The All-Star break can't come too soon. During a restless week there were charges of beanballs and "roughed-up" balls; there were fights, ejections, angry players and furious managers. But nothing quite matched the flap at Milwaukee's County Stadium.
Some 40 feet atop the center-field fence sits a character named Bernie Brewer. Dressed in Bavarian lederhosen, he slides down a chute into a fake beer stein every time a Milwaukee Brewer homers. Harmless? Texas Manager Whitey Herzog believed something else was brewing out there. En route to a doubleheader defeat, Herzog thought he saw someone helping Brewer, and the Brewers, with binoculars. Herzog swore that every time a Texas pitcher was about to throw a breaking ball, Brewer would clap with his white gloves. The "accomplice," working behind Brewer, was removed.
"Maybe we should put a giant Texas Ranger in our center-field bleachers," said Herzog. "Then every time he'd see a sign for a curve ball, he'd fire a gun." Brewer, whose real name is Dan McCarthy, protested, "It's really absurd. I played in the Little League and the Babe Ruth Leagues, but I can't tell one sign from another."
The White Sox claimed New York's Fritz Peterson was scratching the baseballs when he beat them 2-1. Actually, Mel Stottlemyre and Bobby Murcer did the most damage to opponents as the Yankees bounced in and out of first, and in again. Stottlemyre, who has allowed just one run, that unearned, in 27 innings, won twice; Murcer hit three homers to account for all the scoring in a 5-0 win over Kansas City.
Boston, Detroit and Baltimore were close behind. Hub-fever rose about a 5-3 week that included a Luis Tiant two-hitter, and Detroit took five in a row as some of Billy Martin's better platooning paid off. Dick Sharon had four hits in a one-run win over Texas, and his alternate, Jim Northrup, drove in eight runs the next night.
Gaylord Perry said Cleveland's young players didn't hustle enough and young Rusty Torres said it was harder playing for a loser than a pennant contender, but then Dick Tidrow four-hit the Minnesota Twins and they looked better. "This is the club we saw in spring training," said Manager Ken Aspromonte. "Solid hitting, some pitching, aggressive base running." It all added up to a .500 week, cause for joy in Cleveland.
NY 51-42 BOST 47-40 BALT 45-39 DET 48-42 MIL 44-45 CLEV 33-58
Mike Andrews became the second Chicago player in two weeks to leave the club after a salary hassle (Rick Reichardt preceded him), and he was missed. Joe Keough, the minor-leaguer who replaced Andrews, was picked off second in one game and against the Orioles he grounded into a game-ending double play. Still, the Sox managed to split six consecutive one-run games and move into third when Wilbur Wood got back on track and pitched two complete-game victories.
California's Frank Robinson hit his 535th home run to reach sixth place on the alltime list—ahead of Jimmy Foxx, behind Mickey Mantle. And at 37 he was feeling so chipper he asked to be moved from designated hitter to the outfield. Indeed, a better Angel DH might be Richie Scheinblum, who had taken his good-hit, no-field reputation to Cincinnati from K.C. this year and returned to the American League a bust. Last week he won one Angel game with a homer, lost another with an error.
The Twins' Rod Carew (.349) is a near cinch to win his third batting title in five years, and few pitchers are going better than his teammate, 22-year-old Bert Blyleven, whose seven shutouts lead the league. But two men do not make a team—the Twins dropped six of eight. Kansas City stayed in second despite a losing week and a sad slugger in John Mayberry. "I don't think I'll ever hit another home run or drive in another run," moaned Mayberry, who leads the league with 20 and 80, respectively. His problem was getting a pitch; he walked nine times for a 1973 total of 77—another first.
Oakland finally survived a week at the top. Saves by Rollie Fingers (ERA: 1.39), Horacio Pina (2.70) and Darold Knowles (2.70) helped a great deal. When Manager Dick Williams was ejected for "an obscene gesture" and Vida Blue won, something like normality had convincingly returned to the champions. Texas was in last but encouraged by newcomer Jim Fregosi, jettisoned by the Mets, who homered to win a game.
OAK 51-40 KC 50-44 CHI 46-43 CAL 45-43 MINN 45-43 TEX 31-57
The Cubs lost four of five in their worst week to date and have played only .500 ball since June 1. So why are they still in first? Well, second-place St. Louis was 3-3 for the week. The Cards did not get a complete game or a homer until Saturday, when Alan Foster beat San Diego 5-3. Third-place Montreal allowed 55 runs and 75 hits, dropped five of seven and lost Shortstop Tim Foli for three weeks with a fractured jaw.
Pittsburgh was rustling again. Pitcher Nellie Briles beat San Diego 10-2 in perhaps the most satisfying Pirate game of the year. Everybody hit, including the pitcher. Dal Maxvill, the fourth player the Pirates have tried at short, batted .300 and made one harmless error, and when little-used Luke Walker and Jim Rooker also won, Pittsburgh moved into fourth.
Greg Luzinski hit five homers in five games, one for 500 feet to clear the Veterans' Stadium scoreboard, but the best Philadelphia could do was win three of seven games. Said Manager Danny Ozark of the Phillies, "They went into a deep sleep. If they're as tired as they look now, I'd hate to go into September trying to clinch a pennant."
The most absorbing Met news was a fan poll conducted by the New York Post. Of more than 4,000 responses 1,448 said General Manager Bob Scheffing, who had traded away Nolan Ryan, should be ousted; 1,207 wished Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant's departure and only 611 wanted to can Manager Yogi Berra. The Met players—who presumably did not vote—managed to win three of six.
CHI 50-40 ST. L 46-42 MONT 42-45 PITT 41-45 PHIL 41-48 NY 38-48
Even blasé Atlanta was beginning to gasp over Henry Aaron. After he hit homers 695 and 696 against New York The Atlanta Constitution described Aaron's quest as "perhaps the greatest sports story of this age." For his part Aaron was helping his team in several ways. He gave a hitting tip to Paul Casanova, who homered to beat Philadelphia. Later Aaron hit No. 697, and the Braves' attack bristled with 21 hits in a 15-6 rout of Montreal. Dusty Baker hit .520 for the week.
Los Angeles rebounded smartly from a six-game losing streak, taking five of six. Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith and Tommy John won complete games while Willie Davis, angered over being left off the All-Star team, hit .370. "There's too much sentimentality involved," he fumed. "It's more or less a popularity contest."
San Francisco's Bobby Bonds, who also may not have enough votes to start in the NL outfield, conceivably could win the batting triple crown—and as a leadoff hitter. "Leading off, I come to bat more times and occasionally in the late innings when a pinch hitter replaces the pitcher, the leadoff spot becomes cleanup," he said. Just about everyone was cleaning up on the Astros—in 17 consecutive games against losing teams they are 6-11. Pitcher Don Wilson lost his 10th during Houston's 3-4 week and charged into the Philadelphia stands after some brotherly lovers.
San Diego Manager Don Zimmer's book has some unusual pages. He let Pitcher Randy Jones bat with the bases loaded and the Padres trailing by one run in the sixth. Two innings later he had Dwain Anderson, a .136 hitter, lay down a suicide squeeze. Yet the moves worked (Jones stayed in to win and Anderson bunted well) and San Diego beat the Cubs 4-2. Cincinnati's Jack Billingham threw a four-hitter and a two-hitter, the latter for his 13th win on Friday the 13th. With Roger Nelson, Gary Nolan and Joe Hague returning from injuries after the All-Star break, there were omens of better days to come.
LA 58-34 SF 51-41 CIN 50-41 HOUS 49-46 ATL 43-51 SD 31-59