After four straight losses to the Dodgers, Brave Manager Eddie Mathews called a clubhouse meeting. Trouble was, his players were busy munching on a tableful of snacks. "Aw come on, guys, quit eating and listen, will ya," Mathews said, tipping the table and knocking off some food. "I'm too sick to eat, the way we've been playing," he added after the meeting, during which he announced he would banish postgame chow and told his troops they could not live by bread—or cookies, or soup—alone. And so the team embarked on its own version of a Brave new world. Next time out it beat the Padres 7-3 as Dave Johnson hit his fourth homer of the week and Henry Aaron overcame a backache and a boil caused by his belt buckle to slug No. 19 and 692 overall. But then their world collapsed as the Padres took them 2-0 behind Clay Kirby's 13-strikeout effort and 9-3 as Nate Colbert homered twice. Also chipping in for the Padres was Dave Winfield, who the week before had been the MVP at the College World Series for the University of Minnesota. In his first week he went 6 for 14 and hit a homer.
Joe Ferguson had suffered a broken thumb, but the Dodgers regrouped, won seven of eight and took over first place. Claude Osteen and Tommy John (with relief help from Pete Richert) blanked the Braves 5-0 and 3-0, and John later stopped the Reds 5-1 on three hits. In that game Ken McMullen hit a three-run homer and Manny Mota took over the league batting lead at .356. Willie Davis unloaded two home runs against the Braves: one was his 2,000th hit, the next day's was a two-run drive in the 10th inning that tied a game that the Dodgers won 6-5 in the 11th.
Pete Rose of the Reds also picked up his 2,000th hit, but was upstaged by rookie Dan Driessen and Fred Norman. Driessen, who has hit in all but one of 14 games since joining the team, batted .423 last week and drove in nine runs. "When you got it, you got it," he said. "And right now I got it. Man, I'm up a tree." Norman had opposing batters out on a limb. Since being acquired from the Padres, where he was 1-7, he has given up only one run in three outings. Last week he blanked the Giants 4-0 on three hits and came within one out of a third consecutive shutout before Ron Cey of the Dodgers homered.
Houston retained third place by winning four of six as Lee May hit .478 and had 13 RBIs. May's hitting streak was ended at 21 games, but not before he had three homers in a 12-2 win over San Diego. Bobby Bonds of the Giants was hot in more ways than one. Because the artificial turf in Candlestick Park scorched his feet he changed shoes between innings. Before the heat took effect, Bonds homered against the Reds—the eighth time this season he has led off the first inning with a homer, and the 22nd time in his career, a league record. Said Tom Bradley, who last year pitched for the White Sox: "American League umpires don't give you low strikes, but here they do. So why throw high balls? I've decided to grip the ball with the seams instead of across them." In his first seamy performance he beat the Reds 7-1 on four hits.
LA 45-26 SF 42-30 HOUS 39-32 CIN 37-32 ATL 29-42 SD 23-48
A double play and a bottle of wine added to the Met woes. The DP came in the last of the ninth when the Pirates had the bases loaded with none out in a 1-1 game. Bob Robertson bounced a ball to Second Baseman Felix Millan, who threw home for a forceout. So far so good. Catcher Duffy Dyer, attempting to double up Robertson at first, threw the ball into right field, where Rusty Staub caught it. Staub, seeing that Al Oliver of the Pirates had rounded second base, fired the ball to Shortstop Jim Fregosi for the second out. Good idea? Bad idea. Dave Cash rounded third and easily beat Fregosi's throw home to score the winning run. It was enough to drive a man to drink, but that is not exactly what Tom Seaver had in mind when he went to his wine cellar at home to look for a bottle to go with his dinner. While searching out the correct vintage, Tom Terrific pushed some cartons around, hurt his back and was sidelined. The wine he had in mind was a burgundy, 1969—the year the Mets supposedly stopped clowning around and became world champs. George Stone provided the team's two wins in seven tries.
Moving up to fifth were the Phillies, winners of five of six. They took three in a row from the Mets, two on four-hitters by Wayne Twitchell and Jim Lonborg (with Mac Scarce's relief). Ken Brett also beat the Mets and later the Expos, homering in both games. That upped Brett's record to 7-2 and gave him four home runs in his past four starts. Who needs DHs, anyway?
In last place were the Pirates, who were first on April 22 but who have won 20 and lost 34 since. They won four of nine last week against the Reds, Cubs and Mets as Willie Stargell increased his homer output to 21.
Montreal played well but dropped four of seven, the main problem being poor hitting. For the first-place Cubs, Jose Cardenal hit .393 and Rick Monday socked his 15th and 16th homers, but the team lost five of eight.
Bernie Carbo, Jim Dwyer and Luis Melendez are not the sort of hitters who wobble the knees of opposing pitchers, but all three singled for the Cardinals with two out in the 11th for a 3-2 win over the Cubs. That brought St. Louis up to .500 for the first time since last August. Bob Gibson hit the 23rd homer of his career as he stopped Montreal 4-3. And shutouts were turned in by Rick Wise (1-0 against Montreal) and Reggie Cleveland (3-0 against Chicago).
