Philadelphia Daily News - July 8, 1980
Baseball Confrontations Mark 1st Half of Season
United Press International
If you were looking for one word to characterize the first half of the major-league baseball season, the word would have to be confrontation.
As America's national pasttime takes its annual three-day All-Star hiatus, a look back at the first three months of the 1980 season shows us an assortment of mini-dramas – a bit off base from the usual baseball happenings.
Consider the following:
• Before the season even got underway, there was a strike that closed down the training camps. The players agreed to start the season, but promised a strike if a new agreement wasn't reached by late May.
The threatened strike, which appeared a certainty as the deadline neared, was averted by some nifty last-minute by mediator Kenneth Moffett, who brought the sides together – at least for this year.
• Three players – Willie McCovey, Mike Ivie and Bert Blyleven – retired for different reasons. McCovey played his last game Sunday, Ivie is talking about coming back for the rest of the season and Blyleven came back to the Pittsburgh Pirates in May.
The off-field confrontations have been turned into distant memory by what has taken place on the field.
WHAT LOOKS LIKE the most serious on-field confrontation thus far took place in May, when Pittsburgh third baseman Bill Madlock massaged umpire Jerry Crawford's face with his baseball glove. Madlock was suspended for 15 games and fined $5,000, and finally agreed to sit out with umpires threatening to throw him out of any game he tried to play in.
The season has also been marred by an unusual amount of bean ball incidents – or as in the case of Al Cowens, incidents occurring from past beanballs.
Cowens, who had his jaw broken by an Ed Farmer pitch last season, decided to get back at the White Sox' relief ace during a game last month. After hitting a grounder to short, Cowens, father than running to first, made a bee-line for Farmer. The result: a seven-game suspension and possible legal action.
There have been at least a dozen other problems, with perhaps the most serious taking place at Shea Stadium over the weekend. That one could surface again later in the season.
LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, Montreal righthander Bill Gullickson threw a pitch at Mike Jorgensen's head. The Mets' first baseman, who was almost killed by an Andy Hassler pitch last year, took exception to the dusting and headed for Gullickson. All of a sudden, John Stearns, a former mad-dog football player at Colorado, bolted out of the Mets' dugout and went for Gullickson.
The ensuing fight didn't do much damage, but the teams almost went at it twice more in the five-game series – once when Stearns was thrown at and again when Stearns collided with Rodney Scott at home plate. After Sunday's game, New York pitcher Craig Swan accused Montreal Manager Dick Williams of causing all the trouble. We'll hear from this one again.
White Sox' Manager Tony LaRussa and Baltimore outfielder Ken Singleton were among the people that have been banged up in what is turning into the "Year of the Brawl".
NOW, LETS NOT act as if fighting has been the only thing major leaguers have been doing since the season started. There has been some excellent baseball played, and the season has been complete with its surprises – and things that have not been so surprising.
First the surprises.
The revival of several pitchers, including Pittsburgh's Jim Bibby (11-1 at the break); Los Angeles' Jerry Reuss (9-2 including a no-hitter) and Baltimore's Steve Stone (12-3); the competitiveness of the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in the National League and Detroit Tigers in the American; and the poor showing by the California Angels in the AL West and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East.
Included among the 'not so surprising' is Rod Carew leading the American League in batting with a.337 average... the New York Yankees easily handling the rest of the AL East... Steve Carlton (14-4) romping off with a third Cy Young Award... Billy Martin battling with the umpires... and three teams – Montreal, Pittsburgh and the Phillies in the East and Houston, Los Angeles and Cincinnati in the West – battling for each National League division title.
If the season were to end today, the Yankees would get a shot at making it 4-for-4 over Kansas City in playoff competition and Montreal and Houston would win their divisions for the first time.
Through all this, baseball continues to set attendance records. As of Sunday, major-league attendance was up. 115,609 over last year's record-setting pace.
Can Richard Stone AL Stars?
LOS ANGELES (UPI) – A pair of first time All-Stars whose pitching styles are as diversified as their backgrounds, J.R. Richard of the Houston Astros and Steve Stone of the Baltimore Orioles, will start tonight's 51st All-Star Game.
A hulking 6-8 righthander with the kind of fastball that makes opposing players take "sick leave," Richard actually was Manager Chuck Tanner's second choice to start for the National League. Tanner's first choice was lefthander Steve Carlton of the Phillies, the league's top winner with 14 victories, but Carlton was scratched after pitching eight innings Sunday.
Richard, who posted a 10-4 record with a 1.96 ERA during the first half of the season, has not pitched since last Thursday when he went seven innings against Atlanta.
"CARLTON WAS number one because he has 14 victories, but J R. is the man because Carlton pitched yesterday." said Tanner, manager of the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. "I also know that Richard has pitched well in Dodger Stadium. I really didn't know that he would have four days rest. I just felt those two were the most deserving."
