The future of Frank Robinson, major league baseball's first and only black manager, has become perilous. As Cleveland's (2-3) season-long slump continued, there were increasing indications that Robinson is on his way out. General Manager Phil Seghi has already contacted California Coach Dave Garcia about the job, but Garcia, who worked under Robinson last season, reportedly turned it down. President Ted Bonda said "only a miracle" could save Robinson. "You can't fire 25 players." Bonda added.
Despite all the rumors in another losing week, Robinson remained calm. "I still believe I'm an effective manager," he said. "The players respect me and my authority. I'm doing the best job I can."
Baltimore (3-3) lost and then regained first place by ending a three-game losing streak with 6-5 and 4-3 wins over New York. "I guess a lot of people are surprised at us," said Manager Earl Weaver, "but I keep telling everyone we're a pretty good club."
May 29, 1977
Pretty good, it seems, even without an effective Jim Palmer. Though he had no serious physical problems, Palmer was bombed twice. He allowed four runs, two hits and five walks in less than two innings against Seattle, and in his next start against New York gave up five runs, eight hits and six walks in 4‚Öî innings. When Weaver pulled his ace the second time, the two exchanged words on the mound. "He's being too fine, and I told him that to try to help him," Weaver said later. "That upset him. He's not getting that first pitch in there and he's overthrowing, but he doesn't want to listen to me."
While Palmer did not want to listen, New York Manager Billy Martin did not want to talk. Following the 4-3 12-inning loss to Baltimore that dropped the Yankees (2-4) into third place, Martin avoided the postgame interview ritual because "There are certain games you just can't talk about. I was mad. I know Billy Martin." Earlier, New York had beaten Baltimore 9-1 on Ed Figueroa's fifth straight complete-game victory.
Boston (3-2) took over second place for the first time this year; at one point, the Red Sox were in a virtual tie for first, only .005 behind Baltimore. The Sox' good play overshadowed the grousing of Pitcher Luis Tiant, who feels he cannot be effective in Manager Don Zimmer's five-man rotation. After yielding three runs in the first three innings of a 15-7 loss to Milwaukee, Tiant asked to be removed, "because I didn't want to be murdered." Later, he explained, "I can't get anybody out when I only pitch once a week. I have no control—nothing." Brewer Rightfielder Sixto Lezcano, on the other hand, seemed to be getting everybody out, as he tied the major league record with 10 putouts.
The Red Sox won the next day, coming from three runs behind in the ninth to triumph 10-9. The winning run came on an error by Milwaukee (4-3) Third Baseman Don Money, but earlier in the week Money had beaten Detroit on a squeeze play. Biggest news for Milwaukee, though, was Out-fielder-DH Dan Thomas being sent down to the minors. With a .271 average, Thomas had been one of the better players on the team despite holding religious convictions that caused him to miss games between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.
A game that did not count was the best thing that happened to Detroit (3-3) all week. Mark Fidrych, sidelined since spring training with a knee injury, worked seven strong innings in a 4-1 exhibition victory over Cincinnati. Fidrych allowed four hits and one run, struck out three and walked only one.
The rookie pitching phenom of this year may be Jerry Garvin of Toronto (3-3). Roy Howell's ninth-inning home run gave Garvin a 4-3 complete-game victory over Texas and a 6-1 record. Headed in the other direction is veteran Bill Singer, who had his shoulder examined after a 5-3 loss to Milwaukee that dropped his record to 2-6.
BALT 19-14 BOS 19-15 NY 20-16 MIL 20-19 DET 16-20 TOR 17-22 CLEV 13-21
Minnesota (3-3) arrived to play California (5-1) last week with a five-game winning streak, a two-game division lead, a .286 team batting average and a scoring output of almost six runs per game. "The Angels' pitchers may slow us down." declared Manager Gene Mauch confidently, "but they won't stop us."
Oh, yeah. As it turned out, California's pitchers stopped the Twins colder than a Minnesota Viking. Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan hurled their seventh and eighth complete games of the season with 3-0 and 5-3 victories, and Gary Ross and Dave LaRoche combined to make it three in a row with a 5-1 win. Minnesota batters suffered through one stretch of 20 innings without a run.
Tanana's victory was his third shutout of the year, and Ryan's 12 strikeouts enabled him to tie Sam McDowell's American League record of 74 games with 10 or more whiffs.
Chicago held on to second place despite a 2-3 week. Oscar Gamble hit home runs in both of the wins (7-4 and 8-3 over Kansas City), giving him two opportunities to show off his new easy-does-it circuit trot. Third Baseman Eric Soderholm, enjoying a second life in Chicago after a knee injury in Minnesota, was 4 for 4 in the 7-4 game. Soderholm has a sign over his locker that says DON'T EVER COMPLAIN. YOU'RE GETTING A SECOND CHANCE AFTER YOU COULDN'T PLAY AT ALL. So who's complaining?
Standout performances by Willie Horton, Doyle Alexander and Gaylord Perry gave Texas (3-2) three straight wins. Horton smashed three homers in a 7-3 victory over Kansas City, Alexander increased his record to 5-1 by beating the Tigers 3-1 and Perry stopped Detroit 6-3. After allowing three runs in the first inning, the 38-year-old Perry settled down and retired the last 18 batters.
In his first start of the year, Dave Pagan struck out eight, walked one and allowed only six hits in defeating Oakland 3-0 and giving Seattle (4-2) only its third complete game of the year. Earlier, the Mariner hitters dominated, pounding Baltimore for 18 hits and 18 runs in consecutive victories.
Rookie Third Baseman Wayne Gross slammed his 10th and 11th homers as Oakland (2-4) beat New York 8-4 and Seattle 14-5. The A's lost a 15-inning game to the Yankees 5-2, even though Vida Blue retired 24 consecutive batters between the second and 10th innings.
