Apparently the Gunfight at the KC Corral is over. After American League President Lee MacPhail fined eight Rangers and two Royals for participating in a May 7 brawl, the teams met peaceably three times last week. Not even the appearance of Joe Louis, who threw out the first ball on Friday, could set things off. The decision went to KC two games to one, but not before Gaylord Perry came off the canvas to four-hit the Royals 2-1. The only sparring was verbal as the Royals predictably accused Perry, who entered the game with a 1-4 record and a 6.67 earned run average, of throwing spitters. The Rangers responded by down-playing Jim Colborn's pitching after he no-hit them 6-0, and Colborn agreed (see box). For the week, neither team had much oomph, Texas going 3-4 and KC 2-4, although the Royals did beat Ranger Pitcher Bert Blyleven for the first time in seven decisions, 4-3.
Both Minnesota (4-1) and Chicago (5-1) had far better clout and remained, surprisingly, the division's one-two punch. Off to their fastest start since 1970, the Twins have five regulars hitting over .300, which was to be expected, and are third in the league in pitching, which nobody would have predicted. Dave Goltz, Jeff Holly and Ron Scheuler each got his second win of the season as Minnesota stayed in first, despite having played almost two-thirds of its games on the road. Meanwhile, the White Sox, who scored the third-fewest runs in the league last year, kept up their astounding hitting. In an 18-2 shelling of Cleveland, Jim Spencer got his first career grand slam and tied a club record held by Shoeless Joe Jackson, Carl Reynolds and Tommy McCraw by batting in eight runs. Jorge Orta homered and drove in three runs to beat Texas 6-3, and Chet Lemon became the first American Leaguer this season to get five hits in one game, pacing an 8-3 win over Cleveland with three singles and two doubles. The pitching wasn't bad, either. The White Sox allowed three runs in each of five straight games.
After losing 12 of 14 on the road, including 10-4 and 9-3 thrashings by their fellow expansionists in Toronto, Seattle (2-5) flew home to face red-hot New York and got its first series sweep by scores of 5-2 and 8-6. "It's out of a storybook," said Yankee Reggie Jackson. "David and Goliath. Good for baseball." Then David reverted to form, as big bad Boston took two straight from the Mariners. Oakland (2-3) dropped to fifth as Shortstop Rodney Scott's error set up one of their losses. Owner Charlie Finley did little to help his team's future when it was determined that he had illegally cut rookie Tommy Sandt's pay before shipping him to St. Louis in the spring. After a grievance hearing, Sandt was declared a free agent. Now Finley must compensate St. Louis, probably with another player.
May 22, 1977
California's week (4-3) was more upbeat. Frank Tanana predicted he would throw a shutout, then did it, setting down Baltimore 6-0 for his fifth win as Bobby Bonds, Don Baylor and Ron Jackson hit successive homers. Nolan Ryan defeated KC 6-1 for his 11th career two-hitter. To shore up their shaky bullpen, the Angels reacquired Reliever Dave LaRoche from Cleveland. He arrived just in time to save a game for Don Kirkwood. "I was more nervous than the first game I pitched here as a rookie," LaRoche said. The next day rookie Gil Flores showed he was nerveless. Checking in from Salt Lake City, where he had been hitting .333, Centerfielder Flores moved into the Angels' leadoff position and got their only three hits in a 3-0 loss to New York.
MINN 21-11 CHI 20-11 KC 17-15 TEX 15-14 OAK 16-16 CAL 14-19 SEA 11-26
Boston (3-2) was up on its luck when Fred Lynn returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in spring training. On the first pitch, he homered. On his second trip to the plate, he homered again. And that was not all of the Red Sox' good fortune. Jim Willoughby threw seven innings of scoreless relief and George Scott hit a home run to beat Seattle 7-5. Still, Lynn's return was the best news for Boston. "Fred came to me and begged to play," said Manager Don Zimmer. "I didn't want him to. I didn't think he was ready. Shows what kind of a manager I am."
Before the season began, even some Baltimore players did not think the Orioles had a ghost of a chance of contending, but the standings are no mirage. And the league's best pitching is no illusion, even if Jim Palmer lost 7-5 to the Angels after taking a three-run lead into the eighth inning. It turned out the blame belonged to Manager Earl Weaver. "I told him in the fifth my neck hurt," Palmer said. "It was his decision to keep me in." Weaver's decision to stay with Pat Kelly had happier results. Kelly went 9 for 19 with five RBIs as the Orioles took three of five. The sole Oriole mishap occurred when Pitcher Scott McGregor was hit on the lip by a batting-practice grounder. The wound required six stitches, and necessitated the removal of McGregor's mustache. "It'll take a year to grow back," said McGregor.
