Philadelphia Daily News - August 25, 1980
4’s a Crowd for Phils
By Dick Weiss
Pete Rose says he has one answer to the sudden problem of overpopulation that has cropped up in the Phillies' outfields.
But his ultimate solution may involve bending the rules.
"I sorta wish we were playing softball," the innovative first baseman said last night "Then we could play 10 guys, use one as a shortfielder."
Nice thought, Pete. But, given the fact that the National League recently voted down the controversial designated hitter rule, Dallas Green will have to pick and choose among Greg Luzinski, Lonnie Smith, Bake McBride and Garry Maddox on a game-to-game basis as this East Division race starts to heat up to a boil in the final month of the season.
Watching the manager pencil in the lineup card tonight against Los Angeles and each night thereafter should be an adventure.
Last night, when the Phils salvaged the bitter end of a weekend series by defeating the San Francisco Giants, 7-1, before 37,275 at the Vet, Green rolled the dice with Smith, Maddox and Luzinski, getting the desired results from a calculated risk against lefthander Bob Knepper.
LUZINSKI, WHO WAS reactivated yesterday afternoon after being sidelined since July 8 with a sore right knee, immediately moved back under the microscope in left field. Bull touched the soul of the crowd in the third inning when he followed Mike Schmidt's 35th home run with a towering shot of his own that hit the backdrop above the visitors' bullpen.
The obligatory standing ovation followed and the noise was so loud that home plate umpire Frank Pulli actually stopped the game until the bespectacled Bull stuck his head out of the dugout.
"I'll tell you, he was enthused," an excited Green said. "He was shaking hands pretty tough. That's a good sign. It's a pleasure to have him back. He'll certainly add something to our lineup or I wouldn't have gone to all this trouble to get him back so quickly."
Smith, who had been Luzinski's fill-in, graciously moved to right, ripped off three more hits, scored another run and raised his average to a sizzling .356. And Maddox did a typically meticulous job sweeping up in center.
Tonight, with another lefthander, Jerry Reuss, set to open the Dodgers' series, we could well see the lineup laced with the same right-handed hitters. Green will leave some things to our imaginations, though.
A lot will depend, according to Green, on the Bull's condition. Luzinski took regular batting practice all week long and Green was anxious to reactivate him as quickly as possible, even if it meant disabling much-needed reliever Kevin Saucier with a tender elbow. By the same token, Green is not about to let his rebuilt mechanical Bull run down before the stretch drive begins.
"WE'LL PROBABLY PULL him for defensive purposes earlier than we would ordinarily," said Green. "He’ll be run for at critical times during the game when I think I got to have a run."
As for the future, "it will depend on who is pitching and who's hitting," Green said. "Right now, Lonnie's hitting and well try to work him into the lineup. Lonnie will play some center field, some right field and some left field."
Smith, who has emerged – along with teammate Bob Walk and Dodgers reliever Steve Howe – as a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year, has rapidly established himself as one of the best lead-off batters to hit this town since Richie Ashburn. He has banged out 83 hits and scored an incredible 61 runs in only 233 times at bat, supplying the Phillies with much-needed speed on the basepaths. Even though Smith is inexperienced at best on defense, Green apparently is willing to forget those sins for the sake of his offensive abilities.
Maddox may be too much of a free swinger at the plate, but he has been a savior for this team with his glove and may be one of the subtle reasons the team is only 3½ games behind the front-running Pirates.
Luzinski was not hitting for average when he was injured, but he swings a big bat and has the potential to ease the energy crunch that was so evident in the meat of the order during July. Luzinski's presence in the No. 5 hole will force opposing teams to pitch to Schmidt in the cleanup spot.
Ironically, the player who could be most dramatically affected by this game of Russian Roulette is McBride, who has been nothing less than brilliant during his best season with the Phillies. The left-handed McBride, who is batting .313, has hit in 23 of the team's last 27 games, 41-for-108, a .380 average, and has driven in 18 runs during that period.
