Richie Hebner of the Mets was on first and Frank Taveras was on third, with one out in the first, when it happened. Lee Mazzilli of New York (3-1) hit a line drive to right center. Giant Rightfielder Jack Clark made a backhanded catch and First Base Umpire Phil Lospitalier, pumping his arm several times, signaled an out. But when Clark tried to switch the ball to his throwing hand, the ball popped loose. As Taveras tagged up and scored, Lospitalier, one of the college umps who is substituting for the idle big league umpires, again signaled out. Hebner, assuming the ball was in play despite the ruling, moved to second as Mazzilli pulled into first. At this point, Giant Second Baseman Bill Madlock took a throw from Clark and stepped on first for an apparent double play. There followed a 28-minute delay in which: 1) New York Manager Joe Torre got the umpires to reverse Lospitalier's decision, leaving Hebner at second and Mazzilli at first; 2) San Francisco Manager Joe Altobelli induced the crew to re-reverse itself and proclaim a double play; and 3) the discombobulated umps retreated under the stands for consultation with their supervisor, Tom Gorman. Finally they compromised by ruling Mazzilli was out but that Hebner would stay on first. The reason, according to Gorman, who spoke for the closeted umpires, was that the Giants had not appealed for a double play. But Gorman admitted he had never seen such a compromise in his 40 years in baseball.
The dispute—witnessed by 10,170 fans at Shea Stadium, including embarrassed National League President Chub Feeney—was undoubtedly the low point of the season for the substitute umpires. From a public-relations standpoint, the timing was atrocious. The club owners had just concluded a meeting in New York at which they reaffirmed their support for the league presidents, who continued to refuse to negotiate despite the job action by the regular umpires. "I wish the 26 club owners had remained in New York," wrote Dick Young in the New York Daily News, "to observe how things are going, to hear the fans boo the ineptitude, to see what you get when you hire cheap help."
The owners scarcely improved their position when they announced long-term contracts with ABC and NBC to televise late-season games. The ABC deal was a renegotiation of an existing contract, which is just what the umpires want. And the two deals should more than double baseball's annual TV revenue of $92 million, making the umpires' demand of $20,000 per club seem trivial. "Teams spend that much for office parties," said Pitcher Steve Rogers of the Expos. Wick Temple of the Associated Press suggested that baseball could save that much by cutting out free food and beer in the press box.
May 6, 1979
By contrast, Philadelphia (4-2) and Los Angeles played a model series, their first since the 1978 playoffs. The Phillies won all three games in heart-stopping style—4-3 in the 10th when Mike Schmidt singled home Larry Bowa; 7-6 in the 10th when Bowa scored Pitcher Ron Reed from second with a single, Reed just beating the throw with a rare slide; and 5-4 in the ninth on Pete Rose's single.
The Phillies' week cast a pall over Pittsburgh (2-2). In the 1976-77-78 seasons the Pirates played an aggregate of just three games better than .500 in April, and each year the Phillies won the division. This season the last-place Pirates are five games under .500 and the first-place Phillies, with a club-record 12 wins in April, are seven over.
Montreal (4-1) matched Philadelphia with a club-record dozen wins for April. Even Ellis Valentine's four-game suspension—three games for bumping an umpire, one for refusing to take batting practice—paid off. His substitute in rightfield, Jerry White, drove in six runs in 12 at bats.
St. Louis (4-1), 16-32 in one-run games last season, took three of them. The Cardinals beat Cincinnati 4-3 on run-scoring singles by Ken Reitz and Ted Simmons in the eighth inning and then got two 10th-inning victories over Atlanta, 3-2 on Jerry Mumphrey's single and 6-5 on Simmons' homer.
The Cubs (2-3) got three homers from Dave Kingman and a 4-0 shutout of Houston from Dennis Lamp. Ending a confusing week, the Mets climbed out of last but lost righthander Pat Zachry to the disabled list with an irritated nerve in his right forearm.
PHIL 12-5 MONT 12-5 ST. L 9-8 CHI 7-9 NY 6-9 PITT 6-11
While first-place Houston went 3-1, last-place Atlanta (3-2) was the division's only other team with a winning record. In truth, the Braves lucked their way to a better-than-.500 week, as Jeff Burroughs won a 3-2 game against St. Louis with a checked-swing double. It was a rare break for hard-luck Phil Niekro, who recorded his 199th major league victory. Niekro has a 2-4 record despite a sparkling 2.87 earned run average.
The expected contenders were dead-enders. In Montreal, San Francisco (0-5) Manager Joe Altobelli shook up his lineup, inserting such subluminaries as Larry Herndon and John Tamargo. The newcomers must have thought they were playing the Montreal Alouettes, because they gave up two touchdowns and lost 14-8.
Opening the Dodgers' 2-3 week, Don Sutton struck out 12 Giants in a 9-2 win to pass Sandy Koufax and become No. 17 on the career list. Sutton now has 2,402 strikeouts in 13 seasons. Ending the week, Burt Hooton defeated the Mets 3-1. In between, L.A. could have used its departed stopper. Tommy John, who went to the Yankees as a free agent. "He was the secret to beating the Reds and Phillies," said Pete Rose. "All he had to do was throw his glove on the field." Missing disabled Reliever' Terry Forster as well, the Dodgers lost three one-run games at Philadelphia. Cincinnati (1-4) got its only win when George Foster scored on a Cardinal wild pitch. San Diego (1-4) stayed afloat only because John D'Acquisto pitched six innings of one-hit relief during a 5-0 beating of Philadelphia. More typical of Padre play was the uncharacteristic performance of Rollie Fingers, who made two costly balks in a 9-6 loss to Montreal. Even so. Manager Roger Craig was sanguine. "We're having problems," he said, "but so are the Reds. Dodgers and Giants." Indeed, in the first full week of inter-divisional play, the West won only eight of 25 games.
