Boston's week began with three days of rain, which was no way to prepare for playing Texas. The Red Sox got just six hits and lost 6-1 in the series opener against the Rangers, and Lefthander Bill Lee, winless his last 10 starts, was bombed. "We've had too many days off," said Manager Darrell Johnson, who promptly ordered extra batting practice. The next night Boston doubled its hit production, but again lost (6-5) when Ferguson Jenkins tired in the late innings. "Those 10 days off between starts were the most I've ever had in professional baseball," said Jenkins. "But if I told every one of my sad stories, I'd have the whole clubhouse crying." Which is probably what all the Sox felt like doing after a third straight defeat (7-1) in which they again had only six hits.
The division's Boys of Spring continued to be the Yankees (2-1), who are off to their best start in 23 years. New York's solid all-round play was epitomized in a 5-3 win over Kansas City. The Yanks had fine pitching (a complete game by Catfish Hunter), speed (five stolen bases), power (a homer by Thurman Munson and triples by Mickey Rivers and Fred Stanley) and errorless defense. Even upstart Milwaukee (3-1) could not quite catch the Eastern leaders.
It was a week in which baseball players threw more punches than Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Young combined. The fisticuffs began with a scrap between Cleveland and Oakland. Both benches emptied when A's Shortstop Bert Campaneris, who had been hit by a pitch, struck base runner Buddy Bell with a relay throw. First of the week's four fights, this one drew censure in the form of a weak reprimand from American League President Lee MacPhail. Cleveland was relatively undismayed by the fact that First Baseman Boog Powell sprained an ankle in the scuffle and may be out three weeks. "Other teams know the Indians are no longer pushovers or patsies," crowed player rep Tom Buskey. Indeed, the Indians won three of five, getting three home runs from George Hendrick and strong relief from Jim Kern and Jackie Brown.
May 9, 1976
Detroit (3-1) was another surprising winner. Dave Roberts beat Oakland 8-1 with his second two-hitter of the year, Willie Horton homered twice and Ron LeFlore paced a 10-1 win over Chicago with four stolen bases. But the most startling—and startled—Tiger was rookie First Baseman Jason Thompson, who went 8 for 17, hit a home run and had six RBIs. "It's hard to believe this is the major leagues," said Thompson.
He certainly wouldn't have believed Baltimore (2-2), a supposed contender playing pit-pat. With little hitting—Mark Belanger's .277 leads the club—and less power the Orioles managed a break-even week when Ken Holtzman, who has a 1.32 ERA, beat California 4-2.
NY 10-4 MIL 9-4 DET 8-6 CLEV 7-7 BOS 6-8 BALT 6-9
Texas (3-1) stayed in first as two sore-armed pitchers showed new vigor. Nelson Briles, who was only 6-6 with Kansas City last season, beat Boston 6-1 and acted as if he were in a vitamin commercial. "I keep feeling stronger and stronger," he said. Bill Singer, 7-15 with California in '75, stopped Boston 7-1 and talked like a Texan. "This club can win a pennant," he said. "You look at the West Division. There's no overpowering team in it. It's just out there for anybody to win."
As usual, Oakland (2-2) laughed at mistakes and seethed in victory. Rusty Staub of Detroit hit a grand slam against them, but the A's were joking the next day that Staub's hit had broken the telephone line that carried the game back to the Oakland radio station. Actually the line had gone dead inexplicably for a few minutes after the homer. Newcomer Mike Torrez fit in well, pitching 5‚Öî innings of no-hit ball against his ex-teammates in Baltimore, winning 11-1 on two hits and moaning, "Another couple of inches and they would have been sending my name to the Hall of Fame for pitching a no-hitter."
Though their gripes are less publicized than the A's, the division's most habitual grousers are the Twins (2-2), 10 of whom are unsigned. Dan Ford was the most miserable in Minnesota. He was wearing dark glasses to correct double vision caused when his eyes dilated during an examination suggested by Owner Calvin Griffith. Then Ford collided with Minnesota Second Baseman Bobby Randall and suffered a seven-stitch gash in his shin. The accident did not prevent him from contributing two key hits in a 9-5 win over the Brewers.
Kansas City lost three games to the weather and one to Catfish Hunter. Enough heartache? Not for Manager Whitey Herzog, who complained about umpires and was sternly cross-examined about strategy by a 14-year-old boy at a booster luncheon. Steve Busby finally set things straight, stopping the Yankees 4-1 for his first win.
California was in midseason form. That meant four losses in five games despite excellent pitching. Frank Tanana gave up a leadoff homer to Don Money, blanked the Brewers from there and lost 1-0. Nolan Ryan threw 6‚Öì no-hit innings, but the Angels lost to Baltimore 3-2 in 10 innings. In all, California scored 12 runs and gave up 14. "We're going out weakly, and I do mean weakly," said Manager Dick Williams. In desperation, he shifted all-star Third Baseman Dave Chalk to short.
