Angels Ryan and Tanana weren't the only big-name players cryin'. Among the beaten were Tom Seaver, Burt Hooton, Phil Niekro, Ron Guidry, Ed Figueroa, Mike Torrez, Steve Carlton and Bert Blyleven, and the Yankees, Reds and Phillies all were winless. Of the losers, the Phillies looked the worst. They were twice beaten—and outmaneuvered—by St. Louis. In the first game, an 8-1 Cardinal win, Ken Reitz of St. Louis hit a bases-loaded double to shallow left against an outfield that was playing deep; in the second, a 3-2 Card victory, he drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single into the left-center gap, slapping the ball over a charging infield that was expecting a bunt. "He isn't hitting where our scouting reports say he usually hits," mumbled Philadelphia Manager Danny Ozark.
There was sloppy play aplenty in Pittsburgh. The Pirates, who admit they must improve their 12th-ranked defense to win the division, made five errors in a 3-2 opening-day loss to Montreal. The next night the Pirates committed four more but won 7-6 when the Expos made two miscues on one play. Montreal's Elias Sosa had been given a 6-5 lead to protect in the ninth, but with two outs and two men on he fielded Willie Stargell's grounder and bounced a throw into rightfield. Matt Alexander scored the tying run from third, and the irrepressible Dave Parker, who had his face crumpled in a similar collision last season and still wears protective headgear, came all the way around from first, knocking the ball out of Catcher Gary Carter's mitt as he scored the winning run. Afterward, Parker claimed Carter had tried to hurt him by pouncing on him, shin guards first. Carter, who said he was merely trying to control the relay throw, injudiciously replied, "Tell Parker to take off his helmet, and I'll ram the ball down his throat."
The Cubs are ballyhooing themselves as "much improved," but that may be just so much hooey. After all, Chicago has been reduced to putting Ken Holtzman, whose last big year was 1975, in the No. 2 spot in the rotation. And to buoy the spirits of Bobby Murcer, who has been booed by the fans and derided by the Chicago press, his teammates elected him the Cubs' captain. Holtzman was a loser, and Murcer, who was 1 for 7 and misplayed a fly, was a goat as the Cubs dropped their first two to New York 10-6 and 9-4. Lee Mazzilli and newly acquired Richie Hebner each went 5 for 9 to pace the Mets' revamped offense.
April 16, 1979
NY 2-0 ST.L 2-0 MONT 1-1 PITT 1-1 CHI 0-2 PHIL 0-2
Even for a no-hitter, Ken Forsch's 6-0 conquest of Atlanta was something special. Not only was it the earliest in baseball history—Ed Cicotte threw one on April 14, 1917—but it also made Forsch half of the game's only no-hit brother combination. Last year Ken's kid brother, Bob, of the Cardinals, held the Phillies hitless. Moreover, Forsch wasn't even supposed to start, much less pitch effectively. The previous day he had been hospitalized with bursitis in his left elbow, the result of an insect bite in spring training. Indeed the no-hitter was downright hair-raising. "My hair was standing on end in the ninth inning." said Astro Shortstop Craig Reynolds. "My cap was four feet above my head."
The Giants whipped the Reds 11-5, 7-2, 4-2, blasting Tom Seaver for seven runs in 1⅖ innings and making all San Franciscans happy, even those who argue whether Willie McCovey or Mike Ivie should start at first. In the 7-2 win, Ivie tied the score with a homer, and McCovey set up the go-ahead runs with a pinch double. The Reds had nothing but embarrassments. Pete Rose's replacements at third, Rick Auerbach and Ray Knight, played sloppily, and reliever Pedro Borbon was suspended by the team for a regular-season game when he refused to pitch in Cincy's last exhibition.
The Dodgers were happy with Andy Messersmith's first win in almost two years—a 5-2 victory over San Diego—but were also troubled by ace reliever Terry Forster's disabling arm ailment.
Gaylord Perry, the 40-year-old stopper for San Diego, had looked his age in spring training, when he was unable to throw an effective fastball. But came the opener, he retired the first 15 batters he faced, lasted eight innings and beat the Dodgers 4-3. When Perry blew a fastball by Steve Garvey in the second inning. Catcher Gene Tenace called out, "Is that really you?" The Braves, unfortunately, were really themselves. As usual, Phil Niekro threw a splendid opener, allowing just three hits, but lost 2-1 to the Astros. The Braves have lost their last eight openers, and Niekro all five of his. Shortstop Jerry Royster, given a $100,000 bonus for his fine play in 1978, was benched after finishing the spring with a .230 average.
