Kansas City's John Mayberry is a left-handed pull hitter, and the opposition always plays him strong to the right side of the field. "Bunt, go to left," people have been telling the big first baseman all year. But even though his average plummeted to around .230, Mayberry has steadfastly refused. "Nah, man," he says. "They want me to give up my power." For a while last week, Mayberry was giving up everything. A three-base throwing error helped New York to a 5-3 victory, and an 0-for-18 stretch at the plate helped the Royals to a 3-4 week. "I just pop up everything I swing at," Mayberry said. But he continued to go for the right-field fence, and on Saturday it finally paid off—a homer, double and single that drove in five runs in a 15-3 win over Detroit. The victory went to Dennis Leonard, his 15th of the season and second of the week.
The Royals' timing could not have been better because Oakland is now playing "our best ball of the season," according to Manager Chuck Tanner. The A's (7-0) ran their unbeaten streak to eight games last week and cut four games off KC's lead. Vida Blue won twice, beating Milwaukee and Boston, and weary Rollie Fingers appeared in five games. "I need rest," Fingers said. "I've got about 48 bottle caps on my elbow." And 18 saves to his credit. The A's were doing so well that the players were complaining again. After singling home the winning run in a game against the Brewers, Gene Tenace proclaimed. "There's no way I'll be with this club next year. I make $40,000 less than some backup catchers."
Texas began to wake up from a deep sleep by winning five of eight. Three pitchers who had not won in more than five weeks racked up victories: Nelson Briles beat Detroit 8-1, Jim Umbarger edged Cleveland 2-1 and Steve Foucault nipped the Indians 4-3 in relief.
August 22, 1976
Minnesota dropped five of six games and got just what it deserved when the Twins management made suggestion boxes available to the fans. "Move, sell and bring back the Minneapolis Millers," wrote one. "Do the same things you did when the team won eight straight games," advised another. Bill Singer's five-hit 2-0 win over Baltimore provided the only relief.
Chicago began the week in short pants and finished it in tatters. The White Sox wore the shorts in a 5-2 victory over the Royals, then returned to standard issue and lost five of their next six games. But it may have been worth it just to see Ralph Garr's knees. "Hey, Ralph," John Mayberry teased. "You get over to first and I'm going to kiss you." As it happened, Ralph did, John didn't.
California did not do much either, dropping five of seven. Frank Tanana was the top banana, two-hitting Boston 6-0. "He's one of the five best pitchers in baseball," said Red Sox Manager Don Zimmer. "And mean like Don Drysdale," added Angel skipper Norm Sherry. "He goes after hitters just the way Don did."
KC 69-45 OAK 63-53 TEX 56-58 MINN 56-59 CHI 49-65 CAL 50-67
The new Bronx Burglars were like the bombers of old last week. New York (5-2) had lost four straight games when Thurman Munson turned things around with an 11th-inning home run to beat Kansas City 2-1. This blow sparked a five-game winning streak that featured two home runs by Graig Nettles in a 9-3 win over Minnesota and a decisive sixth-inning homer by Roy White, which edged the Twins 5-4. Earlier, Catfish Hunter snapped his own four-game losing skid with a 12-5 defeat of the Twins to run his record to 13 and 12.
An old hero returned to the spotlight in an unfamiliar role during Baltimore's 4-2 week. Oriole veteran Mike Cuellar, suffering through a 4-12 season as a starter, made his first relief appearance ever for the club and registered a save in an 8-5 victory over New York. Jim Palmer, the league's biggest winner (with 16 victories), won twice but with varying degrees of effectiveness. He got the fourth one-hitter and 40th shutout of his career by beating Minnesota 2-0. But he did not make it through the sixth inning in an 8-6 defeat of Chicago in the first game of a doubleheader. Lee May hit a grand slam in that one, his 20th homer of the year. A grand slam in the nightcap by Reggie Jackson, his second homer of the day and 21st of the season, gave the Orioles a 6-5 win.
The Cleveland front office wants Manager Frank Robinson to play more. Robinson earns almost $200,000 a year as player-manager and when he does come off the bench to hit, the results can be devastating—such as the ninth-inning pinch single that gave the Indians (3-4) a 5-4 win over Texas. The night before, Rick Manning had nipped Chicago 4-3 with a 10th-inning hit. Unfortunately, none of this helped Dennis Eckersley, who lost 2-1 decisions to the Tigers and Rangers. Since returning from the bullpen, Eckersley has a 1.06 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34 innings.
Mark Fidrych of Detroit (5-3) received 20 cakes and a stack of cards when he made a pre-birthday appearance against Texas. But the best present of all was Willie Horton's pinch-hit home run in the ninth that gave Fidrych a 4-3 win and a 13-4 record. When rookie Jerry Augustine four-hit California 2-0 for Milwaukee (2-3), Brewer Manager Alex Grammas declared he had "improved so much I don't recognize him." Boston (1-4) was all too familiar in the continuation of its disappointing season.