No less harried, Chicago (1-3) Manager Paul Richards used 12 different lineups in 12 games. He finally found a winner when the White Sox exploded for 14 hits and beat Detroit 8-4.
TEX 10-6 OAK 9-8 KC 6-7 MINN 6-9 CHI 5-8 CAL 6-12
New York (6-0) moved into first place through an act of redemption. Having gone 0 for 4, left four men in scoring position and misplayed a fly ball, rookie Bruce Boisclair came to the plate with two outs in the ninth, men on first and second and the Mets one run down. He barely fouled off a one-and-two pitch, then swatted a two-run double to defeat the Braves. "Total ecstasy," he sighed. It also was a heavenly week for his teammates. Craig Swan threw his first major league shutout, Mickey Lolich got his 2,700th strikeout and first National League win, Tom Seaver and Jon Matlack had complete-game victories and Dave Kingman swatted two more homers to increase his season total to nine.
Philadelphia (4-2) was not quite as hot as the Mets but much more entertaining. Mike Schmidt hit two home runs in one game to tie the major league record for homers (11) in April and help the Phillies beat Cincinnati 10-9, but his eighth-inning strikeout was more crucial. As Schmidt whiffed, Catcher Johnny Bench missed the ball and Dave Cash scored the winning run. Bob Boone's three-run homer beat Cincinnati 7-6, and Schmidt started off May with yet another home run as the Phillies swept two from Atlanta.
No, Pittsburgh is not located in Australia, but the Pirates (3-3) did a pretty fair imitation of a walkabout as their sluggers accounted for only eight runs in four games. The guiltiest party was Richie Zisk, who failed to drive home a run in 47 trips to the plate. Pirate bats finally awoke for 23 hits in two wins over San Diego. Zisk had five of them.
Cardinal (4-3) hitters were equally inept, especially Reggie Smith, who hit .125. Just about the only good news at the plate was made by rookie Infielder Doug Clarey. Brought up from St. Louis' lowest farm club, he homered to beat the Giants in the 16th inning. No wonder that when Vic Harris was hit by a pitch thrown by the Giants' Charlie Williams, the frustrated Cards charged onto the field for a free-for-all.
The Cubs (3-4) began the week in a law-abiding mood. During a 5-4 loss to Los Angeles Centerfielder Rick Monday grabbed Old Glory from a couple of would-be flag burners who had run onto the field. Said teammate Jose Cardenal, "Now we got three patriots—Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Monday." Later in the week Cardenal made his own bid for Mount Rushmore by restraining himself when Padre fans threw pop bottles and oranges at him. By week's end, however, he was furious enough to charge Giant Pitcher Jim Barr. Cardenal was ejected. Then Bill Madlock "accidentally" let his bat slip from his hands—in Barr's direction. When Barr retaliated by pitching him inside, Madlock threw a punch at Barr during a bench-clearing brawl. Exit Madlock. Madlock, explaining all the violence, said, "The short spring hurt the pitchers, and they're taking advantage, knocking the hitters down."
Montreal (1-5), on the other hand, was downright pacific, losing three straight to the Reds and being outscored 20-3.
NY 13-7 PHIL 10-6 PITT 9-8 CHI 9-11 ST.L 8-11 MONT 6-12
Which was the hottest team in baseball? Los Angeles (7-0). Why? Because Manny Mota was taking the batting order to the umpires. At least that is what the superstitious Dodgers think. Mota helped the team more by singling home the deciding run in a 4-3 win over St. Louis. Complete game wins from Burt Hooton, Don Sutton and Rick Rhoden and Tommy John's first victory since July 17, 1974 helped, too. Still, Cincinnati (4-2) remained in first, thanks to Don Gullett, who won his first game, and Johnny Bench, who had four homers and 11 RBIs.
The punchless Giants (1-5) fell from first to fifth. Their only knockout blow was delivered by Gary Matthews, who felled the Cubs' George Mitterwald. San Diego's week was so bad (2-5) that even Randy Jones (4-1) lost a game. Bawled out for poor play by Manager Bill Virdon, the Astros (2-3) held their breaths while Pitcher Ken Forsch, who has appeared in nine of the team's 11 victories, complained of soreness in his elbow.
Atlanta's Darrell Evans set a trivial record when he was walked in his 15th straight game, and the Braves (1-6) nearly tied an embarrassing one when they were shut out three straight times.
CIN 11-7 LA 11-9 HOUS 11-10 SD 9-11 SF 8-10 ATL 8-11
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JEFF BURROUGHS: The Texas rightfielder returned to his 1974 Most Valuable Player form by going 7 for 14 and clouting two three-run homers as the Rangers swept three games from Boston. He hit safely in six consecutive at bats.