Philadelphia Daily News - August 1, 1980
Schmidt Cool to Green’s Fire
By Stan Hochman
Mike Schmidt says that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Also more line drives, more ground balls more foul tips.
Mike Schmidt says that if you can't say something nice about somebody, say it anyway.
"If I were a manager," Schmidt said the other day, "I'd go home nights and I'd laugh and say, 'Oh, baby, did I blow some smoke up some people's butts that didn't deserve it today.'
"All in an effort to keep the ship afloat."
Dallas Green is Schmidt's manager. He thinks blowing smoke is hazardous to everybody's health. Smoker, smokee. He thinks the best way to keep a ship afloat is for every son-of-a-seacook to row as hard as he can. In unison.
This is known as the veneration gap.
And how the Phillies finally bridge that gap may be as large a factor in the pennant race as the swift return of Greg Luzinski and Larry Christenson.
HOW FAR APART are the fiery manager and the cool third baseman? Take infield practice. Please... take infield practice.
"It's important," says Green, "because it demands a certain amount of mental discipline. And… it helps prepare you for the game.
"If you work at it and prepare yourself the way you're supposed to prepare yourself, your tools will not deteriorate as quickly.”
"Infield," says Schmidt, "consists-of fielding three soft ground balls, five-hoppers:
"What it is, is discipline. The manager makes the rules and the players must abide by 'em.
"What difference does it make, if I take 50 ground balls during batting practice, throw 25 to first, 25 to second? Nobody's in the stands watching you do it.
"I am sure the manager thinks some guys don’t know what's good for them. I respect that attitude, 'I am the manager.' Indeed, who are we to tell him... we don't have World Series rings.
"But a lot of the hell I raise about taking infield is in fun. And there's not one person on the team who feels if so-and-so doesn't take it, he doesn't have to take it."
Maybe, maybe not. Green is not interested in taking such a survey. He posts a chart on the clubhouse door. The regulars take infield on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. The irregulars take infield on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. Everyone rests on the seventh day.
"IF YOU WANT to miss infield," the chart warns, "make out a check for $100 to the Child Guidance Clinic."
Infield, in case you're wondering, is a ritual that goes back to Abner Doubleday. Eight guys go out there and a coach hits fungos. The outfielders practice throwing, to second, to third, to home. The infielders practice throwing to second, to first, to home, to each other.
It usually runs from 6:55 to 7:05, which doesn't sound like the Gestapo, or even like Camp William Penn, even if it means peeling off a sweaty T-shirt and putting on a new top before the real game begins.
In the early '60s, when the Phillies were climbing from mediocrity to respectability, the infielders (Walls, Wine, Rojas, Herrera, Dalrymple) worked out a phantom infield drill that was genuinely funny.
Gene Mauch laughed along with the rest of us, but he was a helluva lot happier when the team got good enough so it didn't have to entertain people with parody.
Schmidt never played for Mauch, whose first explosive clubhouse meeting was built around the credo that, "This team is taking liberties good teams have to earn."
Schmidt played for Danny Ozark, the statue of liberties. He reminded the players of that monkey trio of hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no--evil. So, naturally, they made a monkey out of him.
"WHAT DANNY USED to do when he'd get mad about screwups," Schmidt recalled, "is holler, i want everybody out for infield.' It was like a spanking.
"Now I make an error and somebody writes it's because I only, occasionally take infield.
"But if I make a diving, Gold Glove play in the first inning that winds up saving the game, nobody writes that I only occasionally take infield.
"I am the same player I was with Danny. I respect what Dallas is trying to do. I respect his use of the team concept. I respect his ability to blend in the young players.
"I think Dallas has done an overall excellent job. Danny was a great friend. But I welcomed a different personality.
"Looking at the whole picture Dallas does a lot of reprimanding through the media, and not much reprimanding one-on-one. And he does very little complimenting in the papers.
"Chuck Tanner has a different philosophy. And maybe it's easy for him to have it, because he's got the world champions.
"I think that that team would suffer under a different manager. Tanner uses that team as a team.
"Only a few guys play every day. Garner, Foli, Moreno, Parker. The other guys alternate. And they all contribute.
"A GUY LIKE Matt Alexander, he warms up with the regulars. He's running sprints, just in case he has to pinch run. And they all think they're valuable.
"We don't know if their personality changes when they lose six in a row. Tanner probably tells ‘em to turn up those tape players, says, 'Let's hear some noise... this ain't the end of the world.'
