The Yankees (4-2) had their first fight of the season, and it was costly. The fracas started in the clubhouse bathroom when 210-pound ace Reliever Goose Gossage and 217-pound reserve Catcher Cliff Johnson began kidding each other. On the way to the showers, friendly pushing turned into not-so-friendly punching. Gossage landed the most damaging—to himself—blow, suffering a torn ligament in the thumb of his pitching hand. He is expected to be out of action at least two months. Meanwhile, the Yankees frequently acted as if they didn't need relief. Ed Figueroa threw five no-hit innings en route to beating Texas 5-3; Ron Guidry won his first game, stopping Baltimore 5-1 on three hits and 10 strikeouts; and Tommy John won his third, setting down the Orioles 3-1. Lest Gossage's absence become too costly, John, a team man if there ever was one, volunteered to take up the slack in the bullpen. He will remain in the rotation, while Dick Tidrow attempts to replace Gossage.
The woes—and wins—of injury-plagued Boston also piled up. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley was the latest casualty, taking a line drive on the elbow. He will miss a turn. Still, the Red Sox won five of seven and moved into first place. Fred Lynn had four homers to take the major league lead with seven but wasn't pleased. "I'm actually kind of disgusted with my hitting right now," said Lynn, who had just one two-hit game. "I've missed a few balls that I should have hit. My job is to get on base." The best on-base man was Carl Yastrzemski, who is hitting .375. Yaz clubbed his 386th career homer and his 542nd double, which tied Harry Heilmann for 10th on the alltime list.
By keeping his cool, Pitcher Jim Palmer prevented Baltimore (3-3) from going win-less on a six-game road trip. After his teammates committed two costly errors, Palmer was trailing the Yankees 3-1 in the second inning, with one out, the bases loaded and a 2-0 count on Reggie Jackson. Bitterly critical of his teammates' fielding in the past, Palmer stayed calm, got Jackson to hit into a double play and thereafter allowed just three hits. The Orioles won 6-3. Less cool was Palmer's teammate Mike Flanagan when he gave up a homer to Jackson in a 5-1 loss. "I got on top of my windup, ready to throw a curveball," said Flanagan, "then I thought better of it. It was a bastard curveball, a hanger. What I should have done was step off the mound." Manager Earl Weaver was about ready to step on his hitters. "We have some guys in the lineup with no concept of the strike zone," he said. "They're swinging at balls over their head and in the dirt." Only Gary Roenicke's 9-for-16 hitting, including two three-hit games, kept the Birds' batting respectable.
April 29, 1979
Toronto was in no way respectable. The Blue Jays not only lost five of six but also infuriated their fans. An exhibition with Montreal was called off with the score tied 4-4 in the 11th inning. No inning could start after 7:15 because the Expos had to catch a flight to Chicago for a real game with the Cubs the next day, but no announcement of the deadline was made to the crowd of 21,564 until extra innings began. Then the teams disgraced themselves. With the Blue Jays about to bat at 7:11, Montreal Manager Dick Williams engaged the plate umpire in a long conversation. When the crowd hooted, Catcher Duffy Dyer threw the ball into centerfield. The Blue Jays stood by without protesting. By the time the ball reached Pitcher David Palmer it was 7:15, and the game was called. Booing drowned out the postgame ceremonies, and Toronto riot police were needed to disperse the fans.
Led by Steve Kemp (.444) and Lou Whitaker (.500), Detroit (4-1) hit .320. "My job is to pick it," said Whitaker, who nonetheless hit his first homer of the season. "You know, field. When I'm going good out there, that's when you see me smiling. When I'm not smiling, I'm still going good." That's why they call him Sweet Lou.
Early season sweetness behind them, the Brewers lost four of six and dropped out of the lead. The Milwaukee defense and slugging came up short, and Mike Caldwell's team-record string ended at 25 scoreless innings, even though he beat the Orioles 4-2. Then Caldwell lost his first game of the season, 6-3, to Baltimore. Despite a 2-4 week, Cleveland's habitual gloom was brightened by the end of several dismal streaks. Toby Harrah clubbed the team's first homer of the year in its eighth game, enabling the Indians to beat Boston 4-3. Two games later Gary Alexander's three-run shot beat Texas for the first time in 14 games. Finally, Pitcher Wayne Garland, whose career had been threatened by an injured rotator cuff that required surgery, pitched his first regular-season game in 11½ months. Garland took the loss, giving up three runs and seven hits in six innings but was pleased with his performance. "I don't see how I could have pitched any better," he said.
