Philadelphia Daily News - July 11, 1980
Lonnie Has In, Outs on Bases
By Jay Greenberg
Lonnie Smith plays like Dallas Green talks. Sort of loud.
"I was halfway to second and saw the right-fielder was just picking up the ball," said Lonnie. "I gave the third base coach a look, but it wasn't a good look. I thought he was waving me on and he was holding me up."
If everybody ran like Lonnie Smith, third base coaches would be dinosaurs. Greg Luzinski would be Harvey Glance, Pete Rose would have 5,000 career hits, and we'd all be at Franklin Field instead of the Vet watching track meets.
The ball shot off Smith's bat for the right-field corner and he took off, what seemed like only a step behind it. Low to the ground that his feet didn't appear to touch, leaving first baseman Bill Buckner coughing in the dust storm, not rounding second but exploding from it. And not sliding safely into third, but rather appearing there an instant before Lenny Randle put the ball on him.
"It was a mistake," said Lonnie later with a smile, "but it worked out for the best."
PETE ROSE immediately scored him with a single, and the Phils were back within a run of the Cubs. The muggy night, which had consisted of broken-bat Cub singles, a Larry Bowa error and Garry Maddox blowing a run by having to go back a second time to touch third base, changed completely into a 5-3 Phillies victory.
A "Lonnie" had blown in off the northeast. It's the coolest of breezes and a welcome one, striking the Phillies manager gently between the shoulder blades.
"He makes things exciting at times," smiled Green. "He's so damn fast in his thinking and reactions sometimes it takes a while for the body to catch up and he looks a little sloppy at it. But he's adjusting."
"I've told everybody around that I'm a Lonnie Smith man because I know in my heart he can play in the big leagues and create excitement and enthusiasm on a baseball team."
A routine fifth-inning fly ball which Smith turned into an extravaganza is, well, part of the total package. “I thought it was a little shorter than it was," Smith said. "Luckily I had the reach to get back to it."
There will be days, naturally, when even his legs can't overcome hws judgment. It has, however, been the judgment of Green for six years that the kid, a No. 1 draft choice in 1974, was something special, even when he was only the farm director, not the manager. The air escaping from Dallas last spring, which was probably the proper time for Lonnie to become a major leaguer, was in direct contrast to the breeze the kid creates.
ON OPENING NIGHT a year ago, Lonnie was only swaying in the breeze. The rope was provided by Danny Ozark, who started him in right field. "I'd played right field in high school," said Smith. "If I just would have had a chance to play there a little during spring training, I could have adjusted."
Instead, he blew two fly balls, was booed, returned to the bench, and a few days later, to Oklahoma City. Nobody was booing louder than Green, but his boos were directed at Ozark.
"I screamed all the way from wherever I was in Florida when I heard about it," said Dallas again last night. "I thought it was totally unfair. He had 30 days to work him out in spring training and he never worked him out a day. Then to throw him out in front of 50,000 people."
Lonnie could have played here last year, but not the way Danny wanted him to play. It was probably better that he went back. By the time we sent him back, he wanted to go.
He hit .300 for the second time in three Triple A seasons and Ozark was fired in September. Lonnie's options were gone; he would have been a Phillie in 1980 anyway, but the quality of life as a substitute under Green is much better.
WITH LUZINSKI in left, Garry Maddox in center and Bake McBride hitting .302, the starts come only here and there, but Smith has shown enough to answer the last question about him.
He can hit a curveball. "He could always hit a curveball," said Dallas. "He did it everywhere in the minors."
And he can run. Lord, can Lonnie Smith run. And while teammates are running for the lounge, he's sitting at his locker as the door is opened to reporters. It's genuine fresh air.
"I'm not going to drive in runs," Smith said. "You're talking about taking guys out of the lineup who can drive in 100 to use a guy who can score 100. That doesn't make much sense.
"But I can hit major-league pitching. They thought I was a power-hitter once, but it hasn't worked out. If I hit it in the air, it's just a weak fly ball. I get it on the ground, I can hit between .280 and .300."
