When Twin slugger Harmon Killebrew was called as a witness in a trial last week the cross-examiner's only question was how MINNESOTA (3-0) would do this year. Replied Killebrew, "We'll be good," and forthwith acted like a man who was terrified of a perjury rap as he hit .400 with two homers. Twin Pitchers Dean Chance, Jim Merritt and Jim Perry responded to Killebrew's example with complete game victories—each a five-hitter or better. BALTIMORE (2-0) was making Timid Thomases out of those doubters who said the Orioles could not rebound from last year's sixth-place finish. The pitchers allowed just one run in two games, and Brooks Robinson hit a homer on Opening Day for the third straight year. BOSTON'S (2-1) Carl Yastrzemski is working on a string, too. In an attempt to win his second consecutive home-run title Yaz jumped right into the lead with three in the Sox's two wins. Although Earl Wilson lost his first game in six decisions against his old Boston teammates, DETROIT (2-1) was right up near the top, where it was picked to be, winning twice on Gates Brown's pinch homer and relief pitching by two rookies, Jon Warden and Daryl Patterson. NEW YORK (1-1) needed only one run to win behind Mel Stottlemyre's Opening-Day shutout, and it was good that was all it took, since the Yanks managed just seven hits and that one run for the week. OAKLAND'S (1-1) new heroes, Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando, both hit homers, but last year's Athletic star, Outfielder Rick Monday, was so deep in a slump that he was pulled for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded. CALIFORNIA (1-2) was shut out twice but, worse than that, slugger Don Mincher was struck by a pitch by Indian fast-baller Sam McDowell and will miss about a week. CLEVELAND'S (1-2) Sonny Siebert pitched the best game so far, a two-hit shutout, but eight other Indian pitchers could not stop the Red Sox and Angels in the next two games. CHICAGO (0-2) was the only preseason favorite not near the top. Surprisingly, it was pitching that let the Sox down as aces Joel Horlen and Gary Peters allowed 10 runs in 9‚Öî innings. With the best spring record this year WASHINGTON (0-3) was talking about making the first division, but in regular-season play the hitters failed in one game (just four singles), the fielders in another (allowing four unearned runs), and then the pitchers in a third (six of them gave up nine runs). The Senators promptly fell to 10th.
Standings: Minn 3-0, Balt 2-0, Bos 2-1, Det 2-1, NY 1-1, Oak 1-1, Cal 1-2, Clev 1-2, Chi 0-2, Wash 0-3
April 22, 1968
After the defending champion Cardinals won their second game ST. LOUIS' (3-0) MVP, First Baseman Orlando Cepeda, climbed on top of a locker and cheered, "One hundred more to go, 100 more to go!" The Cards have set a target of 102 victories this year (they won 101 in '67), and if they keep hitting anywhere close to last week's .360 team batting average they will have to revise their goal upward. Cepeda himself was a big contributor to the opening surge (.462 with six RBIs), but the real crusher was Centerfielder Curt Flood, who hit .643. With a start like that the Cards should have been looking back at the rest of the league, but HOUSTON (4-0), which had the worst pitching in the majors last year, took advantage of complete games by Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Dave Giusti to put together its best opening ever and take the league lead. PITTSBURGH (2-1) was one Astro victim, but the Pirates rebounded to win twice over the Giants, once on Maury Wills's two-run, 15th-inning single and then on former Reliever Al McBean's three-hitter. Similarly stingy pitching by Pat Jarvis failed the muscular Braves in their opener, however, so ATLANTA (2-2) turned to light-hitters Sonny Jackson, Bob Tillman and Pitcher Phil Niekro, all of whom hit homers in the team's first victory. NEW YORK (1-2), which has never won on Opening Day, failed again this year when the Mets blew a two-run, ninth-inning lead against the Giants. That win was SAN FRANCISCO'S (1-2) only one of the week as the team wasted good pitching by Mike McCormick—who allowed one run in 13 innings—and Gaylord Perry by scoring just two runs in 24 innings. LOS ANGELES (1-2) found scoring even harder, going the first 19 innings of the season before it got a run. But that was a big one for Don Drysdale, who pitched a 1-0 shutout to become the leading Dodger winner of all time (191 victories) and to break Sandy Koufax's team shutout record of 40. CHICAGO (1-2) hit well—.281 with six homers—but Cub pitchers allowed 20 runs, with only Ferguson Jenkins, who struck out 12 Reds, able to win. Just Milt Pappas among CINCINNATI'S (1-3) 1967 starting four was not complaining of a sore arm, and that showed in the box scores when Manager Dave Bristol tried 11 different pitchers in the three losses. Eleven was also an unlucky number for PHILADELPHIA (1-3). That many pitchers appeared in three straight defeats by the Astros after a revived Chris Short shut out the Dodgers on four hits in the opener.
Standings: Hou 4-0, StL 3-0, Pitt 2-1, Atl 2-2, NY 1-2, Chi 1-2, LA 1-2, SF 1-2, Cin 1-3, Phil 1-3
It was a strange turnabout from baseball's earlier pattern of contributions toward racial equality. A team from Philadelphia had to convince the Dodgers to postpone their opener out of respect for the murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thus make the decision unanimous among major league owners. When all the clubs finally did open up on Wednesday last week the absence of some players and thousands of fans from ball parks plainly marked the beginning of an unsettling season ahead. In the violent aftermath of Dr. King's death player-soldiers, who had been worried about Vietnam, were suddenly tapped for local guard duty. One was Baltimore's shortstop, Mark Belanger, who is considered so good that the Orioles traded Luis Aparicio. Now Manager Hank Bauer has neither. Others were missing from the Baltimore, Detroit and Washington rosters, including Senator Infielder Ed Brinkman (right), who ended up patrolling in D.C. Stadium, where he had been scheduled to start at shortstop. At the same park, 10,000 ticketholders failed to show up for the opener and only 7,700 made it to Chicago's Comiskey Park the same day. Fans' fear of traveling out to the park is one factor giving the season a look of instability greater than any since World War II, when a manager never knew what uniform his catcher would be in at the All-Star break and a 15-year-old pitched for Cincinnati. But the threat of new call-ups is more worrisome. Some teams already are aware that 40% of their players must perform military duties this summer. Further demands could alter rosters with each reveille and make shambles of the pennant races. Remember the St. Louis Browns of 1944?