Philadelphia Inquirer - April 12, 1980
How’s this for openers? Luzinski starts off with a dream come true
By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer
Maybe such a thought came to him as he sat in his South Jersey home one night last winter. Maybe Greg Luzinski imagined hitting such a home run for the fickle fans at the Vet.
If so, the dream came true last night. It was the proverbial turnaround story.
"I guess if you would fantasize," he said, "that would be 'Fantasy Island' right there."
But Luzinski - didn't dare dream such a dream. "Believe me," he said, "I wasn't trying to hit a homer in that situation. I was just trying to get the run in."
He drove in three with one swing, however, pointing the Phillies toward their 6-3 opening-night win over the Montreal Expos. Luzinski hammered an inside slider (that, he said, "didn't move") from Steve Rogers under the clock in left field for a three-run homer in his first turn at bat in the Phils' first inning of 1980. It was a 2-2 pitch, with Garry Maddox and Mike Schmidt on base after walking.
And it was a kind of poetic justice, if not a fantasy come true, for Luzinski, the fans' whipping boy last season as he endured a bad season at the plate and in the outfield, as he heard all the talk about his weight and, of course, the boos.
"He worked so hard to get that weight off," Bob Boone said after the game. "This year is very important to him. So for him to respond in the normal Bull way well, I'm just really pleased for him."
Luzinski did not respond to his homer in the usual Phillie way. He let his emotions spill out, raising a clenched fist and almost ripping off the extended hand of third-base coach Lee Elia. Luzinski didn't remember doing any of this.
"I couldn't tell you what I did. I was in another world," he told the first crush of reporters.
"I thought all winter about how people had reacted (last year). And the bubble burst, I guess. But I couldn't tell you what I did," he told another group as it pressed around him.
But he knew what the 48,000-plus fans had done. He heard, saw and probably felt the standing ovation. The folks who had booed him were demanding an Orioles-style curtain call, a quick appearance out of the dugout, and he gave it to them.
"Well, Boonie (at the plate) was waiting," the Bull said, "and I've never had anything against those people."
"I thought that ovation was for me," Boone joked later. "I just wanted the noise to die down."
But the noise had to be music to Luzinski's ears after the chorus of boos in 1979, when he hit .252 with 18-home runs and often looked lost in the field.
"No question," he said last night, "I went through hell, more or less, out there last year. The boos affected me. I had butterflies before the game. And the bubble burst, on that 2-2. pitch. It was a great feeling for me.
"I just let my emotions go, I guess. I wasn't trying to show up Steve Rogers and the Expos. But I worked so hard all winter to come back and help this club. And then the first time up, I hit a home run. It's hard to explain the feeling."
Luzinski's offseason regimen may soon become legend. Limiting himself to one meal a day, he dropped 20 pounds, from about 235 to 215. He worked hard to shorten his batting stroke with coach Billy DeMars. He switched from contact lenses to glasses. He was the "New Bull" in Clearwater.
"I told you I'd bet my house that Bull would have a hell of a year," Dallas Green said after the opener. "That's not a bad start. The first payment is down."
"No question," Luzinski said, "Dallas is in my corner. He's got a lot of confidence in my ability. And I just feel good. My swing is shorter. I'm hitting balls to all fields. I feel like I'm in a groove. And if I'm out of it, I know I can work to get it back."
It's almost enough to make you forget the ball that bounded past Luzinski in the left-field corner for an Ellis Valentine triple in the sixth inning. Some fans didn't forget 1979, however. They booed.
"I guess," Luzinski sighed later, no bitterness in his voice, "I'm the only one on this team that can turn the people around like that."
Phillies to play by Green’s set of rules – or else
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
Opening night at Veterans Stadium….
For some, it was just another in a long list of opening nights. Nothing new. Nothing special.
For others, it was the most special of nights.
For Tim McCarver, it was the first opening night out of a big league uniform since 1962.
For six Phillies – Keith Moreland, Dickie Noles, Kevin Saucier, Luis Aguayo, George Vukovich and Scott Munninghoff – it was the first opening night in a big league uniform in their lives, and they were caught up in the excitement.
"It's like the first time you walked when you were a kid," Noles said.
