After four straight losses to the Dodgers, Brave Manager Eddie Mathews called a clubhouse meeting. Trouble was, his players were busy munching on a tableful of snacks. "Aw come on, guys, quit eating and listen, will ya," Mathews said, tipping the table and knocking off some food. "I'm too sick to eat, the way we've been playing," he added after the meeting, during which he announced he would banish postgame chow and told his troops they could not live by bread—or cookies, or soup—alone. And so the team embarked on its own version of a Brave new world. Next time out it beat the Padres 7-3 as Dave Johnson hit his fourth homer of the week and Henry Aaron overcame a backache and a boil caused by his belt buckle to slug No. 19 and 692 overall. But then their world collapsed as the Padres took them 2-0 behind Clay Kirby's 13-strikeout effort and 9-3 as Nate Colbert homered twice. Also chipping in for the Padres was Dave Winfield, who the week before had been the MVP at the College World Series for the University of Minnesota. In his first week he went 6 for 14 and hit a homer.
Joe Ferguson had suffered a broken thumb, but the Dodgers regrouped, won seven of eight and took over first place. Claude Osteen and Tommy John (with relief help from Pete Richert) blanked the Braves 5-0 and 3-0, and John later stopped the Reds 5-1 on three hits. In that game Ken McMullen hit a three-run homer and Manny Mota took over the league batting lead at .356. Willie Davis unloaded two home runs against the Braves: one was his 2,000th hit, the next day's was a two-run drive in the 10th inning that tied a game that the Dodgers won 6-5 in the 11th.
Pete Rose of the Reds also picked up his 2,000th hit, but was upstaged by rookie Dan Driessen and Fred Norman. Driessen, who has hit in all but one of 14 games since joining the team, batted .423 last week and drove in nine runs. "When you got it, you got it," he said. "And right now I got it. Man, I'm up a tree." Norman had opposing batters out on a limb. Since being acquired from the Padres, where he was 1-7, he has given up only one run in three outings. Last week he blanked the Giants 4-0 on three hits and came within one out of a third consecutive shutout before Ron Cey of the Dodgers homered.
Houston retained third place by winning four of six as Lee May hit .478 and had 13 RBIs. May's hitting streak was ended at 21 games, but not before he had three homers in a 12-2 win over San Diego. Bobby Bonds of the Giants was hot in more ways than one. Because the artificial turf in Candlestick Park scorched his feet he changed shoes between innings. Before the heat took effect, Bonds homered against the Reds—the eighth time this season he has led off the first inning with a homer, and the 22nd time in his career, a league record. Said Tom Bradley, who last year pitched for the White Sox: " American League umpires don't give you low strikes, but here they do. So why throw high balls? I've decided to grip the ball with the seams instead of across them." In his first seamy performance he beat the Reds 7-1 on four hits.
LA 45-26 SF 42-30 HOUS 39-32 CIN 37-32 ATL 29-42 SD 23-48
A double play and a bottle of wine added to the Met woes. The DP came in the last of the ninth when the Pirates had the bases loaded with none out in a 1-1 game. Bob Robertson bounced a ball to Second Baseman Felix Millan, who threw home for a forceout. So far so good. Catcher Duffy Dyer, attempting to double up Robertson at first, threw the ball into right field, where Rusty Staub caught it. Staub, seeing that Al Oliver of the Pirates had rounded second base, fired the ball to Shortstop Jim Fregosi for the second out. Good idea? Bad idea. Dave Cash rounded third and easily beat Fregosi's throw home to score the winning run. It was enough to drive a man to drink, but that is not exactly what Tom Seaver had in mind when he went to his wine cellar at home to look for a bottle to go with his dinner. While searching out the correct vintage, Tom Terrific pushed some cartons around, hurt his back and was sidelined. The wine he had in mind was a burgundy, 1969—the year the Mets supposedly stopped clowning around and became world champs. George Stone provided the team's two wins in seven tries.
Moving up to fifth were the Phillies, winners of five of six. They took three in a row from the Mets, two on four-hitters by Wayne Twitchell and Jim Lonborg (with Mac Scarce's relief). Ken Brett also beat the Mets and later the Expos, homering in both games. That upped Brett's record to 7-2 and gave him four home runs in his past four starts. Who needs DHs, anyway?
In last place were the Pirates, who were first on April 22 but who have won 20 and lost 34 since. They won four of nine last week against the Reds, Cubs and Mets as Willie Stargell increased his homer output to 21.