It was 5 a.m. on Monday when Richie Hebner of Philadelphia finally fell into bed after a flight home from San Diego, where the Phillies had concluded a 1-6 road trip. After only three hours' sleep, Hebner's phone rang, making him feel as if he had been awakened from the dead. The caller was his father, a gravedigger in Norwood, Mass. "What's going on with you guys?" Hebner's dad inquired. "Haven't you got anything better to do?" replied Richie. "Sure, I've got three burials this morning," the elder Hebner said, "but I was wondering what was going on down there. Even the pallbearers are giving me a hard time about the Phillies." What was going on was that second-place Philadelphia had scored only eight runs in its previous five games and had dug itself into a 2�-game hole behind the Cubs. Later on Monday, an open date for the Phillies, Hebner was on his way to pick up teammate Greg Luzinski for a round of golf when his car overheated and stalled on a busy highway. "There must have been 20 people behind me honking their horns," Hebner said. One disgruntled motorist yelled at him, "You Phillies can't do anything right these days."
Before the week was over, the Phillies (4-2) were running smoothly again and reclaimed first place. Having lost eight of nine previous games, they began a four-game winning streak when Steve Carlton beat St. Louis 2-1. Larry Bowa scored the decisive run with daring base running in the fourth inning. Bowa was on second when Luzinski hit a grounder to the right of Cardinal Shortstop Garry Templeton. Aware that Templeton is a poor fielder, Bowa said he had decided "if the ball's hit to his right, I'm going." Go he did, in violation of one of baseball's most revered base-running laws. Templeton fielded the ball, started to throw to third, changed his mind and pegged the ball past first base for his 21st error of the season, while Bowa scored.
The Phillies next swept a doubleheader from the Cubs, winning each game 6-1. Dick Ruthven won for the first time since being reacquired from the Braves on June 15. Philadelphia stole six bases in the twin bill, including one in each game by the lumbering Luzinski. Then they made it three in a row over Chicago, Jim Kaat winning 6-2 as he singled home one run and scored another. He was backed by Mike Schmidt's 11th homer.
For Chicago (1-6), the fizzle in Philadelphia was only one of many woes. Rick Reuschel, who has an 8-4 record and leads the league's starters with a 2.07 ERA, was out with a strained elbow; Ken Holtzman was shelled in his two starts since returning to Chicago; leading hitter Bill Buckner was disabled with a pulled groin; and Steve Ontiveros, a .299 batter last season, was sidelined with a sore shoulder and a sickly .215 average. A three-run 10th, in which Larry Biittner drove in the go-ahead run and Manny Trillo doubled home a pair, zapped Pittsburgh 6-4.
Although he held a 2-0 lead over New York, Hal Dues of Montreal (3-3) was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh. Dues, a .154 batter, was not upset, saying, "I can't hit. Why don't they teach us to hit in the minors? They don't even teach us how to bunt." Mike Garman finished up the 2-0 two-hitter for Dues. One pitcher who knew how to hit was Steve Rogers (8-7, 2.25 ERA), who singled twice, drove in a run and trimmed the Mets 2-1 in a rain-curtailed, seven-inning game. Woodie Fryman, Darold Knowles and Garman combined for a 2-0 win in St. Louis during which Tony Perez slammed his fifth double of the week. For Perez, who has never had more than 33 two-baggers in a season, it was his 13th in 17 games and tied him with Ted Simmons of St. Louis for the major league lead with 23. Most of the rest of the Expos' right-handed hitters—there are usually seven in the lineup—hit feebly, as the Expos, who did not face a lefthanded pitcher, batted .228. Wayne Garrett and Del Unser, lefthanded hitters obtained in a 1976 deal with the Mets, defeated their former team 2-0, with Garrett homering and Unser singling in the other run.
Another former Met, John Milner, carried the Pirates (3-3) to a 7-4 win in New York with a single, two doubles and a grand slam. Milner's big blast came in the 12th after Omar Moreno had broken a 2-2 tie with a single. Pittsburgh sidetracked Chicago 6-1 behind the pitching of Bert Blyleven and 2-1 as Frank Taveras made John Candelaria a winner with a two-out RBI single in the ninth. Last season's batting champ, Dave Parker, raised his average to .307 with a .391 week.
It took some doing, but the light-hitting Mets (2-5), who batted .216, salvaged two wins. A four-hitter by Nino Espinosa beat Montreal 3-0, and Tim Foli's bases-loaded single in the 11th defeated Pittsburgh 3-2.
Sounding off in much the same manner as his San Diego counterpart, Ray Kroc, had a week earlier, St. Louis owner Gussie Busch said, "I am getting damn mad.... Management does not pay salaries to supposedly quality players for constant mental errors, for a loose and carefree attitude.... If we don't get going, we may make changes, starting from the top and going all the way down to the bat boys." How did the Cardinals respond to that indictment? Reliever Mark Littell said, " Mr. Busch has been an awfully successful businessman. I'd like to sit down and talk to him regarding investments." Littell helped his own stock when he struck out five Expos in 2? innings as he wrapped up an 8-4 win a few hours after Busch's verbal barrage.
PHIL 35-29 CHI 35-31 MONT 36-34 PITT 31-34 NY 31-41 ST.L 25-45