Having all but wrapped up the division, New York (5-1) set about finding new ways to entertain its faithful. Trailing California 8-0 in the ninth, the Yankees tied the score only to lose 11-8 in 11 innings. They rebounded to beat Minnesota 5-4 in 19 and California 5-0 in 15. If the first marathon had the most excitement, the second had the most intriguing baseball. New York's Willie Randolph set a league record of 20 chances accepted (seven putouts, 13 assists) by a second baseman; Yankee Dick Tidrow threw 10‚Öî innings of four-hit relief; and Minnesota Manager Gene Mauch made two thought-provoking strategic moves. With Thurman Munson on third, Sandy Alomar on first and no one out in the 15th, Mauch removed his centerfielder and inserted Luis Gomez in the infield, putting three fielders between first and second against left-handed-hitting Carlos May. The move paid off when relocated Second Baseman Jerry Terrell knocked down May's smash and threw out Munson at the plate. The next batter, Graig Nettles, ended the inning by grounding into a double play. But with a man on second in the 19th, Mauch had Centerfielder Steve Brye play shallow against Mickey Rivers. Rivers lined a shot just out of Brye's reach to win the game for New York.
Baltimore (4-3) maintained its hold on second place when the league's top winner, Jim Palmer, earned his 17th and 18th victories, the first of them coming on Reggie Jackson's third grand slam in four months as an Oriole. Palmer could have plenty of company in the 20-victory circle, however, because Mark Fidrych of Detroit (3-3), Bill Travers of Milwaukee (4-2) and Luis Tiant of Boston (3-4) each won his 15th.
It was a topsy-turvy week for their teams though. The Tigers committed six errors while losing 12-7 to the White Sox, prompting Manager Ralph Houk to blame the ground crew. Milwaukee Pitcher Danny Frisella blew a ninth inning lead—and eventually the game—to Kansas City by walking the bottom three men in the batting order. "That's the first time I've done that since I came to the big leagues," he moaned. "I guess you can't do it every time. That's why people on bomb squads don't live long." Boston's Carl Yastrzemski went 4 for 5 on his 37th birthday, Ted Williams made a rare Fenway Park appearance and Bill Lee won his first start in a year. So far, so good. But this was the same week that Tiant complained because reporters questioned his stated age (35), Fred Lynn cost Boston a game by running through a stop sign at third and Ferguson Jenkins told the Boston Globe that the Red Sox were a "team of disunity." One reason for Jenkins' complaint: he had not received any invitations to dine at teammates' homes. The next day Jenkins' fellow Sox greeted him with calls of "Cocktails at six, dinner at eight."
September 5, 1976
Cleveland (5-1) stopped hosting a summer slumber party when Pat Dobson and Jackie Brown won their first games since July 16 and June 29, respectively. Unfortunately, Indian fans have gone to sleep. In order to draw I million this year, Cleveland is thinking of staging a pregame tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Renee Richards.
NY 77-48 BALT 66-60 CLEV 64-63 DET 61-66 BOST 60-67 MIL 57-66
While his crippled team continued its pursuit of Kansas City, Oakland (4-2) Manager Chuck Tanner said, "We should replace the Bicentennial symbol on our sleeves with the Red Cross emblem." Later in the week he varied his metaphor, saying, "They've tried to count us out lots of times, but they haven't reached 10 yet. We keep coming off the floor and coming back at them." The best fighter was plainly Pitcher Vida Blue (see box) who won twice, then announced, "We're going to court to break my three-year contract."
Minnesota (1-5) pinch hitter Tony Oliva, playing perhaps his last season, received a standing ovation when he came to bat at Yankee Stadium. The three-time batting champion promptly gave his admirers even more to cheer about by homering. Meanwhile, Texas fans were speechless. The Rangers lost six straight, including three to Milwaukee, their prime (2-10) tormentors of this lost season. The big frustration for California (2-4) was Frank Tanana's 13-strikeout, 13-inning masterpiece. It was all for naught, as the Angels lost in 15.
Chicago (3-4) rookie Ken Kravec was impressive in winning his first major league game when he set down the Brewers 5-2, but his strongest impression was of facing Henry Aaron for the first time. "When he came up, I thought, uh, oh, here he is, 750 of them. But after he popped up, I didn't think of him anymore as Henry Aaron, the Man." Later, when Aaron singled to drive in a run, Kravec had second thoughts about him.