"But that town doesn't have eight newspapers competing against each other to explain why they lost six in a row. All Tanner is gonna say is, 'We'll be there at the end.'"
The Phillies recently lost six in a row. Green blew smoke of a different color. Mount St. Helen's color.
"The first half of the season," Schmidt said, "Dallas had the desire to learn exactly what approach he thought would be best for this team.
"He came out with a program he thought was right and everybody loved it.
"Well, things were rosy. And the future looked bright until that six-game losing streak and everybody was questioning whether we'd had it, ignoring the key injuries.
"Well, now the character of the manager is gonna show up. His first big test. How he handles the press in a six-game losing streak.
"That's when the manager's character comes to the surface, just as the team's does."
GREG LUZINSKI, WITH time on his hands and fluid on his knee, suggested that loose lips sink ships. The manager shrugged, rolled his eyes, and thrust open his hands, in your basic see-what I'm-up-against posture.
Let the record show that Wednesday night, Schmidt was excused from infield to take part in a silly-hole-in-one contest. In the fifth inning, he-came up lame, sprinting from first to third.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have won five of seven to start a long homestand. When an unknown named Gordon Pladson stymied them the other day, Green did not belittle the Houston pitcher, nor did he demean his own hitters.
And if Green's post-game style seemed muted, there was dramatic evidence of a switch in game tactics, too.
With Luzinski out, Green has turned the greyhounds loose, while he searches for Mr. Right, the guy to bat behind Schmidt, so that the third baseman doesn't have to face a parching diet of unreachable sliders and curveballs.
"Ideally," Schmidt said the other day, "I'd like to be able to sit on a fastball every time I get a 3-2 count. I mean, I'd like to know for a fact the pitcher is gonna come in with a fastball there because he knows he can't, afford to walk me.
"That's the kind of situation I had early this year when Greg was going good, all that, back-to-back homer stuff, and I know it helped me.
"You'd be surprised how easy it is for a pitcher to make great pitches when he doesn't really give a damn if he walks you.
"ITS THE SAME in golf. You can hit bucket after bucket of great shots at the driving range. But just go try hitting those same shots in the Masters."
Schmidt rides that roller-coaster constantly, giving the pitcher too much credit or not enough credit.
"With my hand-eye coordination," he moaned the other night, "I should put the ball in play every time, every time."
He had whiffed with men on base, gotten picked off second to squelch a rally. Then he redeemed himself with a lovely, patient, lethal swing for a game-tying two-run homer.
"We had to win that game," he babbled afterward, excitement clanging in his voice. "We just had to win that game. When I got picked off, I wanted to just dig a hole and crawl in.”
The cynics would say that Schmidt would have asked someone else to dig the hole for him, so his fingernails wouldn't get dirty.
In New York, everybody is bubbling about the new Reggie Jackson, freed from the shackles of Billy Martin-inspired controversy. They overlook Jackson's fielding deficiencies and grin at what amounts to the ultimate high-stakes salary drive.
Meanwhile, Schmidt, who has hit 281 homers in 7½ seasons to Jackson's 237, is always going to be a victim of his own upper-body strength, his natural talents, and the laconic way he appears to go about his business.
"How," he screeched, "does that get communicated to the stands? How do the fans get the idea that we're not trying hard enough?
"I'D LIKE TO know the last time I didn't try to kill the guy, breaking up a double play. Or the last time I didn't dive for a ball in the hole that meant a ballgame.
"But somehow, sure as hell, they can tell you the last time I left a man on third, or I left the winning run on second.
"And that has nothing to do with trying. "People want to equate failing with lack of drive. Too often, failing is caused by too much drive.
"That twi-nighter, I thought for sure I'm coming out of that with seven or eight hits. It just shows you how you have to respect this game.
"I hit the peak of my season and the bottom within an hour.
"But the season is 162 games long. My problem is caring too much about making an out. Al Hrabosky got me out and I wanted to kill myself.
"You get 600 at-bats, you'll go wacko if you make each one life-or-death."
Does that conflict with Green's constant preaching about grinding it out?
"Grinding it out," Schmidt said wearily, "means mentally and physically applying yourself as close to 100 percent as you possibly can to a given situation, or a given moment in life.
"You can grind it out at Thanksgiving dinner."
If they will take time out and start listening to one another, Dallas Green and Mike Schmidt may realize they are pot that far apart.
