As the Orioles continued on their merry way (page 20) the pursuing Red Sox were being slowed by recalcitrant players. Rico Petrocelli periodically reminds one and all that he no longer wishes to play in Boston. Now it is Reggie Smith saying he is fed up with the Fenway fans and asking to be traded. Several weeks ago Smith registered his displeasure by walking off the field in the middle of a game after absorbing a terrific booing. He was even more emphatic last week. "The fans in this town don't deserve an owner like Tom Yawkey," he told Boston Herald American reporter Joe Giuliotti, "They don't deserve a club like the Red Sox. They deserve something like Cleveland." "There must be something good about Red Sox fans," replied the Herald American's Tim Horgan, "because the Lord made so many of them."
There was more defection talk in Detroit, where a rumor spread that Manager Billy Martin would leave the Tigers at the end of the season to manage the New York Mets. Said Martin, "It's news to me. I haven't talked to the Mets and I have no intention of leaving Detroit anyway." Martin has another year remaining on his contract. His team, meanwhile, won two games in a row for the first time in two weeks.
The Yankees were not losing people, just games. On July 27 they were 15 games above .500 and leading the league by a game and a half. They lost 19 of the next 28. Part of their trouble is clutch-hitting, or rather the absence of it. In nine games Matty Alou had been at bat with 22 men on base and Horace Clarke had been up with 25 on. Neither drove in a run during that period.
Milwaukee General Manager Jim Wilson has this penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. First he blamed Pitching Coach Bob Shaw for ruining Pitcher Bill Parsons' season. Shaw quit and Al Widmar became the new coach. Parsons continued to flounder. Last week, asked to name the players on his roster that he would not trade, Wilson listed seven names, none of which was George Scott's, and Scott is hitting .298 and leading the team in RBIs. Properly aroused, Scott said that if he did not figure in the Brewers' future plans he would just as soon leave now. Wilson hastily replied that he was listing only young players. Fine, except that two of the untouchables, Dave May and John Briggs, are 29—the same age as George Scott.
In Cleveland, where hitting heroes are scarce, Indian fans are flocking to, of all people, Shortstop Frank Duffy, whose lifetime batting average is .237. In the last month Duffy has raised his average 40 points. And on Friday he hit back-to-back home runs to beat the Texas Rangers. Duffy, however, was philosophical about his new-found prowess. "Of course I'm not a home-run hitter," he said. "If I can hit about .250 and field my position, I can hold a job. They judge shortstops on how well they field, not how they hit."
BALT 73-52 BOST 70-57 DET 70-58 NY 68-63 MIL 61-65 CLEV 54-75
Reggie Jackson is no Samson; he can cut off some hair and still be as strong as ever. Concluding that "a few people didn't remember what I looked like," the Oakland A's slugger shaved off his beard but continued to bat like 1973's American League Most Valuable Player. On the very day he was shorn, he hit two run-scoring singles, giving him a major-league-leading 105 RBIs. "He still looks the same to me," said Dick Williams, his discerning manager. The A's, in fact, were having a banner—almost a pennant—week. Catfish Hunter won his first game since he broke his thumb in the All-Star Game, and now stands at 16-3. And Vida Blue shut out the Yankees 2-0 for his 15th win of the season and sixth in succession.
"I get some of my best ideas between 2 and 5 a.m.," said Kansas City Manager Jack McKeon, the league's leading somnambulist. "I figure out things like pitching changes and plays to try. I keep a tape recorder right by my bed." Well, this has been a bad year for tapes. On one of his chats with himself McKeon said, "If Baltimore's winning streak is going to be stopped, it will be tonight by Busby. They won't get those clinkers and clunkers off him like they got against us last night." That was true. The Orioles got eight hits off Steve Busby in 5‚Öì innings en route to a 7-1 win, and not one of them was a clinker or a clunker.
As if things were not bad enough in Minnesota, where the Twins have lost 23 games by one run, on Nickel Beer Night the game—won, oddly enough, by the Twins 3-0—lasted only one hour and 57 minutes. That is hardly enough time to blow the foam off a stein of lager. And to think the opponents were the Brewers.
The Angels' Nolan Ryan became the third pitcher in baseball history to strike out more than 300 batters in consecutive seasons—Sandy Koufax and Rube Waddell were the others—when he fanned five Red Sox in the first two innings. All too typically, however, Ryan lost the game 4-0, his 16th defeat of what has been for him an extraordinary season of triumph and loss.
Jim Kaat, newly sold from the Twins to the White Sox, told everybody how happy he was to be in Chicago because "the Twins had a rebuilding program and I didn't fit in." The Sox, he added, were "the sort of team that will make use of a veteran." These unprophetic words were scarcely out when the White Sox announced that for the rest of this season they would be rebuilding—making use of young players, not veterans. They really do not have much choice since most of their veterans are injured, anyway. At week's end they announced that Dick Allen, who broke his left leg in June, would be out for the rest of the season. He joins Ken Henderson (bad knee) on the season-long disabled list.
"It would be nice for a change not to be down 9-0 in the fifth," said Texas Rangers Manager Whitey Herzog, summing up his team's entire season.
