Philadelphia Daily News - April 14, 1980
Phillies Loss Not Routine
By Bill Conlin
There's never been a good loss, unless you believe Ted Kennedy's campaign people. The road to obscurity is paved with good losers – Harold Stassen, David Clyde, Chuck Wepner, the 1980 VS. Olympic team.
Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? That's easy for Mickey Rooney to say. Show me a trivia book and I'll show you a losers Hall of Fame. How many people do you suppose ever asked Ralph Metcalf what it was like to be snubbed by Hitler at the '36 Olympics? Metcalf is the guy Jesse Owens whiskered in the 100 meters.
The only losers who endure lasting fame are guys who blow a really big one – Tom Dewey, the 1964 Phillies, Sonny Liston, Ralph Branca, Dick Nixon.
Which is why baseball is such a great humbler of men. A great team can expect to lose 60 times a season. While no loss is good, when viewed on a grand scale, some are better than others.
For 8½ unexciting innings yesterday, the Phillies moved with measured tread toward what would be described as a routine loss to the Montreal Expos. At that late stage it was a game where not a single play would stand out a month from now, nothing which even a baseball addict with a 13-box score-a-day habit could clutch to his memory. And as it creaked toward the final three outs, the Phillies down. 4-1, the columnists in the press box were telling the beat men, "I'm glad I don't have to write this turkey."
THE "ROUTINE" loss turned into an excruciating 5-4 loss in 10 innings. Instead of a lukewarm rehash of the good stuff Larry Christenson appeared to have in defeat, of encouraging relief stints by young righthanders Dickie Noles and Scott Munninghoff, Dallas Green found himself applauding the attribute Paul Owens calls "bounceability." Bounceability is reflex toughness, the kind displayed by a guy who shows up bright-eyed at a 9 a.m. business meetng after a night of power-drinking, or a rattlesnake shows after its head is lopped off.
Stan Bahnsen was in his fifth inning of work behind Scott Sanderson when Greg Luzinski led off the ninth with a single to center. Bob Boone followed suit and the Phillies had a rally going. Survivors in the crowd of 28,132 calmed down somewhat when Larry Bowa bounced a ball up the middle that reserve shortstop Bill Almon (4-for-5) turned into a force.
Bowa took second when Bahnsen uncorked a wild pitch. But Manny Trillo check-swinged a grounder back to the mound and Green sent Greg Gross up to hit for Munninghoff. Somebody in the press box said idly that Greg would sting the ball someplace even if he made an out.
Gross stung the ball someplace and it should have been an out. Third baseman Larry Parrish mistimed Greg's side-spinning liner. The ball deflected off his glove into foul ground in left and two runs scored on the error.
DICK WILLIAMS brought in ageless lefthander Woodie Fryman to make Pete Rose hit right-handed and face Bake McBride. Ageless, hell. Woodie turned 40 Saturday and he walked to the mound like a guy carrying the Flemingsburg Aces on his back. Lonnie Smith came in to run for Gross and promptly made Green's heart jump into his throat.
Rose slapped a single that just got between Parrish and Almon into left. Smith never broke stride rounding second, executing one of those plays that is only smart if you make it. He made it, beating a one-bounce throw by defensive replacement Jerry White.
"Goddamn right he better be safe." Green said. "A play like that is going to be challenged, but it wasn't a mistake because he made it."
Green says Bake McBride hits lefthanders better than righthanders. Bake says he read that in the papers last week, but was expecting footsteps, nevertheless, as he stood on deck.
"I thought he might hit for me," Bake said. "I was happy Dallas showed some confidence in that situation."
Fryman went after McBride with hard stuff, fast balls in and sliders away.
And it was a two-strike slider that Bake drilled up the middle to tie it 4-4. "I can't believe I hit that pitch and Woodie can't either," he said. "It was a nasty slider. I waited on it good, I guess."
MONTREAL RELIEF ace Elias Sosa sent it into overtime with a third-strike slider that froze Garry Maddox. Now it was up to Lerrin LaGrow and the veteran righthander did not have an auspicious Phillies debut.
He fell behind 3-1 to Ellis Valentine, the only man in baseball who can throw a ball as far and hard as he can hit one. LaGrow got a fastball out over the plate and Valentine rattled it off the backdrop in left-center. The Phils 10th featured a towering fly to center by Mike Schmidt and hard outs by Luzinski and Boone, who plastered White against the fence in left. Good outs in a good loss.
