Everything went so right in Oakland that it seemed something was wrong. Owner Charlie Finley called a meeting at which he promised the A's diamond rings with a four-leaf clover design if they won a fourth straight World Series. "Fantastic," said Reggie Jackson. "If we had that harmony all the time, I'd play for only a hundred grand." Even Finley laughed at that one. Vida Blue did not voice his usual complaint when Manager Alvin Dark yanked him twice, being satisfied with two wins and exulting, "I'm shooting for 30." With Catfish Hunter gone, Dark needed another starter. So he tried Mike Norris, 20, who was 7-8 in AA ball last year. Like Dark, Norris totes a Bible, and after beating Chicago 9-0 with a three-hitter the A's skipper referred to him as his "Jeremiah." Dark quoted Jeremiah 33:3: "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Added Dark, " Norris just might be the prophet sent down to save us." Applying saving touches of his own was Centerfielder Bill North, who preserved two wins by throwing out a runner at the plate and making a spectacular catch. Despite playing amid unaccustomed congeniality, the A's jumped into first place.
There was no joy in Texas, though. Ferguson Jenkins was pummeled twice as the Rangers lost four of five and Manager Billy Martin uncharacteristically spoke of the need for "patience." But Martin himself lacked patience, feuding with Umpire Ron Luciano. During two games worked by Luciano, Martin wore a microphone, presumably to record his run-ins with the ump. "I'm out to get him fired," Martin said.
Chicago was shut out twice in a row, did not hit a homer in five games and its only win came when Pat Kelly's pinch triple drove in two runs to beat the A's 7-5.
Tony Oliva slugged three homers as Minnesota won twice. Lacking the long ball in their other outings, the Twins lost all three.
Amos Otis had five stolen bases, Hal Mc-Rae had two game-deciding hits and Relievers Lindy McDaniel and Doug Bird notched wins as Kansas City took three of four.
Angel Manager Dick Williams had to fork over $200 and Nolan Ryan had his "worst stuff since opening day last year." Yet neither complained. Williams has offered his personal check for $200 to any of his pitchers who can make batters ground out 18 times in a game, a feat achieved by Andy Hassler in a 10-inning, 4-3 win over the White Sox. As for Ryan, his "worst stuff" stymied Chicago 5-0 as he yielded six singles. Four days earlier Ryan allowed three hits and fanned 12 in a 3-2 defeat of K.C.
OAK 4-1 CAL 3-1 KC 3-1 MINN 2-3 CHI 1-4 TEX 1-4
"I never saw a bench more alive," said Bob Heise, a reserve infielder for Boston. "Every time somebody scratched himself he got a pat on the back." Heise was alluding to the Sox' gung-ho response to a pep talk by Captain Carl Yastrzemski, who implored the Red Sox to whoop it up in the dugout. Yaz had scolded them for "the worst attitude I ever saw in spring training. If it keeps up, we'll finish last." It did not keep up, and the Sox advanced to first place, splitting a pair with the Brewers and taking two games from the Orioles. Giving the Bostonians something to holler about in their first game in Baltimore were Tony Conigliaro, who hit his first homer since 1971, and Yaz, whose 12th-inning blast made the Sox 6-5 winners. Doug Griffin poked a game-winning single in the 13th for a 3-2 win. The Orioles' only cheer came in their season opener, which they took 10-0 at Detroit on Jim Palmer's three-hitter and a three-run homer by Lee May in his first time up in a Baltimore uniform.