New York (3-2) had its weekly blowup. This time Manager Billy Martin fumed over the absence of a third catcher at a time when the Yankees had an open spot on their roster and was fined $2,500 for his outburst. Thurman Munson backed up Martin, saying, "If you think I can catch 155 games, you're crazy." Munson's substitute, Fran Healy, who has caught six innings this season, was not heard from, but General Manager Gabe Paul was. Defending his decision to call up Outfielder Del Alston, who was hitting .338 at Syracuse, instead of Catcher Elrod Hendricks, Paul said, "If we have to depend on a player hitting .105 [Hendricks], with the kind of talent that has been provided, we are indeed in bad trouble." The Yankees played like it, though, committing five errors in an 8-6 loss to Seattle before Ed Figueroa and Don Gullett beat the Angels 3-0 and 4-1 with complete games.
Toronto (2-3) First Baseman Doug Ault played a scene right out of Rocky. Felled by a warmup throw over the right eye, which required two stitches, he arose to swat a three-run homer as the Blue Jays beat Seattle 10-4. Toronto also got punch from the left side of the infield, where Bob Bailor stepped in for the traded Jim Mason at short and went 8 for 18, and new Third Baseman Roy Howell went 4 for 12 and starred on defense. The Blue Jays' main failing was pitching. Reliever Jerry Johnson's wild delivery allowed the winning run to score in one game, and four members of the staff permitted 20 hits in another. In a 13-3 loss to Minnesota, the only time Toronto retired Rod Carew in six trips to the plate was when he dislocated Pitcher Chuck Hartenstein's thumb with a smash back to the mound.
Detroit (3-3) rookie Dave Rozema beat Milwaukee 9-1 the week after Brewer Manager Alex Grammas had said Rozema's fastball had only "batting-practice speed." Countered Rozema, "I wonder what he thinks now." Dissembled Grammas, "I didn't say he wasn't effective." Dave Roberts defeated the Twins 8-3 on a five-hitter, and Reliever Fernando Arroyo moved into the starting rotation long enough to beat the Brewers 3-2. The Tigers had heavy support from the likes of Mark Wagner and Phil Mankowski, who contributed to the team's total of nine home runs.
In the judgment of General Manager Phil Seghi, Cleveland (3-3) Manager Frank Robinson was squandering talent. Seghi swung the deal that landed Outfielder Bruce Bochte from the Angels, but objected when Robinson inserted him in place of slumping (.239) Rick Manning. Milwaukee, forever April's child, continued its customary May swoon, dropping five of seven and falling from third to fourth as rookie Moose Haas had both of his team's victories. In four straight defeats the Brewers scored eight runs and allowed 21. Said Grammas, no longer downgrading any pitching but his own, "We keep stopping those losing streaks, and then we lose the next day. We've got to win four games in a row to get going again."
NY 18-12 BALT 16-11 BOS 16-13 MIL 16-16 DET 13-17 TOR 14-19 CLEV 11-18
In contrast to the Braves, Los Angeles (3-1) kept making history in an upbeat way. When Don Sutton defeated the Expos 8-2, it was his 181st career victory, surpassing Dazzy Vance on the alltime Dodger win list. Only Don Drysdale (209) looms ahead. Sutton is off to a sizzling start, with a 5-0 record and a 1.61 earned run average. Also winning for the fifth time was Doug Rau, who defeated the Mets 5-4, as Charlie Hough maintained the league lead with his ninth save. Manager Tom Lasorda calls the knuckleballing Hough "my Hope diamond."
With the Reds off to their worst start since 1971, which turned out to be a sub-.500 season, Cincinnati (3-4) fans were running out of hope. Read a sign: WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP THE DODGERS. Gary Nolan, making his first start after recovering from mononucleosis, gave the Reds a rare demonstration of tight pitching, allowing only three hits in five innings, to help stop St. Louis 2-1. But pitching is not the only matter for concern in Cincy. After 25 games, the Reds had 98 fewer base runners than they had at the same time last season. Unperturbed, Manager Sparky Anderson capped a modest two-game win streak by crowing, "We're riding the crest of a big wave. I can feel salt spray in my face." Evidently it was blinding his players. The next night they were held to one hit by St. Louis.
San Francisco was in even worse shape offensively, going 18 innings without a run before Randy Elliott hit a grand slam against the Reds. Contributing to the streak was a bizarre play in which Larry Herndon was called out after apparently scoring. Umpire Terry Tata ruled that Herndon had stepped on the mask of Cincy Catcher Bill Plummer rather than the plate. The Giants lost another victory, at least temporarily, when National League President Chub Feeney ruled that the last 17 outs of a rain-shortened game with New York must be played at a future date. That should be no cause for worry, because the Giants were leading 10-0 when the game was called. And San Francisco (3-3) had some high spots it can count to its credit right now, including complete games by John Curtis and Lynn McGlothen and a 600-foot high-wire walk between the upper decks at Candlestick Park by 72-year-old Karl Wallenda. Only John Montefusco was truly ill-favored. After losing 3-0 to Philadelphia, he said, "Five losses already this season. I can't understand it. and I don't know what to say." That doesn't often happen to The Count.