HOUS 14-5 CIN 10-10 SF 9-12 LA 9-12 SD 9-12 ATL 7-12
Baseball's hottest team, Baltimore (6-1), moved from fifth to third and extended its winning streak to nine before being beaten 8-5 by Oakland. And to what did the Orioles say they owed their resurgence? To sharp pitching? To airtight defense? To timely hitting? No. To superstition. The streak began on a day when Coach Frank Robinson took the lineup card to the umpires. Naturally, there was no thought of replacing Robby, who rarely performs this chore, while the Orioles kept winning. Of more significance were Eddie Murray, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games, and the pitching staff, which allowed two runs a game during the six wins.
Milwaukee (4-2) also cited luck for its success. After a .119 start, Outfielder Gorman Thomas went 10 for 17 over a five-game stretch and hit .476 for the week, raising his average to .254. "A lot of it is luck," he said. Actually, some of it was luck. Thomas foul-tipped a 2-2 pitch, which Toronto Catcher Rick Cerone caught, apparently for an out. But Umpire Rich Panas insisted that Thomas had not ticked the ball, and the pitch was called a ball. On the next delivery Thomas hit a three-run homer.
Toronto's only victory in six outings came on a 2-0 one-hitter by Dave Lemanczyk. Rick Bosetti went 5 for 5 in one game, a first for a Blue Jay at home, but Toronto fans are more likely to remember what he did the following day. Bosetti singled into a double play. With the bases loaded and one out, he drove in the run that gave Toronto an 8-5 lead over Milwaukee. Unfortunately, in attempting to stretch a single, Bosetti headed for second, which was occupied. During the ensuing rundowns, Rick Cerone was caught between third and home and Bosetti was nabbed trying to get back to first.
In the continuing saga of the Not-So-Golden Goose, the Yankees (2-3) fined Pitcher Goose Gossage and substitute Catcher Cliff Johnson 10 days' pay each for their fight the previous week. The fines—$18,603 for Gossage and $5,586 for Johnson—were surprising in light of disclosures that Johnson may have initiated not only this bout but also a couple of others. According to the New York Daily News, Johnson went after Gossage with a pie in his hand during spring training. Gossage reportedly fell down during that incident and was prevented from injuring his throwing arm only because Infielder Fred Stanley cushioned the fall. And shortly after the brawl in which Gossage was hurt, Johnson was seen wrestling with Centerfielder Mickey Rivers. All in good fun, said Johnson, who calls himself a "playful puppy."
There was nothing amusing about the Yankees' play without Gossage, who underwent thumb surgery after the fight and will be out two months. With Ron Guidry struggling to hold a 5-0 lead over the Mariners. Gossage's short-relief substitute, Dick Tidrow, came in and gave up three home runs, and the Yankees lost 6-5.
Helping Boston (4-2) almost as much as Fred Lynn were the pitching and bench. Jim Wright came off the disabled list and threw 5⅖ no-hit innings en route to a 4-1 win over Seattle; rookie Utility Infielder Larry Wolfe's sacrifice fly beat the Mariners 4-3 in 12; and Butch Hobson started his first game of the season and hit a shot off a Kingdome speaker located 110 feet above the field and about 320 feet from the plate. Because there is no ground-rule-double provision for balls hit in the air, Hobson legged it to third.
The biggest news in Cleveland (2-4) and Detroit (2-3) was off the field. Tiger Designated Hitter Rusty Staub, heretofore a holdout, and Pitcher Mark Fidrych, heretofore an invalid, will be returning to action this week. And in Cleveland there were continuing reports that Manager Jeff (Too Nice A Guy) Torborg would be imminently dismissed. The talk obscured eminent slugging by Andre Thornton (.333, three homers and 10 RBIs) and Bobby Bonds (.391, three homers and six RBIs).
BOS 12-6 MIL 11-8 BALT 12-9 NY 10-9 DET 7-8 TOR 6-13 CLEV 5-13
"Give me a chance to play regular," said Kansas City (6-1) Centerfielder Willie Wilson, "and I'll amaze you. I'll hit, I'll steal, I'll make fantastic catches." Given the chance, Wilson made two errors but also got five hits, five stolen bases and one clutch assist in two days.
The division was full of surprises: Texas (2-4) turned a club-record five double plays in a 5-0 victory over Toronto; Oakland (3-2) rookie Pitcher Craig Minetto, late of the Italian leagues, beat the Yankees 1-0 on his 25th birthday; and California (2-4) Reliever Mark Clear pitched five innings of two-hit ball to beat Boston 8-6. The strangest event of all occurred in Chicago (2-5), which has not been Texas' kind of town. The Rangers, who have lost nine of their last 10 games there, were blown out by a witches' brew of weird numbers. The White Sox won 11-0, getting 15 hits in 38° weather. In another numerologist's delight, Minnesota (3-2) hitters had 26 singles without getting an extra-base hit, while Jerry Koosman's fourth win exceeded by one his total for 1978. And Seattle (2-4) ended an 11-game losing streak by twice beating New York.
CAL 14-7 MINN 11-7 TEX 10-7 KC 11-8 CHI 9-10 OAK 7-13 SEA 7-14
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
KEN SINGLETON: The Orioles' rightfielder hit .500, with eight runs batted in, six runs scored, four homers, two doubles and one game-winning RBI. In six of Baltimore's seven games, he rapped out two or more hits.