Houston Tells J.R. It’s Sorry
By Ted Silary
David Fowler, a radio talk-show host in Houston, apologized over the air.
Thad Marsh, vice president of Methodist Hospital, handled calls from press and fans at the rate of "one every 2½ minutes."
An unidentified Texan, apparently blessed with big bucks, rented an airplane – a la those seen at the shore – and circled the hospital several times, trailing a sign reading, "Get Well, J.R."
And the message was not directed at Larry Hagman.
On more than one occasion yesterday, a change in the condition of James Rodney Richard, power pitcher supreme for the Astros, would clatter over the wire. But that was nothing compared to the changes that people went through to show their affections. And regrets.
ON THE HEELS of J.R.'s mid-June "tired arm" announcement, the media in Houston expressed so many doubts about the man's character, you would have thought he'd stolen the coveted next script of "Dallas."
Now, as Richard lays in Methodist's intensive care unit following surgery on a blood clot in his neck that was termed "life-threatening," as reports circulate that he has suffered a stroke, as doctors point out "that his left side could be permanently weakened," the shift in feelings is noteworthy.
Most mornings on his three-hour show, David Fowler of KPRC speaks with callers about the high cost of living or the low-lifes in Iran who continue to hold our hostages.
"Maybe once every two months," Fowler told the Daily News last night. "I get a call about sports. Since we have a sports show, I refer them right over. Today, every call I took conceded J.R. Richard and those listeners were vehemently. vociferously, virulently against the media."
Though this paper does not come equipped with a pocket dictionary, we know you get the idea. Thing is, even Fowler himself was an original member of the "What Shot J.R." Club, which was suggested by a headline in the Houston Chronicle.
"What I said on the air at the time," said Fowler,-"was that based on what I'd read in the papers and heard on TV, I was a little irritated with J R.
"Today, I said that I had been misled and that I was sorry for doubting he was hurt. Yet, I also said that J.R. was equally responsible for misleading people. He seemed to have a different story every day and that led to doubts.
"SIR, I'LL TELL you. this is human drama at its best. Can't you see it? He was hurt all along and nobody believed him. Plus, no one could find out what it was. So, J.R. kept pushing himself and pushing himself, trying to prove to people he wasn't dogging it. Trouble was, he almost pushed himself to the point he died.
"He's a magnificent man. We all are finding that out."
Well, not quite everybody. Neil Hohlfeld, who covers the Astros on a part-time basis for the Chronicle, is "sad that this happened, but not real, real sad."
Hohlfeld was caught in the middle last month when Richard reported that he was ordered to take 30 days off by Dr. Frank Jobe, the renowned Los Angeles wizard. Jobe said nothing of the sort.
"J.R. flat-out lied," Hohfeld noted, "which he later admitted. The only reason he gave was that he felt like it. My views on this whole thing are clouded. I would guess that J.R., deep down, is a nice man. But he can be very rude and he can really make you feel dumb.
"Generally, the people in Houston are down on the media, especially papers. It (public apologies) was bound to happen and it kind of makes me sick. That stuff from the players is to be taken with a grain of salt, too.
“Some of those guys went off the record to say that J.R. was dogging it. You'd better believe it."
RICHARD, 10-4 WITH a 1.89 ERA in 17 starts, collapsed Wednesday morning during a workout in the Astrodome. J.R was rushed to Methodist Hospital and underwent an operation. when doctors observed "neurological symptoms indicating impairment of circulation to the brain, which would be suggestive of a stroke."
Thus far, there has been no explanation on how a tired right arm and a blocked artery leading from the neck to the right shoulder could result in "a weakening of the left arm and leg.”
Anyway, it is hoped that "the weakness may be transient in nature due to edema (fluid buildup) and swelling and that it might clear in a matter of days." That line comes from Rick Rivers, the Astros assistant publicist.
"I have never seen anything like this," said Thad Marsh. "People keep callipg, and calling, and calling. They want to send get-well cards, which are permitted inside the intensive care unit, and flowers, which are not They keep asking if I know of a special way they can show J.R. that they care.
"Even if I don't, they keep coming up with bigger and better ways."
"The whole town, literally, is talking about J R.," stated Bev Raines, an aide in the Astros publicity department. "This has been one of those non-stop days. Radio, TV, papers, even the phone. J.R. is all you hear about."
And you can bet that the furor will not die down as quickly as a J.R. fastball reaches the plate.