On opening night in Philadelphia the fans were tense. Were they praying for Steve Carlton's first win? No. All eyes were on one Richard Johnson—alias The Kiteman—who last year had soared off a 150-foot ramp in center field, bound for home plate with the "first ball," and had crash-landed in the stands. This year 25-mph cross-winds grounded him and when he did take off two nights later he reached only left center. "I got caught in a downdraft," he said. So did Montreal, whose three misplays in one inning gave Carlton a shaky 7-5 win. The game, played in 40� weather, was one of Tuesday's warm weather specials. Six others were postponed, and during the first nine days 14 major-league games from Atlanta to Montreal were halted by rain, cold or snow. Let's hear it for that April schedule.
New York won four straight for its best start as Cleon Jones, John Milner and Willie Mays delivered clutch hits and Felix Millan sparkled around second. Tom Seaver beat both Carlton and Bob Gibson.
Losing their first five, the Cardinals got off to a typically slow start, so no one was worried, right? Sure, and Gussie Busch hates beer. After the Cards gave Pittsburgh three games in which Gibson, Rick Wise and Scipio Spinks each had led halfway through, the home team Pirates came into the visiting Cardinal locker room to use the only operative showers in Three Rivers Stadium. "Better not," warned St. Louis Manager Red Schoendienst, "or you'll be as messed up as we are."
The Pirates won four straight behind seven homers from six men. "We've dealt with adversity before," said Willie Stargell referring to the late Roberto Clemente. "We know what we're capable of doing." Adversity's favorite victims, the Chicago Cubs, hit .201. They managed to take a 4-1 decision from the hapless Cardinals, who gave them 13 walks, three wild pitches, a passed ball and an error. Montreal got in the last home opener and won it 6-4 over the Pirates on home runs by Tim Foli and Ron Fairly.
PITT 4-1 NY 4-2 CHI 3-3 MONT 3-3 PHIL 3-3 ST.L 1-6
San Francisco has gotten a lot of mileage out of Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey, and when Marichal won his first two starts and McCovey hit four home runs, including two in one inning, it was enough to help the Giants cruise into first place. But all was not pacific by the Pacific. "Dirty Al" Gallagher said nasty things about Manager Charlie Fox, who would not start him at third, and got traded to California.
Cincinnati needed help from its superb bullpen to win five of eight, but Pedro Borbon, Tommy Hall and Clay Carroll were equal to the task. Houston, by contrast, needed relief help so much that there was talk of trading Jimmy Wynn. He had six homers in nine games, but Houston lost three after entering the ninth inning ahead.
Los Angeles' pitching was predictable—only 29 runs allowed in nine games—but so unfortunately was Dodger hitting. When the team finally unloaded for 16 hits in 12 innings, it left 16 on base and lost 4-3 to Houston. After the Padres took two of three from the last-place Dodgers, Outfielder Dave Marshall said, "The Dodgers stink. They're always talking about their new players coming up, but where are they?" Where, indeed, were the Padres but tied with LA? True, the pinch hitters were hitting .360 and the relievers had allowed only seven earned runs in 31 innings, but what about 16 errors in nine games? "Maybe this is the wrong sport in the wrong town," lamented Padre President Buzzie Bavasi after a Sunday crowd of 10,695. Maybe the Padres, a 150-1 shot, would not draw anywhere. Atlanta lost fans to the cold and to the basketball Hawks and games to its own poor pitching.