California Manager Jim Fregosi and Pitching Coach Marv Grissom had just finished mapping out how they were going to win the West Division championship—that is, start Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan in 21 of the Angels' last 37 games—when Ryan suffered a separated rib in a game against Baltimore. Coming out of the game after striking out eight men in seven innings, Ryan's condition was serious enough to warrant the attention not only of California doctors Jules Rasinski and Lewis Yocum, but of a guest in owner Gene Autry's private box, Richard Nixon. "He was concerned about the problem," Ryan said after a conversation with Nixon. "The Angels have a superb come-from-behind record [23 victories] under Fregosi," Nixon told Ryan. "That bodes well for the future."
Despite a 2-3 week by California, the Royals (2-4) dropped half a game out of first place, mainly because their bats were both literally and figuratively sawed out of their hands. Kansas City scored only 15 runs all week with George Brett and Tom Poquette extending their hitless streaks to 0 for 16 and 0 for 21. As if that wasn't enough insult for one week, Hal McRae, who was on an 0-for-11 tear himself, had his bat impounded by Umpire Jerry Neudecker because the White Sox claimed it contained cork to give the ball more spring when McRae connects. In the umpires' room the next night a Sox maintenance man sawed McRae's favorite bat into six pieces. The verdict: no cork.
Texas (4-3) yo-yoed back up above .500 and was again talking about winning the division. The Rangers beat Kansas City twice, once on a grand-slam homer by Richie Zisk—one of three hit in the majors Friday night—and then again Saturday night as Dock Ellis recorded his ninth win.
It was not a pleasant week for Oakland (0-6) or its talented young righthander, Matt Keough. On Sunday, Keough was walking off the mound certain that he had struck out Boston's Jerry Remy to end a fifth-inning threat, only to have Umpire Ed Merrill rule that Remy had foul-tipped the ball. Since the A's catcher had not caught the pitch cleanly, that gave Remy another chance, and he promptly deposited a three-run homer in the rightfield seats to give the Red Sox a 4-2 victory. Then Saturday night against the Yankees, Keough thought he had Outfielder Gary Thomasson struck out in the third inning. Nope, said the third-base umpire upon appeal. Keough then walked Thomasson, putting runners on first and second. Bucky Dent sacrificed them to second and third, and Keough promptly threw two consecutive wild pitches to score both men. Manager Jack McKeon contributed to the A's miseries by oversubstituting in a game against the Orioles. Forced to use two outfielders and a catcher as infielders for the last two innings, McKeon watched Miguel Dilone, who hadn't played third base since the minor leagues, make two errors in the 10th to help lose the game 6-4.
Inconsistent as ever, the Twins followed a 9-2 surge by losing all seven games last week. The losses were harder to take than usual because in three of them ex-Twins now with Toronto—Alvis Woods, Luis Gomez and Dave McKay—had a hand in beating their old club. Woods had four hits in the first Blue Jay win and drove in four runs in the next one. Gomez had three hits in the third, which McKay ultimately won with a home run in the bottom of the 10th. Another Minnesota defeat came when Texas' Steve Comer, a University of Minnesota star who grew up only a few miles from Metropolitan Stadium, shut out the Twins on six hits. Minnesota failed to draft Comer despite a 30-9 record in college, so he signed with the Rangers as a free agent.
Going nowhere, the White Sox (3-3) had some fun knocking the Royals out of first place. Lefty Ken Kravec did the job one night, 3-0, with a walk-free four-hitter, as Claudell Washington singled in two runs. Chicago won again 4-1 when Eric Soderholm drove in three runs with a pair of doubles to give rookie righthander Mike Proly his second victory in a row.
Seattle (3-2) also played spoiler, taking two from Boston. Glenn Abbott won 5-2, out-dueling Luis Tiant with a five-hitter.