"A guy like (Montreal's) Rodney Scott can steal bases but not much else. The only way he gets on is pitchers are intimidated by his speed. If pitchers would throw him strikes he wouldn't get on at all. He's not thinking about hitting, just getting on base. I don't have a whole lot of respect for that. I prefer to go up there thinking I can hit. I can steal bases, but second is enough. I don't think I have to steal third on this team.
"I DON'T KNOW how high I'd hit if I played every day. If you play every day, you get a little tired and tend to drag, but you don't really know until you get the chance to play every day.
"How long can I wait? If the money's right, probably a long time. But hopefully one of these days I will be an everyday player. If not here, somewhere else. I don't expect to be a regular here with the lineup we've got, that's why it's taken me longer than I expected to make this team in the first place.
"I was hoping to be up by the time I was 21 but it didn't work out that way. I'm just trying to look forward, hoping I don't have to go back.
“I’ve seen what the minor leagues have done to guys who didn't get the chance. You see a lot of young ballplayers lose it all. Their ability to play, their ability to express themselves on and off the field. My biggest concern last year was just feeding my family. You only hope you get another chance, because the minor leagues are really a downer."
No Bull! Phillies Win
By Bill Conlin
Ruly Carpenter spoke to the troops about the other thing Wednesday afternoon. He was followed to the clubhouse rostrum by Manager Dallas Green, who provided a 200-decibel echo.
Transcripts were not handed out to members of the print media, whose sinking lifeboat relationship with the Phillies has gurgled to a new low after an unnamed source in the State Drug Enforcement Agency leaked an undocumented story to an investigative reporter for the Trenton Times, a paper adopted late in life by The Washington Post and which probably will not win a Pulitzer on the strength of this threadbare expose.
The owner's message, however, was basic: All parties named are considered innocent until proven guilty; the Phillies in no way encourage or condone the use of controlled dangerous substances, and, hey, guys, we've got a shot at this division and let's go out and get it.
GREEN HAD THE Phillies' undivided attention before last night's 5-3 victory over the Cubs. This time the message was pure baseball and the session was more like a New England town meeting than the traditional one-way clubhouse variety.
"It was a good open session," the manager said. "It wasn't all Dallas Green doing the talking. It involved a lot of offensive ideas, some of my ideas playing-wise, some of my ideas involving attitude and approach to the game."
It probably disappointed some people that Timothy Leary did not throw out the first ball, that nobody ran the bases backward or came to the plate waving a roach clip instead of an Adirondack.
What the 33,130 fans got was a Phillies offense which turned almost nothing into just enough, an offense which would not have been nearly enough without Lenny Randle's imitation of Max Patkin at third base.
They got a resourceful tap dance from righthander Dick Ruthven, who will not rank his stuff in the Top 20 of big league games he has started and almost finished. Ruthven was down, 3-1. going into the bottom of the fourth, which was when the Phillies used two walks, an error by Randle, a lonely single off the third baseman's glove by Bob Boone, a hit batsman and Pete Rose's sacrifice fly to score three magical, mystical runs off starter Mike Krukow. It was day-after-the-All-Star-break baseball at its best.
Ruthven scattered three hits after that, left for pinch-hitter Greg Gross, whose intelligent baserunning helped finesse an eighth-inning insurance run, and watched Dickie Noles pick up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"I TOLD BOB before the game that I feel really strong," said Ruthven from the trainer's room on a night when the victorious clubhouse resembled the waiting room of a hospital crammed with certified cholera victims. "I told him to keep me down because I have a tendency when I feel like that to overthrow and get behind and I can't pitch high. Then my breaking ball was absolutely non-existent. I was trying to figure out ways to make it break a little different every time because it wasn't breaking much. It seemed when I got guys on I got it away a little, took a little off.
"What I did have was a good changeup. Boonie and I were talking and felt that might have been my best changeup all year. It's really been a puzzle to me and Bob because everything else has come back. The changeup, for some reason, I wasn't getting the arm speed on it to make it deceptive."
