Cleveland had them talking. First there was Gaylord Perry, eliciting the usual spitball charges from the Tigers after two-hitting them 7-0. "It's so frustrating to sit on the bench and watch hitters like ours missing balls by that much," said Tiger Manager Billy Martin, measuring off more than a foot. "They still don't know that I've got a forkball, do they?" deadpanned Perry. Two days later George Hendrick hit the first ball into Cleveland's Municipal Stadium center-field stands in 25 years, a shot carrying 440 to 470 feet depending on the estimator. As writers crowded around him following the game, Hendrick said, "All I want to do is forget the long home run, if it was one, and look toward the next game. I'm doing my job. It's just a day's work. Please understand." Next day Cleveland fans were reminded how precarious stardom can be. When Charley Spikes smashed a shot at Jim Colborn's face, the Milwaukee pitcher got his glove up just in time to catch it. Clevelanders recalled the shot off Gil McDougald's bat that ruined Herb Score's career in 1957. Asked later if his life passed before his eyes, Colborn said, "No, just the first five years."
In Massachusetts, Boston celebrated its unique Patriots Day holiday with an old-fashioned slugfest. The Red Sox trailed 8-0, rallied with four home runs, but finally lost to the Tigers 9-7. In the best tradition of New England hospitality, the Sox then dropped the four-game series to give Detroit and Baltimore the lead. Both teams got long-awaited help from erstwhile sluggers. Baltimore's Earl Williams finally homered, and just for good measure repeated the feat three times. "I'm pretty big to be hitting singles," he said. Detroit's Willie Horton, who has frequently feuded with Martin, was promised the left-field job and responded with a 12-for-25 week, including three homers. Horton said he received additional inspiration from Roberto Clemente, whose example made him try, and roommate Frank Howard, who made him comfortable. "I love that man," said Horton.
New York acquired Jim Ray Hart from San Francisco, and the Yankees' latest designated hitter went 4 for 5. But there was no stopping the "slurve." That is the combination curve-slider Jim Slaton of surprising Milwaukee used to beat New York 2-0.
April 29, 1973
BALT 8-5 DET 8-5 MIL 5-5 BOST 5-6 NY 5-7 CLEV 5-8
It was Chicago's turn to do some slugging, and the White Sox buried Kansas City 16-2 in partial compensation for two earlier 12-5 losses. Bill Melton, apparently recovered from back trouble, had four homers, and Dick Allen personally dismantled the Rangers with a homer, double and a triple in a 6-5 win. Knuckleballer Eddie Fisher threw his first complete game in a decade, beating Texas 10-5, and Pitching Coach Johnny Sain talked of keeping him as a starter. Why not? Sain made a 20-game winner out of another knuckleballer, Wilbur Wood.
Kansas City managed to stay in first by heeding Manager Jack McKeon's advice on fundamentals. That doesn't necessarily mean swinging for the fences, past performances notwithstanding. Against Oakland, Paul Schaal and Carl Taylor alertly tagged up at first and second on a long fly, setting up a two-run single that sent the game into extra innings. Hal McRae won it in the 14th by barely poking the ball over First Baseman Mike Hegan's glove. Hard luck scenes such as this made Oakland Manager Dick Williams even testier. He had already criticized Oakland's fans for lack of support. "We're world champions. We've proved ourselves. The area hasn't. We'll just move somewhere else." In one game, however, he needed to look no farther than the end of his nose for the culprit. Williams ordered California's Al Gallagher walked to load the bases and get at Jeff Torborg. The Angel catcher doubled home two runs to beat the A's 4-2.
Tony Oliva was the object of much controversy in Minnesota. Pitching Coach Al Worthington was quoted as saying, "I don't believe Oliva will be able to play anymore. I don't think his legs will hold up." Shot back Trainer Dick Martin: "His knee is strong structurally and he's got good muscle tone." For his part, Oliva asked Manager Frank Quilici, who in 1961 was the last man to pinch-hit for Oliva, to replace him when he had trouble getting his bat around. So Quilici sent in Danny Walton, who responded with a grand slam to beat California. The well-meaning Oliva, whose .257 average as a designated hitter was keeping him in the lineup, ended the week by being hit above the right ankle and suffering contusions.
Texas Manager Whitey Herzog claimed Catcher Rich Billings and Alex Johnson were the only players giving their best. "Now isn't that strange? Those are the two guys who were supposed to be giving me the most trouble and they're my leaders now." He even allowed Johnson, busting the fences at a .400-plus clip, to break the rules by playing pepper with some bat boys. Looking for a helping hand—Rich Hand to be exact—Herzog ran into Minnesota's Bill Hands instead and lost 5-1. So what did Rollie Fingers think of that?
