Reading Eagle - April 12, 1980

Just Like Fantasy:  Bull Rocks Expos’ Boat


By Doyle Dietz, Eagle Sportswriter


PHILADELPHIA - Greg Luzinski didn't ever confuse Veterans Stadium with the Love Boat last season.


Luzinski had been popular with the Philadelphia fans since becoming a regular for the Phillies in 1972. But last season Luzinski's home run and RBI production declined as his weight and injuries mounted.


Had the Phillies been able to win their fourth straight National League Eastern Division championship, maybe the fans would have taken it a little easy on the left fielder. But the Phils dropped to fourth, and the fans made "The Bull" the scapegoat and showered him with boos.


Being a sensitive man with a lot of pride, Luzinski worked hard in the off season to get his weight down and his batting stroke back to what it was during the 1975, '76 and ‘77 seasons when he hit .300 or better. Friday's opening night crowd of 48,460 saw the 6-1 Luzinski was in good shape, being down to 225 pounds, but they wanted to see if he had his old touch back at the plate.


It was a short wait for the fans because Luzinski hit a three-run home run off Steve Rogers in the first inning that was the key hit in Steve Carlton's 6-3 complete-game win against the Montreal Expos. Rogers issued two-out walks to Garry' Maddox and Mike Schmidt and had a two-ball, two-strike count on Luzinski when he got a slider in the wrong place.


"Hitting a home run in that situation is like living a fantasy." Luzinski said. "If I had to compare it to anything I guess it would be like being on Fantasy Island."


That might be stretching things a bit. Because even with his loss of weight, "The Bull" won't remind anyone of Tattoo. But the way he tattooed Rogers' pitch into the lower stands above the Montreal bullpen in left, he certainly reminded everyone of the Luzinski of old.


"I wasn't thinking home run in that situation," Luzinski said. "He had me 2-2, and I was only looking for a ball I could hit and put in play, and he got it in on my hands.


Bubble Broke


"Last year I went through more or less hell out here, and I just wanted to get off to a good start and break the bubble. I was really nervous before the game and wanted it to get started.


"Then, when I hit that ball, I was just so glad to burst the bubble. I just let my emotions go, and I really don't remember what I did."


What Luzinski did was shake his fist in the air as he rounded the bases, and then gave Lee Elia, the third base coach and former Reading Phillies manager, a jolt when they slapped hands.


"He hit my hand so hard that I thought he knocked my arm off at the shoulder." Elia said. "He was really excited and it showed by the way he hit the ball.


"The wind was blowing in from center field a lot stronger than people realized.  But even with that wind, he almost had another one (a deep fly to center in the eighth), and it probably would have gone out on a normal night.”


“I wasn’t trying to show up Steve Rogers or the Expos,” Luzinski said.  “I was just letting my emotions go, and I want to win these people back.”


“Had anything against the fans. They've come out and supported us, and I had never experienced anything like last year (when he hit .252 with 18 home runs). That's why I had butterflies before the game and wanted to get started.


“I'm the guy in the middle of the lineup, and when I don't hit it all comes back to me because it's harder for us to win. That's why it was so important for me to get off to a good start and get things off my back. Right now, the home run is the most important that I've ever hit.” 


Passes Allen


Luzinski moved past Dick Allen into fifth place on the Phillies all-time list with 205 home runs. It was only the second home run he's hit off Rogers, but the 29th against Montreal and the 116th he's hit at the Vet.


“I told you I’d bet my house that Bull would have a helluva year,” Manager Dallas Green said to the writers in his office.  “Tonight was the first down payment, and it couldn’t happen to a ncier guy.


“He was really pumped up.”


And one of the reasons Luzinski was so pumped up is because he knows he’s got Green’s full support.


Good Feeling


"There's no question that he's in my corner," Luzinski said of Green. "It's great to have him on your side and know he's behind you.


"I just hope we can put it together as a team. It played on me all winter how the people would react, and that's why I went down to Florida in January with (coach) Billy DeMars to get my stroke back.


"I worked hard this spring and it helped me mentally. I just hope it carries through into the season. I just hope what happened last season is all behind me now."


Luzinski has even moved the location of his locker to forget last year. Last year he was near Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, but this year he's next to reserve John Vukovich. Since Vukovich doesn't figure to get interviewed very much, the writers should have plenty of room to talk to Luzinski.


And Pete Rose thinks the writers are going to need plenty of room around Luzinski's locker this year. As Rose passed some writers waiting for Luzinski, he stopped and said, "You're going to spend a lot of time down here this year."


Friday might have seemed like Fantasy Island to Luzinski, but he wouldn't mind if this season turns out to be one that gives him plenty of chances to Meet the Press.




PHILLIES FIRST (3) – Maddox walked, Schmidt walked and Luzinski homered.


PHILLIES FOURTH (1) – Bowa reached first on a fielder's choice, went to third on Trillo's single and scored while Trillo was being chased in a rundown.


EXPOS SIXTH (1) – Scott singled and scored on Valentine's triple.


PHILLIES SEVENTH (2) – Carlton reached first on Almon's error and moved to second when Rose walked. McBride scored Carlton and sent Rose to third with a double. Maddox scored Rose with a sacrifice fly.


EXPOS NINTH (2) – Parrish doubled and Carter homered.