"It's like starting all over," said Moreland.
But if you were looking for somebody to whom last night's Phillies-Expos opener was extra special, there was no need to look beyond the manager's office in the home clubhouse. For Dallas Green, beginning the second quarter century of a professional baseball career that got started in towns many of us never heard of, pinpoints on the map called Reidsville and Mattoon and Thomasville, this was the most special opening night of all.
"You try to put it in perspective, the manager of the Phillies said, "but let's face it. It's a big night, for me personally and I think something special for my family."
And something a little bit different for his team.
Green had spent the entire spring training period trying to mold this team in a new image, trying to create a new, no-nonsense attitude, Yesterday, his first order of business was to let his players know he would not tolerate any change in attitude here.
Minutes after he arrived at his office, five hours before the new season's first pitch was thrown, Green had assistant clubhouse manager Pete Cera deliver a mimeographed sheet of rules to each player.
If the members of the 1980 Phillies needed one, final reminder that they were playing for a hard-nosed guy named Dallas Green, not a softie named Danny Ozark, those mimeographed sheets provided it.
There was a dress code, and a rule against drinking alcoholic beverages on the plane "unless authorized by the manager," and curfews – 1 a.m. after day games, 2 a.m. after night games.
There was also this strongly worded warning: "Any player acting unprofessionally, or who embarrasses me or the organization, will be fined at my discretion."
And that wasn't all.
Under the heading, "Field Rules," Green decreed that no player was to leave the clubhouse "until the game has been completed, unless permission (is) given."
Also, he put into writing the card-playing ban that Ozark put into words a year ago and that the players largely ignored.
"No card games," Green ordered, "when pitchers start hitting (i.e., taking batting practice) at home, and when the bus arrives on the road."
On at least one occasion last season, a member of the organization walked in the clubhouse before a game, saw a card game going full blast, and asked Ozark why he didn't say something about it. Danny's reason was simple. One of the men gathered around the card table was Ruly Carpenter, the owner.
Reading that mimeographed sheet, you got the-feeling Dallas Green would break up a card game, no matter who was standing there.
"All players take infield practice every day until further notice," the list of field rules went on.
And then there was this final order, complete with asterisk: "All children must be off the field and out of the dugouts when our work begins each day."
The new era had begun. "I go back to what I told the team," the tall, rather imposing figure sitting behind the manager's desk said. "I think we have great ability. We've proven in the past we can win. We've also proven we haven't won the whole ball of wax. The only ingredient I can come up with (that's to blame) is our total approach over 162 games, which comes down to the true character of the team. Character can carry you over the bumps, the peaks and the valleys that are a part of this game….
"This team has told me they want to stay together as a team and win the world championship. To do it, we've got to search ourselves, forget the I and think of 'We,' forget our own petty problems. We've got to be able to set those aside and think of the team for a year."
Dallas Green had delivered the speech before; surely, he would deliver it again. It's the kind of speech, the kind of approach most often seen in football locker rooms.
Had Danny Ozark given that speech on opening night, some of his players might have had trouble keeping straight faces. When Dallas Green barks out those words, there isn't the slightest impulse to laugh.
Somehow, it seemed entirely fitting yesterday afternoon, shortly after Dallas Green's mimeographed rules had been passed out, that another hard-liner... and orator of note... Dick Vermeil, visited the manager's office.
The Eagles coach had read about Green, and some of his players, diving into a huge mud puddle at the end of the final spring training workout.
"I did that my first year," Vermeil told Green. "John Bunting was the first one in after me….”
Obviously, Vermeil was impressed with such displays of togetherness.
"I want to wish you the best," he said, shaking Green's hand. "I'm really pulling for you. I'm excited for you."
Opening night at Veterans Stadium… a very special night for players named Moreland and Noles and Saucier and Aguayo and Vukovich and Munninghoff and, above all, for a manager named Green.
So special that even a football coach could sense the excitement.
Phils, Luzinski rip Expos in opener
3-run shot boost Carlton
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
It was supposed to be Welcome Home the Strikers Night.
It was supposed to be everything you always dreamed a Phillies opener wouldn't be – boos, X-rated banners, and a crowd of 2,317 that was actually only there to form the Philadelphia chapter of the Ray Grebey Fan Club.
