Philadelphia Inquirer - August 31, 1980
Brett now faces rigors of history
By Allen Lewis, On Baseball
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
If George Brett wants his Royals to win their first American League pennant this season, history says they will have a better chance if he falls short in his effort to hit .400. If, however, the third baseman hopes to hit .400 this year, his chances will be greatly improved if he is batting higher than that after today's action is completed.
In the modern history of baseball, starting with Larry Lajoie in 1901, only eight players have compiled a .400 average, and they did it a total of 13 times, but no pennant-winning team in that span has had a .400 hitter in its lineup.
In the last 50 years, only two major leaguers have batted .400 or better, and both were hitting over .400 going into September. And no other player in that time has been hitting .400 or better after Aug. 31.
First baseman Bill Terry of the New York Giants was batting .405 after his final August game in 1930, then hit .383 in his final 28 games to finish at .401. Leftfielder Ted Williams of the Red Sox was batting .407 the morning of Sept. 1 and hit .397 in his final 23 games.
Terry tied the still-standing National league record by collecting 254 hit in 1930, but missed a great chance to break the mark set the year before by leftfielder Lefty O'Doul of the Phillies, as well as the major league record of 257 that George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns set in 1920.
With three games left that year, Terry had 252 hits, having collected 11 in the previous four games, two doubleheaders against the Reds. But, in an 8-2 victory in Brooklyn, Terry was held to one hit in five times at bat, and then went 1-for-4 and 0-for-3 at home in 5-3 and 7-6 triumphs over the Phillies, whose pitching staff that season gave up the most hits and runs in major league history.
Of those who threatened but failed to hit .400, none came closer than O'Doul, the former pitcher who gave the Phillies two great years with the bat. Just one more hit in 1929 would have given him a .400 average.
From 1926 through 1930, a lenient sacrifice-fly rule was in effect, absolving a player from a time at bat if a runner merely advanced a base on a fly ball. O'Doul had only 10 sacrifices that year, but record books then didn't break them down into hits and flies.
Terry, on the other hand, had 19 sacrifices in 1930. Had he been operating under the sacrifice-fly rule in effect before 1926 and after 1930, he would not have hit .400. Just three more at bats would have dropped him to .399.
Curiously enough, all but one batter who has hit .400 or better in this century has benefited from the sacrifice rule. In 1941, Williams did not have a single sacrifice. Of course, he was never called upon to bunt, and the sacrifice-fly rule, thrown out in 1940, was not put back until 1954.
In his nearly two decades with the Red Sox, Williams accumulated only 25 sacrifices, and no more than two or three of them were bunts. From 1954 through 1960, he had 20, all sacrifice flies.
In his quest for the magic .400 mark, there's one other thing Brett should keep in mind. Every player who reached .400 in this century is now in the Hall of Fame, except for Joe Jackson, who qualified on ability but was barred because of his involvement in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Like all but Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby and Harry Heilmann, Brett is a lefthanded hitter.
The answer to last week's Trivia Question: Since the mound was moved to its present distance of 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate, only two lefthanded pitchers have won 30 or more games in a season Frank Killen of the Pirates won 34 in 1893, and Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics won 31 in 1931.
Edward Chase of Moorestown, N.J., was first with the answer.
This week's question (suggested by Albert Welsh of Coatesville): What major leaguer set two still-standing, single-season league records for a switch hitter in the same year?
Phillies, Padres split
Slide into first and then slip out
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO – First place was staring the Phillies in the face as they took the field for the second game of their Late, Late Show doubleheader with the Padres last night.
Trouble was, Padres lefthander John Curtis was also staring them in the face.
After Dick Ruthven's 6-1 win in the first game had shoved the Phillies into first place by percentage points, Curtis shoved them right back into third again in Game 2.
He twirled an immaculate four-hitter, retired the last 16 Phillies in a row and handed the Phils their first California defeat, 5-1. So the Phillies again are a half-game behind the Pirates and Expos, who are in a virtual tie for first.
Exactly 20 days before they moved into first with that first-game win, the Phillies had lost that ghastly doubleheader in Pittsburgh to fall six games out. They were six behind both the Pirates and the Expos then, and making up all that ground without playing either of them head-to-head was no easy matter.
"We're fortunate to be in this position," Ruthven said. "We played crummy early in August. But the other two teams played just as crummy."