CAL 70-60 KC 68-59 TEX 64-63 OAK 62-69 MINN 56-74 CHI 54-73 SEA 49-79
Well on his way to being named the American League's Most Valuable Player, Boston's Jim Rice blasted three more homers to reach 33 for the year and strengthen his bid for the Triple Crown. Rice is comfortably ahead in home runs (Milwaukee's Larry Hisle is next with 29) and runs batted in (he has 109 to Rusty Staub's 102). Minnesota's Rod Carew leads in the batting race with a .338 mark, but Rice is second at .326. All of which may explain why Rice bristled at criticism leveled at the Red Sox offense by Pitcher Mike Torrez, who had just been beaten 5-3 by last-place Seattle. "We've got to stop going for home runs and get back to bunts, hit-and-runs and the little things it takes to win games," said Torrez. To which Rice, speaking for the hitters, replied, "Hey, we're losing games because Torrez is nibbling at the corners and giving up base hits to a bunch of Punch-and-Judy hitters." By week's end all seemed smoothed over as Boston (3-2) throttled California 6-0 and 7-1. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley (15-5) went all the way twice for victories, and is now 8-0 at Fenway Park as a Red Sox. Even with Butch Hobson, Jerry Remy and Bill Lee bothered by injuries, Boston's 7½-game lead over the Yankees and Brewers seemed reasonably secure. "If they don't go into a slump," said New York's Graig Nettles, "there's no way we can catch them."
The Yanks (3-2) appear to have righted the ship a trifle too late. Catfish Hunter continued his amazing comeback with a route-going six-hitter against California. The 6-2 win gave Hunter (8-4) a 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.46 for the month of August. Ron Guidry, whose only real competition for the Cy Young award could come from Eckersley, beat Oakland 7-1 to go 18-2. The game was close until Reggie Jackson lined a grand-slam home run that hit the rightfield foul pole at Yankee Stadium. However, having been relegated to the seventh spot in the batting order, Reggie was hardly elated. "People make a fool out of me," he said. "I like New York and the people, but I'm projected as a bad fella. It's hell."
By winning 10 of 11 games the Brewers (5-2) had cut the Red Sox lead to six games at one point last week, but the Milwaukee pitchers gave up nine walks in a 9-8 loss to Cleveland, and staff ace Mike Caldwell (16-8) was knocked around in a 6-3 defeat by Detroit.
The Tigers' Ron LeFlore broke Mitchell Page's one-year-old American League record for consecutive stolen bases when he swiped his 27th in a row without being thrown out. But when Toronto Catcher Rick Cerone cut him down trying for No. 28, Dodger Davey Lopes' major league mark of 38 straight thefts was safe. Besides his antics on the base paths, LeFlore had a dozen hits for the Tigers (4-4) and helped beat Milwaukee 6-3 with a three-run homer.
A visit to Oakland in August can be very healthful. At least it was for the Orioles (5-1), who came to town on a four-game losing streak and left with a three-game winning streak. The outcome of the series had less to do with the cool Bay Area breezes than with the general ineptitude of the A's. The Orioles have now won 12 in a row at Oakland Coliseum.
The Indians (3-4) won back-to-back games for the first time in more than three weeks, edging Milwaukee 9-8 on Andre Thornton's 11th-inning homer and the White Sox 2-1. Seventeen of the Tribe's last 27 games have been decided by one run, with Cleveland winning only five of them.
A team-record five-game winning streak helped the Blue Jays (7-1) to their most successful week in history, and left Toronto just one victory short of its entire 1977 total.
BOS 80-47 NY 72-54 MIL 73-55 DET 71-57 BALT 69-58 CLEV 56-72 TOR 53-77
The squabbling Dodgers (page 24) came from behind twice to defeat Philadelphia and retain their one-game lead in the West, but San Francisco (4-2) scarcely missed a beat behind them. The Giants swept a three-game series from New York, including a 2-1 decision that was their 35th one-run victory this season. The major league record is 41, shared by Cincinnati and, of all people, the 1969 Mets. Jack Clark, now second in the league in hitting at .311, was 8 for 13 against New York and at one point had strung together five consecutive games with at least two hits in each.
From all appearances, the Reds (1-5) could be dead. Cincinnati fell five games off the pace despite a Herculean week from Ken Griffey, who delivered four home runs and 12 RBIs. But no other regular hit as high as .250.