Surprises At the Vet


By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – "Already you can call them the surprising Philadelphia Phillies," said last weekend's dispatch from Clearwater after Manager Dallas Green had announced the makeup of the 1980 squad.


The Phillies have now played their first game of the season, and you call them whatever you want, but you've got to call them surprising.


There were more surprises at the Vet in one night than the Iranians have pulled on Carter in a couple of weeks.

Garry Maddox scored the season's first run after walking... Larry Bowa committed an error... Kiteman didn't crash… 48,460 fans showed up... Greg Luzinski drew a standing ovation... Bob Boone received praise for his base-running...  And the Phillies won an opening game, 6-3 over Montreal Friday.


And you thought what went on the last week of spring training was unusual.


Boot by Bowa


Some of the surprises were of course less meaningful than others. Bowa, the sure-handed shortstop whose last error at the Vet was during the Shapp administration, booted a routine grounder in the fourth inning. It did not figure in the scoring.


"I just missed it," said Larry. "The next one was tougher than that, and I almost messed that up, too. That Astroturf hasn't expanded yet; the ball just jumps at you. But I wanted to keep you guys from all the flak you took last year." (The scorers were accused of favoring Bowa because of his errorless home record.)


Much more important was that Maddox walked on 3-2 with two out in the first, ahead of Mike Schmidt's walk and Luzinski's homer.


Maddox draws about as many passes as a buck-toothed, cross-eyed co-ed. Last year he had just 17 walks to go with his 548 at bats. "Garry Maddox probably set a record tonight," suggested Bob Boone.


Boone, who has had Phillie fans hiding their eyes with some of his daring – if that's the right adjective – running in the past, turned a muff in left field into a two-base error with a Pete Rose-type slide into second in the seventh. This, too, was meaningless in the scoring, though.


"The throw beat me, but he didn't tag me and the umpire made a good call," said Bob. "Those kind of calls I usually don't get; Pete does."


Hits on Third Try


Bill Giles has had more trouble with kites than Charley Brown. Kiteman I crashed into the seats in 1972 and Kiteman II barely made it to center field in 1973. After a six-year morato- rium on kites, the Phillies' vice presi- dent saw Kiteman III effect a successful mission to deliver the first ball.


"Actually, I had too good a flight," said the daredevil, T.J. Beatty of Cypress Gardens, Fla. He overshot the pitcher's mound and landed instead just in front of home plate.


His success was no surprise to him, because "when the wind laid down, I knew we were home free. It was windier when I took the practice flight the other night."


Nevertheless, Kiteman got a surprise after he took off and noticed he had fire on his right wing. One of the two smoke bombs had gone one step further in the combustion process.


"That happens every once in a while at Cypress Gardens," Beatty said. "But there's enough space between the bomb and the wing that it won't catch fire. I was just hoping we didn't burn the field.


"It probably happened because of the extra tape we put on, in case of wind. The tape caught."


Just one more of those added little touches Giles delights in.


Shocked by Crowd


What delighted Giles most was the size of the crowd. "Actually, it shocked me," Bill said. "I didn't think we'd have more than 40."

The 48,460 was the second largest opening-game crowd in Philly, topped only by the 55,352 for the first game ever at the Vet in '71.


Some wanted to credit the crowd to Giles' walking around Thursday's open practice with a sign advertising the availability of tickets, but Bill was ready to give most of the credit to the weather.


And the fans came to praise the Phillies, not to bury them with boos for their '79 failures and '80 strike talk.


"I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm of the crowd," said Green. "Their reception of the team wasn't that overwhelming, but they grew with the game."


"I was pleased with the reaction, but not surprised," said Boone, the National League player rep. "That's one of the reasons you want to play in Philadelphia – they do come out."


First Since '74


Winning games has not been overly tough for the Phillies in recent years, if you don't count October. But it has been far from easy in openers. In fact, the last time the Phillies had an undefeated record was in 1974, when they won their opener from the Mets, 5-4.


If you want to know how long ago that was, the loser was Tug McGraw and the winner was Mac Scarce.

That Luzinski's standing ovation would be a surprise is a sad commentary on the 1979 season, when the Bull hit .187 at home and .303 on the road.


There was booing mixed with the cheering for his pregame introduction. But when he drilled that 2-2 pitch in the first, boos were rarer than negative votes on the strike authorization. A home run, like love, covers a multitude of sins.


And of course Luzinski's dramatic arm-grabbing, muscle-baring, hand-slapping after his drive were as out of character as Jane Fonda's forming a John Birch auxiliary.


"He's never shown emotion like that," marveled Bowa. "Except that time in Pittsburgh, but that was when we made the playoffs. He almost ripped my arm off coming home."


Not All Surprises


Oh, it wasn't all surprises. Steve Carlton pitched a nice, routine, good game. "He was very strong." said Boone. "But he didn't surprise me. He's been ready to open the season for a couple of weeks."


"I wouldn't expect any less from him," said Green, who was especially impressed with Steve's location, con- sidering the layoff.


The Expos and Steve Rogers, meanwhile, showed some "rustiness," as Green put it, as would be expected for a team which didn't stay together during the strike as the Phillies did. They erred twice and made two costly mental errors.


Maddox made a fine catch in center. Carlton picked off a runner, Bowa effected a run-producing move on the bases, Rose got around to score the one time he reached. No surprises.


And the mayor of Philadelphia was soundly booed. No surprises.