Reading Eagle - April 14, 1980

Valentine Knew It Was a Homer


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – It was Valentine’s Day in April for the Montreal Expos.


The Expos had just blown a three-run lead over the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday in the last of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.


The way things were going, it looked like a lost weekend for the Expos.  They already had lost the first two games of the 1980 season to the Phillies.


Ellis Valentine, however, turned a bitter ninth into a sweet 5-4 victory with a 10th-inning leadoff home run off reliever Lerrin LaGrow, making his first appearance for the Phillies.


LaGrow, who was signed as a free agent this winter after an operation on his heel, worked a 3-1 count on Valentine, then got a fastball out over the plate.


“I got enough of it,” said Valentine after he drove the ball over the centerfield fence to put the Expos ahead again.


Valentine said there was no doubt in his mind that the ball was going out of the park.


“Sometimes I think they’re going out and they don’t, but I knew where that one was headed,” said Valentine, who had only one hit in nine at bats in the first two games of the series.


Valentine’s heroics might never have occurred but for a fine play by shortstop Bill Almon in the ninth on a ball hit to the left side of second base with runners at first and second.


Trailing 4-1, the Phillies’ ninth started with singles by Greg Luzinski and Bob Boone.  Larry Bowa hit the ball on which Almon made his fine play.


“I thought it was an easy double play at first,” Almon explained.  “But the ball went deeper than I thought because of the artificial surface.


“I had to cut a little deeper, and Boone (advancing from first) made a smart play.  He faded away from the bag, forcing me to dive to tag him out.  My momentum carried me past the base and I couldn’t throw for the double play.”


It was almost costly, because a wild pitch allowed Bowa to reach second, and Luzinski and Bowa scored when third baseman Larry Parrish couldn’t hold onto pinch-hitter Greg Gross’ line drive.  Parrish was charged with an error.


Montreal Manager Dick Williams replaced Stan Bahnsen, who had pitched scoreless, two-hit ball through four innings, with Woodie Fryman.  Fryman, who was 40 on Saturday, gave up singles to Pete Rose and Bake McBride, and rookie Lonnie Smith, running for Gross, scored the tying run.


Williams went out again, and brought in Elias Sosa, who struck out Garry Maddox for the final out of the inning and earned the victory courtesy of Valentine’s home run.


Earlier, the Expos scored one in the first inning off Phillies’ starter Larry Christenson without a hit, added three in the fifth on a triple by Almon, a sacrifice fly, a walk and Andre Dawson’s two-run homer.


Phillies’ relievers Dickie Noles and Scott Munninghoff held the Expos in check after Christenson left for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.


Scott Sanderson started for Montreal and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth, Rowland Office, who hit the sacrifice fly scoring Almon.  Williams explained that Sanderson was sick, had been dizzy while pitching in the fourth.  He said the pitcher had lost eight pounds recently.


Phillies’ Manager Dallas Green said he was pleased with his team’s ninth-inning comeback, the way Noles and Munninghoff pitched, and the good job done by Christenson except for the home run pitch to Dawson.


“I don’t like to lose, of course, but I saw a lot of positive things out there,” Green said.


LaGrow wasn’t available to comment on his pitch to Valentine.  He was in the off limits lounge watching the Masters Golf Tournament on television.


Pete Rose moved into sixth place past Walter “Rabbit” Maranville on the National League all-time list in games played with his 2,671st game, 59 less than Met Ott who is fifth with 2,730.