Balls hopped out of Eastern parks like a bunch of Easter bunnies. The most resounding thumper of all was Mike Schmidt of the Phillies, who had been demoted from third to sixth in the batting order because he was hitting .167. Schmidt drove in eight runs and socked four consecutive home runs in an 18-16 mauling of the Cubs. (Only three other major-leaguers have ever hit four straight in one game: Bobby Lowe in 1894, Lou Gehrig in 1932 and Rocky Colavito in 1959.) The Cubs led 13-2 in the fourth, but eventually were done in by Schmidt's fourth blast, a two-run line drive to left-center in the 10th. Earlier Jim Lonborg of Philadelphia (2-2) notched his first victory since last July by stopping the Expos 8-2 on six hits.
The Cubs (3-2) slugged seven homers, but gave up 11. Three were tape-measure pokes by Dave Kingman of the Mets (2-4): a 600-foot smash in a 6-5 loss to the Cubs and 450- and 500-foot clouts that polished off Chicago 10-8. Kingman had five home runs during the week the last in a 17-1 romp in which Jerry Koosman beat the Pirates for the 20th time in his career.
Dave Parker drove across five runs as Pittsburgh (4-1) drubbed St. Louis 14-4, and Doc Medich made his National League debut a success by squelching the Mets 3-1.
The Expos spoiled Mickey Lolich's league debut, beating the Mets 7-6. Montreal (2-2) also put down Philadelphia 8-5, thanks to strong relief work by Wayne Granger and a superlative back-to-the-plate catch by Centerfielder Jerry White.
Dressed in their new "victory blue" uniforms, the Cardinals wound up blue—and victoryless—in their first two games wearing them. They were thrashed 14-4 and 9-3 by the Pirates. Then Ted Simmons had three RBIs in a 4-3 win over the Expos.
PITT 5-1 CHI 4-3 NY 4-4 PHIL 2-3 MONT 2-4 ST. L 2-4
"If the Reds have any weakness, it's the third-string catcher on their Indianapolis farm team," said Giant Manager Bill Rigney. That was not quite accurate, for the world champions were hampered slightly by bees, nonhitting by first-string Catcher Johnny Bench, nonpitching by Don Gullett and even by friendship as they won three of five. Right before the start of a game with the Giants, about 10,000 bees invaded Riverfront Stadium, many of them buzzing around the visitors' bat rack. The game was delayed half an hour until two fans familiar with bees coaxed them into a makeshift cardboard hive. Fred Norman then took the sting out of the Giant bats with an 11-0 four-hitter.
Bench, hitless in 21 at bats, ended perhaps his worst-ever slump in that game with one of the 17 doubles the Reds hit during the week, but erstwhile stopper Gullett remained unsigned and not in good enough condition to pitch. Joe Morgan tried to help his friend Jerry Royster of the Braves, who was 0 for 14, by giving him one of his bats. Royster repaid the kindness by whacking out four hits as the Braves whipped the Reds 10-5. Meanwhile, Morgan did some lusty hitting of his own, batting .412. Also contributing mightily were Pete Rose (.571 and 10 runs scored) and Ken Griffey (.454 and 10 RBIs).
Atlanta, which has undergone a 60% roster turnover since last season, was 3-2. Two wins were picked up by former Phillie Dick Ruthven, who beat the Dodgers 3-1 and had three RBIs as he stopped the Padres 4-2.
Ken Forsch of Houston (5-1) pitched impressively, too. Forsch had two saves all last year. Last week he had four. James Rodney Richard, whose two wins were preserved by Forsch, summed up the exhilaration of victory, saying, "It's like love. There are a lot of ways to describe it, but you can never explain the full meaning." Three Astro wins came against the Giants, who stranded 27 runners. The only solace for San Francisco was a 14-7 pummeling of Cincinnati.
Also having trouble were the Dodgers. Burt Hooton, who won his final 12 decisions last year, lost to San Diego 8-5, base-stealing champion Davey Lopes was out with a pulled rib muscle and it even rained on the Dodger opener for the first time since the team moved West in 1958. Los Angeles, which had a .769 spring-training record, ran its losing streak to five games before Doug Rau held off the Braves 5-1. But there was comfort to be found in Tommy John's 3-1 loss to Atlanta. John, who pitched for the first time since rupturing a ligament in his left arm on July 17, 1974, gave up just five hits in five innings before weakening. Reliever Mike Marshall, who rarely talks to reporters, went out of his way to tell the press, "What Tommy did is the greatest accomplishment I've ever seen."
