Whoever was sitting up nights in hotel rooms eating plastic-wrapped sandwiches and writing those melodramatic, horribly corny, terribly popular pulp-paper dime novels the National League was pleased to use as endings all these years—Bobby Thomson's home run, the Phillies' collapse, Koufax's victory in the twilight—has definitely specialized. He now grinds out baseball fiction only for the Eastern Division. Last year...well, who's forgotten last year? This season the self-indulgent wretch is clearly intent on the only possible topper: four contenders go down to the last game and end in a three-way tie, requiring a pre-playoff round robin. Dour Danny Murtaugh and hard-shelled Leo Durocher have been feeling it in their unfunny bones for weeks, as witness the two critical games between CHICAGO and PITTSBURGH that were decided by the last out in the last half of the last inning. In the first, the Pirates saw their two ninth-inning game-busting home runs nearly nullified by a three-run 31st homer by Jim Hickman (an entire chapter in himself). In the second game, with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, a clearly game-ending routine fly fell off Matty Alou's glove, unbarring the door to tying and winning hits by Don Kessinger and Billy Williams. At about the time this was happening NEW YORK was losing in 13 innings to the Cardinals. Again the top three teams were bunched within one game and seven percentage points. Three days earlier the Mets had won a game that went 14 innings after an apparent home run was disallowed. When the Pirates played the Cubs in a Labor Day doubleheader, they split, believably, but unbelievably against the same Cubs the Mets split a three-game series. The rubber game was rained out and rescheduled as yet a fourth game that will be played on a Monday night—opposite ABC's pro football. Other strange things happened. In a bunting situation, Durocher yanked Pitcher Fergie Jenkins for a pinch hitter. This would not have been quite so odd if a) Jenkins had not been pitching brilliantly, b) Jenkins had not executed sacrifices successfully 10 times this season, tying him for the club lead, c) the pinch bunter had not been Johnny Callison, who is a much better power hitter than bunter (his bunting percentage is, in fact, still .000), and d) Jenkins' two pitching successors had not been shelled pitilessly. Another distance hitter emerged from a fouled-up bunting situation less embarrassed. Ernie Banks, still at 39 and holding, had happened to ask a reporter what MONTREAL Hurler John O'Donoghue's best pitch was. "The home run ball," the reporter replied. Banks faced O'Donoghue with runners on first and second, fouled off two bunts, and then hit a three-run homer into a 15 mph wind to break a 2-2 tie. The most normal thing that happened all week was that the Cardinals, taking two of three, finally stopped looking like five-and-twenty redbirds baked in a pie every time they faced the Mets. (They had lost 24 of their last 36 games with New York.) Even PHILADELPHIA and Montreal were not mathematically eliminated, and, indeed, they were staging a pretty fair fight for fifth.
PITT 77-68 NY 77-69 CHI 76-69 ST. L. 70-77 PHIL 66-81 MONT 64-81
Still another CINCINNATI pitching find, rookie Milt Wilcox, up from Indianapolis, five-hit the Dodgers for his second major league victory in four days as the Reds idled toward a division championship. "Well, that's just another horse in our stable," Pete Rose said. "Maybe we can get the league to play 300 games next year so all our pitchers can work into the rotation." Nine covetable pitchers will compete for starting spots, and five of them are under 22 years old. Two, teenager Don Gullett and oldtimer (26) Wayne Granger, continued to distinguish themselves. Until the Dodgers got to him, Gullett had allowed no runs and one hit in 13‚Öî innings, striking out 19. Granger recorded his 32nd save. Some might think that about all LOS ANGELES' Walter Alston has to show for this season is a former pupil, Sparky Anderson, Cincinnati's manager. But even after five consecutive losses (15 in the last 23 games) Alston continued to insist that he was sticking with his present club. Willie Crawford, for one, keeps on deserving Alston's confidence. In one stretch he had nine hits in 17 at bats, SAN FRANCISCO, on the other hand, has won 21 out of its last 30, but its annual drive for second place has not awakened any great loyalty in Bay bosoms. Despite stomach cramps, Juan Marichal beat the Dodgers 4-3 Friday. Attendance was only 8,574. Thursday, Gaylord Perry won his 20th game as the Giants beat Houston 11-0, and Perry and brother Jim (22-11 with Minnesota) became the first brothers ever to win 20 games or more in the majors in the same season. And on hand to witness the historic first? A mere 2,449. They could hardly pay the freight for the Gaylord Perry wet ones tossed out of play. ATLANTA had to battle to cling to fourth place, although Pat Jarvis beat Houston for the 12th time in 13 decisions. When HOUSTON'S Denis Menke singled in the winning run to beat the Braves Friday the hit came off 47-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm. "Feel sorry for the old man?" Menke was asked. "Heck, no," he answered. "Did he feel sorry for me all the times he got me out?" Clarence Gaston hit three home runs, bringing his total of 26 and the Padres' winning streak of five straight.
