Boomer and the Crunch Bunch put on their own fireworks display in a 9-6 Fourth of July victory celebration against Toronto at Fenway Park. When George (Boomer) Scott and the rest of Boston's over-the-wall gang went into the locker room, they had smashed eight home runs to tie a major league record. More important, the barrage stopped a nine-game losing streak that had dropped the Red Sox out of first place. Said the Boomer, "It was like a disease out there. When you're around our guys, you catch it."
The Red Sox (4-2) socked five more home runs before the week ended, but of greater significance to Boston's pennant chances was the sweet sound of line drives jumping off Fred Lynn's bat. Embarrassed by the widespread criticism concerning his making the starting lineup for the All-Star game despite a batting average of around .230, Lynn raised his mark an astonishing 56 points in 10 games. Now at .275, he says, "I want to be a .300 hitter by the All-Star game."
New York (5-2) and Baltimore (6-1) got together on a steamy 94-degree summer evening in Crab Town to begin one of those "crucial" series. The Orioles had won seven games in a row, but were undone by Yankee Catcher Thurman Munson, a man with true grit. Playing with a split little finger on his right hand that required seven stitches, Munson belted a home run and a single. Graig Nettles added three RBIs with a double and his 17th homer as New York won 7-5. Baltimore bounced back to win 6-5 Saturday night when two Yankee errors and a wild pitch contributed to a three-run Oriole uprising in the eighth inning.
July 17, 1977
Cleveland's little Larvell (Sugar Bear) Blanks cracked two home runs in one game to help Cleveland (3-3) and Dennis Eckersley defeat Toronto 11-5. The homer brought Blanks' total for the year to five, equalling his season high. Other mighty mites doing well with this year's new ball include Philadelphia's Larry Bowa with four homers (previous high: two) and the White Sox' Jim Essian with seven (previous high: zero).
Milwaukee's usually prodigious sluggers walloped only four homers all week, as the Brewers lost four of six. Don Money's pinch grand slam helped crush Seattle 10-3. Catcher Charlie Moore came out of an 8-for-57 slump to connect against the Red Sox in a 3-2 win.
Detroit (1-7) suffered through a nightmarish week, as Mark Fidrych's six-game winning streak came to a crashing halt. Twice the Bird was pelted by base hits and chased to the bird-bath before he could get three outs in the sixth inning. Baltimore got 10 hits in that length of time and hung a 6-4 loss on him; Chicago got 11 hits off him en route to a 10-7 victory. "I got to get my atmosphere built back," said Fidrych. "Rome wasn't built in a day, you know. But it was destroyed in a day."
Toronto (1-6) was falling apart, too—all except for 39-year-old Ron Fairly, who is seventh in the league in hitting with a .321 average.
NY 48-36 BALT 47-37 BOS 45-35 CLEV 39-40 MIL 39-43 DET 36-46 TOR 30-52
"We're leading the league in standing ovations," chirped a happy Bill Veeck last week, as his White Sox (7-0) won their ninth straight and widened their division lead to 4½ games. "I counted five in Sunday's sweep of the Twins. But the best one happened the previous Friday when Richie Zisk hit two home runs, then struck out. He got the standing ovation after he struck out. I never saw that before."
To his dismay, the White Sox owner may not see Zisk saluted for a few days. While standing on first base during Saturday's 5-2 victory in Detroit, he was struck on the right ankle by a line drive off the bat of teammate Oscar Gamble. Zisk was 2 for 2 when he was hurt and 10 for 22 during the week. Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood tossed two complete game victories in four days and appears to have recovered completely from his knee injuries.
Minnesota (4-4) won four in a row after escaping Chicago. Reliever Tom Johnson got credit for Wednesday night's 4-3 victory over California after getting to the park late because his wife was giving birth to a baby girl. That news, plus the announcement that Catcher Butch Wynegar had just gotten engaged, was flashed on the scoreboard at Metropolitan Stadium after Wynegar blasted a home run to help beat the Angels.