During batting practice, Houston (1-4) Pitcher Mark Lemongello was also knocked speechless. He was hit on the middle finger of his throwing hand by an errant fungo bat on Friday the 13th. But, as in the past. Lemongello found that supposedly unlucky days are his best. He shook off the injury and, with Reliever Ken Forsch, beat the Pirates 3-0. "The last time I pitched on Friday the 13th, I was at Evansville of the International League in 1975," said Lemongello. "I had lost three games in a row, and I was afraid they would send me down. Instead I had good luck. I shut out Omaha that night on three hits and struck out 13."
San Diego Manager John McNamara was cursing his luck after watching his team go only 9-8 in games in which it had scored five runs or more. "We may have to change some faces on the pitching staff," he said. Properly chastened, McNamara's band went 3-2, as the same old faces allowed just 12 runs in four games before being blasted by Philadelphia 9-5. Rollie Fingers, who has appeared in 18 of the Padres' 35 games, had two saves, and Dave Winfield hit .455. During his last 20 games, Winfield has driven in 24 runs. He ranks among the league's top three in runs (26). hits (48) and RBIs (33).
LA 25-7 SF 13-18 CIN 13-18 HOUS 13-19 SD 14-21 ATL 9-24
After communing almost endlessly with himself over each pitch, Al Hrabosky of St. Louis (5-2) struck out the Reds' George Foster, Johnny Bench and Bob Bailey with the bases loaded and the score tied in the ninth inning. Ted Simmons won the game 6-5 with a 10th-inning homer before a crowd that included 13,000 straight A students at Busch Stadium. Simmons' clincher was set up by a heads-up play in which the Cardinals cut down Ray Knight at the plate on a relay from Mike Anderson to Don Kessinger to Simmons. In another game, the Cardinals pulled off a triple play. With Astros on first and second, Willie Crawford lined to Mike Tyson, who flipped to Kessinger to double up Enos Cabell at second. Kessinger relayed to First Baseman Keith Hernandez to nail Cesar Cedeno. Four games later John D'Acquisto, Buddy Schultz and Hrabosky combined to one-hit the Reds 10-1. The day before, Lou Brock, of all people, had been removed for a pinch hitter. The widely second-guessed move ended in disaster as Anderson, his replacement, grounded into a double play.
As New York dropped five of its six games, local newsmen warred over the remains. Dave Anderson of The Times called the club a "plantation," Maury Allen of the Post favored the firing of Board Chairman M. Donald Grant, and Dick Young of the News, himself an unofficial member of the Mets' "family" with a son-in-law in the front office, blamed the players for the Mets' losses and internal strife. Rumors of a high-level meeting that would end in Grant's ouster turned out to be a tempest in a teapot when the highest confab was a chat over tea between Grant and Mets' President Lorinda de Roulet. At week's end, five board members gave the Mets a pre-game pep talk. The team then stranded 12 runners and lost 5-4 to Los Angeles.
The Expos dropped four of five and fell below .500 for the first time this season. They lost 5-3 to Chicago on Friday the 13th, evening their record at 13-13 as the Cubs got 13 hits, the game-winner coming off Will McEnaney, who was pitching in his 13th game. Evidently, the Expos lacked the magic of Cub Reliever Bruce Sutter, Who had three saves and lowered his earned run average to 0.67 as Chicago went 5-1.
Philadelphia (4-1) made short work of the Giants. Steve Carlton threw a four-hitter at San Francisco to win 3-0 in 1:46, and Larry Christenson mowed the Giants down by the same score, allowing three hits in 1:45. Sub Davey Johnson won two games with his bat, beating San Diego 5-4 with a single and 9-5 on two homers. For once, first-place Pittsburgh was just quietly effective; the Pirates won five of seven, although hitting only three homers. Bruce Gossage's four saves were the key, as Pittsburgh allowed only 17 runs.
But even if the Pirates were winning, they were no longer streaking. When Atlanta ended its run of 17 losses by beating Pittsburgh 6-1, the Braves also halted the Pirates' 11-game win streak and the hitting streaks of Dave Parker (22 games), Al Oliver (16) and Rennie Stennett (13). Hitting .427 when stymied by the Braves, Parker maintained he might not drop much further. "If I'm still hitting .400 when I get 300 at bats," he said after his 117th at bat, "I might stay up there."
PITT 21-9 ST. L 20-11 CHI 17-11 PHIL 15-13 MONT 13-14 NY 11-19
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JIM COLBORN: The Kansas City righthander threw the season's first no-hitter, beating the Rangers 6-0. Although he permitted only two runners to reach base, Colborn called his feat "pure luck. I made a lot of bad pitches."