George Brett has stopped using the famous pine-tar bat that sparked one of the strangest controversies in baseball history. Brett had called it "the best bat I've ever had" and had ignored a $10,000 offer to sell it. Then he decided it "didn't feel good anymore" and is "leaning" toward "giving it to my family to keep forever." He also says, "I'd like to burn it. That way people will quit asking me questions about it." Of course, the worst thing about the bat is that it stopped producing hits. In the 10 games he used it after its return, Brett batted .289. Now he's swinging teammate Don Slaught's all-black model.
The main reason the world champion Cardinals were 55-60, in fourth place and 6½ games back in the National League East: Their pitching staff made a U turn. Third in the league in '82 with a 3.37 ERA, St. Louis was 11th at week's end, just 0.12 ahead of last-place Cincinnati. Last week the Cardinals ended their second eight-game losing streak of the season. They were outscored 25-1 during the first two innings of those eight games and 45-26 overall.
George Hendrick's lack of productivity has hurt, too. Hendrick's .321 average was the league's fourth highest, but he's had only one home run and 22 RBIs since Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15. The Hernandez trade has had a positive side effect, though. It gave more playing time to David Green, and he has hit .309 since the deal. Last week the team got another jolt when Second Baseman Tom Herr, who was batting .323, reinjured his left knee and will undergo arthroscopic surgery this week. He will be sidelined until 1984.
Although the Reds have four fine outfielders—Gary Redus, Eddie Milner, Paul Householder and Duane Walker—they keep playing Cesar Cede√±o, whose average is down to .228.... With Bruce Kison removed from the rotation to help out in the bullpen, the Angels desperately need at least one more reliable starter if they hope to stop the White Sox runaway. Two starters the Angels have been scouting: Dennis Eckersley of the Red Sox, who has had a 7.01 ERA and 3-8 record since coming back from shoulder trouble, and Len Barker of the Indians, who has been bothered by bone chips in his right elbow.... The Expos, who could use relief help to ease the burden on Jeff Reardon (17 saves), have sounded out the Padres about a possible deal for Sid Monge or Gary Lucas.
The Angels led the Twins 2-0, and with two men on and nobody out in the fourth inning were about to blow the game wide open. Three pitches later, however, the score was 2-2. Here's how it happened: On pitch No. 1 Ron Jackson of California lined into a third-to-second-to-first triple play; on pitches 2 and 3, Minnesota's Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky homered. The Twins won 4-2.
After years of being a pull hitter for the Cards, the Brewers' Ted Simmons has returned to the spray style that got him to the majors. The change has been so effective that Simmons, a switch hitter, was batting .317 with seven homers and 77 RBIs. "The only way to hit home runs in Busch Stadium is to be a dead-pull hitter," said Simmons, the Cards' cleanup man for most of his 11 years in St. Louis. "The ball doesn't carry into the gaps."
But when Simmons arrived in Milwaukee in 1981, he had problems adjusting to the breaking balls and off-speed stuff favored by American League pitchers. A .298 batter in St. Louis, Simmons hit .216 in '81. He was hitting .217 after the first two months last season, then started to return to his old style, and was .287 from June through year's end.
"Suggestions had been made by a lot of people," said Simmons, "but after 11 years of success, you develop a certain stubbornness, a certain pride and arrogance that won't let you come to grips with a problem." And what prodded him to change? "I got tired of looking at .216 and .217."
Five players are being questioned by the FBI during its investigation of illegal drug trafficking in the Kansas City area. The five: Jerry Martin, U.L. Washington, Willie Wilson and Willie Aikens of the Royals, plus Vida Blue, who was recently released by the team.... Suffolk County Superior Court Judge James P. Lynch Jr. voided a June attempt by Buddy LeRoux to take over control of the Red Sox from the club's two other owners, Mrs. Jean Yawkey and Haywood Sullivan. Judge Lynch also ruled that if LeRoux wants to sell his interest in the team, it must be to Yawkey and Sullivan at a price set by three appraisers.
