There was no disguising the gusto with which baseball's pennant contenders threw themselves—plus a wild bat and a rhubarb or two—into the playoffs
October 15, 1972

You could see that they cared, these finalists for baseball's flags, as they leaped and scratched and brawled their way toward the World Series—or oblivion. And salutary as it was to view Pittsburgh and Cincinnati mugging one another for Ohio River bragging rights—not to mention the National League pennant—the fight site in Oakland was equally colorful as the A's struck the first victorious blows for the American League West since the playoffs began four years ago. Well, how could Baltimore keep winning 'em all if they couldn't even whip those old folks from Detroit? Hirsute and extravagantly attired, the A's took advantage of many a Detroit miscue and benefited further from some fine pitching, particularly by John (Blue Moon) Odom, a shutout winner in the second game. Shortstop Campy Campaneris also did some pitching in that one, hurling his bat at a Detroit reliever, Lerrin LaGrow, after an inside pitch cracked him on the ankle. Fortunately, Campaneris missed his target. After a bench-emptying melee both he and LaGrow were ejected—the latter not in punishment but to keep him out of harm's way.

The weather was foul and the liner that Cincinnati's Cesar Geronimo ripped over first base in the fourth inning of Saturday's game was, too, ruled Umpire Ken Burkhart as the ball caromed off his backside. "Fair!" screamed Sparky Anderson, kicking dirt on the ump's shoes. The fouls had it: Anderson was tossed out of a game for the first time this season. Trouble was, the Reds hadn't started kicking early enough. In the first inning the Pirates had taken a 3-1 lead and that was all that was necessary as they triumphed 5-1 despite being outhit 8-6. Not to be outdone in first-inning pyrotechnics, next day the Reds went single, single, double, double, double with their first five men, amassing four runs then and there and evening the series with a 5-3 victory as they moved it downstream from Three Rivers Stadium to Cincy's Riverfront. As promised, these were battlegrounds rich enough in talent to constitute a second World Series. And while one could not restrain admiration for Al Oliver's Pirate bat or the headlong swoops and slides of Cincinnati's Pete Rose, there was a special magic in the performance of little Joe Morgan. He alone scored for the Reds in the opener—did it all himself with a first-inning home run. On Sunday he got another—and muffled Pirate threats with dazzling glove work at second base.

PHOTOAl Kaline was a hero with a homer—until his wild throw lost game. PHOTODown, too, though not without a powerful fling, went Mickey Lolich.
PHOTOAnd up came mustachioed Reliever Rollie Fingers to win for the West. PHOTOBert Campaneris was a terror on base and at bat. With a bat, too. PHOTOA's Mike Hegan and Dick Williams jumped for Gene Tenace's big run. TWO PHOTOSSafe on a blooper past Denis Menke (above), Pirate Rennie Stennett coasted in on homer by Al Oliver (16) and gave him the glad hands. PHOTOPete Rose did a diving belly whopper to glove Steve Blass's hot liner. PHOTOUpright for a change, Rose patted Joe Morgan after Sunday's homer. PHOTOUmp Burkhart wheeled away from Anderson as he thumbed him out. PHOTOBlass permitted the Reds some hits but very little on the scoreboard.