Some called Ken McMullen a throw-in in the trade that brought him along with Andy Messersmith to the Dodgers. One of baseball's most pleasant men, McMullen suffers from a bad back that scarcely lets him bend down to tie a shoelace, let alone field a grounder. Earlier this year McMullen talked of retiring, ostensibly because of the back. Now the real reason is known. Ken's wife Bobbie, expecting a child in December, is a cancer victim who cannot have radiation treatment until after the birth. In May the McMullens had to decide whether to terminate pregnancy. They chose not to, and it has been a harrowing summer for a player who spends most games on the bench. But this week, as McMullen was sent in to pinch-hit for Jerry Royster in the last of the ninth with two out, one on and the Dodgers trailing Montreal by a run, Messersmith told Claude Osteen, "He's gonna hit it out." McMullen did. He clapped his hands all the way around the bases, and the whole team met him at the plate. It was the fifth game-winning hit and the fourth homer for the courageous McMullen in only 63 at bats.
Cincinnati matched the Dodgers' 4-2 record for the week and remained 1½ games back. Don Gullett allowed a total of three runs in two games, winning the first with a six-hitter and lasting seven innings in the second before being replaced for a pinch hitter. The Reds won that one, too, defeating the Mets 2-1 in 10 innings on Hal King's pinch homer. King has had only five hits this season, but four have been home runs.
The futures of Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and their combined salary of $250,000 were re-examined by San Francisco. Marichal had been considered on his way to retirement in the Dominican Republic and McCovey to the American League as a designated hitter, but they may not be as easy to part with after pacing a modest three-game winning streak. Wednesday, McCovey cracked his 21st home run, and Marichal beat Philadelphia 11-2 for his 237th career win, moving ahead of Bob Gibson as No. 1 among active pitchers. McCovey hit two more homers on Friday to help Ron Bryant, the biggest winner among National League pitchers, to his 18th victory of the season.
Houston lefthanders Dave Roberts and Jerry Reuss each shut out the Cardinals with five-hitters to lead the Astro staff to a streak of 28 scoreless innings out of 30. Spectacular Cesar Cedeno preserved Roberts' shutout job with a Pete Reiser-style catch. Cedeno smashed into the left centerfield wall as he made an extraordinary grab of Hector Cruz' long drive.
Henry Aaron hit three home runs in three days after a two-week slump, bringing his career total to 704. He is now 10 behind Babe Ruth. Getting back to ordinary mortals, Aaron's Atlanta teammates had a good week, too, winning four of six. For that matter, Dave Johnson and Darrell Evans stayed ahead of Aaron in 1973 homers. Henry has 31 for the season; Johnson hit his 32nd of the season and Evans upped his total to 34 as the Braves romped over Chicago.
The city of San Diego lost its bid to have the California Supreme Court hear a plea for an injunction to keep the Padres from moving to Washington, D.C. To rub it in, the Padres won five of seven.
LA 76-47 CIN 75-49 SF 67-54 HOUS 65-60 ATL 60-66 SD 45-77
The Cardinals managed to end an eight-game losing streak by suddenly smashing Houston Pitcher James Rodney Richard for a five-run sixth inning followed by a four-run seventh. The Cards' winning ways did not last long even though Rick Wise pitched the team's first complete game since Aug. 5. He still lost 3-0, and St. Louis was off on another three-game losing string. The Cardinals hit only one home run all week. Diego Segui had to relieve in four games, but still the Cards maintained a two-game lead in the awful East where St. Louis' .504 percentage is the sole one over .500.
Losing three games out of six, Pittsburgh moved into second, despite a locker-room outburst by Richie Hebner and the customary losses to Cincinnati and San Francisco, which have defeated the Pirates in 13 of 21 games. Major league home run leader Willie Stargell slugged numbers 34 and 35, the only ones his team hit all week.
Gene Mauch brought his mother to Montreal after the Expos lost four of their last five games in California, but even mom could not help him win more than once. Poor Pepe Frias, whose real name is Jesus and whose wife's name is Mercy, was strictly a three-day starter at second base as the Expos tried to plug the hole left by Ron Hunt's injury. After Frias hit into a double play with the bases loaded, then booted a grounder to break the game open and finally struck out with the bases loaded against the Dodgers, Mauch chanted a litany from the dugout, "Jesus...mercy...free-us...."
Chicago won a game last week, two to be precise, a considerable achievement after 11 days of nothing but losses. And as if the defeats were not bad enough, the Cubs seemed to be getting worse, particularly after 15-1 and 10-2 losses to Atlanta. When they finally stopped the skid with a 5-1 win over Los Angeles, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who live just down Addison Street from Wrigley Field, began tolling the convent bells. And radio station WGN, whose announcers clang a bell for Cub homers, used it to celebrate the victory with the Hallelujah Chorus playing in the background. Inspired by the din, the Cubs won 2-1 against the Dodgers again the following day on Billy Williams' two-run homer.
A year ago Steve Carlton, then the hottest pitcher in the National League, celebrated his wife's birthday by winning his 20th game and his 15th in a row for Philadelphia. The encore this year—hardly Carlton's best—was fairly impressive, too. Carlton beat Houston 8-3, ending a personal three-game losing streak; the flourish was that he hit a home run for what proved to be the winning margin. It was only Carlton's 11th win in 25 decisions.
