On Thursday DETROIT (7-0) Righthander Joe Sparma put away a plate of veal scallopini for breakfast and then went and pitched the Tigers into first place with a shutout. The dish was a break in tradition for Joe—he usually breakfasts on sausage and green peppers before he starts—and his pitching was a break for his team, too, keeping alive the Tigers' win streak, which was nine at week's end. The leaders were feasting on healthy hitting by Bill Freehan (.393 BA) and Willie Horton (.310 with two homers) and gritty relief pitching that showed up in three 10th-inning wins. WASHINGTON (6-1), whose hitters had been out to lunch in the first week of the season, chewed up opposition pitching for 32 runs and eight homers as the Senators jumped from 10th to fourth. With Jim Lonborg injured, it was figured that BOSTON (4-3) would be forced to rely on its hitters to bring home the wins. But last week Dick Ellsworth, Jose Santiago, Gary Waslewski and Jerry Stephenson all won complete games and the Red Sox pitching looked healthier than ever. After opening with six straight wins, MINNESOTA (4-2) lost twice and fell to second place, despite strong performances by Harmon Killebrew (.318 with 7 RBIs) and Bob Allison (.478), both of whom are off to their best starts ever. Youngster Stan Bahnsen, reviving veteran Bill Monbouquette and Yankee ace Mel Stottlemyre each pitched strong games that allowed NEW YORK (3-4) to pick up their only wins of the week. The Athletics opened in their new home in OAKLAND (3-5) and promptly lost four of five when the hitters scored just six runs in 49 innings. The problem was the same in Anaheim, where CALIFORNIA (2-5) scored only 10 runs in its five losses, more than half of them on homers by Rick Reichardt and Roger Repoz. BALTIMORE'S (3-4) Dave McNally is trying a comeback this season and, if his first appearance, a two-hitter, was any indication, he may already be back. One Orioles' regular, Catcher Andy Etchebarren, may be ready to go though; his hitting and defense have been so poor that Outfielder Curt Blefary is being given a try behind the plate. CLEVELAND (3-4) lost four of five to end the week as both the hitting and pitching went bad. Indians batters averaged only .197 in that span and ace Pitchers Steve Hargan and Sonny Siebert were hit hard. Everything is wrong in CHICAGO (0-7). The once marvelous pitching has gone sour—the team ERA is up almost one run and Joel Horlen and Gary Peters are both 0-2—the hitters are averaging just .176 and the fielders committed 10 errors last week. Worst for Manager Eddie Stanky, the White Sox have not yet won a game.
Standings: Det 9-1, Minn 7-2, Bos 6-4, Wash 6-4, Balt 5-4, NY 4-5, Oak 4-6, Clev 4-6, Cal 3-7, Chi 0-9
April 28, 1968
How washed up can Willie Mays get? The big question, asked all winter after Mays's worst season in '67, received a thumping answer last week. The SAN FRANCISCO (5-2) star looked about as washed up as Pigpen, winning three games with key hits, batting .429 and leading the Giants to second place. CINCINNATI (4-2) had plenty of hitting (.269 team BA), but the starting pitchers could not finish, so the relievers, led by Bob Lee, who won twice against the Cards, took credit for all the wins. NEW YORK'S (3-5) staff, paced by rookie Jerry Koosman, who threw his second shutout in as many starts, allowed no earned runs over a 49-inning span. As part of that streak, eight Mets pitchers combined to hold HOUSTON (1-5) scoreless for 23 innings before an error in the 24th gave the Astros the lone run they needed to win the longest night game ever. That was the Astros' only victory of the week as their lineup hit just .164 and Jim Wynn, who broke nine team batting records last year, was benched with a .091 average, LOS ANGELES (5-3), with Manager Walt Alston out convalescing from surgery, enjoyed its usual good pitching, only once allowing more than three runs. But the hitters failed to score more than that in all but two games. ATLANTA'S (4-3) big worry, pitching, was soothed by six low-run performances. New problems, however, were popping up— Catcher Joe Torre was beaned and suffered two fractures, and Braves attendance was down 50%. PHILADELPHIA (4-3) came back from a six-game losing streak on the unexpected slugging of light hitters Cookie Rojas, Bobby Wine and Clay Dalrymple and on tight pitching, particularly by Chris Short, who has yet to give up more than four hits in a game this year. Jim Bunning of PITTSBURGH (3-3) became the second pitcher ever (Cy Young was the other) to strike out 1,000 hitters in both leagues when he fanned eight while shutting the Dodgers out on five hits. ST. LOUIS (4-4) took the lead, dropped it and got it back. The dropout came when Bob Gibson, who has yet to win, gave up 10 hits in a loss to the Cubs. That win was not enough to pull CHICAGO (2-5) out of the cellar, but it did mark a turnabout for Cub pitchers, 16 of whom had worked futilely in four straight losses.
Standings: StL 7-4, SF 6-4, Pitt 5-4, Atl 6-5, LA 6-5, Cin 5-5, Hou 5-5, Phil 5-6, NY 4-7, Chi 3-7
Opening Day couldn't have been more auspicious; second and succeeding days couldn't have been more suspicious. Wednesday at the new Oakland Coliseum, 50,164 spectators were present to greet the new team in town, the Athletics. But the following night only 5,304 came out; and Friday was hardly better—6,251. The crowd grew to 16,000 on Saturday, but even this mild improvement required special doing—free caps for the kids. That gold Owner Charlie Finley thought he saw in the West might yet turn out to be as illusory as it was in Kansas City. After their first four games in both towns, 1967 and 1968 the A's attendance was showing disturbing signs of running neck and neck. Undoubtedly the Athletics surfer under the same burden that has all but buried other Oakland franchises when competing with San Francisco teams (SI, April 1), but they have other problems too. There are few recognizable names on the club aside from Coach Joe DiMaggio's, base-stealing champ Campy Campaneris' and those of the two young pitchers, Catfish Hunter and Blue Moon Odom, whose names attract more attention than their pitching. What the A's do have is a long list of good young players, chief of whom may be Reggie Jackson (right), presently among the league's best hitters with a .351 average. Jackson, lefthanded and an outfielder, has power too. He slugged 17 homers for Birmingham last year and already leads the A's with three in their first nine games this season. Jackson or another young hopeful, perhaps Outfielder Rick Monday or Third Baseman Sal Bando, must develop into the new hero the A's need, or Oakland beware. Finley has this mule, see, and he is a ridin' man.