When Oakland Manager Dick Williams was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, the Athletics sent him a get-well telegram. The vote to do so, said locker room wags, was 13-12. Vida Blue presumably was among the nays, in view of his comments after lasting nine innings to beat the Orioles for his first win in three weeks. "Around here you go four innings and Williams says, 'See ya later, Vida,' " Blue complained. "If you don't get three runs ahead in the first inning you know you won't go nine. Throw two balls and four guys get up in the bullpen. Nolan Ryan has thrown two no-hitters this season. I've done that eight times already, but they were all in the bullpen."
California's Ryan became only the fourth pitcher in baseball history to post two no-hitters in one season as he struck out 17 Tigers in Detroit. Four days later in Anaheim, Ryan stopped the Orioles without a hit for seven innings before Mark Belanger blooped a single into left-center field. Although only 20,823 watched Ryan flirt with Johnny Vander Meer's 1938 feat of throwing back-to-back hitless games, it was the Angels' largest non-promotion weekday crowd in five years.
Meanwhile, Wilbur Wood became the first pitcher in 55 years to start and lose both games of a doubleheader as the slipping White Sox lost five of seven. Wood failed to retire a single Yankee in the first game, then gave up a grand-slam home run to Roy White in the second.
Bonus Babies David Clyde of Texas and Eddie Bane of Minnesota continued to pitch impressively. Clyde stopped Milwaukee with one run for seven innings but was shelled in the eighth. "It was stupid on my part," said Texas Manager Whitey Herzog. "A high school kid isn't conditioned to go that far." In his next start Clyde held the Tigers to one run through six innings, then left after giving up a two-run homer to Bill Freehan in the seventh. Bane, who tries to pattern his techniques after Whitey Ford, baffled the Yankees with his junk for five innings, but then a debatable balk seemed to unnerve him and the Yankees quickly scored three runs. "They wouldn't have called the balk on me if I wasn't a rookie," Bane suggested. "They have to show me a few things." Bane now wants to copy some of Ford's alleged tricks. "I haven't tried to rub the ball on my belt buckle yet because I don't think they'll let a rookie get away with it," said Bane. This drew a retort from Ralph Houk: "The only similarity between Ford and Banc is that they are both left-handed."
Outraged at Umpire Merlyn Anthony's anti-Kansas City decision on a surprise pickoff attempt, Royals Owner Ewing Kauffman suggested that his "visualization" course, mandatory for KC players, be made compulsory for umpires, too. First Baseman Kurt Bevacqua had a better suggestion. "From now on," he said, "before the game I'm going to tell the umpire that when that play is on I'll give him a wink and he'd better be ready."
OAK 55-42 KC 54-46 CAL 48-47 MINN 48-47 CHI 48-48 TEX 33-61
Sam McDowell, no ball of fire this season when he was employed in San Francisco, pitched successive shutout victories for the Yankees over the Royals and the White Sox as New York swept two doubleheaders while winning five of six games. Once again McDowell seemed to be throwing the live fastball that had made him Sudden Sam. "As long as I have the heat," McDowell said, "I'll stay with it."
Baltimore won live of seven games despite facing a succession of live no-hit pitchers on the West Coast. The Orioles beat Jim Hunter and Ken Holtzman, lost to Vida Blue and Bill Singer and battled Nolan Ryan through almost 11 innings, finally defeating the Angels 3-1. Designated hitter Tommy Davis had 12 hits in 27 at bats and beat the Angels one night with a two-run single in the ninth. "My legs and feet have been through two lifetimes," Davis said. "A man would think I'm on social security if he saw me from the waist down."
Boston Catcher Carlton Fisk (page 22) complained about mental fatigue, then hit a home run to help beat the Twins. Outfielders Tommy Harper and Reggie Smith both hit four home runs for the Red Sox, and Harper also won a game with an infield hit, but Infielder Rico Petrocelli was glum. Once again he said he hopes this is his last year in Boston. Detroit, meanwhile, lost five of six and fell 5½ games behind the Yankees in the divisional race.
