Wilmington Evening Journal - August 26, 1980

Bowa inconsistency puzzling to Phillies


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – In the sixth inning last night, Larry Bowa darted to his right to scoop up Steve Yeager's grounder. Easy play for the Gold Glove shortstop. Bowa, however, fumbled the ball and Yeager was safe on a glaring error.


In the seventh, Jay Johnstone hit a ball headed for the hole between second and third. Bowa, who was breaking for second as the ball was hit, bobbled it and Johnstone was safe. The official scorer gave Johnstone a hit, but it was the kind of play Bowa usually gobbles up.


On Saturday night, Bowa was late covering second base for an easy force and Manny Trillo, startled by the shortstop's unexpected absence, unleashed a wild throw to first in a last-ditch attempt to nab the runner.


The Phillies fell to the Dodgers 8-4 in a wretched game at Veterans Stadium last night. Everybody went home cussin' about the bizarre ninth inning when two runs scored on a single from a would-be intentional walk, and then the dugouts emptied when Tug McGraw drilled Bill Russell with a pitch.


Those were the fireworks in another costly Philadelphia loss.


But before that unprofessional ending, the Phils struggled to stay in the game and the inconsistent play of the shortstop was the main topic of conversation in the press box.


WHAT HAS HAPPENED to Larry Bowa? The liery, gutsy shortstop has had a love affair with Philadelphia fans for years. Now they're turning on him. His bat is never going to intimidate pitchers, but what he has lacked in that category, he has made up for with his brilliant fielding. This year that has gone South.


In 1979, Bowa made just six errors, none at Veterans Stadium. After last night's debacle, he had 14 and maybe even more that do not show in the official statistics.


Bowa's problems started in spring training when he opened his heart and complained about his salary. He insisted some of the lesser shortstops in the National League were making more than his estimated $300,000 and he didn't like that one bit. Later, he said he was out of place to rip the Phils in the newspapers, but people who know him felt he remained bitter.


Then, on the morning of the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, Bowa and his wife Sheena were mentioned in a drug story reported by the Trenton Times. Most of the facts in that story were later proven untrue, and veteran reporters felt it was irresponsible reporting. Drug officials came out and said Bowa was not involved in any investigation as to the illegal obtaining of diet pills.


Since then, Bowa has refused to talk to the press. Usually a talkative type, he has become withdrawn. He seldom gets involved in clubhouse chatter and is not the loudmouth, wisecracking person he has a reputation for being.


In New York recently, I, asked Bowa why he was no longer talking to the press.


"I have busted my behind for the fans and the reporters in Philadelphia," he said. "I think the way the drug thing was covered was totally unfair to me. They never tried to get my side of the story, just took off with what few facts they had. Now I am not going to talk to reporters before or after games. No more interviews. I have always been cooperative in the past, but no more. I've been burned."


It is obvious Bowa's inconsistent play has the Phils' infield on edge. His teammates do not know what to expect. What has happened to Larry Bowa?


MANAGER DALLAS GREEN sees the same li if J things the paying customers are seeing and he's just as concerned about the shortstop who has been as consistent during the past nine years as anyone in the game.


"I think Bowa has an awful lot on his mind," said Green, "and I'm not sure it's all baseball. It's probably affected his thinking and his play. We'd like to say we can overcome those things and play our game, but some guys can do it and some guys apparently can't."


Other than his bitterness about the drug stories, no one knows exactly what Bowa's off-the-field problems are.


"There's a knack to shutting out personal problems and not letting them affect what's happening on the field," added Green. "There's also a knack to shutting out the individual problems we have on the field. You've got to do what you can do best at all times and hope, with time and patience, the other things will come."


Of all the players on the team, Bowa always seemed impervious to what was happening away from the game. He has always said baseball is his whole life, everything else was second.


Even when he was slumping at the plate, nothing seemed to bother his defense.


"The little rascal has battled pretty good at times," said Green. "He believes in his heart he's a much better hitter than he has shown (.251). There have been times this year when he has hit the ball as sharply as anyone on the team and come up with nothing. I'm sure in his mind it looks like the world's against him. I don't think that's the case. Everybody's rooting for him; I know we are. We've got to have him playing well to stay in contention. We've got to have him playing Larry Bowa baseball for us to handle this thing. He's a veteran, a National League guy and a Phillies' guy all his life."


Green paused a moment, searching for the right words.


"We need him now," the manager said. "We need him to rise over his problems and come on."

Phils lose baseball version of Monday Night Fights


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth... a pitch for a pitch?


