California Manager Jim Fregosi and Pitching Coach Marv Grissom had just finished mapping out how they were going to win the West Division championship—that is, start Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan in 21 of the Angels' last 37 games—when Ryan suffered a separated rib in a game against Baltimore. Coming out of the game after striking out eight men in seven innings, Ryan's condition was serious enough to warrant the attention not only of California doctors Jules Rasinski and Lewis Yocum, but of a guest in owner Gene Autry's private box, Richard Nixon. "He was concerned about the problem," Ryan said after a conversation with Nixon. "The Angels have a superb come-from-behind record [23 victories] under Fregosi," Nixon told Ryan. "That bodes well for the future."
Despite a 2-3 week by California, the Royals (2-4) dropped half a game out of first place, mainly because their bats were both literally and figuratively sawed out of their hands. Kansas City scored only 15 runs all week with George Brett and Tom Poquette extending their hitless streaks to 0 for 16 and 0 for 21. As if that wasn't enough insult for one week, Hal McRae, who was on an 0-for-11 tear himself, had his bat impounded by Umpire Jerry Neudecker because the White Sox claimed it contained cork to give the ball more spring when McRae connects. In the umpires' room the next night a Sox maintenance man sawed McRae's favorite bat into six pieces. The verdict: no cork.
Texas (4-3) yo-yoed back up above .500 and was again talking about winning the division. The Rangers beat Kansas City twice, once on a grand-slam homer by Richie Zisk—one of three hit in the majors Friday night—and then again Saturday night as Dock Ellis recorded his ninth win.
It was not a pleasant week for Oakland (0-6) or its talented young righthander, Matt Keough. On Sunday, Keough was walking off the mound certain that he had struck out Boston's Jerry Remy to end a fifth-inning threat, only to have Umpire Ed Merrill rule that Remy had foul-tipped the ball. Since the A's catcher had not caught the pitch cleanly, that gave Remy another chance, and he promptly deposited a three-run homer in the rightfield seats to give the Red Sox a 4-2 victory. Then Saturday night against the Yankees, Keough thought he had Outfielder Gary Thomasson struck out in the third inning. Nope, said the third-base umpire upon appeal. Keough then walked Thomasson, putting runners on first and second. Bucky Dent sacrificed them to second and third, and Keough promptly threw two consecutive wild pitches to score both men. Manager Jack McKeon contributed to the A's miseries by oversubstituting in a game against the Orioles. Forced to use two outfielders and a catcher as infielders for the last two innings, McKeon watched Miguel Dilone, who hadn't played third base since the minor leagues, make two errors in the 10th to help lose the game 6-4.
Inconsistent as ever, the Twins followed a 9-2 surge by losing all seven games last week. The losses were harder to take than usual because in three of them ex-Twins now with Toronto—Alvis Woods, Luis Gomez and Dave McKay—had a hand in beating their old club. Woods had four hits in the first Blue Jay win and drove in four runs in the next one. Gomez had three hits in the third, which McKay ultimately won with a home run in the bottom of the 10th. Another Minnesota defeat came when Texas' Steve Comer, a University of Minnesota star who grew up only a few miles from Metropolitan Stadium, shut out the Twins on six hits. Minnesota failed to draft Comer despite a 30-9 record in college, so he signed with the Rangers as a free agent.
Going nowhere, the White Sox (3-3) had some fun knocking the Royals out of first place. Lefty Ken Kravec did the job one night, 3-0, with a walk-free four-hitter, as Claudell Washington singled in two runs. Chicago won again 4-1 when Eric Soderholm drove in three runs with a pair of doubles to give rookie righthander Mike Proly his second victory in a row.
Seattle (3-2) also played spoiler, taking two from Boston. Glenn Abbott won 5-2, out-dueling Luis Tiant with a five-hitter.
CAL 70-60 KC 68-59 TEX 64-63 OAK 62-69 MINN 56-74 CHI 54-73 SEA 49-79