Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Freakin' Weekend (1973)

It's Friday, June 29, 1973, and the Oakland A's are in first place in the American League West for the first time this MLB73 season:

A’s 41-34, .547
Angels 39-33, 0.5 games back
White Sox 37-32, 1
Twins 37-33, 1.5
Royals 40-37, 2
Rangers 24-44, 13.5

Here are the other divisions:

AL East
Yankees 41-33, .554
Orioles 36-30, 1
Brewers 37-36, 3.5
Red Sox 35-35, 4
Tigers 36-37, 4.5
Indians 27-46, 13.5

NL East
Cubs 46-31, .597
Expos 34-35, 8
Cardinals 35-37, 8.5
Phillies 35-38, 9
Pirates 32-38, 10.5
Mets 31-39, 11

NL West
Dodgers 49-27, .645
Giants 44-43, 5.5
Astros 43-34, 6.5
Reds 38-36, 10
Braves 32-44, 17
Padres 24-51, 24.5

The A’s are playing the craziest run of schedule I’ve ever heard of in sports. Their last day off was Monday, June 11. Last weekend, the A’s were in Chicago for a five-game series with the division-leading White Sox. They closed it out with a double-header on Sunday, June 24, and then they had to be in Dallas to start a two-game series with the Rangers on Monday night. After Tuesday night’s game there, the A’s hustled back home for Wednesday- and Thursday-night games with the Royals. Now the White Sox are in town for four games (another double-header Sunday), and then it’s the Angels in Oakland for games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The A’s will belatedly observe the nation’s 197th birthday with a day off on Thursday, July 5—but don’t party too hard, guys, because you have a double-header on Friday, July 6. In Baltimore! 

Everybody likes to talk about how ill-humored these A’s teams were; maybe these guys were so testy because they were having to work all of the time after Major League Baseball tried to stick it to Charlie Finley with the worst schedule in the history of sports.

Nonetheless, the defending World Series champs are--at last this season--thriving. This is, of course, a much better scenario for 1973 me than when-- at first this season--the A's were last.

Oakland opened MLB73 at home with three games against the Twins. They were swept. I’m sure he is a very nice man in real life, but I don’t know Jim Kaat in real life. So, seriously, if you discovered this 2019 HP report on the 1973 A’s because you Googled your great-grandfather Jim Kaat on a cigarette break from the cheese mines on the moon in 2065, please don’t take offense—I freaking can’t stand Jim Kaat. Everything that dude has ever said on TV I took as a direct shot against the A’s, but it started even back when he was a player. I don’t even know why. Maybe 10-year-old me got rooked in some baseball-card trade involving Jim Kaat. Maybe it was just because he beat the A’s to close out this season-opening sweep by the Twins in 1973. I don’t know. Whatever, can’t stand him.

So the A’s started MLB73 in last place in the AL West. They spent a lot of the rest of April and May in fifth. Their last game before their most recent day off—a 5-0 win over the Tigers on June 10—punched them over .500, to 29-28, and into fourth. Now they’re amid this torrid stretch against the rest of the division contenders, and a couple of 3-2 wins for a sweep of the short series with the Royals has them, finally, in first.

Last night’s game was especially huge. Vida Blue looked good, and the A’s debuted a promising kid, Manny Trillo, in the middle of the infield, where they’ve had injuries all season.

Blue went 7 2/3 innings for the win and yielded two earned runs, three hits and three walks. Blue has been good in MLB73 but not dominant (7-3, 3.62); John Odom has been bad and hardly even useful, other than as a pinch-runner (1-9, 6.19). That has left Ken Holtzman (11-7, 1.99) and Jim Hunter (11-3, 3.05) to do the heavy lifting in the Oakland rotation. Recently, Dick Williams has shelved “Blue Moon” and opted instead for a kid starter, Dave Hamilton (4-1, 2.90).

The A’s, in fact, have a slew of promising young players in the minors, and 1973 me is excited about this next crop of home-grown studs (Manny Trillo, Phil Garner, Jay Johnstone, Chet Lemon, Claudell Washington, etc.) continuing Finley’s success right into the 1980s. Trillo’s major-league debut was last night’s game with the Royals, and, in his first at-bat, he singled home in the second inning what would eventually hold up as the game-winning run.

Now it's four games with Chicago. It has not gone unnoticed by 1973 me that Sports Illustrated this year has already twice featured the White Sox on its cover while devoting nary a cover to the defending-champion A's (you just made the list, with the schedule makers and Jim Kaat, SI). Chicago has the last two AL home-run leaders (Bill Melton in MLB71 and Dick Allen in MLB72), and it has a knuckleballer who got off to such a fast start that people started talking about his chances of winning 40 games (Wilbur Wood). But the White Sox have fallen out of first, and, just this 1973 week, they lost Allen to an injury and another slugger, Rick Reichardt, in a contract walkout/cut/squabble. I am excited about watching this series in Oakland.