Stone, a curveball specialist who has posted a 12-3 record with a 3.10 ERA. was Manager Earl Weaver's choice to pitch for the American League because of the predominace of right-handed batters in the NL lineup.
"The National League has seven right-handed batters in their lineup and that was one reason I selected Steve," said the Orioles' skipper. "He's also tied with Tommy John for the most victories in the league."
Stone, a 12-year veteran who had a losing lifetme record (78-79) entering this season, has been a reborn pitcher since the middle of last season when he became a regular member of the Orioles starting rotation. Since the All-Star break a year ago. Stone has posted a 21-4 record.
"I played 12 years in the big leagues and never received any honors," said Stone. "There aren't many honors given to .500 pitchers. Now suddenly in the last two weeks I've been selected American League Player of the Week, American League pitcher of the month and the All-Star pitcher. I didn't sell my soul to the devil but I'm having trouble convincing my parents of that."
STONE BELIEVES THE KEY reason for his turnaround lies in the frequency of his starts.
"I'm playing for a club that is consistent and I'm also getting a chance to pitch every three or four days," said Stone. "When you're a breaking ball pitcher you've got to get out on the mound as often as possible to maintain your control."
The American League, seeking to snap an eight-game losing streak to the National League, will be facing an awesome task in trying to hit Richard in the twilight of Dodger Stadium. To accommodate national television, the game is scheduled to begin at 5:40 p.m. PDT (8:40 p.m. EDT).
Most of the AL All-Stars haven't seen very much of Richard and since no starting pitcher can go more than three innings it is expected the Astros' ace will throw as hard as he can for his short stint.
"I'm glad I'm sitting in the dugout," said Tanner, trying to explain what it was like to face Richard. "I know I shouldn't say this in front of Earl because he'll relay it to his club but J.R.'s screwball is very effective in the twilight. And, his palmball is outstanding. He's very good at spotting the ball in and out."
TANNER, OF COURSE, was trying to get a laugh and succeeded. Richard doesn’t resort to trick pitches or pinpoint control to get outs. He simply blows people away.
"Nobody in baseball rears back and throws harder," said Tanner. "That's what I expect him to do and it'll be interesting." Richard said he was expecting the NL to win for the 18th time in the last 19 games.
"We're going out there to win the game," said Richard. "It's a thing we've been doing and we're going to keep doing it. We have better ballplayers. In the past we've been more consistent and not made as many mistakes. I've always had the thought in the back of mind of showing the American League what I can do. Now I have that chance.
"I'm sure I'll have a few butterflies at the start because it is my first All-Star Game but they'll go away after I make my first pitch."
Three of the All-Stars voted to the AL squad by the fans – Paul Molitor of Milwaukee, Jim Rice of Boston and George Brett of Kansas City – will not be starting because of injuries. Willie Randolph of the Yankees will replace Molitor at second base, Ben Oglivie of the Brewers will take Rice's position in left field and Graig Nettles of the Yankees will assume Brett's spot at third base.
Third baseman Mike Schmidt of the Phillies will not play for the NL because of an injury. He has been replaced in the starting lineup by Ken Reitz of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Poll Shoots Down Fans’ Star Choices
With all the complaints about fans in certain cities stuffing the All-Star ballot boxes and distorting the outcome, it is perhaps no surprise that major leaguers disagree with more than half of the fans' choices for tonight's game.
In a New York Times poll in which more than three-fourths of the 650 players in the National and American Leagues took part, the players disagreed with the fans in nine of their 16 choices.
THE BIG LOSERS were the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fans placed four Dodgers on the team, but if the National League players had their way, three of them would be in their living rooms instead of on the field.
Second baseman Dave Lopes, who polled the most votes in either league, would be out and Pittsburgh's Phil Garner – not the Phils' Manny Trillo, who finished second in the players' hearts – would be in. Other Dodgers excluded by the players were first baseman Steve Garvey and shortstop Bill Russell, who would be replaced by Cardinals Keith Hernandez and Garry Templeton.
Three other long-time NL stars voted in by the fans – Cincinnati's Johnny Bench, Pittsburgh's Dave Parker and Chicago's Dave Kingman – would be excused in favor of Cardinals Ted Simmons and George Hendrick, and L.A.'s Dusty Baker.
IN FACT, ON ONLY two positions in the National League did the players and fans agree: Phils third baseman Mike Schmidt and L.A. outfielder Reggie Smith.
There was much more accord in the American League, where the AL players voted to bounce only three of the fans' choices, all in favor of Milwaukee Brewers. California's Rod Carew would be replaced by Cecil Cooper, New York's Bucky Dent by Robin Yount and Boston's Jim Rice by Ben Oglivie.
The fans didn't vote for pitchers, but the Times asked the players anyway. American Leaguers picked the Yankees' Tommy John as their starter and the National Leaguers chose the Phils' Steve Carlton, with Carlton receiving more votes than anyone in the poll.