The Astros, falling farther and farther behind Cincinnati, fired Manager Harry Walker and hired Leo Durocher, who had been fired last month by the Chicago Cubs. "We had to make a change," General Manager Spec Richardson explained. "We've still got a chance for the pennant, and here's Leo, a man who lit a fire under a team that was 13� games out in August and took them to the pennant." True, but that was 21 years ago. Durocher is now 66 and there hasn't been a good fire in Chicago since the big one. Walker, never popular with his players, did have one well-wisher of sorts. Joe Morgan, who played for Walker last year and is now leading the Reds to a title, said he was sorry his old manager got the ax. "I didn't want to see him get fired," said Morgan. "Not now. I wanted to see him finish second to us, then invite him to our party when we clinched it."
Morgan's current manager, Sparky Anderson, has a firm hold on his job, but it has given him an ulcer, which is a little strange, since Anderson does not have much left to worry about. The Reds have pulled 8 games ahead of Houston.
There is nothing like a big lead to gladden the heart of a pitcher, not to say calm his ulcer. The Dodgers broke to a big lead over the Pirates as Don Sutton coasted to his 14th victory 7-3. "An early seven-run rally can make you the best pitcher in the big leagues," he said.
Henry Aaron of the Braves, who has 25 home runs for the season and 664 for his career and needs 51 more to surpass Babe Ruth, is not happy about his production this year. Nor is he pleased with his .259 batting average. "I'd like to hit maybe eight more homers," said he, "then forget about this year and start all over next year." For a slugger, even one 38 years old, 672 is not a bad spot to start from.
Another man thinking ahead to next year is San Francisco's Charlie Fox. Charlie sees his three top starting pitchers in 1973 as youngsters Jim Willoughby, Ron Bryant and Jim Barr. Where does that leave fading veterans Juan Marichal and Sam McDowell? "Juan and Sam will have a chance to prove themselves before this season ends," said Fox ominously.
Dave Roberts, San Diego's rookie whiz, had not played second base since he was 13 years old. He tried it in the late innings of both games of a doubleheader against St. Louis, and in five innings started four double plays. He could grow to like it there.
CIN 75-45 HOUS 68-54 LA 64-55 ATL 57-66 SF 54-68 SO 46-74
If there is a home-field advantage, Oakland is one team that is not enjoying it. The A's have defeated the Orioles five games out of six in Baltimore, but lost to them five straight in Oakland. At least two of those losses can be attributed to Tommy Davis, who was cut by the A's early in the season and joined the Orioles two weeks ago. Davis' pinch-hit single beat his former teammates one night, and the next afternoon the winning run scored when his bouncer to second base was thrown away by Tim Cullen. Said Davis: "Take that! Take that!" The only bright spot for the A's in a bleak (2-4) week was the return of Reggie Jackson, who had been on the disabled list with pulled muscles in his rib cage. Jackson came back with a bang, hitting a long home run on Friday.
Long is scarcely the word to describe the home run Dick Allen hit for the White Sox off the Yankees' Lindy McDaniel on Wednesday. The ball cleared the 16�-foot-high wall in dead center field, 440 feet from home plate, only the fourth homer hit that far in the history of White Sox Park. But Allen took the accomplishment in stride. After the game he was heard mischievously singing in the clubhouse, "Another day, another dollar...."