Philadelphia Daily News - April 12, 1980

1st Things 1st for Phils

 

By Bill Conlin

 

Larry Bowa gets sky-high for shopping mall appearances. He's the only guy in baseball who puts on a game face for a talk-show appearance.

 

Opening night? Forget it. Bowa is reduced to a lump of gooseflesh. a tank filled with adrenalin. High test.

 

"I hate openers." Bowa said last night after the Phillies and Steve Carlton hung a precise 6-3 defeat on a Montreal team that scattered like the four winds when the exhibition strike was called in Florida and showed every day of it. "I just get too keyed up."

 

Bowa wasn't the hero, unless you count the miniscule plays which when laid end-to-end in a 162-game season might be the difference between winning and losing the division by one game.

 

IF THIS WERE hockey, the three stars would be Carlton. Greg Luzinski and the fans who filled the Vet 48.460 strong. Hey. a special award goes to Kiteman III. who fluttered majestically out of the 600 level all the way to home plate, finally completing a 500-foot journey which consumed 10 years and two of his predecessors.

 

Carlton went nine in close to mid-season form, striking out six in a 118-pitch bit of professional pitching marred only by Gary Carter's two-run homer in the ninth.

 

The Bull started the festivities with a three-run first-inning homer of a 2-2 Steve Rogers pitch and set a Prallies record for Earliest Standing Ovation.

 

The fans, whom Bill Giles pessimistically predicted would number between 35,000 and 40,000, stormed the ticket windows all day and made themselves the second-biggest opening-day crowd in Vet history, topped only by the 1971 inaugural sellout. "Between Thursday and tonight we did 18,000 at the gate," Giles said. "For that. I give most of the credit to the weather."

 

So what did Bowa do that was special? Well, he made a fourth-inning error, ending a home streak of fielding perfection which dated back to Sept. 28, 1978. “I took the pressure off the official scorers," Bowa said. And he went 0-for-4 at bat.

 

IN THE FOURTH inning, however, the veteran shortstop demonstrated ' where Dallas Green was coming from during a fundamentals-oriented spring training where the Phillies made all the plays... all the plays.. all the plays... all the plays until they were blue in the face.

 

Bob Boone singled with one out. Bowa bounced into a force. Manny Trillo lined a single off the glove of leaping Rodney Scott and Bowa motored to third. Manny, expecting Ellis Valentine to challenge Bowa with a howitzer throw, made too wide a turn and was hung up when the rightfielder threw behind him to first baseman Warren Cromartie. Having blundered, it was Trillo's job with two outs to prolong the rundown, giving Bowa a chance to pick the moment and try to score, or at least confuse the Expos enough to let Manny scramble to second.

 

Cromartie. an inexperienced first baseman, was the key.

 

"If Cromartie fakes me, I'm dead," Bowa said. "As soon' as he took his arm back. I took off. If he had faked the throw back to Scott, then come to the plate, the inning's over. But that's a tough play for a left-handed first baseman to make. He's got to stop and pivot."

 

Scott's throw to Gary Carter was on time but.a little high. Bowa just got in with a tough slide that had Green hoping he wouldn't bust an ankle or tear up a knee. "Carter knocked bleep out of my shin." Bowa said. "If you make it, it's a good play. If you're out, it's dumb because you've got the pitcher leading off the next inning."

 

GREEN LOVED every inch of the play.

 

“Give Bowa credit for that," the manager said after the Phils first opening-night victory since 1974. "He did it just right. And once Manny got caught, what he did was the right thing to do. Bowa has to break just as somebody's releasing the ball and he timed it perfect."

 

The Expos have been sharper. Ironically, Rogers, the player rep who advised the Expos to boycott supervised workouts in Daytona Beach after the mini-strike was called, was hurt by his club's shabby fundamental play.

 

Cromartie put Carlton in a potential jam when he led off the fifth with a triple over Garry Maddox in center. Chris Speier bounced a bullet up the middle that was reflexed by Carlton. But Cromartie, who could have walked home if the ball got through, broke for the plate and was caught in a rundown, even though Carlton's first move was a look to first base.

 

Ron LeFlore singled in his first National League at bat The great base-stealer was promptly exposed to Carlton's baffling pickoff move. LeFlore broke for second and got such a great jump that the lefthander was still frozen in his kick like a whooping crane astride a tuft of swamp grass. Lefty calmly delivered the ball to Pete Rose, who threw LeFlore out.

 

AN ERROR BY Speier with one out in the seventh set the table for two unearned runs off righthanded reliever Stan Bahnsen.

