Philadelphia Daily News - July 7, 1980
Lefty Strikes It Rich
By Bill Conlin
ST. LOUIS – Ken Reitz had just returned to the St. Louis dugout, victim of a third-strike slider that had nearly trimmed his toenails, "When a voice on the press box microphone revealed that with his next strikeout Steve Carlton would have a career total of 2,833, more than any left-handed pitcher in baseball history. Or. as Muhammad Ali would say of ALLLLLL time.
The tone of the announcement also suggested that the moment was imminent, and with good reason. Replacing Reitz in the batter's box was Tony Scott, second among the Cardinals in strikeouts to the prolific Bobby Bonds. Two innings earlier, in his first appearance, Scott had retired after a series of swings that looked like he was trying to swat gnats.
Now, with two out in the fourth, standing on the doorstep of history. Tony walked right in. He, too. waved at a slider for strike three, and then as Carlton was striding briskly toward the dugout notice of his grand achievement was being posted on the scoreboard in the city where it all began 15 years ago.
AS THE ENORMITY of the moment was absorbed by the crowd of 17,769. people began popping from their seats and what had begun as polite applause became a standing ovation. Carlton eventually stepped from the dugout to acknowledge the tribute, after which the afternoon resumed its routine pace. Meaning that Lefty rolled aside the potent St. Louis offense with the same effortless flow that has been the trademark of his towering season.
"Bull had seen somewhere that he was only four strikeouts away." John Vukovich was to say after yesterday's 8-3 victory over the Cardinals had sent the Phillies into the All-Star break still one game behind the division-leading Expos. "He mentioned it to us before the game, and I think we all stopped and thought about what an awesome thing it is. And the way he's pitching, you know he's gonna do nothing but add on to it for another four or five years. I'm happy to have been a part of it.”
“I’m sure when he's able to sit down and reflect on it, the record will mean something," said Dallas Green. "But at the time it came to him, I think he was more interested in the win. Wins are his objective right now."
Yesterday's win was his 14th in a season which still is five games shy of the halfway mark, and it was earned by a Carlton performance that was more tidy than the final score will suggest. He would have carried a shutout into the ninth inning had it not been for a swift, and powerful, stroke by George Hendrick in the fourth. Immediately preceding the strikeouts by Reitz and Scott, Hendrick had crushed a Carlton pitch, driving it well beyond the left-field wall.
"IRONIC THAT SILENT Steve would be taken downtown by Silent George," said one of the more feisty of the St Louis journalists. "And neither one of them will talk about it."
The Cardinals' other runs came with two out in the ninth and Ron Reed on the mound. On another day when it would have been unwise to drop anything combustible on the Busch Stadium turf, Dallas Green excused Carlton after eight innings.
"He probably could have finished," Green said, "but he had thrown 104 pitches, and it must have been 135 degrees on the ground. With an 8-1 lead, enough was enough."
Carlton's monumental accomplishment was foremost, but there were other delights extracted from yesterday's game in this sauna by the Mississippi. The losing pitcher was Pete Vuckovich, with whom the Phillies have quarreled unsuccessfully on numerous occasions. It was scoreless after three innings this time, but the Phils used two doubles, a throwing error by Garry Templeton, and some deft base-running and batwork to squeeze three runs out of the fourth. They scored again in the fifth, again in the sixth, and suddenly Vuckovich was gone.
What delighted Dallas Green about all this was the character of the rallies. "I get frustrated at times with this team," he said later. "I see us making gains, then slipping back. We won two straight in Montreal, but didn't go for the jugular. We win a doubleheader the first night here, had them in trouble, but didn’t go for the jugular.
"TODAY WAS A perfect example of what we can do as a team without our best lineup. We got three runs in the fourth with good team baseball, guys moving runners, forcing them to make plays. We get another run (sixth) when (Larry) Bowa executes the squeeze play perfectly.
"I feel very fortunate to be where we are with the problems we've had, but to win the thing this is the kind of baseball well have to play over the second half. As I've said before, the division has equalized to where we can’t blow teams out with raw talent"
There was still another delightful twist to yesterday's performance. In a final tune-up for his non-appearance in tomorrow night's All-Star game, Manny Trillo rapped three doubles, raising his average to.320 and providing both himself and his manager an opportunity to address themselves to the injustice.
"To say that Davey Lopes is the top vote-getter among second basemen in 1980 borders on the ridiculous," said Green, "What's even more ridiculous is to have Manny Trillo finish seventh or eighth in the voting."
Despite the obvious stuffing of the ballot boxes in Los Angeles, Trillo had reason to hope that he would be chosen as a reserve. But Chuck Tanner, who will manage the National League team, took Phil Garner along instead.
"I hope they don't pick me as a replacement some other year." said Trillo, "because I think I’ll be like Templeton and not go. There's always a time to understand why these things happen, which I'll try to do. And when I say. 'No,' some time. I hope they'll understand that, too. With the season I'm having, I don't think it's right for me to have to stay at my house and watch."
THAT IS PRECISELY what he'll do, though. "I might be laughing at them before the night is over," Manny said.
A forum for issues like these was available on a day when one of baseball's cherished records was pushed toward another plateau, because as always Steve Carlton was unavailable for comment on his feat.
"I've reflected on his achievements over the last 10 years," said Dallas Green, "and they are incredible. At times he's been criticized for what he's done on and off the field, but I think most of it is unjustified. In this game production is the bottom line, and Lefty is a producer."
The St Louis journalists, who knew Carlton in another time and another mood, seemed to understand. Silent George, after all, is having quite a year himself. At the All-Star break he-is hitting.311, with 18 homers, was also passed over in the All-Star balloting, and has nothing to say about any of it.
He slammed another majestic home run through the heavy sky here early yesterday, causing a brief celebration by the St. Louis fans, but when the afternoon was done Silent Steve had a lot more to not talk about than did Silent George.
PHILUPS: Garry Maddox ended the Phillies' scoring with a three-run homer to left in the ninth inning. Earlier he had doubled, moved to third when Bob Boone grounded to the right side, and scored on Larry Bowa's squeeze bunt... John Vukovich also singled and doubled, after taking extra batting practice yesterday morning... Dallas Green does not expect Steve Carlton to be used in the All-Star Game, but does not have him listed to start again until Saturday night against Pittsburgh. Dick Ruthven and Bob Walk are scheduled to work the Cubs' series Thursday and Friday at the Vet.
Payoff Total Hits $10,000
There were 10 winners over the weekend in the Daily News Home Run Payoff, bringing this year's total payout to $10,000.
In the fifth inning of yesterday's Phillies-Cardinals game, J. Dorczuk of Woodlynne, N.J., won $75 and four tickets on an RBI double by Manny Trillo. C Pastore of Claymont, Del., and John Corviazier of Ventnor, N.J., each won $10 and tickets on singles by John Vukovich and Greg Gross. John E. Sager and Lula M. Holmes of Philadelphia, and Edna Vaughn of Trenton. N.J., all won tickets.
In Saturday's third inning. Connie D. Collins of Philadelphia won $10 and tickets on a Randy Lerch single and William Hicks of Philadelphia, Marilyn Hein of Norristown, and David Goebel Jr. of Wilmington, all won tickets.
To get a crack at the next $10,000, send in the coupon on Page 63.