Camden Courier-Post - April 11, 1980

Mural debate dims Phils' bow


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – Another opening, another no.


Kiteman says, yes, he'll fly despite the tricky downdrafts at Veterans Stadium.


Garry Maddox says, yes, he'll put his rapidly-improving contract negotiations with the Phillies aside and patrol center field with vigor.


Steve Carlton doesn't say anything. Still, you can bet the rent he can't wait to throw the first pitch of the 1980 baseball season against righthander Steve Rogers and the Montreal Expos.


NOW, YOU would think with all that confirmation, affirmation and excitation coming to a boil at 8:05 this evening, everything would come off without a hitch. You'd think that. But, noooooooooo!


Montreal Manager Dick Williams took one look at the dandy new mural of the Philadelphia skyline recently painted on the backdrop behind the center field fence at the Vet and began grumbling something about officially protesting the season opener.


It seems that during the Expos' Thursday afternoon workout at the stadium, a number of Montreal hitters complained during batting practice that when the pitcher threw the ball, it got lost in the bottom part of the lovely, light blue rendering of Independence Hall.


WHEN WORD of the threatened reaction by Williams reached the ears of promotions wizard Bill Giles, the Phils' vice president ordered the offending portion of the painting retouched in a darker blue.


"No problem now," said Phils' slugger Greg Luzinski last evening as he and his teammates went about the business of strutting their stuff before several thousand fans who showed up to watch the free-bee practice.


Whether the latest artwork meets with the approval of critic Williams remains to be seen this evening. But, it's hard to imagine him doing anything besides begging the umpires to get things underway.


MONTREAL BEAT the Phils the first eight times the two teams met last season, the Expos winding up with an 11-7 record against the Phils for the campaign and a 5-4 edge at the Vet.


Then, there is the fact that not since 1974 have the Phils won a season-opener that was played in their home ballpark. On home openers, in the past nine years they've posted a 4-5 record.


The Phils, who will be unveiling a completely-revised bench and two new coaches (Ruben Amaro at first and Lee Elia at third) on the basepaths, think there is no time like the present to start changing those numbers.


THEY WILL have eight players in uniform who weren't on the opening-day roster last season, including rookies Scott Munninghoff, Keith Moreland, Lonnie Smith, Luis Aguayo and George Vukovich.


One veteran who has seen his share of opening days with the Phils, center fielder Maddox, is hoping this won't be his last.


"I like it here and so does my family," he said. "I want to stay in Philly because everything's been done for me here. I've been treated fairly by the organization. I've had another place (San Francisco) to compare it too. And, I like it here."


MADDOX DOESNT think the contract negotiations between his agent, Jerry Kapstein, and Phils General Manager Paul Owens will result in an agreement before Kiteman takes the plunge.


"I am optimistic, however," said Garry. "They came up because we came down first. Plus, we've lifted the deadline about not negotiating once the season started.


"I did that because we're close enough to make me feel that maybe we can work something out. Negotiations have been intense and in good faith."


MADDOX ADMITTED even if the Phils agreed to the price he was currently seeking, he would not become the highest paid member of the team. It had been speculated that at one time Garry was seeking as high as 900,000 per season.


"No, I don't want $800,000 (Pete Rose's . figure)... I'd take $700,000, but it's not even that," said Maddox. "That's what I can't understand. They tell me that what I'm asking is reasonable. But, they won't give it to me."


Reasonable, of course, depends on where you're standing. It's reasonably certain that Maddox would get at least $700,000 per year if he went into the free agent draft. The Phils, however, are finished paying those inflated prices.


"THEY CHOSE to draw the line," said Garry. "I realize I'm going to have to go into the season without a contract and with the possibility that I might be traded.


"There's no question, however, that if these talks don't lead to a settlement, that will be it."


In the meantime, there are the Montreal Expos to consider. They have hit the most home runs of any team visiting the Vet in the past two years. Which is ironic, since the stadium has as part of the center field mural a new fireworks display.


SOMETIME during the weekend, it's bound to be tested.


Tomorrow's game, incidentally, will start at 1:15 and feature Dick Ruthven against Montreal's spaceman Bill Lee. The conclusion of the three-game series will have Larry Christenson facing Expos Scott Sanderson. Then, it's off to St. Louis for the Phils.