 

"It was good to see we battled 'em," said Montreal Manager Dick Williams. "But we didn't play well. We had three walks that scored (Garry Maddox and Mike Schmidt ahead of Luzinski's homer. Rose after Speier's error). We had an error that scored and. a missed rundown that scored. That's five runs that came on base on balls and sloppy playing."

 

Rogers, who had his usual excellent stuff, was consistently behind in the count. "I was trying to get into some rhythm," he said. "Even Carlton, as good as he threw, had to find a little bit of rhythm. He got some guys out with runners in scoring position."

 

Carlton kept his good stuff for nine innings and Green says that even after a one-out double by Larry Parrish and Carter's 10th Vet career homer, he wasn't close to going to his bullpen.

 

"He was strong the whole way," Boone said. "And that doesn't surprise me at all. Montreal's a team you've got to change speeds on and move the ball around, but Lefty had an excellent fastball when we went to it."

 

The best news is that Larry Bowa survived another opener. Now that the fanfare is behind him, he can settle into his normal level of play. Which he will tone down, no doubt, to wild-eyed.

 

PHILUPS: Mayor Bill Green, who threw out the first ball, had the best line of the night. Spotting Phillie Phanatic, Dave Raymond, in the tunnel after the game, hizzoner said, "With your act you ought to be in (City) Council."

 

Garry Maddox made the defensive play of the game, flying into the alley in right-center to take extra bases away from Ron LeFlore. The ball popped out of his glove after Garry lunged for it and he made a barehanded retrieve.

 

Manny Trillo also turned in a dandy, going behind second to throw out swift Rodney Scott... Bake McBride, who continues to look terrific, lashed a pair of doubles. Pete Rose was 0-for-3, as was Mike Schmidt... Get it while you can, Saturday afternoon fans. Bill Lee goes against Dick Ruthven this afternoon in a significant start for the comebacking righthander. Unlike his confidence in Steve Carlton, Dallas Green does not expect Ruthven to go nine. It's Larry Christenson's turn under the microscope tomorrow. He'll go against Scott Sanderson...

 

Bill Giles credits the positive fan response – few boos, much enthusiasm – to responsible reaction to the exhibition strike on the part of Phillies players and management alike. "Paul Owens and Ruly Carpenter said the right things, Bob Boone and Larry Bowa said the right things," Giles said. "I think the fans realize that we have some unity on the ballclub. I think if the season had opened a week ago we would have been booed."

Luzinski’s Launching Is a Smash Hit

 

By Tom Cushman

 

Having been made privy to the house count, we are this morning able to report that there were 48,460 behinds wiping the dust from the seats at Veterans Stadium last night. From personal contact, I can assure you that the press box was a hot-bed, overflowing with the flower of Delaware Valley journalism.

 

Cameras whirred, ball points were poised to record any, and all, historical data, vendors bellowed, and there was absolutely no reason to anticipate that the opening game of a baseball season which has labor difficulties dangling from it like barnacles would offer a moment that seemed almost intimate.

 

Greg Luzinski and the Philadelphia fans provided us with one last evening. Hopefully, the season has not reached it apex... but the bet here is that come October, when we go rummaging back through the months that preceded, there will be few scenes to match this one for stark drama.

 

LUZINSKI, THE LAZARUS of the 79 season, met the jury at approximately 8:20. Two were out in the bottom of the first inning. Garry Maddox and Mike Schmidt were watching from the bases they occupied.

 

Bull had received a rousing ovation during the pre-game introductions. But then Kiteman also was cheered before departing his perch in the center-field bleachers, and we don't need a psychology professor to explain to us that what these folks really were applauding was the possibility that the Kiteman might make a three-point landing against the right field fence.

 

Kiteman, instead, glided to the turf near home plate, his appointed landing pad, and it immediately became obvious that we are in the midst of a successful season.

 

When the ball left Greg Luzinski's bat several minutes later, this idea was reinforced. The trajectory was familiar, even though the torso was not. Bull hit only 18 home runs in all of 1979, but – for those who remember better days – last night's slight miscue by the pitcher, the short stroke, the sudden parting of the South Philadelphia air, was reminiscent of a happier time.

 

IN OTHER WORDS, if, in the meantime, there had been a wall erected in medium left field this ball would have passed through it, the thickness and quality of the architecture would have being irrevelant. This shot would have roared right through the Kremlin.

 

"I've hit a lot of balls just as well," Greg Luzinski was to say later.

 

But none that felt better.