Paul Splittorff's 4-0 victory over Cleveland gave Kansas City (1-5) its only win.
MINN 24-14 CHI 22-14 TEX 18-16 CAL 19-20 KC 18-19 OAK 18-20 SEA 15-28
Excuse us, please, but is that Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson finally showing strain because his team is 11½ games behind Los Angeles? It certainly looked that way when Anderson was ejected for the first time this year in a game against Pittsburgh.
What happened was that Anderson tried to convince First Base Umpire Paul Pryor that Pitcher Terry Forster was balking. "Your eyes are in Hawaii," Anderson shouted. "Why don't you sit next to me right here? You're not doing much out there."
After Pryor shouted back—and refused to call a balk—Anderson tossed a batting helmet out of the dugout. That was cause for an ejection and an automatic fine for Anderson, who made matters worse for himself by racing onto the field. "You're getting in trouble," warned the umpire.
"Trouble? Trouble? What do you know about trouble?" yelled Anderson. "My team is 14-19. That's trouble."
Ironically, the Reds went on to win the game 8-3, but Anderson said afterward, "I knew it was coming. It was building up. I've been sitting there holding my tongue. And let me tell you, we've had some stinking calls."
Even with a 4-1 week, Cincinnati could not gain any ground on the Dodgers (5-2). Led by Reggie Smith, Los Angeles was on a home-run hitting binge, smacking 11 in the seven games. Smith had four of them, giving him 11 for the year. The long ball helped Don Sutton and Rick Rhoden to their sixth wins, and Burt Hooton and Tommy John to their fourth.
Atlanta (4-2) recovered from its dismal stretch of 19 losses in 20 games by winning four straight. It all began with a miracle comeback against St. Louis, when the Braves, propelled by Gary Matthews' grand slam, scored 14 runs in the last four innings to win 15-12. The next time out they came from behind again, Biff Pocoroba pinch-hitting a slam with two out in the ninth to beat Montreal 9-6. Pocoroba hit another homer in a 10-8 victory on Wednesday. On Thursday, Phil Niekro, 1-7 coming into the game, finally got his knuckler working and allowed only three hits to beat Chicago 6-0. Atlanta returned to earth in the next two games, losing to the Cubs.
After Chicago beat San Diego 9-6 and 23-6, the Padres (3-3) won three straight against Montreal. Merv Rettenmund had eight RBIs in the victories, three of them coming on a home run in the 21st inning.
Cliff Johnson played an important part in all three Houston (3-3) wins. Johnson had two homers and three RBIs in a 5-2 defeat of St. Louis, two hits and a run scored in a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia, and another homer and two more runs scored in a 5-2 beating of the Phillies.
John Montefusco's record dropped to 2-7 when San Francisco (1-5) lost to St. Louis 8-5.
LA 30-9 CIN 17-19 HOUS 16-22 SD 17-24 SF 14-23 ATL 13-26
Pittsburgh is hot, but Chicago is hotter (page 16). While the Pirates (3-3) were trying to fend off two toughies—Los Angeles and Cincinnati—from the Western Division, the Cubs (6-1) stormed to within a half game of the Eastern lead. It was the third straight week in which Chicago lost only one game, but even though the 16-3 surge has rocketed the Cubs from fifth place, they have picked up only two games on Pittsburgh.
Chicago began the week by sweeping a doubleheader from Montreal 4-3 and 4-2, a modest start considering what was to come. The Cubs won four of their next five games by the resounding scores of 9-6, 23-6, 13-4 and 9-3.
The 23-6 explosion against San Diego represented the most runs Chicago has scored in a game since 1954. Two of the Cubs' team-record-tying seven home runs were struck by First Baseman Larry Biittner, who had not hit one since August 23, 1975. Leftfielder Gene Clines, subbing for injured Jose Cardenal, was a week-long batting star, with two homers, 13 RBIs (five in the 9-6 game) and 11 hits in 21 at bats.
The other teams in the division did not fare as well. Only New York (3-3) avoided a losing record. All of the Met victories came in a sweep of San Francisco that included a four-hitter by Jerry Koosman and a five-hitter by Jon Matlack. The 2-0 win by Matlack was his second straight shutout, but it was Second Baseman Lenny Randle who stole the show with un-Metlike, well-rounded play. He had three hits, provided some daring base running and came up with a pair of nifty defensive plays.
St. Louis (2-3) had to know the kind of week it was going to be when it blew a 10-1 lead in a 15-12 loss to Atlanta. It ended on an even unhappier note, Manager Vern Rapp suspending Relief Pitcher Al Hrabosky for "sheer insubordination." Specifically, Hrabosky refused to meet with Rapp in the manager's office before an 8-5 win over San Francisco. But the two have been feuding since spring training, when Hrabosky strongly criticized Rapp's edict that everyone. Mad Hungarians included, had to trim their locks.
Just when it began to look as if Philadelphia (3-4) was making its move to the top, the Phillies ended a five-game winning streak with a four-game skid. The best part of the week was a 5-2 defeat of San Diego's Randy Jones, the team's first win over the Cy Young winner after seven losses dating back to 1975.
Montreal's losing streak reached 11 games, but the Expos (0-7) did not go down without a struggle. They lost a 21-inning, five-hour 33-minute game to San Diego by an 11-8 score, despite outhitting the Padres 25-13. The Expos left 23 men on base, including three in each of four innings.
PITT 24-12 CHI 23-12 ST. L 22-14 PHIL 18-17 NY 14-22 MONT 13-21
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GAYLORD PERRY: By beating Detroit 6-3, he joined Cy Young and Jim Bunning as the only pitchers to win at least 100 games in each league. Perry, 234-192 in 15 seasons, earned 134 of his victories with the Giants.