The New York Mets lost four of six but still had two comforting days. Tom Seaver shut out San Diego 7-0 on just two hits, and Jon Matlack defeated the Reds 12-1 as John Milner hit his second grand-slam home run of the year.
ST. L 62-61 PITT 58-61 MONT 58-63 CHI 58-64 PHIL 56-66 NY 54-66
With Ken Holtzman winning his 18th game 3-2 over Milwaukee, Reggie Jackson hitting his 30th homer and both injured Catfish Hunter and ineffective Blue Moon Odom apparently at full strength again, the A's were back in first place and climbing fast. Odom lasted a strong 7‚Öì innings while beating Boston 3-1. When Dick Williams took him out, the manager said, "You're back in the starting rotation as of now." It all added up to seven straight wins for Oakland, a turn of events that so cheered ailing Owner Charlie Finley that he promised to be off his own disabled list in time for the stretch drive.
Kansas City's streak of nine victorious series ended when the Royals dropped two straight to the Red Sox, but sinkerball Pitcher Al Fitzmorris kept his own string alive. He won his fifth straight since being called up from Omaha of the American Association (he has allowed only seven runs in five games), and in his latest win Fitzmorris retired 20 Indians on ground balls in a game played on fast artificial turf.
In a bizarre week, Minnesota sold Lefthander Jim Kaat, who had been a Twin ever since the franchise moved from Washington in 1961, and reacquired Rich Reese, who had been unhappy in the Twin Cities when he played there in 1964-72. Despite the double dealing, Minnesota won three straight with a splurge of 35 runs and 45 hits to bring a seven-game losing streak to a halt. One victory came when Larry Hisle, swinging on the hit-and-run after missing a sacrifice-bunt attempt, broke a tie with a two-run home run. In another win, the Twins scored nine runs in one inning.
The Chicago White Sox lost three consecutive games by one run to drop their record to eight defeats in their last 10 games. Things were so bad that Catcher Ed Herrmann was hit on the head twice by backswings, suffered a concussion and did not know it. He still played the next two games. He remembered experiencing double vision while catching Wilbur Wood, but figured it was Wood's knuckleball, not the hard knocks, that caused it.
Amid talk of Manager Bobby Winkles leaving to go to the Mets, of Frank Robinson succeeding him as manager and of the club's strong arms all falling off, California won three straight. Bill Singer finally won his 16th after five tries following the All-Star game, and Nolan Ryan (14-14) struck out 13 batters, keeping him on schedule to become the first pitcher to have a 400-strike-out season.
Teen-ager David Clyde won again for the Rangers, allowing only one run while pitching his seven-inning limit. Whitey Herzog also gave Clyde, whose record is now 4-4, an extra day's rest. "He's pitched 200 innings already this year," Herzog observed, counting his high school appearances. "I've seen it happen so often. Teen-agers come into pro ball, work a lot of innings after they've pitched 150 in high school, and their arms go dead."
OAK 71-51 KC 70-54 MINN 59-61 CHI 58-65 CAL 56-63 TEX 43-77
The Birds went batty this week. Baltimore won six straight. Brooks Robinson, whose average is only .246, was a sizzling 4 for 4 as the Orioles outslugged the Royals 10-6. "I've always been an inside-out swinger, but earlier in the year I wasn't," he explained. "Now it's back." Don Baylor was another Oriole with a hot bat. He was 25 for 54 in his current streak when he swung so hard during a 7-4 win over Texas that the bat flew into the stands. It almost struck a young lady, who refused to return it. "Earl Weaver stood up in the dugout offering to trade another of my bats, but they didn't get it back until a policeman showed up," Baylor said. Reunited with his prized piece of lumber, Baylor went 4 for 5 that night and 5 for 5 the next.
A Hollywood saloonkeeper sent the aged Tigers a batch of "Oldies But Goodies" T shirts, but for Detroit the week was nothing but baddies as it dropped to second place. The Tigers lost four straight, including a five-hitter to Nolan Ryan.
New York split six games as Roy White and Graig Nettles each hit three home runs. Doc Medich was a double winner for the Yankees, and Lindy McDaniel picked up his fifth straight victory.
Boston also was 3-3 for the week. In three games with Oakland the Red Sox mustered only two earned runs and were scoreless for a 22-inning stretch. Roger Moret ran his record to 7-0 in a 6-4 win over the Royals, receiving help from ex-starter Marty Pattin, who had been banished to the bullpen 10 days before.
The surprising Brewers made the least surprising move of 1973—they rehired Manager Del Crandall, who is the leading candidate for Manager of the Year in the American League. George Scott, a Crandall favorite, hit his 16th, 17th and 18th homers, and Relief Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez won his fourth game in five days as Milwaukee briefly returned to the .500 level.
Cleveland remained 19½ games out, and the chances that all the same Indians' heads will be in the lineup next year are not worth a wooden nickel. Even Gaylord Perry, who tossed a three-hitter, seems to be on the block, with rumor sending him to Kansas City. Said General Manager Phil Seghi, "I'd trade myself if I thought it would help."
BALT 67-52 DET 66-56 NY 67-58 BOS 64-57 MIL 59-61 CLEV 49-74