Since 1969, when the American and National Leagues split into two divisions, no big league team has won a title while finishing last in home runs. The St. Louis Cardinals, with only 59 home runs, hope to break that record this year. Prior to this format change, the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers, who were last in home runs with 78, rode into the World Series on the pitching arms of Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, and Claude Osteen. Drysdale, Koufax, and Osteen also accounted for all four Dodger victories over the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, Sandy winning both the fifth and seventh games.
Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken's solid play since the July All-Star break has catapulted him past Minnesota's Kent Hrbek in the race for American League Rookie of the Year. Ripken, who has good power at the plate and good hands in the field, should finish the season with close to 95 runs batted in. Other AL rookies who have had outstanding years beside Ripken and Hrbek, include: Detroit's Glenn Wilson and Jerry Ujdur, Seattle's Ed Vande Berg; Boston's Wade Boggs; Cleveland's Von Hayes, Texas' Dave Hostetler, and Minnesota's Tom Brunansky and Gary Gaetti. . .Baseball's rumor bus right now is exceeding the 55 m.p.h. speed limit with tales like the following: San Francisco's Joe Morgan to the Houston Astros next season as player-manager; Don Baylor from the California Angels to the Texas Rangers via the free agent route; Yankees Willie Randolph and Ken Griffey to the San Diego Padres for Sixto Lezcano and a young pitcher.
Baseball's two most disappointing favorites this year were the New York Yankees and the Montreal Expos. The Yankees never did overcome their internal problems, while the Expos committed the cardinal mistake of seldom winning a series in their own ballpark. . .Knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough of the Texas Rangers, whose previous big league high was 12 victories with the 1976 Dodgers, recently won his 15th for the Rangers and has 11 complete games on the season.
Eleven of pitcher Fernando Valenzuela's 19 victories have come after a Dodger defeat. Valenzuela is also one of the main reasons Los Angeles has already had 40 sellouts this season en route to a new major league attendance record that projects to about 3.6 million customers. . .When Lance Parrish of the Detroit Tigers hit his 29th home run recently against the Boston Red Sox, it left him only one behind the American League's single-season record for catchers. This mark is held jointly by Yogi Berra and Gus Triandos. . .If the Tigers only had a bullpen, they might have made things a lot tougher for Milwaukee and Baltimore in the A. L. East . . . Left fielder Brian Downing of the Angels has now played 189 consecutive errorless games over a two year period, only 53 shy of Al Kaline's American League record. Downing also has six leadoff home runs for the Angels this season, impressive but still five behind Bobby Bonds' major league mark.