NY 69-44 BALT 58-54 CLEV 55-58 DET 55-59 BOST 53-59 MIL 49-61
It was Candy Night in Pittsburgh and nothing was sweeter than John Candelaria's 2-0 no-hitter over Los Angeles. After the Pirates (3-3) had given away 10,000 candy bars to the customers, the 22-year-old lefthander snickered at the butterfingered Dodger batters. Only three runners reached base, all in the third inning on two walks and an error. Pittsburgh's first no-hitter at home in 69 years was not secured until the final breathless out, a lifesaver by Centerfielder Al Oliver. Chasing Bill Russell's short fly to center, Oliver and Shortstop Frank Taveras were on a collision course until Oliver made the catch. "That's the fastest I've run all year," said Oliver. "It's lucky we didn't collide or somebody might have been killed."
Before Montreal Pitcher Don Stanhouse took the mound against San Francisco last week, pinch hitter Jose Morales came up to him, swinging a couple of bats, and said, "Hey, if you need any runs, just call on me." In the ninth inning of a 1-1 game Stanhouse did need runs—and, sure enough, Morales came through with the game-winning hit. "Jose's beautiful," said Stanhouse. The victory started the Expos (4-3) on a four-game winning streak, their longest of the year.
Ray Burris won twice for Chicago (4-3), beating the Reds 6-3 and the Dodgers 2-0. In between, the Cubs squandered a 9-0 lead in losing 13-10 to Cincinnati. But by now suffering Chicago fans should be used to such prodigality.
It was a good week for New York Manager Joe Frazier: four wins in six games and a new contract for 1977. Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack got their 14th and 12th victories with one-run decisions over San Diego, but Tom Seaver lost to the Padres 3-0. He's now 9-8 with a 2.70 ERA in a frustrating season.
Pete Falcone and Harry Rasmussen pitched consecutive shutouts as St. Louis (3-3) beat Atlanta 8-0 and 4-0. Offsetting the victories was the loss of Centerfielder Bake McBride and his .335 batting average to knee surgery.
Philadelphia was dawdling along in a low-scoring 3-3 week before exploding for 19 hits, including Mike Schmidt's 31st home run, in a 13-2 thrashing of San Francisco.
PHIL 75-39 PITT 62-52 NY 60-58 CHI 54-65 ST. L 49-63 MONT 41-70
Walter Alston is 64 years old, his Los Angeles Dodgers have fallen far behind and some disgruntled fans and writers are calling for his retirement. Whatever happens to Alston could affect Pittsburgh. The Pirates are known to be interested in hiring Alston's heir apparent, Third Base Coach Tommy Lasorda, to replace Danny Murtaugh, who is said to be considering retirement.
More than managerial genius is needed to help the Dodgers catch the Reds. Cincinnati won four of six last week and opened up the biggest lead in baseball, 13½ games. In one three-game stretch, the Reds slugged 10 home runs, including three by George Foster. The likely MVP now has 27 homers, 106 RBIs and a .330 batting average.
LA's Don Sutton and Rick Rhoden pitched well with 5-1 and 2-0 wins over Pittsburgh, but that was after the Dodgers (3-4) had been held hitless for the first time in 20 years by John Candelaria. While critics of Alston hummed Auld Lang Syne just loud enough for him to hear it, Leftfielder Bill Buckner criticized the strategy that has him batting second behind Davey Lopes. "By taking a lot of good pitches so Davey can steal, I waste my aggressiveness," Buckner said. "Then I have to waste my consistency by trying to pull to the right side of the infield so he can go to third."
Complete-game victories over St. Louis by Dan Larson and Larry Dierker were about all Houston could do in a 2-4 week. Left-fielder Jose Cruz kept connecting and became one of the league's top 10 hitters with a .322 average.
Hot behind Houston was San Diego (4-3). After three straight losses Randy Jones finally won his 19th, beating Montreal 7-2 despite catching a line drive on his right foot.
Atlanta was shut out twice by the Cardinals and scored only 10 runs all week, but still managed to win three of seven games. Dick Ruthven and Phil Niekro got 2-1 victories over San Francisco and Philadelphia and starter Frank LaCorte finally won his first major league game after six losses, beating the Phillies 4-3.
John Montefusco was the only winner for San Francisco (2-5), four-hitting the Braves 4-1 and six-hitting the Phillies 3-0.
CIN 76-41 LA 62-54 HOUS 58-61 SD 58-62 ATL 53-64 SF 50-69
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
CAMPY CAMPANERIS: The little Oakland shortstop spearheaded the A's to seven victories by batting .440, scoring seven runs, driving in four and stealing four bases. In a game against Milwaukee, he went 4 for 4.