"BAKE IS HAVING a near MVP season," Rose said. "He's got a shot at 100 RBI and he's hit second most of the year. He's got a career high in doubles, triples. And he's done a good job defensively."
McBride's knees are in a state of collapse, though, and Green may be able to temporarily get away with resting him. But, as Rose so. wisely pointed out, "There's probably going to be some feelings hurt somewhere, not only on the bench but in the green, yellow and red seats." Neither McBride nor Smith wanted to get involved in any controversy at this point so both took strong, silent stances, letting Green pull the strings.
"I don't really care whether the outfielders are aware of it or not," Green admitted. "We're in a pennant race."
Oh. The Phillies spent Friday and Saturday in a coma. Last night, though, they came back to life, jumping on the Giants for a Rose RBI single that drove in Smith, a two-run homer by Schmitty and a solo Bull blast in the third to take a 4-1 lead and then letting Dick Ruthven close the door. On a night when Schmity and Luzinski stole the spotlight with back-to-back home runs for the eighth time in their careers, Ruthven pitched excellent baseball, scattering seven hits and keeping his fastball down and away from the hitters.
"That," Green said, "was more of a Ruthven-like game."
Ruthven, it should be pointed out, also had a pair of hits, a triple and a single. He was not the only one sharpening up his hitting tools, though. Rose also punched three hits.
"I'm just glad I play first base," Rose said. "I wouldn't know who you takeout."
PHILUPS: Kevin Saucier, out for 21 days, had been pitching regularly in relief. He has a 3-4 record with a 3.60 ERA and pitched as late as Saturday against the Giants. According to Dallas Green, his tendinitis flared up about "three weeks ago. Dr. (Phillip) Marone had told him not to throw a curve because of the condition."
Luzinski Goes ‘Boom’ Again
By Tom Cushman
If the scene in the third inning last night had a haunting quality about it, if the panorama, the sounds, the surge of hope as the ball crashed off the bullpen wall caused you the sensation of having experienced this before, then perhaps you have. Greg Luzinski, for all the travail of a career gone erratic, has perfected the comeback routine as few before him.
Where were you, for example, when Luzinski stepped into the box last April 11, opening night? Returning from a 1979 season that ended with the fans and the Bull expressing their mutual discontent and an off-season during which Luzinski labored long hours to whittle pounds from his thick body, this qualified as a comeback. And with two teammates aboard in the very first inning, Bull turned a pitch into a white blur that vanished over the fence with the speed of a light being extinguished.
Last evening, following 46 days on the disabled list, Luzinski stepped to the plate in the fourth inning, picked on a Bob Knepper fastball and drove it in a towering arc to a spot well beyond where the outfielders roam.
This homer followed a two-run rip by Mike Schmidt, thereby reuniting a back-to-back partnership that terrorized the league early in the season. "When I was healthy, me and him put together a pretty good month," Bull was to recall later. "If we can do it again, we can give this club a lift.
IN APRIL, LUZINSKI’S comeback homer was followed by an unusually animated romp around the bases and a standing ovation that rocked South Philly until Greg finally appeared on the steps of the dugout and tipped his cap.
In the late August reprise, as a .246 hitter who has been unable to join his teammates for 49 of the 121 games, Luzinski's jog around the bases was more subdued but the dugout reception was spirited. "I felt a tingle when he hit the ball," Manager Dallas Green said. "I thought Bull was enthused, too. He shook hands pretty tough."
The crowd, remembering its role, provided another standing ovation that continued as Manny Trillo stepped in-and-out of the batter's box and umpire Frank Pulli peered toward the Philadelphia dugout. Luzinski eventually responded, climbing to the top step and lifting his cap. April all over again.
Well, not quite. On that earlier evening, the Phillies thrashed Montreal and emerged, 1-0, with the broad expanse of an endless summer spread before them. Now, as August closes on September, they are 65-56 and the Pirates and Expos are realities which must be dealt with in weeks instead of months.
