Philadelphia Inquirer - July 16, 1980

McCarver recalls befriending Carlton, an ‘independent cuss’

 

"I don't pretend to be impartial about the guy," Tim McCarver writes about Steve Carlton in this week's Sports Illustrated. "He's one of my best friends and he added four years to my career."

 

McCarver, currently a baseball broadcaster, caught Carlton with the Cardinals and the Phillies. He found the ace pitcher "an independent cuss, as I learned very early in our relationship. The first time I caught ' him was when we were with the Cardinals in spring training in 1965. Back then I was a newly established star – I'd just hit .478 in the World Series the previous fall and he was just coming up. He went four innings and allowed maybe two runs and five hits. Not a bad March performance for a rookie.

 

"Afterward . . . Lefty came over to me and said, 'Hey' he didn't call me by name 'Hey, you've got to call more breaking pitches when we're behind the hitter.'

 

"Well that really blew my mind. I backed him up against the wall and said, 'You sonofabitch. You got a lot of guts telling me that. What credentials do you have?' Lefty turned red, as he often does.

 

 

"The next day we both felt bad. I apologized. But he didn't. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Mystery shrouds Astros’ J.R, too

 

By the Associated Press

 

HOUSTON – Houston's J. R. Richard, who reputedly has the deadliest fastball in major league baseball, sat in front of his dressing room cubicle, eating fried chicken and meatballs.

 

Earlier Monday night, Richard had left Houston's game against Atlanta after 3-1/3 innings, complaining of an upset stomach.

 

The Astros eventually lost the game, 2-0, on a two-hitter by Atlanta's Phil Niekro, who pitched despite a bruised elbow.

 

"I ate a hamburger before I came to the game. That must have been what did it," Richard said.

 

"I started feeling nauseated about the third inning."

 

It was the latest chapter in the intriguing mystery of Richard's health problems. In seven starts this season, Richard has left 10 games complaining of various ailments.

 

Monday night's stomach episode was a new one. Richard told some officials last weekend that he needed 30 days' rest to recover from what he called a tired arm. Richard (10-4), the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game, was not scheduled to pitch Monday night.

 

He decided to pitch, however, after team physician Dr. Harold Brelesford told a pregame news conference that two examinations had failed to find any physical problems with Richard's arm.

 

"J. R. might be suffering some slight muscle tatigue," Brelesford said. "But Dr. (Frank) Jobe ( who examined Richard on Friday) suggested perhaps it would be best for J. R. to miss one turn.”

 

But missing one turn is far from 30 days' rest. Brelesford said neither he nor Jobe suggested 30 days' rest.

 

Richard said he mentioned the 30 days' rest.

 

Why? he was asked.

 

"Because I felt like it," he said.

 

Richard walked slowly to the mound to start each of the first four innings Monday night. He appeared to have trouble seeing signals from catcher Luis Pujols, and, prior to the fourth inning, it appeared that he was not going to take the mound.

 

Astros manager Bill Virdon had to prod Richard.

 

"I didn't know if he was going out," Virdon said. "I asked him if he was going out, and he said, 'Yeah.'"

 

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox also noticed something was amiss with Richard.

 

"He was throwing super, but he was acting a little funny on the mound," Cox said. "He couldn't seem to see some of the signs."

 

Virdon said he didn't know the next step in the mystery.

 

"But we're definitely going to have to have a talk now," Virdon said.

 

 

By this time. Richard had finished his chicken and overcome his upset stomach, leaving behind many unanswered questions about his and the Astros' future.

Phils’ error gives Astros victory, 3-2

 

By Jayson Stark

 

HOUSTON – You know when you walk into the Astrodome that you're not in for a bunch of 18-16 classics. It's about as easy to score a lot of runs in the Dome as it is to rip a pop-up through the roof.

 

The Phillies have hit three home runs in Houston in two years, and one of them was by Larry Christenson, a pitcher. So all failures to abide by Dallas Green's Grind It Out Code to Live By loom larger than normal. And normally, Green abides such failures about as tolerantly as Frank Rizzo abided muggers.

 

But last night's 3-2 loss to the Astros will go down as Green's ultimate grind-out nightmare. The Phils took a 2-1 lead off Nolan Ryan into the eighth, then let it slip away with two innings of classic failure to do the little things.

 

"Cripes almighty," grumbled Green, "you know these games in this place historically are 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. You always have trouble scoring here. You know that when you walk into the gul-damn ballpark. That's why you've got to be conscious of what the hell's going on in this game."

 

Two bad innings

 

Green flipped his shoes dejectedly, one thunking against his office wall, then the other.

 

"That, gentlemen, was how not to play team baseball for two innings," he said. "Great bleeping baseball for seven. Then we forget how to play the bleeping game for two. It's that simple. That's the way you're gonna get beat in these bleeping games."

 

Green was bugged by all the runs the Astros scored. He also was bugged by a few runs the Phillies didn't score. But he was bugged most of all by a ninth inning that went exactly the way he didn't script it.

 

First, he got a leadoff single out of Bake McBride in what was then a 2-2 game. Next up was Del Unser, who played left in place of Lonnie Smith because Ryan is a righthanded fastball pitcher and Unser is a lefthanded fastball hitter.

 

But by then Ryan was gone, and primo lefthanded reliever Joe Sambito was on the scene. When Green let Unser hit instead of Smith, he might as well have sent him up there with a sign on his chest that read, "I'm bunting, folks."

 

But Unser couldn't get the bunt down in two tries, then erased McBride with the Phillies' third double-play ball in the last three innings.

 

Costly mistakes

 

"Team baseball," muttered Green for about the ninth time in three minutes. "Hell, if I was gonna let somebody hit, I'd have pinch-hit, for cripe's sake."