Dr. Joel Kirsch, a psychologist, has helped institute some novel techniques while working with the Giants both at home and on the road since May 1. One requires that the players sit quietly in the locker room for 10 minutes before every game so they can concentrate and visualize how they want to perform on the field. One of Dr. Kirsch's special projects involved rookie Catcher Johnny Rabb, who had made numerous throws into centerfield while trying to nail base stealers. During a workout under Dr. Kirsch's guidance, Rabb deliberately made bad throws to second, then went into a "concentrative mode" and put seven of 10 pegs right on target. Since then, Rabb has cut down five of 11 would-be base stealers and hasn't made an errant throw.
Last week Dr. Kirsch administered a survey in which the Giants aired their feelings about Manager Frank Robinson. After the results were discussed in an 80-minute clubhouse session, Robinson said, "I realized that sometimes I come down too hard on people. It opened up the lines of communication. It gave me a different perspective."
"Dickie Thon is easily the best shortstop in our league, and maybe in both leagues," said San Diego Manager Dick Williams of the Astro who has hit .404 against the Padres this season.... Gay-lord Perry of the Royals became the third pitcher this season to pass Walter Johnson on the alltime strikeout list, fanning six Red Sox during a 5-4 victory. That gave Perry 3,512 strikeouts, four more than Johnson.... Detroit's Jack Morris has been 11-3 since June 2.... Shutouts in his last two outings raised Moose Haas's record for Milwaukee to 6-0 since June 10.... Two reasons why Minnesota's Dave Engle had his average up to .335: A shortened swing has helped him hit .480 the past month, and he's 17 for 27 (.630) against California for the season.... A strained rib-cage muscle put Atlanta's Chris Chambliss on the disabled list for the first time in his 13-year career.... Even though rookie Bill Krueger went on the DL with torn muscle fibers in his left forearm, the A's still had four first-year players in their rotation: Chris Codiroli, Tim Conroy, Gorman Heimueller and Mike Warren, who was summoned from the minor leagues to replace Krueger.
"My God, he hasn 't played first base regularly since 1971 in Oregon, when he was in Triple A," said Jean Luzinski of her husband, Greg, the White Sox designated hitter. With Chicago leading the American League West by 5'/2 games, up popped the question of what the White Sox might do with the Bull in a year when there will be no DH in the World Series. Manager Tony La Russa says it's premature to speculate, but that hasn't kept Mrs. Bull from fretting. "If they put him somewhere on the held, I'll just die," Jean added. "I'll crawl under the seat every time a ball comes his way."
HE HAS SEEN THE ERRORS OF HIS WAYS
"Here comes Mighty Mitt," Dodger Bullpen Coach Mark Cresse yelled when error-prone Second Baseman Steve Sax entered the clubhouse before a three-game series in Atlanta. Mighty Mitt indeed. Though Sax has committed 28 errors this year, he didn't make any against the Braves and even clinched Friday night's 5-3 victory with an outstanding play in the bottom of the ninth. Sax made a sprinting, lunging, over-the-shoulder catch of Bruce Benedict's pop fly, then whirled and threw in midair to double up Glenn Hubbard at first base to end the game.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LENN SAKATA: The Baltimore utility in fielder, who'd never had a hit against Chicago, ended his 0-for-66 slump with a 2-for-12 performance that improved his career average against the Sox to .026.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Here is an All-Star team of rookies who are regulars, with batting averages, homers and RBIs for hitters, and won-lost records and ERAs for pitchers:
Daryl Sconiers, Angels
Bill Doran, Astros
Nick Esasky, Reds
Julio Franco, Indians
Ron Kittle, White Sox
Marvell Wynne, Pirates
Darryl Strawberry, Mets
Bob Kearney, A's
Craig McMurtry, Braves
Matt Young, Mariners
Tom Tellmann, Brewers