Reading Eagle - April 25, 1980
A Sweet Win For Speck
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
You’re making your first start against major leaguers. You put the first three batters you face on base. The next two batters are Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.
What are your thoughts?
“Just don’t hit it back at me,” said Cliff Speck.
Well, Mike Schmidt didn’t get a chance to hit it anywhere, walking to force in a run. And Greg Luzinski drilled a single into center, scoring two more.
But that was all the scoring Cliff Speck allowed in his six innings, and he wound up the winning pitcher in Reading’s 8-4 win over Philadelphia Thursday night.
“That’s the first time I ever faced the big guys,” said Speck, “except for pitching some batting practice in the Mets’ camp. I didn’t think about that until I was 2-0 on Pete Rose. Then I thought, ‘Here we go.’”
Speck went to three balls on the first four hitters, giving a hit to Rose on 3-0 and walking the next three. “He just kept pounding the ball through,” said manager Ron Clark. “He was all right once he tried something different.”
Rescued by Triple Play
He was also all right once Keith Moreland, the batter who followed Luzinski, hit into that weird triple play, the remembrance of which caused Speck’s eyes to light up like those of a sweepstakes winner.
“How sweet it is,” laughed Speck. “I was trying so hard I got out of the pattern, and I couldn’t throw a strike no way. When Rose got to third, he yelled at me to relax and throw strikes. So I almost hit Schmidt with the first one.”
Speck also credited catcher Ozzie Virgil with helping him get settled. “I started working with him,” he said.
Speck, who’s 1-0 in the Eastern League, has allowed a run in only four of the 14 innings he’s worked there this year. But two of them were first innings. And in the TV game he worked in Florida, he gave up three runs (the only three Oklahoma City got all day) in the first.
“No, I haven’t had that trouble before,” he said.
He’ll be satisfied if his succeeding games are like his succeeding innings Thursday. He allowed only four runners in his remaining five innings against the big club, on three singles and a walk. Only one got as far as second, nobody past there.
Speck certainly isn’t the only Reading Phil able to look back on Thursday with a good feeling.
The night’s only home run was hit, not by a Schmidt or a Luzinski, or even by a
Virgil or a Bell, but by Bob Dernier, who’s more likely to circle the bases by stealing second, third and home than by clearing a fence.
“That’s my April home run,” said Dernier. “I get one a month. (Well, not quite. He’s hit four in each of his two pro years.) It was especially nice to hit it off Crazy Tug. I’m sure I surprised him.” Bob also had the only hit off Dick Ruthven.
That means for the year he is hitting 872 points higher against experienced major-league pitchers than against Eastern League pitchers.
Then there was Steve Curry, who made two super catches at second base, got two putouts on the triple play, and figured in two double plays, including one on Lonnie Smith, whom few double.
Joe Jones and Jeff Kraus, each with two RBIs…. Tony McDonald and Virgil, each with a double to key three-run innings…. Manny Abreu, who pitched three innings of one-hit ball. They stored up some memories. “I’d rather play this game than any other,” said Virgil.
Of course, there was Tom Lombarski, who hit into three double plays, and Jorge Bell, who pulled a muscle. But everybody can’t have a good night.
Feeling best of all was Joe Buzas, who watched more people pour into the park than for any game (exhibition or otherwise) since the Lyndon Johnson administration.
It rained lightly from angry skies for about three-quarters of an hour until 20 minutes before the game started. It began to drip again five minutes after the game ended.
The only intrusion from the sky in between was from the Channel 6 helicopter in the fifth inning.
“Joe’s learning Bill Giles’ tricks,” said Dallas Green. But Bill can at least fall back on the Zamboni.
But Do Phils Care Enough To Give Their Very Best?
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
The Philadelphia Phillies are taking some things more seriously under Dallas Green than under Danny Ozark.
Exhibition games aren’t included.
The Phillies hit into three double plays and a triple play; committed four errors; allowed Reading to steal seven bases in seven tries, and advanced runners to third base in only two innings at Municipal Stadium Thursday night.
So the Phillies wound up 8-4 losers to Reading before a crowd of 7,132, largest to see the annual exhibition (or any Eastern League game) since 1968.
Four of the Phillies’ eight regulars didn’t come because of ailments or (in Bob Boone’s case) a meeting, and the other four departed by the fourth inning. But the R-Phils still had the better of it by three runs after the four frames.