KC 78-50 OAK 69-59 MINN 62-67 TEX 58-70 CHI 56-73 CAL 55-74
As Philadelphia wondered how to keep Joe Morgan off the bases in the coming playoffs (page 20), all-but-eliminated Pittsburgh (4-2) looked to the past. "Our record is about the same as last year, when we were in first by 3½ games," said Pitcher Bruce Kison. Then he reached back even further, using a change-up he learned from 1971 World Series hero Steve Blass, to stop San Diego 3-0 on five hits.
St. Louis (3-2) was planning for the future. Shortstop Garry Templeton, youngest player in the National League at 20, was being compared to Henry Aaron and Maury Wills for his hitting and base running; and another rookie, First Baseman Keith Hernandez, who went 8 for 20, has raised his average from .187 to .266 since July. "I wish it was next April already," he said.
Tom Seaver of New York (3-2) beat San Francisco 4-0 for his first win since July 8. Jon Matlack won twice and Dave Kingman, still tied for the big-league home-run lead despite missing 35 games, played for the first time since suffering torn ligaments in his left thumb on July 19. And, for a change, Pitcher Mickey Lolich left a game before the Mets could lose it for him. With the score 1-1 in the fourth, Lolich retired because he was hyperventilating. New York kicked away the game to the Giants 7-1.
Chicago managed a 3-3 week when Jerry Morales hit two homers and drove in seven runs in a pair of victories over Atlanta. Looking more and more like the 1962 Mets, Montreal (1-5) extended its latest losing streak to 12 before beating San Diego 7-4.
PHIL 83-44 PITT 70-57 NY 65-63 CHI 59-71 ST.L 55-68 MONT 42-80
On Aug. 27 the Dodgers won their 17th game of the month—equaling the most victories they have had in August since they moved West—by beating New York 5-2. Los Angeles (4-2) also got an early 16th win from Don Sutton, who has averaged 18 victories the past five years without ever winning 20. Steve Yeager had the game-winning hit, a two-run double off Jerry Koosman. The team's 10th win in its last 11 games may have taken the heat off Manager Walter Alston, who has had more than his share of detractors of late. Earlier in the week Alston referred to one of his critics, Alan Malamud of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, as "an overstuffed pig." Malamud had suggested firing Alston after this season.
Matters were scarcely more congenial in San Francisco (2-3). After he was yanked for giving up a two-run homer, Pitcher John Montefusco told the press that Manager Bill Rigney and his teammates were "losers" and that he wanted to be traded. "He's an emotional young man," replied Rigney, "but if he was ticked off for being pulled, I was ticked off when he gave up that homer." Montefusco later relented—at least in his criticism of his teammates—and Giant Owner Bob Lurie tried to smooth things over, suggesting the last-place Giants could still finish third. But when Montefusco continued to take heat from the fans, Lurie fined him $500.
Padre Randy Jones won his 20th game on his third try, just as he did in 1975, when he finished at 20-12. Jones, who has nine losses, beat Montreal 2-0 on six hits. "I had been keeping too many things inside of me instead of saying what I felt," Jones said. "I feel I'm the best pitcher in baseball, so why not say it?" If he had wanted to be even more candid, Jones might also have blamed the Padres (3-3)—who have been shut out 19 times this year—for some of his losses.
Houston, which had dropped 16 of 23 games while Reliever Ken Forsch was injured, won four of six the week he returned. In one of the victories, Forsch earned a save in relief of J. R. Richard, who got his 15th win. The only optimist in Atlanta (1-5) was 37-year-old Pitcher Phil Niekro, who ought to know better. After beating the Phils 5-1, Niekro said, "We still can finish third. Second isn't out of the question."
CIN 82-48 LA 72-56 HOUS 64-68 SD 63-68 ATL 58-72 SF 56-74
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
VIDA BLUE: The A's lefty won twice, setting down Baltimore 3-0 and no-hitting the Tigers for 8‚Öì innings while winning 5-2. Blue, 13-11, has completed six straight games and has a 1.58 ERA during his last 97 innings.