"We hit three balls on the clock in the 10th," Green said. "Getting behind killed LaGrow. If you're gonna pitch from behind in this league you're gonna get hurt unless you're gonna use something besides a fastball."
Noles pitched out of a jam in the sixth and struck out Valentine with a wicked slider to end a 1-2-3 seventh. Munninghoff showed no signs of rookie jitters, throwing four ground-ball outs in two scoreless innings.
"I'm pleased with the way Dickie and Scott handled themselves," Green said. "They kept us in the game and I don't know how many times that happened last year."
Not many. Which was part of the bill of indictment Green considered in Clearwater before banishing Rawly Eastwick and Doug Bird.
PHILUPS: Larry Christenson had better stuff than results. "He made one mistake to Andre Dawson (two-run homer in the Expos' three-run fourth)," Dallas Green said. "But I felt he was pitching pretty good."... When was the last time a Phillies team went into extra innings with the starting eight intact? "With our eight you're gonna see it more than with a lot of other eights," the manager said... Bill Almon, in the lineup because Chris Speier had a bad wisdom tooth, responded with a triple, three singles and solid game in the field... Dick Williams pinch-hit for Scott Sanderson in the fifth. The tall righthander was still wobbly from an intestinal illness... Bob Boone, showing no effects of knee surgery, led the Phillies' attack with three singles. Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa are off to 1-for-12 starts. Manny Trillo is 6-for-12... Phils will work out at 5 o'clock today, weather permitting, then fly to St. Louis for a night game tomorrow, afternoon game Wednesday. Randy Lerch vs. tough Pete Vuckovich, followed by Steve Carlton vs. Bob Forsch... An Oklahoma City specialist has been unable to find the cause of Warren Brusstar's shoulder miseries. Dr. William Granna didn't find anything new or dramatic, according to Phils trainer Don Seger. Brusstar will undergo exercises designed to strengthen and stretch his right shoulder. In a week, he'll try to throw again.
Sports Joins the Real World
By Tom Cushman
With two out in the bottom of the 10th of a game that had dallied for eight innings before finally acquiring a sense of drama, Bob Boone caused hearts to flutter one last time. Picking up an offering from the formidable Elias Sosa of Montreal yesterday, Boone drove it toward left field in an arc so suggestive it caused Veterans Stadium customers to leap from their armchairs.
"The pitch was just a little too far away for me to jerk it," Boone was to say later, "but for a moment I thought it might go out anyhow."
Hope was cresting when Jerry White, who had been summoned from the Montreal bench in the sixth as an arm transplant for Ron LeFlore, went high onto the left-field wall and returned the ball to earth. And so it was that the Phillies lost a game, 5-4, but won the weekend anyhow.
In the three plate appearances previous to the one which punctuated the afternoon, Bob Boone had slammed base hits into the outfield. For one who admits that his bat during spring training seemed arthritic by comparison, this was indeed welcome news... and only one of several vital signs that caused the fans who graded their heroes during this opening series to sense that something other than spring and refinery fumes is in the South Philadelphia air.
FRIDAY NIGHT, FOR instance, it had been established that Steve Carlton will be able to pitch baseballs to Bob Boone without Boone pinning a picture of Tim McCarver to his chest protector. Greg Luzinski could pose for Playgirl. Yesterday, in one of those games that seemed a writeoff most of the afternoon, the Phillies rebelled with spirit and flair. "Some days the other guy is better than you," Manager Dallas Green pointed out, "but the thing that pleases me is that we didn't die at 4-1. We showed we can come back, and we were still hacking away in the 10th."
Then there was the fact that the first tentative steps taken by both the new and reconstructed arms were encouraging. "I'm pleased with our pitching," said Bob Boone. "The ball (Ellis) Valentine hit (for the game-winning homer) just got away from Lerrin (LaGrow) a little bit. It was the same with the ball Dawson hit off Larry Christenson, but those are things that happen early in the season whether you've had a full spring or not.
"Otherwise, both of them threw very welL So did Scott Munninghoff... one of the reasons he made the club is that he's not afraid. He’ll come at you with his good stuff.
"I liked the way Dick (Ruthven) threw Saturday. He had an excellent breaking ball early, was able to come in on the hitters which he had trouble doing a year ago. It's a sign that he's healthy now, that his arm is sound. And that's the key. If they're healthy, I'll take my chances with these pitchers."