Boone, who made solid contact in three of four at-bats and came away with three singles and two RBI, said Ruthven was at his best when the Cubs seemed a hit away from breaking it open.
"I thought the key to the game was him getting out of some jams when they had a chance to break the game open." the catcher said. "He made some good pitches and we made plays behind him and that was really the key to his pitching tonight."
Green wants this team to pay special attention to conditioning when the dog days of August creep through the smog-laden air. And although the pitching situation looks better than at any time this season, the manager worries about the nagging groin pull Mike Schmidt played with last night, and the puffy, knee. which kept Greg Luzinski on the bench.
"I DON'T LIKE what I'm seeing with Greg's knee right now," Dallas said. "I want him back but I'm not in a hurry if it means rushing him the way he tried to bite the bullet with that leg injury last season. Right now the knee is puffed up and he's not capable of playing on it and helping us."
So Lonnie Smith played left, scored the first run after lashing a triple with one out in the third, outrunning a throw from right which missed the cutoff man and a stop sign by third base coach Lee Elia. And he outran a misjudged ball to left by Randle in the fifth to make a remarkable, second-chance save. The kind of speed Lonnie possesses still beats hell out of anything else in baseball.
"We started out the second half with a good one," Green said saluting the kind of effort he feels the Phillies must have on the four days out of five Steve Carlton does not pitch. "Ruthven pitched well the two times out before this and he had good stuff tonight. His location was not as good early as it got later on, mainly down. The club battling back getting runs made it a little easier for him."
Garry Maddox walked on a 3-2 pitch after fouling off ball four twice leading off the fourth and went to second when Randle failed to glove a bouncer into the cutout by Manny Trillo. Larry Bowa walked to load the bases and Boone tied it, 3-3, with a two-run single off Randle and into left. Krukow's first pitch drilled Smith to reload the bases and Rose lofted a sacrifice fly to center. The rally won't make "This Week in Baseball," but what the hell.
BOONE LEGGED OUT an infield hit with two outs in the eighth and went to second when Dick Tidrow bounced the ball past first. Green sent Gross up to hit for Ruthven and the former Cub lined a single to center. Even with two outs, Boone was not a mortal lock to score on the play. But Gross was on his way to second on Jerry Martin's throw to the plate and Randle unwisely cut off the ball. Boone scored the insurance run and Gross was run down for a third out which meant absolutely nothing.
"There was probably a chance for a play on Boonie," Green said "But G.G. did what he's supposed to do in that situation and we got the run."
The manager nodded toward a clubhouse that was less populated than the steppes of Outer Mongolia. "I don't envy you your work," Green advised the literati. "That's a tough sell out there."
What else is new.
PHILUPS: The Phils stayed a game behind the Expos... Mike Schmidt, fighting nasty breaking balls all night, struck out three times and lashed a double. The third baseman made a remarkable catch two rows into the box seats down the line in left on catcher Tim Blackwell in the second... The Cubs placed Dave Kingman on the 15-day disabled list and sent catcher Barry Foote back to Chicago for treatment of an injury... The rained-out fireworks display will light the South Philly sky after Bob Walk goes against Phils nemesis Lynn McGlothen tonight... The Phils' run off Dick Tidrow was only the fourth allowed by the excellent Cubs bullpen in the last 30 innings... Pete Rose has seven game-winning RBI, one more than Schmidt, to lead the club... The Phils have won seven of their last 10.
5 Winners in Home Run Payoff
There were five winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest.
In the third inning of the Phillies-Cubs game, Chip Chiarello of Trenton won $100, plus four tickets to a Phillies game on Lonnie Smith's triple. Robert Gordon of Philadelphia won $35 and tickets on a Pete Rose single ($10) and RBI ($25).
Winners of tickets were, Etta Stevens of Philadelphia, Marie Bradford of Jenkintown, and Merry DeWitt of Havertown.
So far the Daily News has paid out $10,135. Today's entry coupon appears on Page 87.