This is an article from the May 31, 1971 issue
For the second time this season, illness forced PITTSBURGH Manager Danny Murtaugh to leave his team. Murtaugh, who has a history of heart trouble, complained of chest pains in Cincinnati and was confined to Christ Hospital as the Pirates flew to Montreal. It was fortunate he missed the flight. The plane was rocked by an electrical storm and the pilot's control panel went out. Willie Stargell was so shaken by the trip that he disconnected the phone in his Montreal hotel room. The following night Stargell, who had missed starting five games because of an ailing hand, returned to the Pirate lineup and hit a game-breaking homer in the 13th inning. "I guess it'll be all right for me to cash my paycheck now," he said. But Pirate executives are beginning to worry. The club has been averaging a mere 12,000 spectators at Three Rivers Stadium and only 17,000 were on hand for a recent big game against the Mets. "If weather isn't the reason for the small crowds, then we're all in the wrong business," said club Vice-President Tom Johnson. The Mets' Shea Stadium, on the other hand, was comparatively overpopulated. NEW YORK returned home following five straight losses, and Nolan Ryan treated a crowd of 37,000 to a four-hitter against the Braves. The following day a crowd of 53,000 watched the Mets win another 8-7 on an 11th-inning single by Donn Clendenon. ST. LOUIS won five of six games at home, but not all the victories were impressive. On Friday the Cards combined with San Diego to commit nine errors. Even the Busch Stadium scoreboard joined the act, displaying an incorrect answer to its own fan quiz. CHICAGO Pitcher Milt Pappas was spiked in the first inning of Saturday's game against the Dodgers and later was hit on the foot and head by a line drive but Leo Durocher refused to remove him from the game, which is not surprising since the credentials of the Cub bullpen amount to one win and one save. Three times this year Leo's relievers have entered games with Chicago leading and they have blown two of them. So Pappas pitched nine innings and won 5-2. The residents of MONTREAL were giddy with good humor following their Stanley Cup win. Those who went to Jarry Park for the first of a three-game series with the Pirates were described by Sports Columnist John Robertson: "They sang songs, swilled beer and merrily clapped their hands to lively organ music...and if the home team happened to lose this night, odds are the only people who would get blamed for it would be the visiting team." The Expos lost 6-2. PHILADELPHIA won two from New York, but remained hidden in the cellar.
NY 24-15 ST. L 25-16 PITT 24-17 CHI 20-21 MONT 16-17 PHIL 14-25
Last season 211 home runs were hit in Atlanta Stadium and only Crosley Field (219 in 1957) and the Polo Grounds (213 in 1962) ever had been more accommodating to National League hitters. This year the assault continues. In 22 games the park has yielded 61 homers, which local Meteorologist Dave Miller credits to thin air. "Atlanta's elevation is 1,010 feet," he said. "Most other cities in the league are at elevations of less than 500 feet." ATLANTA Outfielder Ralph Garr, who had three home runs in two wins against the Mets, continued to lead the Braves with a .384 average and is concerned with elevations of a more personal nature (page 18). HOUSTON set a club record by stranding 15 runners against the Padres, so Manager Harry Walker scheduled batting practice for 9:30 the next morning. "Anything to break the monotony," he said. Then the Astros won two games from SAN FRANCISCO, a team that wins everywhere except in the Astrodome. Through Saturday, the Giants had lost eight straight and 18 of their last 21 games in Houston and were becoming superstitious. "For weeks we talked about the Houston series," said Relief Pitcher Don McMahon. "We felt if we could take them we were sure to win the pennant. Well, the Astrodome is our jinx." LOS ANGELES, with slugger Richie Allen ineffective, looks as powerless as ever. The Dodgers had 58 hits last week but only seven were for extra bases and only one was a homer. CINCINNATI was unable to advance despite four wins, and life is becoming downright embarrassing for SAN DIEGO. After watching Padre rookie Bill Laxton pitch, Joe Torre of the Cardinals said, "This kid has a chance to become a great pitcher. I was really impressed, even if we did get to him for seven runs in three innings."
