"For the time being I've pushed the thought of retirement aside," said Henry Aaron of Atlanta (3-2). There could be no better news for the Braves since the rightfielder, who earlier said he might quit after this year, is having one of his best seasons (.325 with 26 homers and 63 RBIs). Last week he passed Jimmy Foxx and tied Mickey Mantle on the career home run list with his 535th and 536th blasts. Now Aaron can take aim at second place, presently held by Willie Mays, who has 60 more home runs and three more years than Henry. Injured players hurt Los Angeles (2-3), but helped San Francisco (2-3), as both kept chasing the Braves. The Dodgers' best all-round hitter, Wes Parker, was knocked out of the lineup with an appendectomy, while sore-shouldered Jim Ray Hart won a game for the Giants. Hart appeared as a pinch hitter, let out a booming "ouch" as he swung and then watched the ball sail over the fence for a decisive homer. Cincinnati (2-2) and Houston (3-1) stayed in the race as Tony Perez' 12th-inning home run won a game for the Reds, and Astros pitchers struck out 40 batters in the four games. They have 740 strikeouts for the year and could break the league record of 1,203. San Diego (1-4) took its only victory on Joe Niekro's third consecutive complete-game win. Even with top starters Ferguson Jenkins (injured thumb), Ken Holtzman (military service) and Bill Hands (strep throat) temporarily out of action, Chicago (4-2) widened its Eastern Division lead over New York (3-3). The Mets' Tom Seaver recorded his 15th victory in one win, while light-hitting J. C. Martin won another with a two-run, two-out eighth-inning home run. "I was lucky," said Pittsburgh's (3-1) Matty Alou after his double set up the winning run in one game for the Pirates. Humility, not luck, is the name of Alou's game. The 155-pound bat-control hitter has artfully rapped 150 hits this year and leads the league in hitting with a .350 average. St. Louis (3-1) remained 10 games behind, and the light hitting of $45,000 Shortstop Dal Maxvill was weaker than ever. Four for 36 in his last 18 games, he has seen his average drop to .167. Richie Allen returned to play out the rest of the season with Philadelphia (1-5) after losing $11,882 in salary and a reported $5,000 in fines. Montreal (3-3) could use that money. Mayor Jean Drapeau announced that the city is too poor to build a domed stadium, and the Expos may have to wait 10 years for a new park.
Standings—East: Chi 62-39, NY 55-41, StL 52-49, Pitt 50-49, Phil 40-58, Mont 33-67. West: Atl 58-44, LA 54-43, SF 55-45, Cin 50-43, Hou 51-49, SD 34-68.
August 3, 1969
Minnesota (4-2) Manager Billy Martin boasts his division is just as tough as the powerful East, which has the five top finishers from last year. Embarrassingly for Martin, his own division leaders disprove his contention. The Twins have a 44-18 record against the West, only 17-21 versus Eastern teams. Last week, as the second round of interdivisional play began, the pattern continued. The best Martin's Twins could do was split four games with the East's last-place Indians, while the rest of the West's record was 8-12. Oakland (4-2) was the only team to have a winning record against Eastern clubs last week. The Athletics won three from the Senators, one coming on Catfish Hunter's four-hitter and another on Reggie Jackson's 38th home run. Gerry McNertney's three-run double keyed a five-run rally in one game for Seattle (2-4), and his three-run homer paced a six-run inning in another as the Pilots won two games from the Red Sox. California (3-3) picked up one of the West's other three victories when Andy Messersmith threw a two-hit shutout. Chicago (0-6) and Kansas City (3-3) were outscored 48-15 and came up with just one win against the Orioles and Tigers. With Baltimore (4-1) gliding along 12½ games in front of the Eastern Division, the toughest problems for the Orioles were traffic jams and squirrels. A shift in police assignments has caused tie-ups on the roads around Memorial Stadium on game nights, while inside the lights on the scoreboard have become jammed up, too. One theory to explain the failure of the electric scoreboard to operate properly is that squirrels are gnawing away the wiring. Tom Tresh's .545 hitting backed Detroit's (4-2, below) strong pitching. Not even a .333 performance by Tony Horton could ease Cleveland (3-3) fans' displeasure with one of the poorest hitting regulars in the league, Ken Harrelson. Harrelson received a tumultuous welcome to the Indians in April but now is the object of derogatory slogans. Read one anti-Harrelson sign: HAWK IS A SPARROW. Mel Stottlemyre's 15th victory and two sharp relief jobs by Jack Aker, who allowed no runs in 6‚Öî innings, moved New York (3-2) within 2½ games of fourth, as Washington (1-4) slumped below .500 for the first time in almost a month. Boston (3-2) dropped back from second to third as its pitchers gave up 25 runs to the expansion Pilots in four games.
Standings—East: Balt 69-31, Det 55-42, Bos 56-44, Wash 52-53, NY 48-54, Clev 40-61. West: Minn 61-39, Oak 56-40, Sea 42-57, KC 42-58, Chi 40-60, Cal 38-60.
Detroit Pitcher Denny McLain changes expensive hobbies with about the same frequency as he goes to the resin bag. Last year 31-game-winner McLain's thing was playing the organ. This season the righthander, who won his 15th game last week, has turned to flying his own plane. The music critics who heard McLain at the organ generally called his act a bomb. Now his teammates give the same reviews to McLain for his airborne antics. He often disappears on game days to go flying, and earlier this year all the other Tigers waited impatiently aboard an airliner until McLain landed his Cessna and joined them. At the All-Star Game (page 12), McLain stranded Tiger Pitcher Mickey Lolich and his wife in Washington after promising the Loliches a plane ride back to Detroit. When Lolich complained of the inconvenience, McLain replied, "That's tough." Mickey later told Detroit columnist Pete Waldmeir that McLain had pulled "a crummy trick. I want to see that in the paper. Denny never thinks of anyone but himself." The two ace pitchers later said they had patched up their differences, but other Tigers and the management are not happy about McLain's lack of interest in the team when he is not pitching. General Manager Jim Campbell has grounded McLain on game days, and the atmosphere in the Detroit clubhouse leaves little doubt that some veterans may blast him if he should tumble from the top spot on the staff. He does not have far to fall because Lolich, usually a poor early-season pitcher, started fast and is having his best season. Winning a 13-strikeout four-hitter last week, the 1968 World Series hero now stands 14-2, and his confidence is flying higher than McLain's plane. "After I won three games in the Series, I figured I shouldn't worry about American League hitters so much," he says. The batters—and perhaps McLain—are doing most of Lolich's worrying for him.