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Some called Ken McMullen a throw-in in the trade that brought him along with Andy Messersmith to the Dodgers. One of baseball's most pleasant men, McMullen suffers from a bad back that scarcely lets him bend down to tie a shoelace, let alone field a grounder. Earlier this year McMullen talked of retiring, ostensibly because of the back. Now the real reason is known. Ken's wife Bobbie, expecting a child in December, is a cancer victim who cannot have radiation treatment until after the birth. In May the McMullens had to decide whether to terminate pregnancy. They chose not to, and it has been a harrowing summer for a player who spends most games on the bench. But this week, as McMullen was sent in to pinch-hit for Jerry Royster in the last of the ninth with two out, one on and the Dodgers trailing Montreal by a run, Messersmith told Claude Osteen, "He's gonna hit it out." McMullen did. He clapped his hands all the way around the bases, and the whole team met him at the plate. It was the fifth game-winning hit and the fourth homer for the courageous McMullen in only 63 at bats.
Cincinnati matched the Dodgers' 4-2 record for the week and remained 1� games back. Don Gullett allowed a total of three runs in two games, winning the first with a six-hitter and lasting seven innings in the second before being replaced for a pinch hitter. The Reds won that one, too, defeating the Mets 2-1 in 10 innings on Hal King's pinch homer. King has had only five hits this season, but four have been home runs.
The futures of Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and their combined salary of $250,000 were re-examined by San Francisco. Marichal had been considered on his way to retirement in the Dominican Republic and McCovey to the American League as a designated hitter, but they may not be as easy to part with after pacing a modest three-game winning streak. Wednesday, McCovey cracked his 21st home run, and Marichal beat Philadelphia 11-2 for his 237th career win, moving ahead of Bob Gibson as No. 1 among active pitchers. McCovey hit two more homers on Friday to help Ron Bryant, the biggest winner among National League pitchers, to his 18th victory of the season.
Houston lefthanders Dave Roberts and Jerry Reuss each shut out the Cardinals with five-hitters to lead the Astro staff to a streak of 28 scoreless innings out of 30. Spectacular Cesar Cedeno preserved Roberts' shutout job with a Pete Reiser-style catch. Cedeno smashed into the left centerfield wall as he made an extraordinary grab of Hector Cruz' long drive.
Henry Aaron hit three home runs in three days after a two-week slump, bringing his career total to 704. He is now 10 behind Babe Ruth. Getting back to ordinary mortals, Aaron's Atlanta teammates had a good week, too, winning four of six. For that matter, Dave Johnson and Darrell Evans stayed ahead of Aaron in 1973 homers. Henry has 31 for the season; Johnson hit his 32nd of the season and Evans upped his total to 34 as the Braves romped over Chicago.
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The Cardinals managed to end an eight-game losing streak by suddenly smashing Houston Pitcher James Rodney Richard for a five-run sixth inning followed by a four-run seventh. The Cards' winning ways did not last long even though Rick Wise pitched the team's first complete game since Aug. 5. He still lost 3-0, and St. Louis was off on another three-game losing string. The Cardinals hit only one home run all week. Diego Segui had to relieve in four games, but still the Cards maintained a two-game lead in the awful East where St. Louis' .504 percentage is the sole one over .500.