SF 3-0 HOUS 2-0 LA 2-1 SD 1-2 ATL 0-2 CIN 0-3
Opening Day is always a gala occasion in civic-minded Baltimore, accompanied as it is by rallies, poetry and front-page stories and editorials in the local papers. The opener was all the more noteworthy in 1979, because Earl Weaver was one game shy of his 1,000th win as Oriole manager, and Third Baseman Doug DeCinces was two games away from tying the major league record for consecutive games in which he had an RBI. Those were personal concerns. Of import to everybody was the memory of 1978, when the Orioles lost their first five games and never caught the contenders.
This remembrance was quickly erased as the Birds beat the White Sox 5-3. DeCinces hit in his 22nd game in a row—dating back to Sept. 8, 1978—and drove in a run in his 11th straight. Hospitable Baltimore even provided some Chicago-style weather to make the Sox feel at home. Alas, the Chicagoans were blown out. In 40° temperature and 40-mph gusts that transformed the leftfield corner into an eddy of cups and hot-dog wrappers, the Sox made three errors and misplayed two pop-ups, while the Orioles were flawless behind Jim Palmer, who threw fastballs on 117 of 123 pitches and allowed only three hits. The next afternoon DeCinces was shut down, but the Orioles won again, 6-3.
Wind, cold and snow twice canceled the opener in Detroit. When the game was played two days late, Texas canceled the Tigers 8-2. In other discomfiting news, Tiger fans threw bottles at hobbling Centerfielder Ron LeFlore, and contract talks between the front office and Rusty Staub, unsigned and non-playing, remained at an impasse. Toronto wasn't foolish enough to open in frigid Canada, but the Blue Jays were scarcely warmed by 11-2 and 7-4 losses in Kansas City. Milwaukee traveled to New York and replayed an old tape. The Brewers, who have owned the Yankees in early-season games in recent years, broke up Ron Guidry's 5‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬®-inning perfect game with a four-run sixth. Mike Caldwell, who finished second to Guidry in the 1978 Cy Young Award balloting and beat the Yanks three out of four times last season, coasted to a 5-1 victory. The next day the Brewers won 4-3 after Bob McClure struck out Reggie Jackson with the bases loaded.
All the Red Sox injury problems of spring were forgotten—temporarily—as Boston beat Cleveland 7-1. Dennis Eckersley, fresh from signing a five-year, $2.8 million contract, pitched seven strong innings, and Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans homered. But two days later the Sox, who will play indefinitely without injured regulars Carlton Fisk and Butch Hobson, were one-hit by Rick Waits 3-0.
BALT 2-0 MIL 2-0 BOST 1-1 CLEV 1-1 DET 0-1 NY 0-2 TOR 0-2
While Seattle (2-1) and California (1-2) traded wins, Minnesota was delighted with trades of its own. Ron Jackson, who came in a deal with the Angels, went 2 for 4 in a 5-3 win over Oakland, and another tradee, Ken Landreaux, made a diving catch to save a 3-1, 12-inning victory over the A's the following day. They helped Dave Goltz to his first victory ever in April and Mike Marshall to a win and a save. Oakland had no promotion, advertising or radio contract going into its opener. It wasn't until the next day that owner Charlie Finley made a deal with a 5,000-watt San Jose station to broadcast A's games. Oaklanders and San Franciscans can pick up the station at night—sometimes.
Despite winning its only game, Texas had cause for concern. Jon Matlack, the Rangers" best pitcher last year, felt a "crinkle" in his arm when he threw down a rosin bag several days before the season began, apparently stirring up some bone chips that made his elbow ache. "I'm scared bleepless," he said after being unable to start the opener. White Sox Pitcher Lerrin LaGrow was so scared after hitting Oriole Gary Roenicke in the face with a fastball that he threw a down-the-middle pitch to Rick Dempsey, who smashed a two-run double to win the game.
Kansas City Pitcher Dennis Leonard, concerned lest he repeat his 3-8 start of 1978, beat Toronto 11-2. Unfortunately, few of the home folk saw him finish up. When K.C. poured across nine runs in the second inning, there was a mass exodus from Royals Stadium, where the wind-chill factor made it seem as if the temperature were 2°.
KC 2-0 MINN 2-0 TEX 1-0 SEA 2-1 CAL 1-2 CHI 0-2 OAK 0-2
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
KEN FORSCH: The 32-year-old Astro righthander threw the earliest—April 7—no-hitter in baseball history. While beating the Braves 6-0, he allowed only two runners to reach base, both getting to first on walks.