But you never know in this town. Nobody booed. A mere 48,460 people showed up. Either it was Teamsters Group Night or people just like baseball around here.
Or maybe it was just that nobody had time to get genuinely malicious. First thing everybody knew, Greg "Twiggy" Luzinski was pumping a three-run homer in his first post-diet at bat. And the Phillies were off to their first Opening Day win since the Mac Scarce Era (1974) a 6-3 victory over the Expos.
Steve Carlton took care of the rest with a complete-game eight-hitter nobody had a right to expect. The Phillies also performed a few tricks from Dallas Green's Operation Fundamentals spring training. And, in general, if it was great anti-labor scenes you were looking for, you would have been better off heading for Manhattan to watch a traffic jam.
"I guess it just shows you what we're here for and they're here for," said Phils catcher and labor leader Bob Boone. "It's time to forget all the extra stuff and go on to baseball."
It certainly wasn't a night that went as expected. But then, maybe ' we should have known. First, Kite-man made it to home plate without crashing into the scoreboard or anything. Then, within four innings, Garry Maddox already had his first walk, Larry Bowa had his first error and Luzinski had his first standing ovation.
At that rate, all we needed was for Carlton to talk to the press and Pete Rose to forget how many career hits he had, and the whole thing could have been taped and sent directly to "That's Incredible."
But first things first. And Luzinski's 1980 debut was clearly the first thing anybody would remember about this game. The Bull brought his svelte new Medford Health Spa body to the plate in the first inning following two-out walks to Maddox and Mike Schmidt. Montreal pitcher Steve Rogers then started The Bull off with two straight balls, the sixth and seventh Rogers had thrown in a row.
"You could see Rogers was struggling at that point," Green observed, ' "a great deal with location. You could see him struggling with himself."
But Rogers, who had defeated the Phillies six straight times until Carlton beat him on the final day in Montreal last year, came back and got Luzinski to foul off the next two pitches. The next one, however, was a fastball inside, and the Bull smoked it directly under the clock in left with the classic Luzinski stroke of old.
"I've worked hard to regain my stroke in the wintertime," Luzinski said. "And it paid off right there 2-2, short stroke…. He got the pitch in, and I was able to muscle the ball, which I've done in the past."
It was an emotional moment. And the standing O grew so loud and long, nobody even noticed that Bill Giles' new home run spectacular didn't work.
But the Luzinski show was spectacular enough. And the three runs were practically all Carlton needed.
He took a shutout into the sixth. But a Rodney Scott single, and a two-out triple by Ellis Valentine that skidded out of the corner past Luzinski got the Expos a run. And a two-run homer by Gary Carter in the ninth made it semi-close.
But Carlton otherwise ran the show however he wanted. He picked off Ron LeFlore after LeFlore's first National League hit in the first. He fanned Warren Cromartie to get out of a jam in the second, struck out Larry Parrish after Valentine's triple to escape the sixth and whiffed Scott, Andre Dawson and Valentine in succession in the eighth and ninth.
Carlton also easily survived Bowa's first error at the Vet since Sept. 26, 1978 – a simple booting of Scott's routine bouncer in the fourth. But then Carlton never was one of this team's great question marks.
"Honestly, I never expected Lefty to go nine," Green said. "But I did expect Lefty to pitch me a Lefty game, which he did."
Green also rewarded himself with a smile over the way the Phillies did some of those fabled Little Things he spent all spring on.
They killed an Expos run by working a fifth-inning rundown play perfectly. They also earned themselves a fourth-inning run with a Manny Trillo-Bowa hit-and-run, followed by Bowa's intelligent dash for home after Trillo got hung up in a rundown between first and second. It looked just like Spring Training Drill No. 197.
That made it 4-0, and after that, Green didn't even have a chance to work out some of his managerial rust.
"It was," he said contentedly, "a no-brainer. I'll take about 162 of them."
NOTES: That punching bag Dallas Green was supposed to hang up in the Phillies' dugout was installed last night in the weight room. Green was seen before the game, however, trying to figure out a place to hang it in the bathroom adjacent to the dugout.