As the Orioles continued on their merry way (page 20) the pursuing Red Sox were being slowed by recalcitrant players. Rico Petrocelli periodically reminds one and all that he no longer wishes to play in Boston. Now it is Reggie Smith saying he is fed up with the Fenway fans and asking to be traded. Several weeks ago Smith registered his displeasure by walking off the field in the middle of a game after absorbing a terrific booing. He was even more emphatic last week. "The fans in this town don't deserve an owner like Tom Yawkey," he told Boston Herald American reporter Joe Giuliotti, "They don't deserve a club like the Red Sox. They deserve something like Cleveland." "There must be something good about Red Sox fans," replied the Herald American's Tim Horgan, "because the Lord made so many of them."
There was more defection talk in Detroit, where a rumor spread that Manager Billy Martin would leave the Tigers at the end of the season to manage the New York Mets. Said Martin, "It's news to me. I haven't talked to the Mets and I have no intention of leaving Detroit anyway." Martin has another year remaining on his contract. His team, meanwhile, won two games in a row for the first time in two weeks.
The Yankees were not losing people, just games. On July 27 they were 15 games above .500 and leading the league by a game and a half. They lost 19 of the next 28. Part of their trouble is clutch-hitting, or rather the absence of it. In nine games Matty Alou had been at bat with 22 men on base and Horace Clarke had been up with 25 on. Neither drove in a run during that period.
Milwaukee General Manager Jim Wilson has this penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. First he blamed Pitching Coach Bob Shaw for ruining Pitcher Bill Parsons' season. Shaw quit and Al Widmar became the new coach. Parsons continued to flounder. Last week, asked to name the players on his roster that he would not trade, Wilson listed seven names, none of which was George Scott's, and Scott is hitting .298 and leading the team in RBIs. Properly aroused, Scott said that if he did not figure in the Brewers' future plans he would just as soon leave now. Wilson hastily replied that he was listing only young players. Fine, except that two of the untouchables, Dave May and John Briggs, are 29—the same age as George Scott.
In Cleveland, where hitting heroes are scarce, Indian fans are flocking to, of all people, Shortstop Frank Duffy, whose lifetime batting average is .237. In the last month Duffy has raised his average 40 points. And on Friday he hit back-to-back home runs to beat the Texas Rangers. Duffy, however, was philosophical about his new-found prowess. "Of course I'm not a home-run hitter," he said. "If I can hit about .250 and field my position, I can hold a job. They judge shortstops on how well they field, not how they hit."
BALT 73-52 BOST 70-57 DET 70-58 NY 68-63 MIL 61-65 CLEV 54-75
Reggie Jackson is no Samson; he can cut off some hair and still be as strong as ever. Concluding that "a few people didn't remember what I looked like," the Oakland A's slugger shaved off his beard but continued to bat like 1973's American League Most Valuable Player. On the very day he was shorn, he hit two run-scoring singles, giving him a major-league-leading 105 RBIs. "He still looks the same to me," said Dick Williams, his discerning manager. The A's, in fact, were having a banner—almost a pennant—week. Catfish Hunter won his first game since he broke his thumb in the All-Star Game, and now stands at 16-3. And Vida Blue shut out the Yankees 2-0 for his 15th win of the season and sixth in succession.
"I get some of my best ideas between 2 and 5 a.m.," said Kansas City Manager Jack McKeon, the league's leading somnambulist. "I figure out things like pitching changes and plays to try. I keep a tape recorder right by my bed." Well, this has been a bad year for tapes. On one of his chats with himself McKeon said, "If Baltimore's winning streak is going to be stopped, it will be tonight by Busby. They won't get those clinkers and clunkers off him like they got against us last night." That was true. The Orioles got eight hits off Steve Busby in 5? innings en route to a 7-1 win, and not one of them was a clinker or a clunker.