The opener was Ruthven's first game in San Diego Stadium since his one-hitter there May 9, 1979. He was 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA when he went to bed after that game. The next day he woke up, and his right elbow looked like something Tony Franklin might be tempted to onside-kick. It was, for all intents and purposes, the end of his season.
But last night he spun a leisurely eight-hitter (four of the hits in the last three innings), walked nobody and had three double plays turned behind him.
"My curve ball was nonexistent, but I thought I pitched pretty well," he said. "I like to pitch in this climate. You stay strong the whole game, and your hand doesn't get all wet from sweating."
Neither did the rest of him last night. Nothing to sweat over. He gave up a first-inning run, highlighted by Gene Richards' ground-ball double up the middle. But the Padres reverted to offenseless form after that.
The Phillies tied it in the second after Padres starter Bob Shirley (9-10) got the first two hitters. Larry Bowa, whose average against lefthanders (.344 through game one) is the best of any Phillie, got it going with a single. Bob Boone knocked him in with a double over Richards' head onto the track in left.
They made it 2-1 in the third. Again Shirley got the first two hitters. But Mike Schmidt drilled a flick-of-the-wrists double to left, and Greg Luzinski, whose last previous hit was Monday (0-for-13), singled him in.
The Padres looked as if they might even things up again in the fourth when Dave Winfield led off with a triple. But Ruthven got Guillermo Montanez to bounce the first pitch to Trillo, who out-hotdogged him by waiting until he was 80 feet up the line to throw to first. One out.
Then Jerry Mumphrey fouled out to Luzinski in short left and Bill Fahey hit another bouncer to Trillo to conclude the Strand the Superstar competition.
The Padres got taken out of another inning in the fifth thanks to No. 182 in a series of miraculous throws from that superhuman right arm of Trillo.
Ozzie Smith tried to go from first to third on a bunt by Shirley. But Trillo gathered in Boone's throw for one out, air-mailed the ball to Schmidt in about a hundredth of a second, and just got him. Score that as one of those famous sacrifice-double plays.
Finally, the Phils broke it open in the sixth. Luzinski bombed one a foot from the top of the wall in left. It would have been out of any park in the National League except San Diego and the Astrodome, but it was only a no-out single.
That held off the flood only temporarily. Trillo singled, Garry Maddox picked up walk No. 14, And that was it for Shirley, who is 0-5 lifetime against the Phillies.
In came the erratic Mike Armstrong (14 strikeouts, 12 walks in 13Vi innings). He went 3-and-0 on Bowa but got him to foul out. Then he went 3-and-0 to Boone and walked him to force in a run.
Ruthven was next. He fouled off a suicide-squeeze attempt, then whacked one about 385 feet off the wall in right-center for a double. Two more runs scored, and it was 5-1.
"The guy just hit my bat with the ball," Ruthven shrugged. "I guess he must have hit it pretty hard."
Rose knocked in the final run with a bases-loaded ground ball off Dennis (17-Inning) Kinney.
In the second game, Nino Espinosa was floating up his usual assortment of dirigibles. But people are starting to tee off on them now. A few line-drive outs helped Espinosa hang in there for four innings. But the Padres finally knocked him out of there with a three-run fifth that included four (count 'em, four) straight hits.
It was only 2-1 as that inning began. The Padres had gotten one run off Espinosa in the first, but it could have been worse. Luis Salazar, who was held hitless by Ruthven for only the second game in his 12-game career, dumped a bunt single down the first-base line.
Then he stole second and scored on Broderick Perkins' single. Mumphrey followed with a line-drive bullet toward center, but Bowa made an acrobatic lunging stab on it for the final out.
The Phillies got even in the third. They didn't have a hit off Padres starter John Curtis until Espinosa roped one to center with one out. Mumphrey had trouble coming up with it, so Espinosa hustled it into a double.
Lonnie Smith ripped a shot off shortstop Chuck Baker's glove for a single, sending Espinosa to third, and Rose looped hit No. 151 for the year into right-center to tie it.
But back came the Padres. Win-field thunked a two-out roller into right-center for a single. Then he swiped second (his 23d stolen base), Moreland threw it into center, and on he went to third. The unstoppable Perkins ripped his fourth straight hit in the series to center, and it was 2-1.