BOS 8-4 NY 8-6 MIL 7-6 DET 5-5 BALT 6-8 TOR 5-8 CLEV 3-9
On the surface it looked like a jolly homecoming for Minnesota. The Twins had won seven of their first nine games, all on the road, and an opening-day record crowd of 37,529 gave a standing ovation to Rod Carew. Just one problem: Carew was playing for the other guys. Having joined California after 12 seasons in Minnesota, Carew looked on with pleasure as new teammate Nolan Ryan set down the Twins 6-0 on four hits. Ryan later ended the Angels' 6-0 week with seven no-hit innings while beating Oakland 13-1. For his part, Carew had two four-hit games, one three-hit game and a .560 average. Minnesota owed its only wins in a 2-3 week to Jerry Koosman, who beat Seattle 18-6 and 6-5. "You're the only pitcher I know," teammate Roy Smalley told Koosman, "who needs touchdowns instead of runs."
It was not a good week for sentiment in Chicago. The White Sox gave away 15,000 eggs but dropped an Easter Sunday game 6-5 to New York when Outfielder Claudell Washington lost a fly ball in the sun. Later the Sox broke a lot of hearts by sending 5'5"—or is it 5'3"?—Shortstop Harry Chappas to the minors. But in the meantime Chicago cold-bloodedly won five straight after making Mike Proly a reliever. Proly combined with Francisco Barrios for a 6-1, three-hit win over Toronto, helped Ken Kravec three-hit Cleveland 4-2 and saved rookie Randy Scarbery's first major league win, 8-4 over Toronto. In the White Sox' 12-5 romp against Toronto, five players—Alan Bannister, Mike Squires, Eric Soderholm, Greg Pryor, who beat out Chap-pas at short, and Chet Lemon—had three hits apiece.
Oakland split six games, but had a disastrous week nonetheless. During a three-game sweep of Seattle, the A's drew 4,806 fans, including an Oakland major league low of 653 for the series' second game. A measly crowd of 2,938 showed up for the opener, a Family Night promotion, prompting much comment on the divorce rate in Alameda County. The A's marriage to Oakland seemed at least as precarious. Explaining the low attendance, Robert Nahas, president of the Oakland Coliseum Commission, said, "It's a community revolt against [owner Charlie] Finley. He's the most complex individual I've ever dealt with."
Seattle had as much trouble on the road as Oakland had at home, losing five times to the A's and Twins. At Oakland, an airport snafu left the Mariners without their equipment until five minutes before the scheduled start of batting practice. The same stop also cost them the services of Pitcher Byron McLaughlin for at least a week. McLaughlin was in his room at the Airport Hilton inspecting his pitching motion in the mirror. He found just one flaw: on his follow-through, he tends to bang the knuckle of his index finger on the edge of the dresser. He sustained a sprained and swollen finger. By the time the Twins were through with them, the embattled Mariners had allowed an average of almost eight runs a game for the week.
Texas (2-3) became the last team in baseball to lose a game this season when they blew a 6-1 lead en route to being blown down 11-6 by Detroit. The Tigers scored seven runs after two were out in the ninth. In his first Yankee Stadium start, Ferguson Jenkins beat the Yankees 5-0. It was his fourth win of the year, lowering his ERA to 1.41. Al Oliver, who has hit safely in every game, raised his batting average to .429.
Kansas City began the week by beating Toronto 12-10 but allowed 15 hits in the process, which was a bad omen. Three vaunted Royal starters were subsequently shellacked, Larry Gura and Paul Splittorff losing to Detroit 10-4 and 6-3, respectively, and Dennis Leonard and Gura sustaining defeats at Boston, 9-2 and 10-4, respectively. It didn't help that the Royals were third in the league in hitting (.295); their pitching was so bad they barely pulled out an exhibition win over the University of Kansas.
CAL 12-3 TEX 8-3 MINN 8-5 CHI 7-6 KC 5-7 SEA 5-10 OAK 4-11
In between getting fined $250 for admitting he had used marijuana and being bruised when struck by a taxi while jogging to the ball park, Montreal's Bill Lee nearly pitched a no-hitter. Lee beat the Cubs 2-0 on two hits, giving up his first in the sixth inning on a controversial line single by Barry Foote. Umpire John Baird ruled that the ball had been trapped by Rightfielder Ellis Valentine. Lee, Valentine and Manager Dick Williams disagreed, but Expo players at the end of the bench nearest Valentine agreed with the call. If the decision had gone the other way, Lee wouldn't have had to face Bill Buckner, who singled with two outs in the ninth. Otherwise, the Expos (3-3) won most of the close calls. They are 6-2 in one-run games: last season they were 23-36. A big reason for the turnabout is the bench, which hit only .179 in 1978. The reserves, who batted .300 last week and scored two runs, wear BUS (BROKE UNDER-RATED SUPERSTARS) T shirts and give awards to each other for outstanding effort. The leading candidate for BUS player-of-the-month, Jerry White, is in line for the coveted toy bus. "I hope it's a Trailways," said White. "That way I can make a few bucks on the side."
