Camden Courier-Post - April 12, 1980
Phils rip Expos in opener
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Season-opening games traditionally have not gone well for the Phillies. Ever since 1974, when they last won an opener, it seemed the Phils wanted only to get that first game out of the way before getting on with the next 161.
"I hate," smiled shortstop Larry Bowa, "opening games. I get too keyed up for them."
Well, Bowa and his teammates managed to relax long enough last night to make a clean break with their opening-game tradition, running over the confused Montreal Expos, 6-3, before 48,460 fans in Veterans Stadium.
The opening-night victory – as unusual as it was – featured such Phillie rarities as an error by Bowa, someone other than Tim McCarver catching Steve Carlton, a walk by Garry Maddox and cheers for Greg Luzinski.
The latter events happen to be related. Maddox, hitting third in Manager Dallas Green's revamped lineup, drew a two-out walk off Steve Rogers in the first inning. Last year, Maddox made not taking ball four an art form, walking only 17 times all year.
But, this being the first game of a new baseball season, Maddox watched a 3-2 pitch fall inside, catching Rogers so off guard that the Expo righthander promptly waked Mike Schmidt on four pitches.
That brought up Luzinski, who perhaps typifies the changes the Phillies have undergone since Green became their manager last August. The Bull, who spent his time last year listening to boos and looking for a batting stroke lost somewhere between a leg injury and a weight problem, rocketed a 2-2 pitch into the left field seats for a three-run home run that all but decided the game.
It was an emotional moment for Luzinski, who thrust his fist triumphantly into the air as he rounded third. After going through the frustration of last season, after losing more than 20 pounds during a winter of intense conditioning, the homer was nothing short of vindication.
"During training camp I was going good, but it was important for me to see some results," said Luzinski, who was called from the dugout to tip his cap by an ovation that was as warmly sincere as the boos were coldly calculated. "It was a long winter and it paid off. That's why I got emotional. I wasn't trying to show up Steve Rogers... If you fantasized it, you couldn't get off to a better start."
Just as important as the return of Luzinski's home run stroke – he had not hit a homer since last Aug. 11 – was the aggressiveness with which the Phillies played.
"Last year," said Bowa, "It seemed like we waited for Bull and Schmitty to hit home runs. They can't carry a team all year."
Bowa stole a run for the Phillies in the fourth, going from first to third on a Manny Trillo single to right and scoring when the Expos botched a rundown.
"If I'd gotten thrown out it would've been a bad play because Lefty (Carlton) is leading off the next inning." said Bowa. "If I make it, it's a good play."
Bowa had forced Bob Boone – who did, indeed, catch Carlton – at second for the second out of the inning before Trillo singled for his second hit of the game.
The Expos alertly caught Trillo between first and second and seemed to have him captured for the third out. But Bowa broke for the plate, just sliding under catcher Gary Carter's lunging tag.
Montreal's play presented a sharp contrast to that of the Phillies. The Expos made a couple of errors of commission as well as some mental errors of omission. Indeed, the Expos appeared for all the world like a team that had missed the last 10 days of spring training. Which, of course, they did because of the strike called by the Players Association.
Not so with the Phillies. They remained in camp for informal workouts despite the strike and Luzinski, for one, thinks that was the difference between the two teams.
"We stayed together during the strike of the exhibition games and I think that helped us," he said.
It also helped that Carlton was, well, Carlton. The lefthander needed only 119 pitches to cruise past the Expos, going into the ninth with a 6-1 lead before relinquishing a two-run homer to Carter.
"That," said Green, "is a comfortable game for Lefty. When you get pitching like that, it's a no-brain thing. You just sit back and watch. His location was so good I think there were only two or three times when he made a mistake – that's pretty good for where we are right now."
Where the Phillies are right now is one solid win ahead of the pace they set for themselves the previous five years.
PHIL-UPS – Bowa's error was his first in the Vet since Sept. 26, 1978... He went all of last season without an error at borne... Luzinski's homer was his 205th career, placing him fifth on the Phillies' all-time list... Crowd was second largest ever to see a home opener, exceeded only by 55,352 attending first Vet game in 1971.
Bull’s poke ends feud with fans
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Just the thought of stepping out of the Phillies' dugout filled Greg Luzinski's stomach with butterflies, while Kite-man couldn't wait to jump off the upper deck in center field.
That's got to tell you something about the state of affairs at Veterans Stadium last night, when the Phillies opened their season not knowing if they were going to be the guests of honor at a lynching or a picnic.
What it turned out to be was a baseball baptismal that washed away the sins of 1979 and turned 48,460 fans into born-again Luzinski fans.
The Bull, a new man in both body and spirit, preached a sermon of forgive and forget, smiting the demon Expos with a three-run home run in his first trip to the plate.
"I went through hell last year." testified the slim, trim left fielder from his new locker location. "And, it affected me."
Sad but true. Big Greg still harbored bitterness in his heart the other day when he showed up for batting practice and several thousand onlookers called his name.
Not looking left or right, Luzinski marched solemnly to the cage and muttered to himself. He would not give those fickle people a chance to hurt him again.
But, gladness descended upon him when he applied his rejuvenated batting stroke to a 2-2 pitch of Expos' pitcher Steve Rogers. So much so that when he approached third base amid a vocal shower of approval, Luzinski did what he'd done only one other time in his even-tempered career. He reacted.
His meaty fist and powerful right arm shot into the air in a rare show of emotion that almost lifted him off the ground. Coach Lee Elia asked for "five" hand received a jackhammer of gladness that will surely have him shaking hands with timidity for weeks to come.
Not since the division-clinching victory of 1978 has Luzinski allowed his joy to flow so blatantly. "I wasn't trying to show up their pitcher," he said almost apologetically. "In fact, I don't even remember doing it."
What he did remember was the standing ovation that followed, a typical "we love vou for the moment" kind of display that Bull believed he could never acknowledge again. For his pain ran too deep.
"I guess no one can turn these fans around (emotionally) faster than I can," he said with a smile. "But, up until last season I'd never been booed. It was tough for me to cope with that."
Yet somehow, the magic of the moment seemed to purify his heart. He heard the crowd and he stepped out to show them what he felt.
"No question about it," he said. "When I came back out of the dugout, that put it all behind me. It (the unspoken feud) was now in the past."
It was as if the night itself was an omen, beginning with the almost-classic flight of Kiteman III, who appeased the failures of his two predecessors and showed that even in the nest of boo-birds perseverance can overcome a tradition of disappointment.
"I knew if there was a tailwind, I could have taken a 100-foot drop. The wrong wind made it a dangerous stunt," said T.J. Dailey of Cypress Garden, Fla.
"But. when I was ready to go. the wind stopped completely and I knew I had it wired."
The Phillies, paced by a nine-inning performance by lefthander Steve Carlton, acted the same way in their 6-3 victory over Montreal.
Hustle by Manny Trillo and Larry Bowa on the basepaths provided a run. Garry Maddox did the usual by making a super catch and did the unusual by walking his first time up.
Yet, it was Luzinski who owned the first game of a season he vowed to make his own. In his words, "I went through hell and worked like hell to get here. To see the results of that the first time up, it's hard to explain what it means to me. It all built up inside of me. The bubble burst. I feel great."
Manager Dallas Green grinned wide. "I told you I'd bet my house that Bull would have a helluva year," he said. "The first payment is down."
Amen and hallelujah. Pittsburgh may have family, but the Phillies got a congregation. And last night, brother Luzinski had 'em rolling in the aisles.