Allentown Morning Call - July 31, 1980

Will The Bull be able to butt out Lonnie Smith?


By Marc Markowitz, Call Sports Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Lonnie Smith doesn't have rabbit ears, but he hears the whispers. For the first two months of the season, the trade winds blew around his head. Then Greg Luzinski got injured and he got his chance in leftfield. Every flyball to left was an adventure and the critics were all over him. And now Luzinski is supposed to be ready in less than three weeks.


"Hey, whatever happens, happens," the soft-spoken Smith said Tuesday. "Right now I'm just trying to do the job. Everything else will take care of itself." 


Smith has done the job so well that Dallas Green is going to be faced with a monumental decision when Luzinski returns from the disabled list. 


He still struggles in leftfield at times and occasionally runs himself into trouble. But Smith can hit (.352 average going into last night's game) and he can run – after stealing three bases and running his streak to seven without being caught, Smith was second on the team with 17 steals. 


"What can you say about Lonnie, he's done the job and he'll continue to play," Manager Dallas Green has said on more than one occasion in the last two weeks. 


Green is an advocate of a successful farm system and that hasn't hurt Smith. In fact, that's a major reason why he's playing every day instead of splitting time with Greg Gross, a proven .300 hitter. 


"The game is always fun when you're going well," said Smith, "but the game to me is fun whether we win or lose. Hopefully, it'll be fun for another 10 years." 


Certainly, if you're a Phillie fan it's fun watching Smith. On Tuesday, prior to his game-winning single in the eighth in a 9-6 victory over the Astros, he reached base three times. In the third, he singled and stole second to ignite a three-run rally against Joaquin Andujar. In the fourth, he walked and stole second, dying there as Pete Rose bounced out.


In the seventh, he was hit by a pitch. Instead of charging the pitcher in what has become a common event this season. Smith charged to first base and on the second pitch stole second. Bert Roberge was unnerved enough to serve up an RBI single to Bake McBride and a two-run homer to Mike Schmidt.


"The secret to stealing bases for me is to watch the (right-handed ) pitcher's right foot," said Smith, shrugging at the suggestion it's difficult stealing off a pitcher he's never seen. "I make my move when I see he's going to be coming to the plate instead of to first." 


Evidently, it must work. His 17 steals have come in 20 attempts, which is a highly respectable 85 percent success rate. But everyone knew he could run the bases, especially since he'd stolen 171 bases in less than four seasons at Oklahoma City. After three seasons at over .300 at Oklahoma City there was also the belief he could hit.


But in parts of two major league -seasons, he collected five hits in 34 at bats and looked very nervous at the plate. That's all changed now as his confidence has soared. 


"It (his confidence) gets better and better with each day," said Smith. "I see I can play up here ( in the majors ) and I'm real happy about the way things have gone for me." 


Things have gone so well that he has to be considered an outside shot for rookie of the year honors, despite having only 142 official plate appearances. It's hard to overlook a .350 batting average and the prospects of finishing with around 30 stolen bases.


And the trade winds – they're a thing of the past. 


"Yeah. I heard about it (the trade talk), but I wasn't worried," said Smith. "It didn't matter to me if I got traded. All I wanted was a chance to play. I wasn't gonna lose sleep one way or another." 


Only Dallas Green will lose sleep in three weeks – trying to figure what to do with Luzinski when he returns. The tradewinds could start blowing in another direction.

Fifth-inning hits help Phillies to 6-4 win over Houston


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Two-run singles in the fifth inning by rookie Keith Moreland and Garry Maddox carried the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros last night. 


Winning pitcher Dick Ruthven, 10-7, opened the fifth with a double off Nolan Ryan, 5-8. One out later, Pete Rose walked. Ryan retired Bake McBride, who had stroked seven consecutive hits over the last two games, but walked Mike Schmidt to load the bases. Moreland then ripped a single to right, scoring Ruthven and Rose and sending the Phillies ahead 4-3.


Moreland's hit boosted his hitting streak to seven games, in which he is 9-for-17 with 6 RBI. He took second on the throw to the plate and scored behind Schmidt when Maddox singled to left. Maddox got a break when first baseman Danny Heep misplayed an easy pop foul and was charged with an error just before the hit. 


The Astros had taken a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a 2-run single by Craig Reynolds. The Phillies tied it in the bottom of the inning on McBride's second single of the game, a walk to Schmidt, an RBI single by Maddox and a double by Manny Trillo. Houston went ahead in the fifth when Jeff Leonard singled, went to third on Ruthven s wild pickoff attempt and scored on Joe Morgan's single. 


Ruthven allowed 8 hits in seven innings before giving way to Tug McGraw, who earned his ninth save.

Clot removed from neck of J.R. Richard


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – J R. Richard, the Houston Astros' million-dollar pitcher, underwent emergency surgery last night in Houston to remove a blood clot in a neck artery, the club said. 


The operation was required after Richard collapsed during a workout in Houston early yesterday. 


Tal Smith, president and general manager of the Astros, said he was in constant contact with Houston Methodist Hospital by phone from Philadelphia, where the Western Division-leading Astros were playing the Phillies.


Smith said he was told by the hospital that Richard went onto the surgeon's table around 10 p.m. Before the operation began, Richard was "awake, alert and cooperative," Smith said he was told. 


There was no early prognosis. 


Ed Wade, an Astros spokesman, first disclosed an operation was necessary in a brief statement during the Phils-Astros game. 


A team of vascular surgeons undertook the operation on Richard, who has been on the 21-day disabled list since July 16 with what had been diagnosed as a blockage of an artery in his right shoulder.

Phils sign SMU linebacker


DALLAS (AP) – Southern Methodist University linebacker Jerry Kovar has signed a contract to play professional baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies, school officials announced. 


Kovar, who was drafted in the 10th round by the National League club, had two years of eligibility in both baseball and football. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound defensive end is to leave tomorrow for the Phillies' farm team in Helena, Mont. 


He is the third SMU baseball player to sign a professional baseball contract. Pitcher Brad Mengwasser signed with the Texas Rangers and outfielder-catcher Leo George, who also played football for the Mustangs, has joined the Seattle Mariners.


Kovar led the Mustangs' defensive unit in total plays during the 1979 season and was one of the Southwest Conference team's leading tacklers.