Even the invalids were contributing as Kansas City (4-3) came home from a 12-game road trip with nine victories. Outfielder Amos Otis, who had been sidelined by an inexplicable excessive loss of weight, pinch-hit a two-run homer that triggered a comeback triumph over Milwaukee. The Royals won the game in the ninth 8-7 when George Brett—just out of the hospital where he was treated for an infected elbow—singled home the winning run. "That's as hard as I've hit the ball all week," said Brett. "If you don't believe me, just ask my nurse."
Texas owner Brad Corbett, the plastic-pipe magnate who had rhapsodized that he wanted to leave the Rangers to his children when he died, now wants to sell the team. "I've got players I've put complete confidence and faith in and I've found they don't give a damn," Corbett said. So what did the Texas (5-3) in-grates go out and do? They won four straight. Outfielder Juan Beniquez started the streak with a theft of home and a home run that sank Oakland 4-3.
California (3-4) ace Frank Tanana was blasted off the mound in Minnesota after giving up eight hits and five runs in 3‚Öî innings, his worst pitching performance of the year. But as Tanana walked to the dugout, accompanied by a round of boos, he responded with Ilie Nastase's favorite obscene gesture. Later, he was sorry. "It was uncalled for." said Tanana, who has 16 complete games and an ERA of 2.11. "I guess it was the frustration of not doing the job I'm capable of." Nolan Ryan tied Sandy Koufax's major league mark of 97 games with 10 or more strikeouts when he fanned 11 in a 4-2 defeat of Oakland.
The A's (1-6) were reeling because of their ineffective pitching staff. Rick Langford, the best Oakland starter (7-7), stopped Kansas City 7-1 on Saturday to keep the A's just in front of the expansion Mariners. Seattle (2-4) got an expected boost from 22-year-old minor-leaguer Julio Cruz, a second baseman called up from Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League. Cruz became an instant favorite in the Kingdome with two hits and a couple of flashy plays in his first game. He went 8 for 19 during the week, including his first major league home run in a 13-11 slugfest with the Twins.
CHI 49-32 MINN 46-38 KC 44-38 TEX 41-41 CAL 39-41 OAK 35-47 SEA 37-50
Mike Schmidt of the Phillies has led the majors in homers the past two seasons. He tied a National League record when he hit 14 in June. This week Schmidt got hot. Besides hitting an inside-the-park homer against the Pirates and a traditional upper-deck job against the Mets, Schmidt raised his average 15 points and helped Philadelphia (5-2) run up an eight-game winning streak.
"This period I'm going through." mused Schmidt, "is one where I just feel that everyone watching me knows how good I'm swinging. I feel so loose in the batter's box. I'm like Muhammad Ali up there. A pitcher could throw the ball right at me and I'd just flick my head aside. You can't hit me."
Actually, that isn't true. Schmidt was hit three times, and one of those incidents indirectly kept his bat out of the lineup last Saturday when the Pirates beat the Phillies 9-8 in 12 innings. The day before, Pittsburgh Pitcher Bruce Kison had plunked Schmidt in the ribs. Schmidt took a swing at Kison, and an all-out brawl would have followed if Pirate Catcher Ed Ott, a former high school football star, had not put a well-meaning tackle on Schmidt. After being ejected from the game, Schmidt found he had sprained his right ring finger in the melee. Pittsburgh (5-2) went on to win that game 8-7 with a five-run uprising in the late innings.
The division-leading Cubs (4-4) were caught in some goofy goings-on. Experimenting during a game against Montreal that the Cubs were destined to lose 19-3, Manager Herman Franks put First Baseman Larry Biitner in to pitch. The score at that point was 11-2. Biitner's soft serves were solved for three homers and six quick runs in 1‚Öì innings. Using genuine pitchers, the Cubs beat Montreal 8-6 when Greg Gross hit his first major league home run after 1,630 at bats, and they got by St. Louis 7-6 when Cardinal Reliever Clay Carroll balked for only the fifth time in his 14-year career.