Milwaukee and Cleveland had internal problems. The Brewers suffered their biggest loss when Pitching Coach Bob Shaw resigned after a verbal squabble with General Manager Jim Wilson, a former pitcher himself. Preferring to forget that Jim Colborn has developed into a 13-game winner already under Shaw's tutelage, Wilson apparently blamed Shaw for the pitching misfortunes of Bill Parsons this season. A 13-game winner each of the last two years, Parsons has won only three this year because, Wilson claimed, Shaw altered his delivery.
According to writer Russell Schneider of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the Indians' best delivery was a punch to the face thrown by Coach Joe Lutz. The recipient: Schneider. "It was a hard enough blow to set my ears ringing," Schneider said. Unfortunately, the Cleveland players hit too lightly and lost four of six.
NY 56-43 BALT 50-41 BOST 52-43 DET 49-47 MIL 47-47 CLEV 35-62
"It looks like I'm hitting a lot of home runs in losing causes," said Henry Aaron. True enough. Aaron hit No. 698 against Tug McGraw but the Braves lost to the Mets. He hit No. 699 against Wayne Twitchell but the Braves lost to the Phillies. And then he hit No. 700 against Ken Brett but the Braves lost to the Phils again. With Aaron's quest rather more compelling than the team's, few fans seemed to mind. "I like to get those nice round figures," Aaron said after No. 700, which left him only 14 short of Babe Ruth's record. "Now I can start counting down." Aaron guessed correctly that Brett would be throwing a fastball, and he deposited No. 700 into the lap of Robert Winborne, 18, in the left-field seats. The Atlanta management gave Winborne 700 silver dollars for the ball. Aaron hastened to point out that Brett had not grooved the pitch. "Tell the commissioner that," he said.
The Dodgers rolled on, winning five of seven and moving 6½ games in front of second-place Cincinnati. One reason: Los Angeles has committed 17 fewer errors than it had this time a year ago. Little Fred Norman won his seventh game in nine starts for the Reds, which lost only one all week, as Pete Rose hit .429. Probably the most important Red game was in practice one morning with Gary Nolan and Roger Nelson as the opposing pitchers. Expected to be the Cincinnati stoppers, Nolan and Nelson have been sidelined by sore arms. Now they may be ready to help the Reds chase the Dodgers.
Rookie Elias Sosa of the Giants saved one of Juan Marichal's two victories by striking out Jose Cardenal of the Cubs with the bases loaded. "I knew I could get Cardenal out," Sosa bragged. "I always do." Marichal shuddered when he heard what Sosa had said. "I hope his words don't come back to haunt him," Marichal said. "Every batter in this league must be feared. Elias is young. He'll learn that even if he thinks some things, he shouldn't say them."
Houston fell 12 games behind the Dodgers and the Padres lost four of six.
LA 63-36 CIN 56-42 SF 55-43 HOUS 52-49 ATL 45-55 SD 33-63
Once 8½ games ahead of the pack, the Cubs slipped out of first place for about six hours but quietly regained their lead when Al Downing of the Dodgers three-hit the onrushing Cardinals 3-2 in St. Louis. It was a dismal time for Chicago, which had lost eight of its last nine games. In one Billy Williams was at bat with the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the last of the ninth but was called out on strikes. In another Glenn Beckert, always among the toughest players to strike out, was called out with the tying and winning runs on in the ninth. And Jose Cardenal's lucky T shirt fell apart.
The Cardinals experienced only a mini-slump, losing three straight before Bob Gibson beat the Dodgers for his second victory of the week. Gibson, however, hurts the concession profits when he pitches; his 11 complete games have averaged one hour and 57 minutes. With Dave Cash away on military duty, Rennie Stennett took over at second base and hit home runs in three straight games for the Pirates, who now are only three behind the Cubs and the Cardinals in the loss column. Philadelphia Pitcher Wayne Twitchell prepared for his win over the Braves by working out with the reserves at Camp Drum. "I threw in fatigues and combat boots up to my mid-calf," he said.
Montreal began a body shuffle with its farm teams, exporting three players and importing three others, but nothing helped as the Expos lost five of seven. The last-place Mets rallied for seven runs in the ninth inning to beat the Braves 8-7 one night, with Willie Mays driving in the tying and winning runs, but long-lasting miracles remained to be found.
CHI 51-45 ST.L 50-45 PITT 44-48 MONT 44-50 PHIL 44-51 NY 41-51