In his first at bat as the majors' first black manager, Cleveland's Frank Robinson dramatically homered. It was a drive that instantly won over the Indian fans, 56,000 of whom showed up for the opener against the Yankees. Also enthusiastic about the blow was Robinson's No. 1 problem player, Gay-lord Perry, who led a surge of Indians to escort Frank back to the dugout. Then, after finishing off the Yankees 5-3, Perry presented the game ball to Robinson, who said, "Getting it from Gaylord makes it special for me." Robin Yount, who had just three homers all last season, hit two as the Brewers gained a share of the Eastern lead.
Two strong relief efforts by John Hiller plus a three-run homer one day and a grand slam the next by Nate Colbert helped Detroit drub New York twice (page 24).
BOS 3-1 MIL 3-1 DET 2-1 BALT 1-2 CLEV 1-2 NY 0-3
The Dodgers were seeing red after three losses in Cincinnati, having squandered leads in each game. When pinch hitter George Foster was ruled safe at first base on an infield hit that scored the winning run in a 14-inning, 2-1 opening day struggle, the Dodgers complained he should have been called out. Then, after Dave Concepcion's pinch single gave the Reds a 4-3 triumph in the ninth inning of the second game, the Dodgers argued that time should have been called because a ball had rolled out of the Cincy bullpen and onto the field. In the finale the Dodgers could only blame themselves, for they blew a 5-0 advantage and lost 7-6. The Cincinnati bullpen was exceptional, allowing one run and eight hits in 13 innings.
Still on the road, Los Angeles stopped Houston 7-0 behind Don Sutton. The Dodgers then lost 7-5 to the Astros—and Shortstop Bill Russell broke his right hand.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, was jolted by San Diego 5-2 and 3-2. Dan Spillner held the Reds in check in the first game and rookie Joe McIntosh became the apple of Padre fans' eyes as he held off Cincy in the second. The division-leading Padres lost only once, 2-0 to the Giants' Jim Barr in 10 innings. Bobby Murcer led off the 10th with a double and scored on a double by Gary Matthews.
Atlanta got strong pitching from Carl Morton (a 2-0 five-hitter against the Astros and a 7-4 win over the Giants) and Buzz Capra (a 4-2 three-hit defeat of the Giants).
"Speed and aggressiveness force other teams into mistakes," said Houston Manager Preston Gomez as he contemplated his team's new offense. Speed came in the form of 10 steals, six by Cesar Cedeno, and First Baseman Cliff Johnson provided muscle, driving in seven runs.
SD 2-1 HOUS 3-2 ATL 3-2 CIN 3-2 SF 1-2 LA 1-4