Then came the fateful fifth. Richards, who has to be one of the best-kept secrets in baseball, got things started with a one-out single. He, too, stole second, and Salazar drove him in with a base hit to center.
Espinosa would throw three more pitches. Winfield drilled the first to left for a single, which gave pitching coach Herm Starrette a chance to take a stroll to the mound. But two pitches after Starrette headed back to the bench, Perkins ripped another single to make it 4-1. Exit Nino.
On came Dickie Noles. One guy who was glad to see him was Perkins. He took off for second on his first pitch and made it for the Padres' fourth stolen base of the night and 179th of the season.
Noles dutifully walked Mumphrey to pitch to Tenace. But, as with so many Phillies intentional walks, this one didn't work out too well. After Tenace ripped two 3-2 pitches foul to deep left, Noles walked him to force in the fifth run.
Noles then got Tim Flannery to bounce one through umpire, Eric Gregg's legs and into Trillo's glove for an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. But that one run he had walked in looked like a big one.
Curtis was rolling by then. After Rose's hit in the third, the only other, hit he allowed through the seventh was Trillo's two-out single in the fourth. He set down 10 in a row after that.
Curtis did a similar number on the Phillies in July of 1979 in San Francisco, too. Except first place wasn't at stake that time.
Wanted: Stretch-drive star
Is there a ‘Bernie Carbo’ in Phils’ future?
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO – Sometimes they are just names out of the small print on the Scoreboard page. Sometimes they are headlines.
Yankees acquire Gaylord Perry. Pirates pick up Kurt Bevacqua. Royals sign Jose Cardenal. Pirates add Bernie Carbo.
Adding veterans for the stretch drive has always been a baseball tradition, but not for the Phillies. In their three division-winning seasons, the only guy the Phillies ever picked up in September was Pete Mackanin in 1978. And he pinch-hit exactly four times.
Quite a few of those fabled Veterans Who Can Help have floated by on the waiver wire already this year. But the Phillies didn't bite.
The reason, said Dallas Green, was that "it would have forced us to make a roster move." Green figures he had enough problems trying to add Greg Luzinski. He didn't even want to contemplate Kurt Bevacqua.
But when rosters expand to 40 tomorrow, there are no more roster problems. Green said that he and Paul Owens would be checking the waiver wire closely in the next week or two. And he said they would definitely be interested in adding a veteran, primarily a pinch-hitter type, "if it was a guy who could help."
He wasn't naming any names. But some assorted Willie Montanezes and Willie Hortons will start showing up on the waiver lists in the next week, so the Phillies will at least have their chances to add somebody.
In the meantime, the Phillies have called up more guys (eight) from their farm teams than they have in many Septembers, and Green has plans for all of therri.
The manager sees infielder Joe Loviglio and outfielders Orlando Isales and Bob Dernier primarily as pinch-runners.
He also will have two more catchers available, Don McCormack and Ozzie Virgil Jr. Virgil, who has 28 homers at Reading, definitely will get a shot "in a situation where he can maybe pop one out of the park for us," Green said.
Of the two pitchers the Phils are recalling, righthander Marty Bystrom should get more work than lefthander Mark Davis.
Bystrom, the top righthanded pitching prospect in the organization, took half the year to recover from a series of hamstring pulls. But in his last four starts in Oklahoma City, Bystrom "really got his act to gether," Green said. "I might pick a spot and go ahead and start him."
Davis, who is 19-6 at Reading,"Will be used to get specific lefthanded hitters out in certain situations: But Green said he won't start him because "I wouldn't put that much pressure on him right now."
Then there is always Dan Larson, if the Phillies can get him through waivers. That procedure will begin as soon as Reading's playoff series ends this week, Green said.
NOTES: The last time rookie pitchers Bob Walk and Juan Tyrone Eichelberger hooked up, they faced a combined 31 batters and ran three-ball counts on 11. And the first five innings of the game took nearly two hours. Their long-awaited rematch is this afternoon.... Tug McGraw's line since July 1, going into, last night: 26 innings pitched, only 14 hits, 20 strikeouts, two earned runs, eight saves, 0.69 ERA.... Green said he might let Tim McCarver pinch-run a little in September: "I wouldn't expect him to steal a base. But I know he's going to score from second base on a base hit, get a proper lead and not get picked off."… Steve Carlton can tie Steve Stone as winningest pitcher in the majors when he goes for No. 21 in San Francisco tomorrow.