For the fans of four teams the last week of the season was a time of gathering excitement as the divisional races ended and playoffs approached, but for the rest it was a time for reflection rather than anticipation—for looking back at the year's high achievement and low comedy. Herewith a sampler:
As the season came down to its final stages, Philadelphia Manager Danny Ozark was in danger of losing the Most Memorable Quote Trophy he won a year ago. (He had answered a question about team morale by saying, "Morality at this point isn't a factor.") But Ozark came through in the clutch last week. When asked after an 11-3 loss to the Pirates how it felt to be eliminated from the divisional race, Ozark replied, "What do you mean 'eliminated'? If we win the rest of ours and they lose the rest of theirs, we tie them." Then it was explained to Ozark that the Phillies were seven games back with six to play. Whereupon he blinked and said, "That's very disturbing."
Memorable, too, were the words of Chicago Leftfielder Jose Cardenal after a 22-0 stomping by Pittsburgh in which he was spotted leaning against the Wrigley Field ivy, swatting a leaf while the Cubs changed pitchers. Explained Cardenal: "There was a spider on the leaf and I was trying to shake it loose. What else is there to do when you're losing 16-0?"
Defeat apparently also got to Manager Preston Gomez, who was canned by last-place Houston. Gomez once stormed out of the dugout, indicating emphatically that he wanted a reliever to come in. There was just one trouble: Gomez did not have anyone warming up. A few days later he went to the mound to talk to Larry Dierker during a tight game. But Gomez forgot he had sent Pitching Coach Roger Craig to the mound earlier in the inning and, chagrined, he had to remove Dierker. Cincinnati beat Houston that day 4-3 and Gomez, classy even in adversity, apologized to Dierker and fined himself.
The Most Unforgettable Forgetfulness Trophy will have to be shared by yet another Phillie, Catcher Johnny Oates, and Umpire Billy Williams. They collaborated on a play neither wants to remember. It all began when, with Frank Taveras of Pittsburgh on first base, a Philadelphia hurler unloosed a wild pitch that landed far behind Oates. Forgetting there was a runner on, Oates did not pursue the ball. Instead, he merely thrust his glove back toward Williams, who also had a lapse of memory and plunked a new ball in the mitt. When Oates finally noticed Taveras zipping around second he hustled back for the wild pitch, but not before the runner had advanced all the way to third.
Now for some feats: The comeback of the year was achieved by lefthander Randy Jones of the Padres, who had a 4.46 ERA and an 8-22 record last season. He won the 1975 ERA title with a 2.24 and was 20-12. For the second season in a row Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia led the majors in home runs, this time with 38. Teammate Greg Luzinski topped both leagues in runs batted in with 121 and was presented the Big Pretzel by one of the team's on-the-air sponsors, which chose him as the most valuable Phillie. The Big Pretzel, a golden statue three feet high, is salted with $10,000 worth of diamonds.
The Orioles threw a scare into the Red Sox before settling for second place, but that was nothing compared with the fright the Birds themselves got one August evening when they went to team Owner Jerry Hoffberger's estate for a swim party. When the Orioles and their wives reached poolside they found a shark in the water—a mechanical one Hoffberger used in TV commercials for his brewery and had installed in the deep end to put some bite into his shindig.
While the toothless Tigers were dropping their 18th game in a row a PA announcement in Detroit drew cheers: the club was leaving on a road trip. In California the Tigers lost their 19th straight, but learned their ineptitude had at least brought a measure of notoriety. A man-on-the-street poll in Anaheim indicated that more people were aware of the Tiger losing streak than knew which team led the East.
Kansas City's 5'4" Freddie Patek finally got up in the world. When he went to home plate one day to deliver the lineup card, he was given two steps to stand on. His manager, Jack McKeon, was both higher and lower early one morning. He learned he was fired at 3 a.m. on a team flight.
Bobby Bonds of the Yankees got in his 2¢ worth last week. Already the only player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in each of three seasons, he was told the Hall of Fame might want the ball he slugged for his 30th homer of 1975. "I won't give it up," Bonds said. "This was the only ball I ever asked for. I found two pennies before the game. They were lucky pennies. I won't give them the baseball, but I'll give them the two pennies."
Fielding was a sore topic for the Brewers, who committed 178 errors. But they did come up with glovework unmatched by anyone. That happened when a squirrel ran around County Stadium, scurried into the Milwaukee dugout and was captured by a Brewer with a glove that was, for once, unerring.
The year's neatest nonfielding play was perpetrated by Chicago's Jerry Hairston, whose misadventures in left peaked the day he dashed in madly for a fly ball that Ken Henderson caught—on the warning track at the 375-foot marker.
And now the last round of applause. By hitting .360 Minnesota's Rod Carew led the majors for a third consecutive season. It was also the fourth time in a row Carew was No. 1 in the league, a feat achieved only by Ty Cobb (nine straight titles), Rogers Hornsby (six) and Honus Wagner (four). Jim Palmer of Baltimore had the best ERA in the big leagues (2.13). Milwaukee's George Scott topped the league in RBIs (109) and tied the A's Reggie Jackson for homers (36).
THE FINAL STANDINGS