Randy Jones of San Diego (2-3) also pitched commendably, beating Los Angeles 3-1 with what the Dodgers called "junk." In two starts, last season's ERA leader has yielded just two earned runs and 12 singles and has induced batters to hit 30 grounders.
CIN 5-2 HOUS 5-3 ATL 4-3 SD 3-4 SF 3-4 LA 1-5
While other owners assessed their newly acquired personnel in terms of power and speed, Oakland's Charles O. Finley said of the newest member of his team, "She's an Irish girl with the most beautiful black eyes you ever saw." Finley was speaking of Laurie Brady, an astrologer from Chicago who, he feels, will somehow assist his A's. Before she was hired the A's had won three of four games. With Brady, Oakland was ill-starred, losing its next three outings. Sweeping its series from the A's and supplanting them in first place were the Rangers (3-2). Complete-game wins were pitched by Nelson Briles, Steve Barr and Gaylord Perry, who gave up a total of just 14 hits and four runs. Briles, who won only six games for the Royals last season, and Barr, a lefthander obtained in the deal that sent Ferguson Jenkins to Boston, both tossed four-hitters.
Chicago's Rich Gossage, the league's 1975 Fireman of the Year, moved into the starting rotation and downed Minnesota 4-1 on three hits. Said Manager Paul Richards, "It will be very rare that I ever relieve with him." Four days later Richards relieved with Gossage, who was shelled for four runs in a 7-1 loss to Boston. Five White Sox errors led to a 6-2 loss to the Twins, who were pleased to get 7‚Öì innings of strong pitching from Joe Decker. For Decker, who was plagued by assorted miseries last season, it was his first win in more than a year.
Another question-mark pitcher, Nolan Ryan of the Angels (3-3), was superb. Ryan, who underwent off-season surgery on his right elbow, was as fast as ever, throttling the Royals 5-1 on four hits and striking out nine. Ed Herrmann's two homers led California over the Royals 7-6, and Andy Etchebarren took care of the Tigers 6-5, first tying the game in the ninth with a pinch single, then winning it in the 11th with another hit.
With Al Fitzmorris winning twice and Freddie Patek hitting .467, Kansas City won three of five games. The Royals stole 10 bases, three by the 5'4" Patek, who has slimmed down 20 pounds to 142.
TEX 5-2 CHI 3-2 KC 3-3 OAK 3-4 CAL 3-5 MINN 2-5
At 1 a.m. the day before he was to be New York's starting pitcher at the reopening of Yankee Stadium, Rudy May went to the park to pick up his luggage after returning from a game in Baltimore. He also inspected the field by the light of a full moon. "It looked like Yellowstone Park. We'll see which hitters reach out there," he said, referring to the 430-foot mark in left center. Thirty-seven hours and five pitches later, Dan Ford of the Twins almost reached that spot. After walking the first hitter on four pitches, May served up a gopher ball on his first delivery to Ford, whose clout landed far beyond the wall in left. But the Yankees rallied for an 11-4 win.
Two days later, a few hours after being named the first Yankee captain since Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson became the first New Yorker to homer in the renovated park. His shot started Ed Figueroa on his way to a 10-0 victory over the Twins. Other winners in a 4-0 week for the Yankees were Catfish Hunter, who beat the Orioles 3-0, and Dock Ellis, who grounded the Birds 7-1.
Errors cost Detroit a pair of one-run decisions. But in his first American League start, Dave Roberts defeated the Angels 2-0.
The only bright spot for the weak-hitting Orioles (1-3) was Jim Palmer's 6-1, three-hit victory over Oakland.
Milwaukee, which had to postpone a pair of games because of bad weather, won the only two it played. Jim Slaton silenced Detroit on two hits, retiring the last 23 batters in order as he hurled his second shutout in as many starts. Jim Colborn and Eduardo Rodriguez then defeated Texas 3-1.
Boston's Luis Tiant won twice, 6-2 over Baltimore and 7-1 over Chicago, and last season's outstanding rookies took up right where they left off: Fred Lynn hit .353, Jim Rice batted .400, and each homered as Boston won three of five.
Cleveland fielders helped Boston to a 7-4 win, committing five errors, deflecting a double-play ball and losing three flies in the gusty Fenway winds. Indian Leftfielder Charlie Spikes and Centerfielder Rick Manning sprinted past each other in opposite directions as batted balls eluded them for a triple and double. Cleveland came back the next day to club Boston's Ferguson Jenkins 6-5.
NY 5-1 MIL 3-1 BALT 3-3 DET 2-2 BOS 3-4 CLEVE 1-4