KC 9-4 MINN 7-4 CHI 5-4 CAL 5-5 OAK 4-8 TEX 2-7
Chicago, which won only two of its first 11 games in 1972, was 7-4, and everyone was contributing. Seven different pitchers had wins, a situation that if continued might cost Ferguson Jenkins a 20-win season for the first time in seven years. "That's O.K.," said Manager Whitey Lockman. "I'd be satisfied to see each of our  pitchers win 10 games." Jenkins, Burt Hooton and rookie Ray Burris got their first victories as the Cubs shut out the Mets three times in four games. The relievers had a 1.17 ERA for 23 innings and the hitters came alive with a .296 week. One problem: the Pirates. Even when the first eight Cubs got hits off Pittsburgh's Nelson Briles and Bob Johnson, Pittsburgh came back to trail by only 10-8 after six innings. Then the game at Wrigley Field was suspended because of darkness. "You've got to get 50 to beat those guys," said Joe Pepitone, "and then they'll get 49 to stay close." The Pirates had three fewer losses than any team in baseball; even the much-discussed experiment of switching Manny Sanguillen from catcher to right field was working. Sanguillen was hitting .364 and his replacement behind the plate, Milt May, was leading the team in RBIs with eight.
The Mets' play was so bad Yogi Berra had to bench himself with a heavy cold, but some of the team's malaise was his fault. He let Tom Seaver bat for himself in the eighth while New York was down 1-0. New York's pitching was predictable—only once did the Mets allow more than three runs—but so was the hitting, an average of just two runs and five hits a game. Among the regulars only John Milner (.378 and five homers) was over .250. When Milner hit a 3-0 pitch out to beat Philadelphia, losing pitcher Jim Lonborg, who spent eight years with the Red Sox and Brewers, said, "They don't swing at 3-0 pitches in the American League. That's not done at all, except on rare occasions."
Montreal led Philadelphia 3-2 in a season series that may determine who finishes last, but the Expos had problems. Always before they could count on attendance. Now the average of 13,000 is down 35% from last year, and the hockey playoffs are no excuse. The Canadiens also were in a playoff last season. The steady failure of their onetime ace reliever Mike Marshall was no help. Having figured in 32 of the team's 70 wins last year, Marshall was unable to handle a 6-3 lead. He lost 9-6.
Things were so bad in St. Louis that Lou Brock was thrown out of his first major league game. Four Cardinal losses were by one run, three by two. Four times in first innings St. Louis pitchers, guilty of seven wild pitches and victims of six passed balls, gave up two runs or more.
PITT 7-1 CHI 7-4 NY 7-5 MONT 5-6 PHIL 5-6 ST. L 1-10
San Diego Manager Don Zimmer had some timely words for his pitchers. "I told them they can't consistently pitch everyone outside," he said after watching Houston hit five homers in two games. "Keep throwing outside and you'll be losers all of your life." Whereupon Mike Corkins took the mound with a 135.00 ERA and four-hit the Astros. Next, Bill Greif, a three-inning pitcher all spring, two-hit them. The Padres then began to lose, providing Zimmer with an opportunity to assess the rest of the league. "The Reds have too much of everything—pitching, hitting, speed and defense," he said. "I thought for a while that Houston might have a chance of making a race out of it. Now I don't look for there to be a race."
The first-place Giants (page 24) thought otherwise, taking five straight for the second time this season, but Cincinnati was right on San Francisco's heels. Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench hit their third homers and Don Gullett won his third game in a 5-2 week. The Reds kept frustrating their fans, though, playing 2-3 ball at home and 8-2 on the road.
Don Sutton of Los Angeles can win anywhere—even after a migraine headache. He suffered a morning of torture, then went out and beat the Giants 1-0. Having allowed no earned runs in 22 consecutive innings, he may finally win 20 games. The Astros kept struggling to get over .500; good relief pitching from rookie Jim Crawford and Don Wilson's first win, a two-hitter, were encouraging signs. Atlanta would be very happy at .500. Henry Aaron's four homers in 14 games—a pace that would put him past Babe Ruth's record 714 by season's end—were all that bore watching.
SF 12-5 CIN 10-5 HOUS 8-8 LA 7-9 SD 6-10 ATL 4-10