Despite his 27 homers, 101 RBIs, .318 average and 211 hits, Baltimore Shortstop Cal Ripken downplays his chances of being the American League's Most Valuable Player. "I've always had this picture of an MVP winner," Ripken said. "He's a guy who hits 40 home runs, bats .320 and has 140 runs batted in. And the guy has to be able to do everything. The guy has to have a Jim Rice-caliber season. Lately, though, people have told me differently." One of those who has endorsed Ripken is Rice's manager, Ralph Houk of Boston. Said Houk, "The thing that gives Ripken the nod over anybody else is that he's a shortstop and has played every game."
For the sixth time in the past seven non-strike seasons, the major leagues set an attendance record. This season's figure was 45,565,910—or 954,215 higher than the previous record draw in 1982. Furthermore, a record 10 teams drew more than two million fans, and six set marks at the gate. Los Angeles led the majors in attendance for the seventh year in a row with 3,510,313. The worst attendance: Cleveland, with 768,071.
Pitcher Joaquin Andujar and Reliever Bruce Sutter both accepted responsibility for the Cardinals' plunge from world champions to fourth-place finishers in the NL East. "I think it's my fault the club isn't in first place," said Andujar, who was 6-16 this season after being 15-10 in '82. "I feel real bad." Sutter last year had 36 saves in 44 chances (81.8%); this season he had 21 in 30 opportunities (70%). He summed up 1983 by saying, "I expect to get 25 to 35 saves a season. It's just been a horsefeathers year for me."
Despite the Cardinals' collapse, Manager Whitey Herzog said the team wouldn't make nearly as many off-season deals as in 1980 and '81. "I like our club," Herzog insisted. "I like my 15 guys [non-pitchers] as well as anybody else's."
Not counting the shortened 1981 season, the National League did not have a 20-game winner for the first time since 1931 and only the second time in its 108-year history.... Tim Raines of the Expos became the first player since Ty Cobb in 1915 to have 70 or more stolen bases and 70 or more RBIs. Raines, who stole 90 bases and drove in 71 runs, joins the modern company of Cobb (three times), Clyde Milan (1912) and Benny Kauff (1914).... It was really no surprise that the Dodgers didn't lock up first place in the National League West during a midweek series against the Padres (L.A. eventually turned the trick Friday). Although San Diego has never finished in the first division in its 15 seasons in the majors, it has a 71-66 edge in games against L.A. during the past eight years. This season the Padres won the season series 12-6.... Off-season arthroscopic left-knee surgery is scheduled for two Cubs: Reliever Lee Smith and Centerfielder Mel Hall.... A leading indicator of Cincinnati's lack of punch: Ron Oester, who sometimes batted as low as eighth, led the club with 58 RBIs.... "Even with my good years on artificial turf, I have to consider 1983 my best defensively, because it was on grass," said Shortstop Larry Bowa of the Cubs, who made only 11 errors.
Umpire Doug Harvey didn't call off last Wednesday's Dodgers-Padres game in San Diego because of 45 minutes of rain or because the field had been badly chewed up during a recent rock concert by Eddie Money and Def Leppard. The key to Harvey's decision was that, even though the rain had stopped, the grounds crew had locked itself out of the shed in which it keeps the field-repair tools.
Wasn't it unusual that there were two no-hitters last week? Not really. It was the 22nd time in big league history that there have been two or more in a week. In fact, in 1917 there were four in the first week of May. In one of those four, on May 5, Ernie Koob of the Browns held the White Sox hitless, and the next day Bob Groom of Chicago returned the favor. That was the first of three times that teams have traded no-hitters on successive days. That curiosity next happened in 1968, Gaylord Perry of the Giants beating the Cardinals on Sept. 17, and Ray Washburn of St. Louis defeating San Francisco the next day. A year later Cincinnati's Jim Maloney zapped Houston on April 30, and Don Wilson of the Astros no-hit the Reds on May 1.
Last week's no-hitter by Bob Forsch of the Cardinals was his second and, coupled with brother Ken's gem in 1979, gave the Forsches three. They are the only brothers to have pitched hitless games.
Mike Warren's no-hitter last week for Oakland was the 221st in major league history. There were 26 no-hitters in the National League from its inception in 1876 to 1900. Then along came the American League in 1901, and since then there have been 86 hitless games in each league.
Expos owner Charles Bronfman said last week that the $15 million contract he gave to Catcher Gary Carter in the winter of 1982 was a mistake. "I knew we were wrong two months before we signed him, one month before and the day we signed him," said Bronfman. "I'll know it until my dying day." Carter, who has had to bear much of the blame for Montreal's disappointing season, took Bronfman's statement in stride, saying, "I'm sure it's out of frustration. He wants a winner, too. If he says that to me personally, that'll be a different thing. What if I come back next year and have a Most Valuable Player-type season? Will he say that then? But I want to stay here, finish my career here. I'm dedicated to the team and the organization."
In their final at bats before retiring from baseball, Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox popped up to second base against Cleveland's Dan Spillner on Sunday in Boston, and Johnny Bench of the Reds singled to left against the Giants' Mark Calvert on Thursday in Cincinnati. Other players of note who aren't expected back in '84 are Bobby Murcer of the Yankees, Larry Hisle of the Brewers, Vida Blue and Gaylord Perry of the Royals, Jim Kaat of the Cardinals and Bill Robinson of the Phillies.
Chicago's 20-game victory margin over second-place Kansas City in the American League West equals the largest in the 15-year history of divisional play.... The American League East was vastly superior to the West, as its 332-226 (.565) record in interdivisional play proved. In the National League, the West beat the East 228-204 (.528).... Dennis Leonard, who won 136 games in nine seasons with Kansas City before undergoing surgery on his left knee on May 29, had a second operation last week. He's expected back next year.... After 16 days and 487 official at bats without a homer, the Mariners got one—by Dave Henderson.... Bob Stanley of the Red Sox wound up with a club-record 33 saves, and Jim Rice's 21 assists were the most by a Boston outfielder since 1944, when Bob Johnson threw out 23 runners.... Manager Steve Boros of the A's says that Davey Lopes, 37, who tied with Dwayne Murphy for the A's home-run lead this season with 17, won't be the starting second baseman in '84. "We're thinking of him as a DH or pinch hitter, and as a pinch runner," Boros said.
Brett Butler, the Braves outfielder who's headed for Cleveland as a player to be named later in the Len Barker trade, planned to wear an Indians cap during last Tuesday's batting practice. But a teammate stole the hat out of Butler's locker, which was fine with Butler, who said, "I've decided it was a poor joke." Braves owner Ted Turner, who was fined $25,000 for telling Butler he was one of those to be named, is reportedly interested in reacquiring Butler.
After Pittsburgh's last home game, Dave Parker shook hands with the members of the grounds crew and waved goodby to the fans in Three Rivers Stadium. But Parker, who can now become a free agent, still wants to remain a Pirate. "I'd like to stay in Pittsbrugh and play for Chuck Tanner, because I think he's the best manager in baseball," Parker says. "I'm only sorry we couldn't have won this thing for him this year, because he deserves it. I've got a close friend here in Bill Madlock, and I'd got a close friend here in Bill Madlock, and I'd hate to leave him, too." But, Parker added, "I also think I could adjust to a new team."
, you feel like there's nothing more that you can do, sort of like you've got handcuffs on. Now, dressing with these guys, being in the dugout and watching even the oldest players acting like little kids, this is the most fun I've had in my life."