 

But that sin was nothing compared to the ones Phils starter Dick Ruthven committed in the bottom of the ninth. Ruthven had pitched sensationally for seven innings. And he still had allowed only six hits and one earned run as he began the ninth.

 

However, Astros catcher Alan Ashby drilled his first pitch of the inning to right for a single. Ruthven threw Ashby four pitches last night. He swung at all four. He ripped all four for line drives. Since the first three were caught, Ruthven had this one coming.

 

Next up was Craig Reynolds, who is hitting .184 but is one of the game's premier bunt artists. So as Ruthven went to the stretch, Pete Rose began charging from first. But suddenly, Ruthven turned to make a move to first and found nobody home except pinch-runner Jeff Leonard. So he whipped a fake throw, and people were yelling, "Balk," from here to Kensington.

 

"Geez, if you're the pitcher, can't you see the bleeping guy (Rose) breaking?" Green exploded. "All it means is, you ain't paying bleeping attention to what's going on."

 

Ruthven committed a clone of the same balk June 28 against the Mets. And that, too, cost him a run and a win. "The same gul-damn thing," Green said. "That's why half the guys in the league steal on him. He can't see the runner. He must not be able to bleeping see.

 

"I can see stepping off. If you can see the guy breaking in out of the corner of your eye, you can step off. You've got to get things organized if you don't want to take it home."

 

But it was too late for that. Leonard was on second, and Reynolds still had the bunt sign. He fouled off one bunt try. But he dropped the second gorgeously.

 

It spun 20 feet from the plate, between the mound and the third-base line. Reynolds almost certainly had it beaten out. But Ruthven lerched for the ball, then attempted to throw it from a position Nadia Comaneci wouldn't work into her floor-exercise routine.

 

It sailed majestically over Manny Trillo's head, rolled toward the Astros' bullpen in right and that was it.

 

"I wouldn't think there'd be much point in making that throw," Green said. "You've got to try and stay within yourself in that situation. The worst you come out if you don't throw is first and third. The chances aren't very good, but you've got no chance if you make the error."

 

It was hard to tell, but Green was very happy with Ruthven otherwise. He didn't allow a hit for the first 3-1/3 innings, had a very sharp breaking ball and was in almost no trouble until the eighth.

 

Ryan, on the other hand, was not the Nolan the K who punched out 10 in a four-hit sandblasting of the Phillies in May. They reached him for four hits in the first but turned that into one run because Trillo made a baserunning blunder and Bob Boone left two men on.

 

Ryan threw a preponderance of hard curves, didn't get a strikeout until the sixth and finished with only two Ks in eight innings. He was, in short, beatable.

 

"We certainly had some pretty good hacks at him," Green said. But the Astros got even once in the fourth. Terry Puhl bounced a single that Trillo dropped trying to make a great play on from short right. Then Puhl stole second, went to third on Boone's throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly.

 

"We give up the easiest runs anyone's ever seen," Green sighed.

 

Then, after the Phils had manufactured a sixth-inning run without a hit, the Astros tied it again in the eighth on three straight singles. The Phillies, meanwhile, left Trillo on third with one out in the sixth and failed to advance any of their three baserunners thereafter.

 

 

"One of these days, people will start listening to me on grind-it-out team baseball," Green shrugged. "I don't know when, but they'll listen sooner or later. They will if they want to win."

Trillo not cooling off in heat of summer

 

By Jayson Stark

 

It's not unusual that Manny Trillo is tied for the league lead in hitting. He's been up there before.

 

What is unusual is that it's the middle of July, and Manny Trillo is tied for the league lead in hitting.

 

Trillo has done this Tony Oliva act in April. And he has also done the old Rogers Hornsby routine in May, too. But if it is July and Trillo still is up there with the Templetons and the Hernandezes, well, that's very different.

 

If it's July, you have to consider whether it is possible that Trillo could keep this up all year long.

 

"He could," said Pete Rose. "Because he hits the ball all over. And he's cut down on his strikeouts considerably. If he stays strong enough he can win."

 

Rose said that even when Trillo was in Chicago, he always felt he could hit.

 

"He's like (the Cardinals' Ken) Reitz. He always has good starts," Rose said. "I just figured he didn't keep it up because he's not really a strong individual."

 

Was it just a case of a guy melting in that Wrigley Field sunshine? Maybe it was, because about a month ago Trillo appeared to be heading into his late-spring plummet.

 

In one two-week stretch, he dropped from .321 to his season low, .292. But for July he was 22-for-56 (.393) through last night. And he was back up to .328, tying him for the league lead with Dodger Reggie Smith.

 

"The other day some guys were kidding me," Trillo said. "They were saying, 'It's July already; are you gonna keep this up?' Me and Billy DeMars were sitting there. We just said, 'Damn right, I'm gonna keep it up.'"

 

 

NOTES: Mike Schmidt reinjured his hamstring in a rundown play Monday night, tested it in batting practice last night and then scratched himself from the lineup. So John Vukovich played third.... Lonnie Smith also was out of there against Nolan Ryan last night. Incidentally, Smith's five-hit game Monday was his first in any pro league. Del Unser got the thrill of replacing him against Ryan, after going the entire home-stand without an at-bat. "Last time I played here was against J. R. (Richard)," Unser said. "So it's not much different. I'll take the AB's any way I can get them."... Going into last night, Greg Gross had hit .467 for July (7-for-15), Smith had hit .400 (14-for-35), Rose also had hit .400 (20-for-50) and Garry Maddox had gone 15 for-42 (.357) Bob Walk (5-0) vs. Ken Forsch (8-8) tonight.