Los Angeles Times - August 26, 1980

Dodgers Rumble… Lopes Sends McGraw a Warning


By Mike Littwin, Times Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – In what was already, by any reckoning, a bizarre ninth inning, baseball gave way to beanball, then to the obligatory brawl and finally to names being called.


That the Dodgers scored four times that inning to beat Philadelphia, 8-4, Monday and move within two games of Houston was obscured by a 3-0 Tug McGraw fastball that hit Bill Russell square on the back and the brawl and threats that ensued.


By that time, the baseball damage had been done, the last of it on a two-run single by Joe Ferguson, who was, incredibly, being intentionally walked at the time by McGraw.


Obviously upset at either Ferguson or himself or both, McGraw threw three inside pitches to Russell and then hit him with the fourth. Russell, who ordinarily wouldn't raise a hand except to ask to be excused, charged McGraw. The benches emptied. Punches were thrown. Russell and his manager, Tom Lasorda, were ejected. McGraw wasn't.


And in the year of the beanball, another chapter was written.


The Dodgers didn't retaliate. Not this time. "That's because we were short in the bullpen," said Davey Lopes, the most outspoken Dodger, who cautioned reliever Don Stanhouse not to retaliate. "That's the only reason. There will be a day when McGraw hits and his ass is dead. His day will come. I don't care if it takes eight years."


While the Dodgers were calling the play bush, they were less upset by the fact that McGraw had hit Russell than the fact that McGraw was allowed to stay in the game. Lasorda was so upset that he took on all four umpires simultaneously, threw down his hat, screamed loud enough to break several lights overhead and had to be restrained by several of his players.


"He deliberately tried to hit the guy," Lasorda said, still screaming long after the game. "I've got to protect my players. I know Russell had to go, but Tug did, too."


McGraw wouldn't say whether he was throwing at Russell or not. "I'm not on trial," he said. "This isn't a court of law." When told what the Dodgers were charging, he said: "They know as much about baseball as I do."


In the umpires' report to the league office, they will say that McGraw deliberately threw at Russell. The problem is that throwing at a batter is not an offense leading to ejection unless the pitcher has been warned.


Once a pitcher has been warned, the next pitcher who throws at a batter is ejected.


"The rule has to be changed," Lasorda said. "That's the only way this is going to be stopped."


McGraw, for his troubles, was fined $50.


"He can pay that from his kid's piggy bank," Lasorda said.


Russell has never gone after anyone, ever. But this time he felt he had no choice.


"He's throwing 90 miles an hour and the only protection I have is a helmet," Russell said. "And he was throwing at my head. I know he was upset. But what did I do? Fergie's the one who did it. Throw at him."


Russell was not injured, except maybe his feelings. The first pitch to him was high and inside. The second pitch was further inside. The third pitch turned him around. The fourth pitch hit him.


"On a 3-0 pitch," Lopes said, "That's just a bush play. I thought he had more class than that."


The Dodgers thought McGraw should have been warned at least by the third pitch. The umpire behind the plate, Lannie Harris, is a rookie, which may account for the non-call.


"I felt that in the first three pitches he was trying to brush him back," umpire John McSherry said. "On the fourth pitch, he was definitely trying to hit him."


The Dodgers broke the game open in the ninth on a double by Dusty Baker, who was the first Dodger after Russell to get to McGraw. But the play that precipitated the breakout belonged to pinch-hitter Ferguson.


There were runners on second and third when McGraw relieved Warren Brusstar and Ferguson hit for Rick Monday. On a 1-0 pitch, Ferguson reached out to plunk a fastball head high and a foot outside into right field.


"It's the first time I've ever had a pitch I could swing at in that situation," Ferguson said. "I've waited 13 years to do this. I love it."


No one expected it, least of all McGraw. Two runs scored, and McGraw saw not the visiting gray, but red.


"He's a hitter," McGraw said. "It's his job to it. But that's never happened to me before."


Ferguson said McGraw stared long and hard at himon first base. Then McGraw bore down on Russell.


"It was obvious," Lasorda said.


Phillies Manager Dallas Green wasn't saying. When a Philadelphia writer asked him if he "condoned that kind of baseball," Green grew angry, eventually throwing all the writers from his office in the Phillies' clubhouse.


But Lopes got in the last shot, noting that the Phillies come to L.A. next week. "McGraw better hope they have the DH (designated hitter) rule by then," he said.




Lasorda stood firmly against retaliation. "Why throw at someone who had nothing to do with it and probably was upset by it in the first place?" He said... Lasorda was restrained by Lopes, Mickey Hatcher, Ferguson and coach Danny Ozark... The win was the Dodgers' sixth this trip in seven games and finally allowed them to gain ground on Houston, which lost its 10-game winning streak... Among the points overlooked Monday: Starting pitcher Jerry Reuss hit a two-run homer in the third, his first homer in 10 years as a major leaguer; Don Stanhouse pitched two innings of shutout relief and got the victory: Pete Rose got his 3,515th hit, tying him with Tris Speaker for fourth place on the all-time hit parade... Reuss lost a 3-1 lead in the sixth when the Phillies scored three runs after none were on with two outs... Dusty Baker, the nicest guy in the world, is also the Dodgers' No. 1 brawler. "I just get overemotional," Baker said. "I don't know what comes over me"... With Don Sutton flying home to have his broken toe attended to, Rick Sutcliffe (3-8) will pitch for the Dodgers tonight against Bob Walk (9-2)... Joe Ferguson was happy just to play. He hadn't had a hit since Aug. 7. "What a way to come back," he said... McGraw coolly answered all questions but didn't have very much to say. "I don't want to sit here and comment on the Monday night fights," he said. "I'm not going to say who hit who or go into all the gory details."