OAK 76-52 KC 73-57 MINN 60-67 CAL 58-67 CHI 59-69 TEX 43-83
The Cardinals, losers of 13 out of 17 games, continued to hold on to the division lead. Asked if under the circumstances he would mind being called a "cheese champion," Manager Red Schoendienst philosophized, "If you win a pennant, you can buy a lot of cheese—Limburger, Cheddar, Wisconsin, Swiss." On those rare occasions when the Cardinals do win, the credit must go to sometime starter Jose Cruz, who twice won games during the week with homers, one as a pinch-hitter. Cruz, batting only .232, leads the team with 12 game-winning hits.
One reason for the Cardinals' unwarranted ascendancy was the Pirates' reluctance to overtake them. With opportunity knocking, they just cannot seem to get the door open. Reliever Dave Giusti typifies this stop-and-go syndrome. On Friday he gave up a game-winning homer to Atlanta's Dusty Baker in the ninth, only to come back the following day and pitch three scoreless innings to record his seventh win.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have been regaining some of the ground they lost during their dreadful midseason retreat. They won five of six games with Western Division contenders Los Angeles and Cincinnati and were playing the heads-up baseball they did during the first weeks of the season. Paul Popovich won one game against the Reds with his first homer of the year and the 13th of his major league career. In the clubhouse afterward, he was greeted by this inscription on the blackboard: RUTH, 714. AARON, 704. POPOVICH, 13.
"Injuries are part of the game," said Montreal Manager Gene Mauch, mouthing a bromide that nevertheless most aptly describes his team's fortunes this season. Since July 8 the Expos have lost, for various periods of time, Shortstop Tim Foli, Second Baseman Ron Hunt, Centerfielder Jim Lyttle, First Baseman Mike Jorgensen and now Catcher John Boccabella, who went on the disabled list with a fractured little toe on his left foot. Cruelly enough, all of these regulars were at the top of their game when struck down. The Expos are getting the breaks, for sure, the sort they put casts on.
Greg (Bull) Luzinski, the powerful Phillies' outfielder, was hitting everything in sight. Against San Diego he smashed a three-run homer, a double and, but for the intervention of teammates, the Padres' Bill Greif. Objecting strenuously to a brush-back pitch tossed at teammate Bill Robinson, the Bull charged at San Diego Pitcher Randy Jones. Foolishly, Greif got in the way. Only quick work by other Phillies prevented the Padre from being...well...Greif-stricken.
The Mets, prospering only occasionally from outstanding pitching, had another seesaw, so-so but hardly ho-hum week, in which six of seven games were decided by one run. On Friday they beat the Giants' Juan Marichal 1-0 for only their eighth win over him in 12 years. Then on Saturday they lost to San Francisco by the same score.
ST. L 65-63 PITT 62-63 CHI 62-66 MONT 60-67 PHIL 59-69 NY 58-69
As a student of the game, the Dodgers' Joe Ferguson is strictly Phi Beta Kappa. Wallowing in the sort of slump that might leave a lesser player flustered and confused, Ferguson simply boned up on fundamentals. First he chastened himself for "losing concentration," then, after studying films of himself at bat, decided he was "standing up too straight and putting equal balance on each foot." This upright, well-balanced character, said Joe, "was not me. I should be hitting from a crouch and putting all my weight on the right foot." Ferguson's next seven hits went for extra bases—a game-winning home run against the Cubs, four doubles against the Mets and two homers against the Phillies. He ended his streak with a single, then added a sacrifice fly which helped the Dodgers to their 34th come-from-behind victory.
The Reds' Bobby Tolan is apparently of a different school. Flustered and confused by his season-long slump, he took it out on the team's Director of Player Personnel, Sheldon (Chief) Bender, in a heated clubhouse argument over a medical appointment Bender had arranged for him. Observers said the two men had to be physically separated. Tolan was fined $350 and advised by Manager Sparky Anderson that he was not welcome in the clubhouse until he apologized to Bender. When Tolan refused to say he was sorry, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Without him the Reds were the only ones close to the Dodgers, largely through the good work of Pete Rose, who has hit in 54 of 60 games; Tony Perez, who batted in 20 runs in an 18-game stretch as the team's new cleanup hitter; and rookie Dan Driessen, who drove in five runs to end a four-game losing streak.
The Giants' Ron Bryant rates superstition over scholarship in his quest for the league's Cy Young Award. He won his 19th game with 19 pieces of bubble gum in his back pocket and with his by now celebrated teddy bear rooting him on from his appointed seat on the bench. Bryant's teammate, Tom Bradley, obtained last winter from the White Sox, pitched his first National League shutout, but he needed help from a 15-year-old New York fan to get the 1-0 win over the Mets. The boy gave the Giants' Garry Maddox an extra swing when he caused Mets Catcher Jerry Grote to miss an easy pop-up by reaching over the box-seat railing for the ball. The reprieved Maddox then singled in the winning run off Tom Seaver.
Houston's Jerry Reuss won his 14th game, then lamented that it should have been his 18th. "But," said he sagely, "I have nobody to blame but myself for not doing it."
The Braves have played at a .600 pace since the All-Star break, largely because, as Davey Johnson noted, "We could put runs on the board in the Grand Canyon." Johnson personally clobbered three home runs during the week, which left him in a tie for the league lead with 35. Henry Aaron hit his 32nd and career 705th, then succumbed for several days to a stomach virus.
The San Diego Padres are gaining on no one and, generous to a fault, they snapped a four-game Montreal losing streak by collapsing 13-3 on Saturday.
LA 80-49 CIN 77-54 SF 71-56 HOUS 67-64 ATL 63-68 SD 47-81