“I just couldn’t afford to get any more of my front-line guys hurt,” said Manager Dallas Green, who at lease left Reading feeling slightly better about one of his problems.
Dick Ruthven, shelled early by the Mets Tuesday night, pitched the first two innings and permitted one harmless hit.
“Ruthven and Christenson haven’t been positive,” said Dallas earlier Wednesday. “I can’t find anybody to go more than five except Carlton.”
Afterward, he saw some hope. “I was satisfied with what Ruthven did tonight. He’d been rushing himself, and his arm was lagging behind. Tonight he concentrated on his balance, and holding himself back, and he did better.”
Tug McGraw and Scott Munninghoff were different stories. McGraw gave up three earned runs in his one inning, the third, which allowed Reading to tie at 3-3. And Munninghoff gave five earned runs in four innings to get the loss (three in the fourth, two in the seventh).
“Everybody was working on something tonight,” said Green. “Scott’s been struggling to get his breaking ball over. We had him throwing more breaking balls and changes tonight than ordinarily.”
And what was McGraw working on?
“Getting in an inning.”
That turned into a major project. Bob Dernier, who hasn’t been able to hit any home runs in the Eastern League yet, slugged a homer to left field to cap the three-run outburst. The only thing missing was that the homer came with one on instead of the based loaded, Tug’s 1979 specialty.
Pitching the final inning for Philadelphia was batting practice pitcher Hank King. Even he didn’t live up to expectations. Unlike a BP pitcher, he couldn’t get the ball over, but unlike a BP pitcher, he wasn’t hit around. As a finisher, he proved considerably better than Ray Rippelmeyer.
The first indication that the Phillies weren’t going to care enough to give their very best came on the game’s sixth batter. That’s when the situation changed as dramatically as the 1979 season did after the shootout in Chicago.
The Phils put the first five batters on board on Pete Rose’s single (on 3-0), three walks, and Greg Luzinski’s two-run single. Result, 3-0 lead.
Then Keith Moreland flied to center. One out. Luzinski tried to tag and advance to second. The throw by way of short beat him. Two out. An appeal was made to second on Mike Schmidt, who’d advanced to third. Three out, triple play. Cliff Speck’s on his way to a win.
RBI for Amaro
The next time the Phillies got somebody to third base was in the ninth inning. This was thanks to Luis Aguayo, whose ground double to start the ninth was Philadelphia’s only extra-base hit. Aguayo tallied on an RBI infield out by, of all people, Coach Ruben Amaro, who retired in 1971.
Amaro, who didn’t get get too many RBIs when he was 15 years younger, went into play second base in the fourth inning. He skipped his first turn at bat in the fifth (“a wise move,” said Howie Bedell in the pressbox). But he batted in both the seventh and ninth, although he hit into a DP on the former trip.
“They didn’t want me to hit,” said Ruben, “but I told them, if I’m going to go out and work, I’m going to hit. You stay in shape for the field with all the work in Florida, but hitting is different.”
Coach Lee Elia was flashing some take signs to Ruben. But he cheerfully disregarded them. That wasn’t always the case. “I knew I was done one time when Gene Mauch gave me the take sign,” he recalls. “The count was 3 and 2.”
Amaro and King were Green’s only obvious concessions to the exhibition game, though by stationing Keith Moreland at third base for the last six innings, he let Keith show why he is now a catcher. (He played third his first half-year at Reading.)
John Vukovich caught the last six innings as further training for the moment when he might be called upon for emergency duty there. Six of the seven steals were while Vuk was behind the plate, but he allowed only one pitch to get by him.
RE-PHILLERS – It’s back to normal for Reading tonight, as the Phils start a home series with the Lynn Sailors. Rain checks from Thursday will get anybody in for half price… Joe Jones, with an infield hit in the third and a groundout in the three-run fourth, and Jeff Kraus, with a single for both runs in the seventh, each had two RBIs… Reading now leads the series by 6-5-1… Dickie Noles or Munninghoff will replace Christenson in the rotation until Larry’s groin heals. After Thursday, Noles is the more likely choice, though Dallas would like to keep Dickie in relief, where he’s doing so well… Lonnie Smith, who made two mistakes in right field, made none with the fans by patiently signing autographs in the rain. Aguayo was the other most willing signer.