If Chicago's chances as the week ended seemed minute, it was perhaps only the mood of the hour. The Cubs had lost three of four to the Pirates and two of three to the Mets.
But to those who view the Cubs, pennantless since 1945, as a team laboring under an evil spell, the situation was indeed grim. The Cubs are old. They are tired. In June they led the East by eight games. People said nice things about them. They have experience. Pretty solid infield. Power, which helps when you play in a shooting gallery like Wrigley Field. Didn't Durocher have them all messed up? Wouldn't it be great if the Cubs could win a pennant?
But it will never happen, according to those who see yellow eyes and cloven hooves in Pirate black and gold, as long as the Cubs have to play Pittsburgh. At the sight of Pirates, the Cubs twitch all over. In 1972 Pittsburgh played the Cubs 15 times and won 12. This season the two have met 18 times and Pittsburgh has won 12. If the Cubs had taken the Pirate series last week, Phil Wrigley could have started making serious plans for the playoffs. But it wasn't the Pirates who gummed up.
Of all the contenders, Pittsburgh seems to have the hottest fires burning within. Take Friday's game in St. Louis. In the first inning, with the score already 3-0 in the Pirates' favor, Third Baseman Richie Hebner came sliding home beneath the Cardinals' doughty catcher, Ted Simmons, who did a forward one-and-a-half in the pike position in an effort to tag Richie, and in so doing kicked him in the head. Displeased by this and Umpire Satch Davidson's out call, Hebner directed a stream of warm brown tobacco juice at the ump and made a dark brown remark or two to indicate his deep dissatisfaction. All the while he was being held back by Willie Stargell like a bronco straining against a lariat. In the daffy National League East race few things can be said with certainty, but this is surely so: the Pirates want the pennant.
If they come close, students of suspense should be aware that, because of an earlier rainout, Pittsburgh might have to play San Diego of the West Division the day after the season ends. In this league, it would figure.