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THE WEEK
Jim Kaplan
April 30, 1973
AL EAST
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April 30, 1973

The Week

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AL EAST

Cleveland had them talking. First there was Gaylord Perry, eliciting the usual spitball charges from the Tigers after two-hitting them 7-0. "It's so frustrating to sit on the bench and watch hitters like ours missing balls by that much," said Tiger Manager Billy Martin, measuring off more than a foot. "They still don't know that I've got a forkball, do they?" deadpanned Perry. Two days later George Hendrick hit the first ball into Cleveland's Municipal Stadium center-field stands in 25 years, a shot carrying 440 to 470 feet depending on the estimator. As writers crowded around him following the game, Hendrick said, "All I want to do is forget the long home run, if it was one, and look toward the next game. I'm doing my job. It's just a day's work. Please understand." Next day Cleveland fans were reminded how precarious stardom can be. When Charley Spikes smashed a shot at Jim Colborn's face, the Milwaukee pitcher got his glove up just in time to catch it. Clevelanders recalled the shot off Gil McDougald's bat that ruined Herb Score's career in 1957. Asked later if his life passed before his eyes, Colborn said, "No, just the first five years."

In Massachusetts, Boston celebrated its unique Patriots Day holiday with an old-fashioned slugfest. The Red Sox trailed 8-0, rallied with four home runs, but finally lost to the Tigers 9-7. In the best tradition of New England hospitality, the Sox then dropped the four-game series to give Detroit and Baltimore the lead. Both teams got long-awaited help from erstwhile sluggers. Baltimore's Earl Williams finally homered, and just for good measure repeated the feat three times. "I'm pretty big to be hitting singles," he said. Detroit's Willie Horton, who has frequently feuded with Martin, was promised the left-field job and responded with a 12-for-25 week, including three homers. Horton said he received additional inspiration from Roberto Clemente, whose example made him try, and roommate Frank Howard, who made him comfortable. "I love that man," said Horton.

New York acquired Jim Ray Hart from San Francisco, and the Yankees' latest designated hitter went 4 for 5. But there was no stopping the "slurve." That is the combination curve-slider Jim Slaton of surprising Milwaukee used to beat New York 2-0.

BALT 8-5 DET 8-5 MIL 5-5 BOST 5-6 NY 5-7 CLEV 5-8

AL WEST

It was Chicago's turn to do some slugging, and the White Sox buried Kansas City 16-2 in partial compensation for two earlier 12-5 losses. Bill Melton, apparently recovered from back trouble, had four homers, and Dick Allen personally dismantled the Rangers with a homer, double and a triple in a 6-5 win. Knuckleballer Eddie Fisher threw his first complete game in a decade, beating Texas 10-5, and Pitching Coach Johnny Sain talked of keeping him as a starter. Why not? Sain made a 20-game winner out of another knuckleballer, Wilbur Wood.

Kansas City managed to stay in first by heeding Manager Jack McKeon's advice on fundamentals. That doesn't necessarily mean swinging for the fences, past performances notwithstanding. Against Oakland, Paul Schaal and Carl Taylor alertly tagged up at first and second on a long fly, setting up a two-run single that sent the game into extra innings. Hal McRae won it in the 14th by barely poking the ball over First Baseman Mike Hegan's glove. Hard luck scenes such as this made Oakland Manager Dick Williams even testier. He had already criticized Oakland's fans for lack of support. "We're world champions. We've proved ourselves. The area hasn't. We'll just move somewhere else." In one game, however, he needed to look no farther than the end of his nose for the culprit. Williams ordered California's Al Gallagher walked to load the bases and get at Jeff Torborg. The Angel catcher doubled home two runs to beat the A's 4-2.

Tony Oliva was the object of much controversy in Minnesota. Pitching Coach Al Worthington was quoted as saying, "I don't believe Oliva will be able to play anymore. I don't think his legs will hold up." Shot back Trainer Dick Martin: "His knee is strong structurally and he's got good muscle tone." For his part, Oliva asked Manager Frank Quilici, who in 1961 was the last man to pinch-hit for Oliva, to replace him when he had trouble getting his bat around. So Quilici sent in Danny Walton, who responded with a grand slam to beat California. The well-meaning Oliva, whose .257 average as a designated hitter was keeping him in the lineup, ended the week by being hit above the right ankle and suffering contusions.

Texas Manager Whitey Herzog claimed Catcher Rich Billings and Alex Johnson were the only players giving their best. "Now isn't that strange? Those are the two guys who were supposed to be giving me the most trouble and they're my leaders now." He even allowed Johnson, busting the fences at a .400-plus clip, to break the rules by playing pepper with some bat boys. Looking for a helping hand—Rich Hand to be exact—Herzog ran into Minnesota's Bill Hands instead and lost 5-1. So what did Rollie Fingers think of that?

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