Philadelphia Inquirer - July 11, 1980
Can Cubbies bear lights?
The Cubs once again try to prove they can, indeed, play baseball under artificial light on artificial grass at the Vet (8:05 p.m.).
Bob Walk is set to go for the Phils against veteran righthander Lynn McGlothen, who generally gives the Phillies fits.
PHILLIES vs. Chicago at Veterans Stadium (rfadlo-KYW-1060, 8:05 p.m.)
Media never gave Phillies a break in drug stories
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
It isn't easy being a celebrity. Sure, the pay is good, sometimes outrageously good, but the price a person pays can be awfully steep, too. The average person can get stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike for speeding or get stinking drunk or get in a fight without seeing his name in headlines or hearing it on the 6 o'clock news. But celebrities – and surely athletes rate high on the celebrity scale in our society – are never safely beyond the range of the spotlight.
I remember the case of a basketball player at Penn who was declared academically ineligible at mid-season. The story made headlines in all the papers the next day. The kid was terribly embarrassed. His parents were terribly embarrassed. Suddenly, everybody in Philadelphia knew that the young man was having scholastic problems. It didn't matter that thousands of college kids around the country were having scholastic problems. It didn't matter that this particular kid hadn't flunked a single course, and that he was on his way to getting a degree. Because he was a basketball player at a school that received wide media attention, the spotlight zeroed in on him.
Fair? Hell, no. Merely a fact of life. If you're a celebrity – even an unpaid celebrity – you have to take the bad with the good, even though the bad can be blown way out of proportion.
Jim Wright, the highly regarded pitcher in the Phillies farm system, was talking this spring about his experiences as a high school basketball player in Saint Joseph, Mo. He was a good basketball player – so good that he led his team into the state tournament. Came the final game and Wright tore the place apart. He scored something like 30 points, pulled down in the neighborhood of 30 rebounds. The game was nip and tuck going into the final seconds because of him. His team was a point behind. Wright tried for the winning basket and was fouled. Two shots. Make both and his team would win. Make one and the game would go into overtime....
The first one rolled around and came out. Wright's own coach called a timeout to remind him that he'd better damn well make the second. He didn't.
The coach told the press that Wright cost them the game. The headline in the local paper the next day called the kid a "goat." It took Jim Wright a while to get over that, and to this day he remembers the incident, the headline, the whole thing vividly.
So it isn't only the pros who feel the hot glare of the spotlight, who get built up to incredible heights one day, knocked to the floor the next. But the experience hurts at any age, at any level ot a person s career.
I can understand why an athlete say, a Steve Carlton reaches the point where he is tired of getting burned by that ever-present spotlight, where he decides to withdraw as far as possible into the shadows by simply never speaking to the press. I don't agree with it. I certainly don't appreciate it. But I understand it.
And when a story breaks – maybe explodes would be a better word – the way that the Phillies drug story exploded this week, I understand it even more.
God knows I believe in freedom of the press. When I read and hear some of those frequent attacks directed at the media in this country by two-bit politicians and the like, my blood boils. But the fact remains that sometimes the press does get out of line. Sometimes we knock our celebrities and kick them around merely for the sake of selling newspapers or adding a couple of points to the ratings.
The Phillies drug story is a perfect case in point. The four players mentioned in the original story about the investigation of illegally prescribed amphetamines – Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski – took an awful beating. Big headlines. Front-page pictures.
"It's hard to defend the media in this one," said Larry Shenk, the Phillies PR man.
All right, he's hardly a disinterested party. But he does have a point. Before anybody knew how serious the charges were and although the Berks County district attorney later told the Associated Press, "At this point we have no evidence that anyone has broken the law," and, "as far as news reports of Schmidt and Bowa, the information we have on those two individuals shows no connection at all, even innocently" – the damage already had been done.
Sample this front-page headline in yesterday's Philadelphia Journal: "Narcs: 'We're After The Phils.'”
Throughout the country, Rose, Schmidt and the others were in headlines that talked about them being linked in a drug probe. I talked to a friend in Los Angeles the day of the All-Star game. He had heard a sketchy account of the "drug probe" on the radio. "What were they doing, sniffing coke?" he asked me.
People often like to believe the worst, and their imaginations are being given an opportunity to run wild in this affair.
"Any of us that's in the limelight, anybody can say anything they want about you any time and get away with it," Schmidt said the other day, between rounds of batting practice at the All-Star game. "No sense me worrying, concerning myself with something I have no control over. I don't know anything about any of this stuff. I'm just out here trying to relax for a few days. My wife's back at home pregnant. She reads that. It's pathetic...."
You'd have to be very naive to be around professional sports for a long time and not believe that athletes – a lot of athletes – pop pills.
I spoke to a former pro basketball general manager on the coast. He said that seven, eight years ago his team had a bottle of pep pills, or greenies, available, that players could just reach in and grab them, although the pills were dispensed more discreetly later.
I received a letter two years ago from "A Concerned Wife" (of a baseball player), who expressed great concern about the use of amphetamines and their effect on the health of those players who use them. "They start with 5 mg. in April," she wrote, "but are taking much more by July, and by September they are really into the stuff. Don't you notice the dilated pupils or over-talkativeness before the games?"
But attempts to discover the identity of the letter writer and confirm the authenticity of the letter failed. "I'm still afraid to reveal who I am," A Concerned Wife wrote. "You see, my husband would be blackballed from baseball if I did. He is a professional baseball player himself, and as guilty as the rest."