 

This was obvious as he toured the bases. Maddox and Schmidt were becoming official RBIs as Bull turned past third, slapping the palms of Coach Lee Elia. On the way home, he thrust his right fist into the air.

 

If you're one of the fellows who booed him last summer, you may have fielded that gesture with some question as to the intent. "I don't remember doing that.. I don't remember anything I did, really," Luzinski said to members of the media who had surrounded his locker in the clubhouse.

 

"You're gonna be spending a lot of time down there this summer," Pete Rose had advised us, as we were heading for Luzinski's stall.

 

For those who admire trim lines – what already has been written is true. The guy who was described last summer, judiciously, as overweight, suddenly looks like he has been sculptured. And Dallas Green sounds like a Hollywood director when he talks about it.

 

"I TOLD YOU I'd bet my house that Bull would have a helluva year," Green said, after becoming 1-0 as a manager-without-asterisk. "The first payment's down, and I couldn't be happier for him."

 

Dick Williams of the Montreal team mentioned that the new Luzinski reminded him very much of one he had seen earlier. "His bat definitely is quicker than it was last year," the manager of the Expos said. "(Steve) Rogers said he didn't get the ball where he wanted to – he wanted to go away, but got it inside – but for Luzinski it has to be a mental lift to go through all the work he did and then the first time at bat hit the ball nine miles."

 

Bull, never one for flowery embroidery, was nevertheless moved toward eloquence by last night's deed. "I guess you might fantasize something like this happening," he admitted at one point, "but I wasn't really thinking abut hitting a home run in that situation. I was trying to make contact, hit he ball up the middle, score a run. I'd have to say, the way it turned out, it was one of the greatest moments in my career.

 

"I mean, I knew my stroke wasn't where it should be last year. I lived with that, and with the fact that we had a long, bad season. When you're the center of things and you are when you're at the spot in the lineup thai 1 was everything looks back toward you.

 

"I WAS IN ANOTHER world by the time the season was over. Smitty had gone though same sort of thing the year before with the fans, but it was a whole new ball game to me. 1 had never had to deal with anything like that before, and and it was hard for me to cope with."

 

Luzinski went on admit that last evening was not like every other opening game, even before it began. "I had butterflies before the game," he said. "I worked so hard during the wintertime that it was impossible not to wonder what was gonna happen once we got started. 1 knew the pressure would be there, immediate I have no idea what's gonna happen tomorrow, but I feel a helluva lot better about everything right now."

 

Greg Luzinski's trip around the bases last night likely will be remembered more for the emotional displays than for his jogging style. Frank Shorter still does that better.

 

"The guy happened to throw me a pitch I could take out of the ballpark, and I just let my emotions go," Luzinski said. "All it means, really, is that I'm off to a good start, which is nothing unless I carry it on into the season. But it is the kind of start that can mean a lot... once I hit that ball the bubble burst and everything that was inside me came out."

 

IF THIS IS TRUE, those folks who were at the Vet last evening probably are fortunate there was not a microphone handy or they might be bleeding from the ears. After crossing the plate last night in the first inning of the Phillies' first game of what has been described as the put-up or shut-up season for this roster, Luzinski vanished into the dugout.

 

There followed an ovation which continued until he finally appeared on the steps of the dugout and tipped his cap. His part, by any estimate, was a brief interlude in the ceremony. "It wasn't fair for (Bob) Boone to have to stand there and wait while I sit in the dugout," Bull explained. "Besides, I've never really had anything against these people. Hopefully, what is past is now gonna be left in the past."

 

With this comment Bull went off to the showers, knowing in his heart that when you play in Philadelphia your status with the fans is never  any better than a truce, but that he has at least silenced his critics in the newspapers.

 

I mean, you know what kind of year it's gonna be for the Phillies when Greg Luzinski hits a three-run homer that almost becomes interstate commerce in the first inning, and celebrates two hours later by drinking a lite beer.

Home Run Payoff Has 1st Winners

 

Peg Weinberger and Lillian Rodriguez were the big winners in the first Daily News Home Run Payoff of the year last night.

 

Weinberger, of Roslyn, won $75 and four tickets when Bake McBride doubled and knocked in a run during the seventh inning of the Phillies-Expos game at Veterans Stadium. Rodriguez, of Philadelphia, took $25 and tickets on a Garry Maddox sacrifice fly RBI.

 

Ticket winners included J.G. Cooke, Harold Poland and Janet Lisa, all of Philadelphia, and John G. Fania, of Norristown.

 

 

You could be the next winner in the Home Run Payoff, just fill out and mail the entry coupon on Page 35.