SEATED AT A table in the clubhouse, the considerable scar from his knee surgery another reminder that this is a team which has been repaired, not restructured, Bob Boone admitted that he is as surprised as anyone by his sudden vigor offensively.
"The layoff the final week in Florida was the best thing that could have happened to me personally," he said. "I didn't need games, I needed a lot of individual attention. Finally, the day before the opener, Billy DeMars found a little thing in my swing that needed adjusting. Funny, a batting stroke is something you can get overnight. And lose overnight. In this business, if you could bottle it you could make a fortune."
Fortune. In its plural form this is a word that had been popular with the fans during the days leading into the season, the predominant thought being that guys who already had culled fortunes from baseball's bankrolls were about to carry the game onto the rocks because of their greed.
The tone of the grumbling this spring had been ominous, suggesting apathy, non-support... or, why don't we let the owners and players take their game and stick it in their savings accounts? But, then the Phillies came north, 48,000 came to the Vet on Friay night, on his first plate appearance Greg Luzinski hit a ball halfway back to Clearwater, Steve Carlton made pretzels out of the Expos' lumber, and suddenly everybody felt good again.
WITH THE SEASON out of the blocks, it is convenient to forget that the only thing decided at this point is that the Phillies can be no better than 33-1 by May 22, which remains the date the season could end.
Bob Boone, whose other hat in the clubhouse is that of player representative for the National League, said yesterday that the only dramatics since the Players Association set its May 22 strike deadline are those which have occured on the diamond. Two meetings between labor and management have been held the first of which was devoted to scheduling other meetings.
"There are six more scheduled for April," Boone said. "They spent some time discussing issues at the second meeting but nothing to speak of came from it.
"Actually, with the season underway what we've done is leave business up to Marvin Miller and the negotiating team, with the understanding they'll do what they think is right. I talk fairly often with people at the Association office so I can stay abreast of what's happening. The players all received a letter the other day, updating us. As we get closer to the deadline, there obviously will be more inquiry from the players and we'll make sure that everyone knows exactly what is happening."
With the fans in the stands, the standings in the newspapers and Bob Boone hitting.462, is he more optimistic than say two weeks ago that a strike will be avoided?
BOONE STARED AT the table in front of him. "From everything I've heard, I'd have to say no," he replied.
This will seem to some an unrelated subject, but as you may have noticed the United States Olympic Committee's House of Delegates, in tortured session, voted on Saturday to boycott the Moscow Games. It was not exactly the model election envisioned by our Constitution – the government could be whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for the type of pressures applied – the end result being that while baseball at least has a choice of whether or not to play its games, our Olympic athletes did not.
When President Carter first advocated boycott I endorsed it, and still do in the sense that joining a neighbor for a picnic in his backyard while members of his family are out shooting holes in other neighbors seems a rather cavalier approach to one's moral committment.
As the weeks went by, however, and it became obvious that Carter was demanding no suck allegiance from the business community or any other groups that might have direct contacts with the Soviets, that he apparently had blurted out his boycott scheme without researching the depth of his international support, that in proposing alternate games he and his advisors had no idea of how the international federations which control amateur athletics work, my views moderated considerably.
Now that the boycott is on, and some 600 of our finest are to denied an opportunity toward which most of them have worked for years, then it had better receive the kind of overseas support that will make it meaningful or Jimmy Carter will only have reinforced what we already knew – that there is nothing too good to be messed up by the politicians and lawyers.
For a fleeting moment Friday night, when Greg Luzinski was trotting around the bases, there was a temptation to forget that this is the year in which we could lose both the Olympics and the World Series... but we were quickly reminded that sports finally, sadly, has joined the real world.
RBI-Triple Worth $125
There were nine winners over the weekend in the Daily News Home Run Payoff.
In Saturday's fourth inning, Mary McMonigle of Philadelphia won $125 and four reserved tickets on an RBI-triple by Manny Trillo while Lester Richards of Bellmawr, N.J., won $100 and tickets on a Larry Bowa triple. William Davis, Paul Giannette and Bob McGovern, all of Philadelphia, won tickets.
In yesterday's third inning, John P. Leonard of Philadelphia won $10 and tickets on a Pete Rose single. Michael J. Sochko of Wilkes-Barre, John L. Davis of Wilmington and Ben Boyce of Westmont, N.J., won tickets.
So far the Daily News has paid out $335.
You could be a winner, too. Just fill out and mail today's entry coupon which appears on Page 66.