It's all a matter of your perspective. "The Cubs?" said Montreal Manager Gene Mauch. "At this time in 1969 they looked like a superteam. Now they're a lot older and they still haven't won. Us? Mostly we are the same names, but our young ones are improving and our veterans are playing like they can."
While everyone else waits for them to fade—as has been their wont—the Cubs rolled merrily on, winning six of eight and enlarging their divisional lead to seven games. At the moment the biggest problem in Chicago appears to be the lack of lights at Wrigley Field. Just think, should the Cubs make it to the World Series, they will be the home team in the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday set of games. NBC has already decreed that these games will be played at night. And what television decrees, it gets. Oh well, it's still early.
The hitting that carried Montreal to seven straight victories and second place has flickered away like the northern lights. So has second place. On Saturday Pittsburgh handed the Expos their third straight loss, 5-1. For Montreal it was the eighth defeat in 10 games and the 12th in 17. This collapse opened second place to St. Louis, which had finally struggled back to the .500 level but then spun its wheels with a 4-4 week. The Cardinals finished June with an 18-12 record. What St. Louis ought to do is stay away from Pennsylvania clubs: the Cards are 1-6 against Pittsburgh, 4-6 against Philadelphia. At one point the Cardinals, combined record against the two Pennsylvania teams was 1-11.
Finally getting the pitching they had a year ago, the Pirates won five of eight and arose from last place to within 2� games of second. Philadelphia is hoping Steve Carlton can regain his once-magic touch. While waiting, the Phillies won five of nine. With more talent on the disabled list than on the field, the Mets plunged into the basement. What New York needs is another star in the East.
CHI 46-32 ST. L 37-37 MONT 34-37
PITT 34-38 PHIL 35-40 NY 32-39
"It's too early to claim the pennant, "said Walter Alston, who has his Los Angeles Dodgers cruising out front by 6� games, "but I think the league has found out that our young guys don't quit." Since April, the Dodgers have come from behind to win 23 games, and they apparently don't care if it takes a few extra innings. Last Friday night Bill Russell hit a bases-loaded single in the 12th inning to beat Atlanta 12-9. The following night Lee Lacy singled in the 13th to beat the Reds 8-7. The two victories gave the Dodgers a 6-1 mark for the week.
The Giants finished June with a 3-4 week and with Juan Marichal pitching in relief. With at least two players headed for the All-Star Game, San Francisco has talent enough to fill out a couple of rosters, but somehow each June the Giants become the Titanic and everybody else plays iceberg.
When you are 11 games back there is no rest for the wounded, and the desperate Reds are hoping that even half a Johnny Bench can help. Bench has a badly pulled calf muscle but is playing with his left leg taped from knee to foot and with a special shoe lift to relieve some of the pressure. "It needs three complete weeks of rest," Bench said. "But I have to play. We need to win." Bench played, but last week the Reds won only two while losing six.