After the Braves removed mascot Chief Noc-a-homa's tepee from the leftfield bleachers on Aug. 12 and installed 250 seats in its place, Atlanta lost five of the next nine games and saw its NL West lead over Los Angeles shrink from 6½ to 3½ games. Last July owner Ted Turner ordered a similar move—down with the tepee, up with more seats—and Atlanta dropped 15 of 17 games, falling from first in the process. Turner hastily ordered the tepee restored, and the Braves recovered in time to win the division title.
To Braves fans, it's wrong to knock Noc. They believe his presence is a charm, his absence a jinx. Since Noc-a-homa has been roaming the stands instead of signing autographs in his tent, the Braves have also suffered off the field. Among other things, Bruce Benedict missed two games because of a sore neck, and Turner's mother broke her hip. The crowning blow came on Aug. 15 when slugger Bob Horner broke his right wrist and was lost for the season. Never mind that in past years—invariably while the tepee was up—Horner missed 93 games because of other injuries and illness. And never mind that Horner was hurt because he kept his hand down, rather than up, when he slid into second. Oh, yes. Horner's substitute, Jerry Royster, sprained his ankle after three games and was put on the 21-day disabled list.
What's wrong with Goose Gossage? The Yankee reliever has saved only 13 of a possible 24 games this season, a sharp decline from the 76 of 84 he racked up in his peak period between Aug. 14, 1979 and May 23, 1982. Forget about Gossage's ERA and strikeouts, which have remained consistent with his career relief totals. The key is hits allowed: Gossage has yielded 8.4 hits per nine innings, a 36% increase over his career relief average of 6.2.
Despite his own season-long complaint that "You can't make trades for big-name players anymore because of the complicated clauses in their contracts," Dodger Vice-President Al Campanis obtained Texas Pitcher Rick Honeycutt (14-8 and a league-leading 2.42 ERA) for Reliever Dave Stewart (5-2, nine saves and a 2.96 ERA) and a minor-leaguer. Honeycutt, 5-17 in 1982, was in his option year and wanted $800,000 for each of the next five seasons. That was more than the Rangers could afford, so they peddled him rather than lose him to imminent free agency. Before completing the transaction, Campanis worked out a five-year contract reportedly worth $3.8 million with George Kalafatis, Honeycutt's agent.
Like the Rangers, the Indians traded a player before his impending free agency. Cleveland bundled Second Baseman Manny Trillo off to Montreal for Outfielder Don Carter, 23, who was hitting .302 in Double-A, and a reported $150,000. The Indians, whose home attendance of 663,488 is the majors' second worst and the lowest since 1973, simply couldn't meet Trillo's demand for a five-year $4.5 million contract and a $450,000 signing bonus.
Expos President John McHale explained that he acquired Trillo for the stretch drive and that signing him to a new contract "was not part of our thinking. What I've read about it [Trillo's price tag] is a little more than you'd like to think about. A lot depends on how he does during the rest of this season."
Regardless, acquiring talented but potentially expensive players for stretch drives is becoming rampant, leading baseball executives to three conclusions: l)Some teams will risk their future by trading good young players for a quick-fix star who may be gone at season's end, 2) the waiver rules supposedly limiting late-season acquisitions are a joke and 3) the way for poorer teams to avoid getting virtually nothing for departing free agents is to go along with the New Deals.
The Cardinals' Neil Allen, 6-5 as a starter since being acquired from the Mets on June 15, was sent to the bullpen. During his 4½ seasons with New York, Allen worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen and earned 69 saves.... St. Louis also made a reliever of Joaquin Andujar, who was 4-13 as a starter.... Jody Davis' 21 home runs are the most by a Cub catcher since Gabby Hartnett had 22 in 1934.... Steve Braun of St. Louis has a .468 on-base average as a pinch hitter, with 12 hits and 10 walks in 41 trips to the plate....
San Diego Reliever Elias Sosa forgot that Mario Ramirez had just pinch-hit for him and went to the mound for the 10th inning against Philadelphia. Teammate Kurt Bevacqua and Pitching Coach Norm Sherry finally persuaded Sosa to leave the mound so that Gary Lucas could pitch. Lucas then surrendered a game-winning homer to Bo Diaz, who mistook a "take" sign for hit-and-run.... Phillie Outfielder Von Hayes didn't have Diaz' luck; he thought there was only one out, not two, then took off from first on a fly ball and was easily doubled up by the Cubs.
Toronto Catcher Ernie Whitt made his first error of the season after 429 chances. Three other American League catchers have also been superb on defense: Baltimore's Rick Dempsey (one error in 511 chances); Cleveland's Ron Hassey (two in 438); and Detroit's Lance Parrish (three in 578).... The Blue Jay catchers, Whitt and Buck Martinez, went 17 games without an RBI.... Shortstop Rick Burleson of California, who has batted .296 since June 30 after being out of action for 14 months with a torn right rotator cuff, returned to the disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder. The Dodgers are 8-4 against Atlanta and 9-0 against Philadelphia, but only 52-48 against teams not leading their divisions.
The Dodgers had Derrel Thomas on second and Greg Brock on third with one out in the second inning of a scoreless game with the Mets when Pitcher Bob Welch grounded to short. Bob Bailor threw to Catcher Ron Hodges, and Brock, who had started home, headed back to third. Hodges ran Brock back to the bag, which also was occupied by Thomas. Incredibly, Hodges tagged Brock while Thomas sped back to second. "I knew the rule. Third was Brock's," said Thomas. Meanwhile, Welch, who had run all the way to second, saw Thomas waving him back and shifted gears. Met Second Baseman Brian Giles yelled for the ball and Right-fielder Darryl Strawberry covered first, but Hodges held on to it. "I had it in my mind that no one was covering home," he said. Actually, two of his teammates—Pitcher Walt Terrell and First Baseman Keith Hernandez—had thought ahead and were at the plate. The next batter, Steve Sax, singled home two runs, and the Dodgers went on to win 4-1.
Answering a dare, San Francisco rookie Infielder Brad Wellman allowed his teammates to shave his scalp clean. His reward: $1,000, which was anted up by 10 Giants players and trainer Gary Iacini. Clearly, Wellman let the money go to his head. And why not? After all, Wellman, 24, is making the major league minimum salary of $37,500, and he has a wife and six-month-old son to support.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MOOSE HAAS: The 27-year-old Brewer righthander (12-2) beat the Red Sox 2-0 and the A's 7-1, giving him eight straight wins and 28 consecutive scoreless innings, both Milwaukee team records.