St. Louis (2-6) dropped back to fourth place, a percentage point behind the Pirates. Before sneaking past the Cubs 4-3 on Saturday, the Cardinals had dropped 15 of their last 18 away games.
Who has the best outfield in the National League? Cincinnati, with Foster, Geronimo and Griffey? The Dodgers, with Baker, Monday and Smith? A tough question. But when you ask who has the best young outfield in baseball, the answer is simple: Montreal. Left-fielder Warren Cromartie, 23, went 5 for 5 in one game last week, leads the league in doubles with 27 and is hitting .309. Centerfielder Andre Dawson, 23, hit four homers, drove in 11 runs and is hitting .290. Rightfielder Ellis Valentine, 22, was 10 for 24 with three HRs and eight RBIs. He is fifth in the league in hitting with a .326 average.
The Expos (5-2) suffered one of their defeats when Mets Third Baseman Lenny Randle poked a home run in the 17th inning to stop a nine-game losing streak and give New York (1-6) its only win of the week.
CHI 51-30 PHIL 47-34 PITT 44-38 ST.L 45-39 MONT 38-44 NY 32-51
"It's pitiful." said Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson in reference to Atlanta Stadium. "Strictly a launching pad and nothing else. Some day we're going to play a 50-49 game here with 22 homers."
Anderson's sarcasm was understandable. Four Reds homers and 15 hits had barely been enough to stave off the Braves, who banged out 14 hits in a 15-13 loss. Anderson's beleaguered pitching staff now sports a 4.50 earned-run average. It is all that hitters like George Foster (80 RBIs in 80 games) can do to keep Cincinnati (4-2) on the trail of the Dodgers. Even miracle-worker Tom Seaver got beaten by the Braves 5-4 on national TV. But by week's end Tom Terrific had again proved his mettle by stopping Houston 3-1 on seven hits.
Los Angeles (4-2) cruised along in glamorous Hollywood fashion. Don Sutton pitched a three-hit 4-0 game against the Giants—the 45th shutout of his career. Ron Cey had nine hits in a row at one point. Steve Garvey went over the three-million mark in fan balloting for the All-Star Game.
The guy who had Garvey's number, as well as Cey's and Reggie Smith's, was Houston's towering righthander, James Rodney Richard, who struck out those three Dodger sluggers seven times in Houston's 2-1 win over L.A. The Astros (3-4) and San Francisco (3-3) are both 19½ games off the pace and merely spectators at this point in the pennant race. But the Giants can revel in games such as the ones 21-year-old Rightfielder Jack Clark had against Atlanta last weekend. On Friday his pinch double in the ninth inning beat Phil Niekro 3-2. On Saturday Clark doubled in three runs to give San Francisco an early lead. In the ninth, with the score tied 4-4, he threw out Gary Mathews at home and made a sparkling shoe-top catch to send the game into extra innings. San Francisco won 5-4 in the Nth on Gary Alexander's pinch double. Atlanta (1-5) is now 8-30 on the road.
San Diego (4-3) got some big hitting from Dave Kingman, late of the Mets, who drove in 12 runs, and gave some big bucks to former holdout Dave Winfield. Last Sunday it appeared that negotiations between the Padres front office and their 25-year-old slugger (19 home runs, 63 RBIs) had broken down. But on Monday Winfield and President Buzzie Bavasi agreed to a reported four-year, $1.3 million contract that will be worth roughly seven times the $45,600 that Winfield was drawing this year.
LA 56-28 CIN 46-35 HOUS 37-48 SF 37-48 SD 36-51 ATL 30-53
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MIKE SCHMIDT: The Phillie third baseman slugged home runs No. 23. 24. 25 to take over the major league lead. A 10-for-14 week raised his batting average to .292, and in one stretch he reached base 22 times in 25 at bats.