San Francisco Outfielder Bobby Bonds was off to a poor start so he spent most of a day off studying films of himself at the plate. Last week his batting average rose 200 points. The rest of the Giants did not need visual aids. They beat Houston three straight and Cincy two out of three before losing to San Diego on a bad-hop grounder that opened the gate for two runs. The much-maligned Giant pitching staff looked good: Mike Caldwell, acquired from the Padres for Willie McCovey, won two; Tom Bradley beat Houston in the opener; and John D'Acquisto went six strong innings. Still, the Giants always look like giants before June, when summer shrinkage usually sets in.
The Dodgers also broke quickly from the gate. When Second Baseman Dave Lopes was hurt he was replaced for four games by Lee Lacy, who hit .389, scored five runs and drove in two. After going 2 for 4 on Friday night, Lacy was back on the bench Saturday as Lopes knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs in a 6-3 win over the Astros. Said Manager Walter Alston, "This team reminds me of my 1955 club, which won its first 10 games and 22 of the first 24."
"I expected them to start right out," said Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson of the two California teams, "but we have to stay close. I wouldn't want to be further than four games behind all year. There's so much balance in our division it's tough to make up ground." Outfielder Pete Rose revealed he had received feelers from the proposed World Baseball League. He might have to jump in self-defense. Already a villain in New York and Chicago, he was the target of obscenities, boos and even golf balls in Candlestick Park.
Houston Manager Preston Gomez was pleased with rookie Outfielder Greg Gross, 21, "the best leadoff man we've had in my two years with the Astros." Gross has seven hits in his first nine at bats and was batting .478 through Saturday. Larry Dierker, who had only one victory last season and suffered arm and shoulder problems, won his 100th major league game, against the Padres. Atlanta crowds dropped back to normal after Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record. Only 5,114 were on hand to see him smack No. 716—his third hit and third homer.
Hamburger magnate Ray Kroc, new owner of the Padres, got on the PA mike at the San Diego home opener Tuesday night while his team was being bombed by the Astros and said, among other things, "I've never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life." He apologized the next day.
SF 6-2 LA 6-3 CIN 4-4 HOUS 4-4 ATL 4-5 SD 1-7
St. Louis, 4-1 for the week and 6-1 for the season, was getting dividends from its off-season trades with the Red Sox. Reggie Smith delivered two game-winning hits, Lynn McGlothen beat Pittsburgh and still another ex-Bostonite, John Curtis, looked good despite losing to New York. "I think we've got the best pitching staff in the league," said Joe Torre. "We have six starters better than the Met starters. They just don't have names like Seaver, Koosman and Matlack. Call "em the No-Name Staff."
After losing three straight to the weatherman, Montreal managed to take hot bats to both Pittsburgh and Chicago. The Expos erupted for four runs in the 13th inning to beat the Pirates 12-8. Ron Fairly's fifth career grand-slam home run highlighted a 13-3 romp over the Cubs in a 3-1 week in which the Expos scored 34 runs. Chicago has lots of new faces but is lucky that 35-year-old Billy Williams—and his bat—are still around. The oldest and highest-paid Cub, Williams had eight of the team's first 16 RBIs.
The Mets were 2-2 for the week, low-lighted by pitching ace Tom Seaver being knocked out of the box for the second time and by Rusty Staub's slump (he had two hits in 20 at bats through Saturday). Philadelphia had a bad scare when a line drive hit Pitcher Steve Carlton on the right side of the neck in the third inning. "If it's a few inches more dead center and catches my windpipe," said Carlton, "it's all over." He stayed in the game and pitched well, striking out nine in six innings.
Pittsburgh was off to a sorry 0-6 start. The Pirates led the Cards 4-2 Friday night, then gave up four unearned runs in the seventh inning to lose 7-6.
ST. L 6-1 MONT 3-1 CHI 3-2 NY 2-3 PHIL 2-3 PITT 0-6
Patient owner Gene Autry could not be blamed if he sang Back In the Saddle Again over the Anaheim Stadium PA system—his Angels were off to a ripping start. They got 16 hits and embarrassed the fumbling White Sox Friday night 15-1, their fifth victory in six games. Muscular Outfielder Lee Stanton was the chief ripper. Through Saturday he had hit safely in every game he had played and was batting .467. "I feel I'm swinging a lot better, more fluid," said Stanton. "I'm more confident."
Bad weather gave the Twins an extra off day and forced a game with Chicago to be called off with the score tied in the sixth inning. Owner Calvin Griffith wanted All-Star Second Baseman Rod Carew to move to first base, but Carew and Manager Frank Quilici were against it. The A's, as usual, were off and running—at the mouth. On the road, the pitchers complained that Manager Alvin Dark yanked them too early. At home, the hitters did not like the slow turf. "If this grass was a little higher, we could have an Easter-egg hunt," said Reggie Jackson. Owner Charlie Finley could not keep mum amidst all this. He had the lawn mowed and told Dark to use Deron Johnson instead of Vic Davalillo as the designated hitter in Kansas City. Dark dutifully complied and Johnson went 0 for 4.
The big deal in KC was Bruce Dal Canton's new knuckleball, which he used with splendid effect in relief against the Twins. And the Royals' Steve Busby, who had a sad 6.21 ERA against the A's last year, beat them 4-1 Wednesday with a six-hitter. Texas was still searching for another starting pitcher to go with Ferguson Jenkins and Jim Bibby, but the Rangers had slugging Jeff Burroughs, who hit a 420-foot grand-slammer against California. "Jeff ought to hit 45 or 50 homers this season," said Manager Billy Martin. Chicago star Wilbur Wood won his first game in three starts, against the Angels, but the White Sox looked weak in the pitching department. Dick Allen was hitting only .138 after skipping most of spring training.
CAL 5-2 MIN 3-2 KC 3-2 OAK 3-3 TEX 3-4 CHI 1-5
Milwaukee's rookie Shortstop Robin Yount was hitless in his first four games, but on Friday night he got a single and Umpire Joe Brinkman stopped the game and presented him with the ball. Saturday was even better. Although Yount made an error against Baltimore that allowed the Orioles to tie the score, he made up for it by hitting a homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 3-2. When visiting reporters went looking for young Yount, comics on the team directed them to a 12-year-old clubhouse boy.
Boston was rained or snowed out three times but had some warm spots, such as Bernie Carbo's first major league grand-slam homer, against Detroit, and Rick Wise's six-hit win over the Tigers in his American League debut. Baltimore was off and running like last year, stealing seven bases through Saturday. Ex-Cincinnati Pitcher Ross Grimsley gave up runs by the tons during spring training, but he came close to pitching a shutout for the Orioles in his first American League start, beating Detroit 5-1.
New York won its first four games, matching its best beginning since 1945. Then came three straight losses, two to lowly Cleveland, which was 0-5 before the Yankees came to town. The Indians' top pitcher, Gaylord Perry, was charged with throwing a spitter against the Yanks during the opening game at Shea Stadium. The Indians vigorously protested the calumny. "Gaylord has a good forkball," argued Catcher Dave Duncan. Detroit had a dreary week but Joe Coleman shone, pitching a two-hit, 4-1 victory over New York.
MIL 4-2 BOS 3-2 BALT 4-3 NY 4-3 DET 3-5 CLEV 2-5