Sure, I believe some – perhaps many – baseball players, and football players, and basketball players take, or have taken, amphetamines, just as a lot of ordinary, non-celebrity citizens out there have taken them.
It isn't right. Something should be done about it. But neither is it right to point a finger at four well-known athletes and smear their reputations before there is any proof or even a strong indication that they did anything wrong.
Celebrities have a responsibility to their public and to those who pay their salaries to act like decent, law-abiding people, not to abuse that celebrity status.
The media have a responsibility, too.
Phils start second half with 5-3 win
Cubs fall, victors keep quiet
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
A sportswriter's tour through the Phillies' locker room was never exactly a trip to the Comedy Store. But last night it was more like a stroll through the deserted streets of Dodge City, or maybe Mars.
The Phils jumped into the second half of their season with a come-from-behind, 5-3 victory over the Cubs last night. And there were lots of things guys might ordinarily have talked about.
Dick Ruthven (8-5) might have wanted to discuss his neat, eight-inning 11-hitter, beginning with a two-run, four-hit first inning.
Or Dickie Noles might have wanted to talk about his first save since June 7. Or any number of other guys might have been interested in talking about any number of other plays that brought about a win that kept the Phillies a game behind first-place Montreal.
But these were not ordinary times. They were times that followed three days of newspaper stories concerning a state investigation of a Reading doctor who allegedly wrote illegal prescriptions for amphetamines that, reportedly, may have wound up in the hands of a number of Phillies.
So when writers entered the Phillies' locker room last night, they found some guys hurriedly dressing and leaving. They found others not at all.
Among those who did hang around were such noted non-spokesmen as Steve Carlton and Nino Espinosa. Also present and accounted for were John and George Vukovich. Trouble was, they didn't play. Twenty minutes after the game, the only guy who had played and was also talking about it was outfielder Lonnie Smith.
Larry Bowa, who had vowed never to give another interview, did not give any last night. But Mike Schmidt, who had said he was considering "going the Steve Carlton route," announced that he will continue to talk.
"Let's forget about it," he said. "Let all that junk blow over."
At least Dallas Green was talking as if nothing had happened. And he said his team had played as if nothing had happened.
"I don't think those thoughts were on their minds (during the game)," Green said. "Certainly, they've been through adversity before, I guess. I will say this – I just feel we were not treated fairly by the press. Now you guys have backed off, and I appreciate that. I don't think it's something to dwell on."
Whereupon writers walked back into the locker room and looked around at the empty stalls.
One guy who eventually did emerge from a long shower was Bob Boone. Boone was last seen heading into the All-Star break hitting .223. But last night he started the second half with three singles, including a game-tying, two-run number in the fourth.
"Actually, it's not quite the second half (it was only the Phils' 77th game)," Boone said. "I just pretended it was."
Boone stared at the quote-hungry faces in front of him and laughed. He hadn't been mentioned in any drug stories. So he was one guy who could afford to make light of what was otherwise a pretty somber situation.
Boone's first hit was the only hit in a three-run fourth inning that brought the Phils back from a 3-1 deficit.
Cubs starter Mike Krukow, who had five strikeouts in the first three innings, got only one out in the fourth. He should have gotten about five, except that his third baseman was Lenny Randle.
Randle flopped to the turf about' two seconds too soon on a slow Manny Trillo hopper that got by him for an error (instead of a double play). Then he descended to his knees and missed a glove save as Boone's shot bounced by to his right.
Pete Rose put the Phillies ahead to stay with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Had Jerry Martin not made a running, backhanded stab on it in left-center, the game would have been over a lot earlier.
Boone and Randle figured again in the Phils' final run in the eighth. Boone chopped a two-out high-hopper off the plate that pitcher Dick Tidrow fielded and threw into right.
Boone scored from second on Greg Gross' pinch-single through the middle. But he might not have made it had Randle not ill-advisedly cut off Martin's throw to the plate. As Randle hung up Gross between first and second, Boone scored and catcher Tim Blackwell grimaced.
After the first, Ruthven negotiated his way through endless trouble before Noles got his fifth save with a 1-2-3 ninth. Ruthven stranded runners in scoring position five times. And Boone threw out Ivan DeJesus stealing to save Ruthven from doing it a sixth time.
"He didn't have good control of his breaking bail tonight," Boone said. "But he had his best change-up. The key was getting out of those jams when they had the chances to break it open."
NOTES: Tug McCraw has started throwing again. He tried 60 pitches (no breaking balls) Wednesday and 100 more (again no breaking balls) last night and said he had "no problems at all." For lack of any better explanation, McGraw accepts the theory that he developed tendinitis in his shoulder from throwing more sidearm pitches. "Hey, it's just like Picasso," McGraw said. "He didn't paint the same paintings over and over, did he? He tried to come up with something new." He said he will postpone the sidearm experiments until after the season, however.... In other DL bulletins, Larry Christenson is throwing medium-hard, and there is a chance he could be back next month. Green watched carefully as Warren Brusstar threw Wednesday. But there is no word when he might be activated.... The Cubs have problems, too. Dave Kingman came off the disabled list June 27, went 0-for-16 plus 0-for-1 in the All-Star game, then went right back on the DL last night. He has a mysterious shoulder injury. And Barry Foote will return to Chicago today to have his injured back checked.