The Dodgers are convinced Tug McGraw deliberately hit Bill Russell with a pitch in the bizarre ninth inning of last night's 8-4 Los Angeles victory over the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.


Umpire John McSherry is certain McGraw purposely drilled the Dodger shortstop and he warned Tug that any further action would be very expensive for the reliever.


Even McGraw, who sat quietly by his locker after the fiasco, refused to deny that he deliberately threw at Russell.


"What do you want, the gory details of the Monday Night Fights?" McGraw asked. "Well, I'm not going into my thoughts on the subject."


How were you trying to pitch to Russell?" somebody asked.


"Come on, you know better than that," McGraw answered in a testy reply.


When told of the bitterness in the Dodger clubhouse about his actions, McGraw merely said: "What difference does it make what the Dodgers think? They know just as much about baseball as I do."


A tooth for a tooth, etc.?


After all, when pinch-hitter Joe Ferguson reached across the plate and singled in two runs on the second pitch of what was supposed to be an intentional walk, didn't McGraw's Irish temper rise to the occasion?


Manager Dallas Green, burning about the Phils' play before that, wasn't so sure.


When Ralph Bernstein of the Associated Press charged into Green's office and almost shouted, "Do you condone that kind of baseball?" the manager exploded.


"What kind of baseball are you talking about?" Green asked.


"When you bleep up and then throw four pitches at the next guy because you're mad," the reporter answered.


"You're assuming an awful lot, aren't you?" responded Green.


"I'm not assuming anything," Bernstein shouted. "Four pitches went right at the guy. He didn't throw them because he was happy, did he?"


"Why would he throw at Bill Russell? I still think you're assuming an awful lot.”


With that, Green lost his temper.


"Who the bleep are you to come in here and start saying this or that? You don't know what the bleep is going through their minds. If you do, get the bleep up there and ask them. Now that's a bleeping assumption by you that I think is bleeping horsebleep. Don't come in here and start chewing my bleeping ear. Shut the bleep up. That's it, get the bleep out of here!"


For eight innings, the Phils were scratching for a victory on a night when first-place Pittsburgh was losing to Atlanta. In fact, at one stage the scuffling Phils were on top 4-3, but that didn't last very long.


Then, after blowing a chance to snap a 4-4 tie in the eighth, the Phils tiptoed into the ninth and the fireworks started.


The hint that the inning was going to become a disaster came when reliever Dickie Noles walked leadoff batter Davey Lopes on five pitches. But that was just the beginning.


Before the inning finally ended, Ferguson had driven in two runs on the second pitch of the intentional walk and moments later the six-minute melee started.


It ended with both Russell and Manager Tommy Lasorda being ejected by McSherry. Russell was ejected for charging the mound after he was hit and Lasorda was tossed after a fiery exchange with McSherry. Lasorda insisted that McGraw also should have been ejected and heavily fined.


McSherry, the acting crew chief, said Russell had to be ejected because he started the brawl.


"But," added the umpire, "my report to National League headquarters will say that McGraw deliberately threw at Bill Russell. It was obvious."


"I used to have a lot of respect for Tug McGraw, but I won't now," said Russell. "He came closer and closer to me on each of the first three pitches, then hit me with the fourth. I think the rule the umpires used to eject me is the worst one there is in baseball. I'm not proud of that, but when a pitcher is throwing at your head with a baseball traveling 85-90 miles an hour... well. I used to kid around with Tug, have always liked him. That has changed."


"I got very upset with McSherry because he didn't throw Tug out of the game," said Lasorda. "Technically, the rule states that when a player goes after another one he must be ejected. Wasn't Tug going after Russell on that pitch? It was as plain as the nose on your face he tried to hit the guy on the 3-0 pitch.


"Tug has to go. If we're going to stop retaliation, a hitter going out after a pitcher like that, you throw the pitcher out immediately and hit him with a fine. That's the only way you're going to stop it."


EXTRA POINTS - After the Dodgers tied it in the eighth off Noles, the Phils had a chance to go in front in the ninth against reliever Don Stanhouse when Pete Rose led off with a double. Mike Schmidt, however, flied to center and after Greg Luzinski walked, Manny Trillo hit into a double play... Luzinski had three singles and the walk... Trillo has hit in 12 straight games... Rose is now tied with Tris Speaker for fourth place on the all-time hits list with 3,515. Pete played in his 2,790th game last night to move ahead of Speaker into 10th place on the all-time list... Bob Walk goes against Rick Sutcliffe tonight... Stay tuned.