And... despite the warmth of the reception given Luzinski on his latest return, there are factors involved which do not figure to improve the harmony on a team that, on its best days, will never be confused with the Philadelphia Orchestra. During his absence, Bull publicly criticized the manager for being publicly critical of his players. And rookie Lonnie Smith, who adds another dimension to the offense, is flaunting a batting average that is .111 points above Luzinski's. Lonnie doesn't drive in many runs, but only Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt have scored more.
THE CHALLENGE HAS not escaped Bull's attention. "It felt good to get back in, and swing the bat well," he said after last night's 7-1 victory over the Giants. "I've been traded about 30 times in the last month by sportswriters and sportscasters in this town.
"I've been swinging pretty decent in batting practice, and I was satisfied with the way I hit the ball tonight (the Giants' Rennie Stennett robbed him of a second hit in the fifth). As for the knee, I can feel a little stiffness. Tomorrow's the big day, to see if there's any reaction from pounding on the turf. But I’ll gradually get back into it."
Gradual being a word selected by Luzinski, we'll take this opportunity to point out that he certainly has not been rushed. With Lonnie Smith on a tear. Bake McBride at .313 and having probably his best all-around season ("close to an MVP year," Pete Rose calls it), Garry Maddox playing center field and any leftover portions of the neighboring pastures, and the team on a winning streak, Dallas Green saw no need to be hasty. Two losses to the Giants apparently inspired him.
"I had a meeting with Dallas Green, and everything was explained to me" Luzinski says. "They had a tough decision to make on who goes off the roster. The team was playing good. I can’t complain. Actually, the four or five extra days helped me get ready to the point where I was more comfortable.
"I'm not gonna worry about what they do from here on. We have four outfielders, and they'll have to make decisions based on what's best for the team. We're in a pennant race, which is the main concern. I’ll play every day, part-time, pinch-hit, whatever they want."
IT IS, OF COURSE, not as simple as locker-room conversation humility would make it sound. Egos are involved, as well as batting averages. Greg Luzinski has played in only 72 games, but he has 16 home runs and 43 RBI. He is a large part of the nucleus that was to have one last chance to win this year before the wrecking ball was released and a new generation summoned.
"I sort of wish we were playing softball," Pete Rose said at one point last evening. "That way we could use all four outfielders. There's probably gonna be some feelings hurt somewhere."
Having finally found a way to make the roster cut (Kevin Saucier to the disabled list), Dallas Green seems to welcome the challenge that results. "I thought Bull did well for the five innings he played," Green said. "He showed he still can hit them... I'm happy to have him back."
That comment was followed, however, by managerial testimonials for Lonnie Smith, Bake McBride and Garry Maddox. "I don't know how it's gonna work," said Mike Schmidt, who earlier had delivered homer No. 35, "but with all these guys around, I know I'm gonna be in a nice place in the lineup. No matter who's in front or back of me, there'll be some pitches to hit."
Looking down at daughter Jessica Rae (20 months), whom he was holding at the time, Mike Schmidt then asked, "What did daddy do tonight?"
Jessica Rae needed a bit of prompting, but eventually said, "Daddy go boom."
That daddy's partner also went "boom" was a bonus which brought the fans to their feet, the manager to the edge of a new crisis and renewed hope to the cause. A few "boom-booms' could help make September the month it was supposed to be when all this began back in April.
8 Weekend Winners
There were eight winners over the weekend in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest.
In the sixth inning of last night's Phils-Giants game, James T. Cesaro of Philadelphia and Marguerite Biel of Lansdale, Pa., each won $10 on singles by Lonnie Smith and Pete Rose, respectively. Philadelphians T. Lenihan and N. Sherman both won four tickets to a Phillies game.
In the fifth inning of Saturday's game, winners of four tickets each were Frank G. Lone of Glenside, Pa., Helen Brown of Cinnaminson, and Philadelphians Consuela V. Knight and Dot Malvestuto.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $16,340.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 59.