Neither New York (0-6) nor Pittsburgh (0-5) was in a joking mood. Dropping into last place, the Mets overturned clubhouse garbage cans, cursed and stood endlessly in the shower. Nothing worked, not even moving Lee Mazzilli (.462 at leadoff) back in the order. As a cleanup hitter, Mazzilli went 0 for 8. All Pittsburgh could do was gape when Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski became the first visiting player to deposit a ball in Three Rivers Stadium's fifth tier. Embarrassed by their infield defense, which has made 14 errors, the Pirates surprisingly traded weak-fielding but speedy Shortstop Frank Taveras to the Mets for average-field, no-hit Tim Foli.
The biggest surprise in Philadelphia (6-0) was the pitching. Former Met Nino Espinosa and Dick Ruthven each beat New York twice, and Randy Lerch and Steve Carlton each held the Pirates to two runs as the staff allowed just nine runs in six games. Though the Phillie pitchers looked weak in spring training, they have a 2.85 earned-run average so far in the regular season.
St. Louis had more to apologize for than its 2-4 play. At a press conference called by the club, Third Baseman Ken Reitz admitted causing most of the $1,068 damage to a TWA waiting room during a flight delay the previous week. "I screwed up, plain and simple," said Reitz, who threw a chair and broke a glass partition. Keith Hernandez and Silvio Martinez, who also participated in the destruction, will help Reitz pay the tab. Mike Dimmel, an outfielder who contributed big plays to the two wins, was blameless. But when Jerry Mumphrey returned from the disabled list, the Cardinals exiled Dimmel to the minors.
Content to let his bat do the talking, Cub Dave Kingman smashed three homers, drove in 10 runs and pronounced himself off-limits to the press. Kingman was distressed by non-baseball stories, especially one that called him the worst-dressed player on the team. Ken Holtzman was happy to talk. He beat St. Louis 5-3 for his first National League win since 1971. With strong contributions from Bruce Sutter, who had four saves, and Lynn McGlothen, who pitched two wins, the Cubs rebounded from their 0-4 start by winning five of seven and climbing from sixth to third.
PHIL 8-3 MONT 8-4 CHI 5-6 ST.L 5-7 PITT 4-9 NY 3-8
Houston (6-1) moved into first as Joaquin Andujar, Ken Forsch and Vern Ruhle threw complete-game victories. San Francisco (2-5) dropped from first to third, but it was a banner week for Willie McCovey. Getting two rare starts, the Golden Oldie, 41, had two hits in a 14-10 victory over San Diego and two more, including the game winner, in a 3-2 defeat of Los Angeles. The new second-place team was surging Cincinnati (5-1). Tom Seaver two-hit Atlanta 2-0 for his 48th career shutout, and Fred Norman, who had gone nearly 20 months without a complete game, threw one at St. Louis, winning 10-3. Neither pitcher had to wait long for support, as the first four men in the batting order—Ken Griffey (.500, two homers and six runs for the week), Dave Concepcion (.400), Joe Morgan (.421) and George Foster (.444, two homers, seven RBIs)—kept their averages above .300.
With Reggie Smith sidelined by a knee injury, Los Angeles (2-4) was batting an anemic .242. That left Manager Tom Lasorda juggling his lineup and fuming at the umpires, who gave Giant Reliever Gary Lavelle as much time as he needed to warm up. Lavelle came in for John Montefusco, who retired suddenly because of arm stiffness. "I'm going to tell the umpire my pitcher has a sore arm," said Lasorda. "What a farce this game would become then." What a farce Atlanta (1-4) is; even Dale Murphy's three homers were wasted in losing causes. And what a show the Padres (5-2) put on. As Jerry Turner and Dave Winfield drove in eight and seven runs, respectively, and Gene Tenace had three homers and six RBIs, San Diego reached the .500 level 64 games earlier than they ever have. Uncharacteristically, the Padres did it with poor pitching—42 runs allowed—and an excellent defense, which committed only four errors in seven games.
HOUS 11-4 CIN 9-6 SF 9-7 SD 8-8 LA 7-9 ATL 4-10
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JOSE CRUZ: The Astro leftfielder had two homers, two game-winning hits and 14 runs batted in, including six in one game. He is second in the National League in both RBIs (16) and stolen bases (7) and has a .300 average.