CHI 40-30 MONT 32-30 ST.L 33-33 NY 29-34 PHIL 30-36 PITT 29-35
No, those were not the Keystone Kops scrambling through the streets of New York. Those were the Detroit Tigers. Because heavy rains had washed out pregame batting, their bus left midtown for Yankee Stadium an hour later than usual. But the rain also snarled Manhattan streets and the Tiger bus inched along as the 7:30 game time approached. Manager Billy Martin shouted to policemen to phone the Yankees with news of the Tigers' progress. Eventually, Martin took his starting lineup off the bus and led them onto a subway. Oops. Wrong line. They got off, got on the right train, got off at the Stadium and sprinted the remaining couple hundred yards. Waiting for them were the rest of the Tigers, who had arrived on their bus 10 minutes earlier. At 8:05 the game began. By the time it ended Martin and two other Tigers had been ejected and Detroit had lost 5-4 to the first-place Yankees (page 16). It was all part of a bad week for Martin, during which he benched Jim Northrup because he felt he had not run out a grounder. "If a man hits and gives 100% I'll play him every day," Martin said. "I'd play Hitler every day if he was a good ballplayer." Oh yes, the Tigers, who led the race in the East for most of the past month, lost five of seven and dropped to fifth place.
Joe Lahoud and Darrell Porter hit grand slams in successive innings as the Brewers opened the week by whomping the White Sox 15-5. They then ran their winning streak to 10, the longest in the majors this year, before losing a doubleheader to the Red Sox 8-4 and 4-1. In all, the Brewers split eight games and fell out of the lead to second, but hit a potent .293.
Baltimore's Paul Blair, nervous at the plate since being hit in the face by a pitch three years ago, revealed he had been seeing a psychiatrist. Apparently a good one. Blair hit .233 last year. Last week he batted .522 and raised his season average to .305, a wondrous figure for the hitless Orioles, who had a 3-3 week.
Opponents have stolen 55 bases in 77 attempts against the Indians, but Catcher Dave Duncan declined to take the blame. "Only Gaylord Perry and Jerry Johnson know how to hold a runner on base," he said. "The rest of our pitchers invite stolen bases." George Hendrick powered six home runs, three in an 8-7 win over Detroit, and he won that game with a two-out single in the ninth inning. The next day against the Tigers he homered and again singled in the ninth for a 7-6 triumph.
Boston owner Tom Yawkey came to town from his South Carolina plantation and found his team in bad shape. His Red Sox were in fifth place, Orlando Cepeda had hurt his back and Carlton Fisk was out with a bad hand. But all was not lost. Ray Culp won for the first time and Bill Lee and Luis Tiant for the eighth each as the Sox took five of eight and pulled themselves up to fourth.
NY 38-30 MIL 36-31 BALT 32-29 BOS 32-33 DET 32-34 CLEV 25-43
Persuasiveness on the part of Angel General Manager Harry Dalton and Manager Bobby Winkles paid off. It was Dalton who last winter talked Winston Llenas out of retiring from baseball. And last week it was Llenas who hit a three-run pinch homer off Wilbur Wood to beat the White Sox 3-1. When the California Angels acquired Mike Epstein from the Rangers several weeks ago, Winkles told him to be sure to let him know which left-handed pitchers he had trouble with. When Jim Kaat was scheduled to go for the Twins, Epstein spoke up and was put on the bench until the 10th inning. Then Winkles spoke up. "Hit a homer," he instructed Epstein, sending him out to face Kaat. Epstein complied and the Angels won again. It all helped the Angels post the best mark of the week in the West—5-3. Although they remained in fifth, they were just half a game out of first place.
Minnesota held the lead for two days, then fell to fourth place. Steve Braun, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew were all injured, Killebrew when he slammed a door on his hand. Clinging precariously to first place was Chicago which, like Minnesota, lost five out of seven. Bill Melton was sidelined with a pulled hamstring, and Knuckleballers Wood and Eddie Fisher, in losing twice each, were bombed for a total of 31 hits and 17 runs in 17‚Öì innings. Four percentage points behind the White Sox were the Athletics, who have a theory about how to hit Wood and Fisher. The idea is to move up to the front of the batter's box, and it seems to work. Last week the A's clubbed both of them.
John Mayberry batted .476, hit two homers, produced 11 runs and helped move Kansas City to within five percentage points of the top. Ken Wright won as a starter and as a reliever, achieving the latter victory when Paul Schaal finished off a four-run ninth-inning uprising with a run-scoring single that beat Texas 8-7.
After Sonny Siebert, recently obtained from the Red Sox, had stopped the Twins 3-0, Ranger teammate Jim Merritt spoke up. "Can you imagine that there were a lot of people who thought that guy was washed up? That was an artistic masterpiece. Every pitch had a purpose. He threw with power and accuracy, and there was no doubt who was in charge." Two days later it was Merritt, with assistance from Bill Gogolewski, who pitched a 3-0 win, this time against the Royals. Rico Carty, hitless the week before, was 11 for 27 this time around, helping Texas take its first road series of the season by winning two of three from the Twins. Still, the Rangers were 185 percentage points out of first place.
CHI 34-29 OAK 37-32 KC 38-33 MINN 34-30 CAL 35-31 TEX 22-40