Although Gaylord Perry will be 40 before the World Series begins, his pitching has enabled San Diego to dream, at least, of overhauling the leaders in the West. Perry's 7-3 victory over the Phillies moved the Padres (4-3) to within seven games of first place and raised his record to 15-5, marking the 13th straight year he has won at least that many. "I can still pitch three or four more years," says Perry, who now has 261 career wins. "I still work on my mystery pitch, and if they ever reinstate it, I'll make a comeback at the age of 50."
Houston (5-2) did the Phillies and Cubs a favor by beating Pittsburgh twice, stopping a 10-game Pirate winning streak that the Astros had helped start by losing six times to the Bucs in five days. By week's end the Astros had won five in a row themselves, giving them 15 wins in their last 17 games in the Astrodome.
Atlanta caved in with six straight losses, wasting three home runs and nine RBIs from Third Baseman Bob Horner.
LA 76-53 SF 75-54 CIN 71-58 SD 68-62 HOUS 61-68 ATL 56-72
With only five games remaining against teams with winning records, Chicago (3-3) has a schedule advantage over the divison-leading Phillies, who must play 12 games against winning competition. However, if the events of last week, not to mention last decade, are any indication, the Cubs are not exactly a shooin to catch Philadelphia. They managed to beat Cincinnati three times thanks to a two-run, ninth-inning double by Catcher Dave Rader, then three RBIs from Pitcher Rick Reuschel, followed by a 4-for-5 day from Outfielder Bobby Murcer. But in between, as has been their wont over the years, the Cubs were swept in Houston by the lowly Astros. Chicago's 14-year record in the Astrodome is now 32-64 and last week's defeats kept them from getting closer than 214 games to the slumping Phils (3-4). Mike Schmidt, a three-time National League home-run champion, was moved to the leadoff spot temporarily to help cure a cold streak. He responded with a 10-for-29 week.
The biggest noise in baseball came from the rampaging Pirates (5-2), who over the course of a 10-game winning streak rose from 10 out to within 3½ games of the East lead. Reliever Kent Tekulve saved six of those games, and the Bucs got some heavy hitting from Dave Parker, Willie Stargell and Dale Berra, son of Yogi, who once summed up a pennant race by saying, "You're never out of it until you're out of it."
Since Montreal (2-3) creamed Atlanta 19-0 on July 30, the Expos have averaged only three runs per game. One of the victims of the drought is Steve Rogers, who dropped two low-run affairs last week after not having lost a game from June 16 to Aug. 18. On the brighter side, Ross Grimsley won his 15th game, as Centerfielder Andre Dawson went 4 for 4 and hit a home run.
Talk about hot, the Cardinals (5-1) have been even hotter than the St. Louis weather. Starting three weeks ago when they were giving Seattle and Toronto a run for worst team in baseball, the Cards have gone 16-5. Last week's heroes were Ted Simmons, who took extra batting practice and responded with four hits against the Reds; Gary Templeton, the father of a new baby boy, who hit .458: and George Hendrick, who was simply too hot to handle. He and Templeton had bunt singles ahead of a two-run double by Simmons, which helped beat the Braves 6-4. Hendrick also had four hits in a 14-9 romp over the Reds, a first-inning homer to give St. Louis a lead it never relinquished in a 4-3 win over Cincy, a grand slam and a three-run homer in the next game and, finally, a solo homer in Saturday night's 9-4 victory over Atlanta.
Poor Jerry Koosman. A career hard-luck pitcher with the Mets (2-5), Koosman couldn't get a victory last week even though he struck out 13 Giants. And while he gave up only two runs and one hit in six innings against the Padres, he took a 2-1 loss and saw his record sag to 3-14. Craig Swan, only 7-5 despite an ERA of 2.40, eked out a 2-1 five-hit win over the Padres.
PHIL 67-59 CHI 65-62 PITT 63-64 MONT 60-68 ST.L 56-73 NY 52-77
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GEORGE HENDRICK: The St. Louis centerfielder blasted four homers, including a grand slam and a three-run shot in the same game. He also batted .407, with two four-hit games, as the Cards won their 16th out of 21 games.