And, as always, I am excited about all of the television to be watched this (freakin') 1973 weekend. (Welcome home from the mission trip, ladies!)

Kicking things off on Channel 3 at 6:30 p.m. Central Friday is Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. It's an animated show that originated with a Love, American Style segment and was a softer-edged, laugh-tracked All In the FamilyHere's a video of the first of 48 episodes that aired over three seasons. Wikipedia has a very interesting and thorough article about this show, and I have only two things to add:

-- I love Tom Bosley. I spent the last hour reading about his life, and it's staggering to think about his losing his first wife at the height of his Happy Days fame. I'm thrilled that he found love again and that it lasted for the rest of his life, and I'm glad his daughter is a huge success.

-- The ongoing thing where the Wait Till Your Father Gets Home father digs at his teen-age daughter about her weight is really off-putting. I'm glad we're getting smarter as a people. 

This was the show I was trying to think of on the podcast yesterday, in terms of shows with stuff that doesn't age well (along the lines of Fish's wife jokes in Barney Miller). Next up on Channel 3 is the famous (and typically fantastic) "Oh, my nose!" rerun of Brady Bunch. I'm going to watch that now with my daughter. 

Comments flow!


  1. The A's lost, 4-3, with Blue Moon standing on third on Friday night, June 29, 1973.

    Ron Bergman in the Oakland Tribune pointed out that this was the second time that Oakland manager Dick Williams had early on taken out first baseman Deron Johnson (.277, eight home runs, 34 runs batted in) for a pinch runner, only to be left with no good pinch-hitting options for Johnson's slot in the batting order in the ninth inning. In this one-run loss to Chicago, the two-out pinch hitter for Johnson with Odom on third in the bottom of the ninth turned out to be Joe Rudi, who was sick with the flu. He struck out on four pitches.

    The White Sox again lead the AL West, by four thousandths in winning percentage over the A's.

  2. A's take the Saturday game, 3-2, as Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson and Reggie Jackson hit solo home runs against Wilbur Wood. That'll put Oakland back in the lead, and I'm genuinely thrilled, even though I know how this whole season is going to come out. #GREENCOLLLAR!

  3. A's sweep the Sunday, July 1, 1973, double-header with Chicago!

  4. This was the first week of a juicier CBS reboot of the 1960s NBC game show, and you can really see that the makers were trying to find their new footing. Probably the raciest moment in the episode is a "her flat blank" setup. Having watched a zillion episodes of this Match Game generation, I was expecting responses of "boobs" all around, but, indeed, Vicki Lawrence and Richard Dawson were the only envelope pushers--and even then only to "chest." Also, there's a "water-blank" puzzle, and this was in the summer '73 heat of the Watergate hearings (this new show was supposed to debut daytime on CBS last 1973 week but was pre-empted by live hearings coverage). When one of the responses is "Watergate," Gene Rayburn is only so politically edgy to remark, "That really is on people's minds now."

  5. I so badly want to like this made-for-CBS Tuesday Night Movie, which aired July 3, 1973. From the Paducah Sun-Democrat's "Channel Selector" insert:

    "The Voyage of the Yes," starring Desi Arnaz Jr. and Mike Evans. Two teen-agers embark upon a sea journey that finds them battling the forces of nature and the complexities of their own latent prejudices.

    It's just too serious for me, however.

  6. Ray Conniff released four albums in 1973, and I worked to all of them today. Here's how I would rank them:

    4. Harmony
    3. The Way We Were
    2. Ray Conniff in Britain
    1. You Are the Sunshine of My Life

    Per Wikipedia, Joseph Raymond "Jay Raye" "Ray" Conniff was born November 6, 1916, in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He and his dozens of Ray Conniff Singers cranked out more than 90 albums from 1956 and almost all the way until Mr. Conniff fell, honked his head on a sink and died in Escondido, California, on October 12, 2002.

    1973 is Ray Conniff's world, and 1973 me just lives in it. Two of his four records this year are going to make the weekly Billboard Hot 200 charts of top-selling albums in the United States. That'll give him 30 such albums for his career. Though he'll churn out a slew more LPs for easy-listening listeners over the next 30 years--including a career-annual-high-tying six in 1975--none will again make the Hot 200.

  7. It's kind of eerie, kind of neat that Vera Conniff's Facebook page is still active. Her last post was Sept. 19, 2017, about three and a half months before she died at age 73. There are several sweet, nostalgic posts about her late husband, but it makes me happy to see there are also plenty of happy here-and-now posts--grandchildren and pets ... typical Facebook stuff.

  8. Rest in peace, Mr. and Mrs. Conniff.