CINN 93-56 LA 78-67 SF 77-69 ATL 72-76 HOUS 70-76 SD 58-89
Earl Weaver shut the clubhouse door and had a little talk with his BALTIMORE Orioles after their lead was cut to nine games. All he told them, he says, was this: "If we win the next three, which in all likelihood we will, we'll be back to a dozen games in front." As easy as shooting pigeons. Baltimore took the three straight, all by one-run margins. After Friday's 13-inning, 3-2 victory over Boston, the Orioles had won 34 of their 49 one-run ball games. More than half their victories have been by two runs or fewer. Nicely complimenting Baltimore, the NEW YORK Yankees lost four straight games by one run, making them eligible for associate membership in the SPBC (Society for the Preservation of Baseball Clichés—Pennant Winners Win the Close Ones Chapter), BOSTON'S Carl Yastrzemski, competing with Reggie Smith, Tony Oliva, Luis Aparicio and Alex Johnson for a batting title that would be his fourth, had earlier said, "I don't intend to take a rest until I break a leg." But when Manager Eddie Kasko rested him after a three-run homer in a 14-0 laugher, Yaz said, "I didn't lose anything by it. In a game of that kind, I can't keep up my interest and concentration." Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said Denny McLain packed a pistol. DETROIT Manager Mayo Smith reasoned that, wherever else Dennis might have toted a gun, it was not onto the playing fields of the American League. "If he had," Smith said to clinch the point, "he'd have shot the organist who is always bugging him in Oakland." Someone else theorized that McLain had only been carrying a water pistol. But the questions continued. For samples: Would McLain be traded for Frank Howard? Would the Oakland organist next play "Denny Get Your Gun," "The Shooting of Denny McGrew" or "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head"? What has two heels and flies? ("Jim Northrup," is not the correct answer.) WASHINGTON Owner Bob Short informed the world, "I've got Ted Williams, the manager who can handle McLain." He also still had Howard, who led the league in home runs and RBIs. CLEVELAND led in nothing.
BALT 95-51 NY 81-65 BOST 75-71 DET 75-71 CLEV 71-76 WASH 68-77
Minnesota's Brant Alyea may be a spring hitter, as some say, but there is growing evidence that he also bears serious watching in the fall. With cooler weather, the steel coil was back in his swing, a fact Manager Bill Rigney discovered on Labor Day when, as a wind blew out to left field, he kept the slugger in the lineup. Alyea hit one grand-slam home run and one three-run homer, accounting for all the Twin runs in a 7-6 victory. For the doubleheader he had four hits and nine RBIs. Rigney decided to keep him in the lineup. Alyea got at least one RBI through eight games, totaled 16, and collected 13 hits in 26 at bats. For September, he has gone 17 for 43 with 22 runs batted in. Any team whose starters sound like the brand names in a freaked-out delicatessen (Vida Blue, Blue Moon, Catfish Hunter) has to be expected to be a little erratic. After dropping three games to Minnesota and falling 8½ back, OAKLAND went on another streak, this one winning, led by Blue's one-hitter against Kansas City. Reggie Jackson started hitting home runs again (he now has 21), but he also made an unpleasant gesture to Owner Charley Finley in the stands and said a bad thing tending to imply that Finley is overly fond of himself. Jackson's public apology appeared on Tuesday. Later he denied authorship of the retraction but admired its rhetoric. Thursday, his error helped lose a game. "I knew I had a long run for that Killebrew fly ball but I took it la-de-da," he re-apologized. "I'm 24. Maybe when I'm 26 I won't make mistakes like that." Just three games out on Sept. 3, CALIFORNIA'S Angels lost nine straight to fall 11 games behind by Sunday. President Bob Reynolds, never taciturn, rehired Manager Lefty Phillips and snapped, "Now if the players would bring themselves to it, they should be able to finish second. You wonder if they are aware of the difference between second place and third." KANSAS CITY'S Lou Piniella asked Bob Lemon to have movies taken of his swing. "I don't need movies to tell what's wrong," Lemon said. "You aren't aggressive enough. Get off your heels." Piniella went out and got a three-run double plus two singles. MILWAUKEE was playing .310 ball on the road. The CHICAGO White Sox won a doubleheader—a season first.
MINN 87-58 OAK 80-67 CAL 77-68 KC 58-88 MIL 55-90 CHI 53-93