This was the year in which the national pastime became the national part-time, victim of a seven-week strike that split the season into ill-conceived Parts I and II. No team led its division for both halves, though San Diego and Toronto finished last twice. Most pained were the Reds, whose combined 66-42 record was the majors' best, and the Cardinals, whose 59-43 would have won the National League East. Neither even made it to the mini-playoffs. Much of the gloss was lost from individual statistics, too. Prorating their figures over a full season, Mike Schmidt of the Phillies would have had 47 homers and 138 RBIs, Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers would have had a rookie-record 265 strikeouts, Rollie Fingers of the Brewers would have set an alltime mark with 42 saves and rookie Tim Raines of the Expos would have had 107 stolen bases, the second-highest total ever.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Oakland (4-1) started the season with 11 wins and was 18-3 for April, both major league marks. Although assured a postseason berth, the Royals (4-2) still had to play a makeup doubleheader with Cleveland Monday—and win one game to finish on top in Part II.
"I get mad sometimes because it seems the motto around here is: 'Winning is great, but losing's not so bad, either,' " said Jim Sundberg of the Rangers (5-1). Texas came in third with the help of Charlie Hough, a reliever for years, who won four starts in three weeks.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will be home for the Twins (1-5) next year. Doug Corbett had 17 saves, and rookie Dave Engle a 15-game hitting streak.
Chicago (3-3), with newly acquired hitters who pounded the ball, led the West on May 30. But then the sluggers turned sluggish.
A fifth-place in Part II was the highest the five-year-old Mariners (2-4) have ever finished. Tom Paciorek hit .326 and Richie Zisk .311.
Bobby Grich of the Angels (3-3) recovered from a broken hand suffered on June 6 to tie for the league homer title with 22. It was only the fourth time a second baseman has led a league in home runs. The last in the NL was Rogers Hornsby in 1925 (39 homers) and the last in the AL was Nap Lajoie in 1901 (13).
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Money, money, money. Reggie Jackson of the Yankees (1-4), who this season became a second-class millionaire in comparison with Dave Winfield, spent quite a bit of time in recent weeks scooping up coins and bills tossed to him by fans participating in a bizarre fad. After one game he collected $82.56 in rightfield. As for Winfield, he earned roughly $9,000 a game while batting .294.
Milwaukee (4-2) locked up first place in the next-to-last game (page 34). When Kirk Gibson of the Tigers (2-4) wasn't hitting tape-measure home runs, he was beating out deft bunts to bat .328. Carney Lansford of the Red Sox (3-3) became the first righthanded hitter to win the league batting title since 1970.
For the 20th year in a row the league had a new RBI champ, Eddie Murray of Baltimore (4-2). The last repeater was Roger Maris in 1960-61. Len Barker pitched a perfect game for Cleveland (3-2) in May, but after that was an imperfect 5-6. Dave Stieb's 11-10 record and 3.18 ERA were the best ever achieved by a Toronto (1-4) pitcher with more than 150 innings.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Houston (3-4) walked to the Part II title, drawing 11 bases on balls, three with the bases loaded, during a critical 8-1 victory in Cincinnati. Nolan Ryan went the route and pared his ERA to 1.69, the league's second-lowest—Bob Gibson had a 1.12 in 1968—since Carl Hubbell's 1.66 in 1933. Second to Ryan was Bob Knepper, whose 2.18 was 1.45 below his career figure. Don Sutton (2.60) was lost for postseason play when a pitch fractured his right kneecap.
The Reds (3-4) can cry all they want about their overall record being the best in baseball, but when a playoff spot was on the line last week they blew their chance, finishing second by 1½ games. Tom Seaver was 14-2, and his winning percentage of .875 was the best in 30 years by an NL starting pitcher.
Fernando Valenzuela of L.A. (3-4) began as if he would set more records than all the Ryans and Seavers combined—five shutouts in his first seven starts. Valenzuela had an 8-0 record and 0.50 ERA; the rest of the way he was 5-7 and 3.68. Burt Hooton (2.28) and Jerry Reuss (2.30) had ERAs lower than Valenzuela's 2.48.
Greg Minton gave the Giants (3-4) a lift by setting a club record with 21 saves. The bullpen ace for Atlanta (4-3) was Rick Camp with 17 saves, nine wins and a 1.78 ERA. The Braves had two players with nursery-rhyme names: Horner and Hubbard. Bob Horner sat in a corner most of the year, but last week slugged six homers and hit .500. Glenn Hubbard's cupboard, though, was rather bare; he batted .235 for the season. The day after Gaylord Perry won the 297th game of his career, the Braves announced they were giving him his release.
Rookie Pitcher Chris Welsh felt the trouble with the Padres (5-2) was the lack of a "Pete Rose or Gary Carter" to provide leadership. "We had so many new, young players they were afraid to speak up." Nobody had to inspire the pitchers last week; they gave up only 12 runs in seven games.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Montreal (5-2) clinched first place on Saturday by overcoming a 3-0 deficit in New York and winning 5-4. Newcomer Wallace Johnson provided the biggest hit in Expo history by walloping a two-run triple in the seventh for a 4-3 lead. Steve Rogers also came through when it counted, blanking the Mets 3-0. Bill Lee, who bicycled to Olympic Stadium daily, and Woodie Fryman, the perennial winner of the cow-milking contest there, both pitched well down the stretch. And Gary Carter and Andre Dawson provided clutch hits all season. Philadelphia (4-3), which won Part I, had two late streakers as Lonnie Smith batted .571 last week and stretched his hitting skein to 23 games, while Mike Schmidt won his second straight RBI title and fifth home-run crown. Schmidt last week had three homers and 10 RBIs.
Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals (5-2), the game's only manager/general manager, made a series of blockbuster offseason trades, but couldn't do anything about crippling injuries.
Leon Durham, who hit .290, was the best player the Cubs (2-5) got from the Cardinals in the deal for Bruce Sutter. The Wrigley family, which controlled the club for three generations, sold out to the Tribune Company. Although Neil Allen had 18 saves, he couldn't preserve the New York (3-3) managerial job for Joe Torre, who was canned Sunday. Hubie Brooks' .307 average was the best for a rookie in either league.
For the first time in ages, the Pirates (3-5) weren't in contention. Dave Parker's .258 hitting made him trade bait, but Jason Thompson's .328 over the last 23 games took him off the block.