SF 30-13 LA 21-22 ATL 20-22 HOUS 20-22 CIN 17-24 SD 12-29
Denny McLain's first appearance in Detroit since being traded to Washington had an added fillip Sunday: old rival Mickey Lolich on the mound for the Tigers. "Big duel," said Lolich before the game. "I haven't decided yet if we'll use sabres or pistols. I think I'd object to using pistols, though. I might be the larger target." Asked if Lolich should win 20 games this year, McLain replied, "I would hope so. He's not competing with anyone anymore." McLain was cheered by at least half of the crowd of 53,000, but not by the hitting of his former teammates (Al Kaline and Norm Cash each hit a two-run homer) or the pitching of Lolich (he had a four-hitter). DETROIT won 5-0 and again 11-0 to conclude a grim week for WASHINGTON. The Senators managed just one run in four losses and fell to last place. Perhaps as humiliating, the Tigers walked a batter intentionally to pitch to Frank Howard. BOSTON won five straight and the most encouraging part of the streak was Jim Lonborg's start against the Orioles on Friday. The 1967 Cy Young winner pitched 8‚Öî innings and allowed six hits and four runs. "Jim's made it all the way back," said Carl Yastrzemski. "He stood up there brimming with confidence, the same way he was in '67." And Plate Umpire Ron Luciano added, "I never saw Lonborg in his heyday, but the way he threw tonight he could pitch for anybody." BALTIMORE lost the game in the 10th, so Manager Earl Weaver called a team meeting. A major concern was power hitter Boog Powell's abysmal slump. He is hitting .190. Said Weaver: "If it looks like he's not coming around, he may have to sit down for three or four days. Sit down, relax, rest, then start over." In Sunday's doubleheader Powell went 0 for 7. CLEVELAND'S Ken Harrelson is anxious to relax, rest and switch sports. "I have a calling," he says. "Some go from alcohol to preacher. I'm going from baseball to golf unless something happens to change my mind." NEW YORK stretched its losing streak to five games when, in the seventh inning against the Indians, Center Fielder Bobby Murcer lost a routine fly in the sun. Winning Pitcher Steve Dunning then scored from second on a single when Catcher Jake Gibbs dropped the ball at the plate.
BOST 26-13 BALT 23-16 DET 22-19 NY 17-22 CLEV 17-23 WASH 15-26
A week of rain and open dates limited KANSAS CITY to only three games, which provided plenty of time for Owner Ewing Kauffman to contemplate the future of his Royals. "I'm afraid this team will win its division this year in our old park," he said during a radio interview. "I really don't want it to win until we get into our new park next season. It will have the finest scoreboard in the history of baseball." The scoreboard will be 10 stories high and will be able to flash gigantic pictures of the Royals. There will also be a jet fountain that will shoot water into the air on fitting occasions. Kauffman estimates that the cost of all this will be $2,250,000. Meanwhile, Manager Bob Lemon spoke of the less glamorous present. "We've cut down on walks and home-run balls and we're making double plays." CALIFORNIA has as its only consistent hitter a 30-year-old catcher named John Stephenson. He is an unlikely hero. Stephenson bounced around baseball for eight seasons, played occasionally in the majors for the Mets, Cubs and Giants and in the off seasons was employed as assistant basketball coach at William Cary College in Hattiesburg, Miss. Last winter the Angels drafted him as a third catcher, and by last week he had a 15-game hitting streak and a .410 average. "I've appeared in 23 games," he said, "and that's the most I've played with any team in a year." In OAKLAND the press had been criticizing Owner Charlie Finley for not appearing at games. "The fans do not care whether Charles O. Finley comes out to the games," he declared. But last week he was in his box enjoying the sunshine, Cap Day and Jim (Catfish) Hunter's eighth straight win and seventh complete game—a two-hit 5-1 victory over Minnesota. Reggie Jackson lifted his average 25 points to .280 and his home run Saturday brought Twins Manager Bill Rigney out of the dugout protesting that his bat was grooved. Jackson asked, "What is a grooved bat?" Also protesting was MILWAUKEE General Manager Frank Lane. When a Brewer 4-1 lead over Kansas City was washed away by rain in the fifth inning, Lane believed that the rescheduling of the contest might cost the Brewers their exhibition date with Atlanta and the anticipated crowd of 40,000. Furious at Hank Soar, the umpire who stopped play, Lane said, "Only a shoebrain like Soar could have done it. There was no reason why we couldn't have finished the inning. He announced his retirement this year, but he should have retired 20 years ago." CHICAGO Manager Chuck Tanner juggled his lineup to provide more speed at each end of the batting order and the result was a satisfying 13-0 win over the Angels. Wilbur Wood pitched the shutout. The night before, Tom Bradley shut out California 3-0 and the wins brought the team ERA down close to 3.00, compared with 4.54 last season. But with all their improvement, the White Sox were still struggling to get out of last place. Why? "Lousy fielding," says Tanner. "Our mistakes have cost us at least six games this year."
OAK 30-15 MINN 21-21 CAL 21-23 KC 19-21 MIL 16-21 CHI 15-22