7-2 win over Detroit. After losing a game to Oakland by 15 runs Manager Whitey Herzog said: "The only nice thing is that it counts as only one defeat." And that is all first-place Chicago had as Wilbur Wood won twice to become 8-2, Terry Forster had three saves and the Sox won four without benefit of a homer.
CHI 18-7 KC 20-11 OAK 17-14 CAL 14-13 MINN 11-14 TEX 9-17
Home run production in the National League is up, largely because the Pirates have already hit 39 of them, nearly twice as many as a year ago. Last week they had 11, three by Willie Stargell, who bopped a 480-footer out of Dodger Stadium. "I've never set goals, but I believe if I stay healthy this year I'll hit 60 home runs," he said. The Pirates needed more than homers, however. Pittsburgh hit into 12 double plays, made eight errors, lost five of six and tumbled to fourth.
Chicago hammered out 13 doubles and 11 home runs, took four of seven games and clung to first place. Rick Reuschel, the only Cub starter with an ERA under 4.00, lowered his mark to 1.59 by stopping the Phillies 3-1. When Manager Whitey Lockman was ejected from a game in San Diego he manipulated the Cubs by peeking through a gap in the wall behind the dugout and relaying messages.
Jerry Koosman of the Mets beat the Braves 8-1 with a five-hitter and Tom Seaver notched two wins, one a two-hit shutout of the Pirates. Overcoming numerous injuries, the most serious being Jerry Grote's broken wrist, New York advanced into second place.
Jacket Day in Philadelphia attracted 60,120 fans, one of the largest crowds in league history. But the Phillies lost three games (including that one) by two runs and one by one. Their lone triumph came when Mike Ryan drew a bases-loaded walk in the 14th inning to beat the Reds 3-2.
Montreal struggled to win two of five: 4-3 over Houston with the aid of a bases-full wild throw in the ninth and 3-1 over St. Louis when Ron Woods scored from first on a single. Previously the Cardinals' hapless Alan Foster won his first game in almost two years, blanking the Expos 12-0. Ken Reitz, who used to sneak into Candlestick Park by climbing the fence, arrived there in style with the Cardinals last week and hit a double and his first major league homer in a 3-1 victory.
CHI 18-13 NY 16-14 MONT 13-14 PITT 12-13 PHIL 11-17 ST. L 7-22
The Giants would do almost anything to score a run. Dave Rader even crawled the last few feet to home plate after being knocked down in a melee between the Giants and the Cubs Mostly, though, San Francisco got runs by more normal slugging. Four of its five wins were due largely to 10 home runs, one a 500-footer by Willie McCovey. Bobby Bonds socked three, had 11 hits, scored 11 runs and drove in seven.
Of all last week's sluggers, Cincinnati's Johnny Bench was the robustest, with 14 RBIs and five homers, a record-tying four of them in a row. Three of his HRs and seven of his RBIs came in one game against Steve Carlton of the Phillies, yet it took a two-run blast by Dave Concepcion to seal the win, 9-7. Next, the Reds had their troubles in Houston, losing two as the Astros took four of five for the week (page 42).
For the first time, Dave Johnson batted cleanup, and bunted his first time up. Thereafter he showed more punch, hitting three home runs, including a grand slam, as Atlanta won three out of five.
Over the past two years, Don Sutton of the Dodgers gave up an average of only one homer every 23 innings. Then, boom—or boom, boom, boom, boom, boom to be exact—and he lost to the Pirates 5-4. All last year the Pirates had hit only four homers in Los Angeles, but once they found the range—or the pepped-up balls—they kept hitting them. In the next two contests Pittsburgh put five more into the seats, but lost twice to the Dodgers, anyhow.
San Diego should change its initials to LSD, for the Padres have been on some bad trips. By losing to the Braves 14-2 their road record became 1-10. At home, however, the Padres moved up to 10-11 as they got consecutive two-hit wins from Mike Caldwell and Bill Greif.
SF 25-11 HOUS 22-11 CIN 18-13 LA 18-15 ATL 11-18 SD 11-21