Philadelphia Daily News - June 17, 1980
Nino Begins 10-Day Stretch
Life In The Bushes By Stan Hochman
First of two parts
SPARTANBURG, S.C – Nino Espinosa will wear borrowed red socks when he pitches for the Spartanburg Traders tonight.
As in something old, something new, something borrowed, something red.
Don't look for symbolism there. Nino insists he will not be as nervous as a bride.
"I asked him to wear our socks and he said OK," Spartan burgh Manager Tom Harmon said last night "We've got a rule in our minor league system that you have to have some red showing in front and in back and we wanted to stick with our rules."
Espinosa, in case you've forgotten, wears his red socks with the stirrups cut so high that all you see is the whites of his sanitary socks all the way up to where his pants end.
NONE OF THIS really matters. The Phillies wouldn't care if Espinosa went out there tonight wearing a satin tux or tattered jeans as long as he finished with no pain in his mended right shoulder.
He was supposed to pitch last night, but he didn't get into town until 3t30 and it was 87 degrees and the sky was ominous and maybe his horoscope was wrong... and besides, when you haven’t pitched in a stateside ballgame since last September, what's one day more or less.
"I still feel I could give 'em six good innings in Philly," Espinosa said before coming out to beautiful Duncan Park, which is where the Traders play their Class A games.
"They wanted me to come down here for 20 days. I told 'em I only needed two starts down here, then I'd be ready. Two starts, 10 days at the most.
"I made them put it in writing. When they did it, I agreed to come."
And when he arrived, he was met at the airport by a hurtling young television news lady named Carol, who taped the interview, did the recording and asked the questions.
But first, she handed the microphone to Espinosa. "Welcome to the bush leagues," she said.
Espinosa's eyes narrowed behind his wrap-around glasses. But he answered the questions gently. And even went through the interview a second time when Carol's gizmo backfired the first time around.
THESE ARE THE bushes, where people applaud rain delays at beautiful Duncan Park. They applaud rain delays because management sometimes declares a beer bargain, cutting the price in half.
"But that's about all we'll try," said club owner Dr. Frank Weir. "We just got our beer license and we've got a slight problem with the church at the top of the hill.
"I just got back from a road trip to Charleston. They had a merchant's night there. Drew 6,900 people and had 25-cent beer. He had 6,900 drunks. I'd never do that."
What he would do won't remind people of Pat Williams and the stunts he pulled back in the ‘60s to pack beautiful Duncan Park.
"I remember," Dr. Weir said. "We had a pitcher named Parker and a pitcher named Penn. He got the Parker Pen people to stage a free Parker Pen night and give 'em away.
"He was always doing wild things. Some of those giveaways didn’t make money, but they drew some people."
Last night's game with Macon drew 403 people, about average for the Traders. Dr. Welr ls going to pay througn the eye, ear, nose and throat to satisfy his desire to see minor league baseball continue in Spartanburg.
"I've been a baseball fan all my life," he said, while taking ticket stubs at the main entrance. "Lately, we've had talk of local ownership, so I decided to get into the act.
"It's fun. Having the kids, seeing 'em develop. It's hard to imagine how much difference there is from the first week of the season. Heck, then, I was ready to send 'em back to Philly.
"Opening night, that was exciting. It was a cold night, but we had 1,250 or so. We ran a 99-cent special. FM-99, the radio station, sponsored it.
"Ninety-nine cents to get in and a hot dog and coke were ninety-nine cents. It was exciting, getting off the ground."
Dr. Weir's young son, Paul, is the general manager. His wife is the club treasurer. His daughter sells programs and scorecard advertising.
"I didn't know a thing about concessions," said Paul, who is 21, and not about to abandon med school for the life of a baseball executive.
"I didn’t know how many hot dog buns to order. I wound up living on hot dog buns for the next two weeks.
"It's tough, being in charge. Long hours, not enough days off.
"And the players come to me, because they think I'm soft. For every little thing. I tell them, every phone book has Yellow Pages, and the Yellow Pages list everything you'd want."
You can't blame a 21-year-old GM for being a little disillusioned. He didn't know when he took the job that two prospects would get sent down and skip out on paying the rent on their apartment.
He had no idea another guy would let his girlfriend drive his rental car up a tree. Or that another guy would trash his apartment.
"WE'VE GOT A good bunch of kids," Harmon insisted. "I had most of 'em in the rookie league. Ninety-five percent of 'em, I'd want for my sons.
"At this level you have to teach kids to be professional... on the field... in the clubhouse... off the field.
"To me, development breeds winning and winning breeds development. They go hand-in-hand.
"The first thing is to teach 'em the right way to play the game. And winning is a very close second to that. If you're not winning, I don't think you're developing."
The Traders won last night, 8-7, with a lovely hit-and-run play in the bottom of the ninth on a field made soggy by two long thundershowers. Before a crowd made raucous by two bargain beer sales.
Steve Harvey scored the winning run. He's the leftfielder out of Ben Franklin High, one of the rare Philadelphia kids in the Phillies system.
"I don't know why they have so few," Harmon said. "But I know Steve is proud to be part of it. And I do know he's the most improved player on the team.
"Last year, I had him at Bend. He was average or mediocre for the first month-and-a-half. The middle of August he started hitting the ball.
"When the season ended, we had a talk. I told him what to work on. Well, he has an edge, being able to work out at the Vet. on the Nautilus.
"He came back stronger. Increased his power, improved his throwing arm."
DOES HARVEY DREAM of playing at the Vet in front of kith and kin?
He rolled his eyes toward the ominous skies. "Oh, no," he said softly, "not another one of those stories."
Who knows, maybe they get jaded a lot earlier these days.
When Espinosa decided he wanted to wait one more day before making his South Atlantic League debut, Kyle Money was picked to start.
Money has the bluest blue eyes in baseball and the kind of fastball that makes scouts drool. The Phillies made him a first-round pick and he was 4-1 in Helena last year.
"The big adjustment was learning to keep the ball down," he said. "In high school, you just throw hard, you'll strike out a lot of guys. The higher you go, the more you learn to become more of a pitcher.
Besides his pitching skills, Money plays a terrific guitar and sings songs he writes himself.
"I just recorded a song about my mother," he said. "It's called 'Mother's Song.' But baseball is what I want to do. The other stuff can come later."
Money gutted through six innings, but the Macon Peaches plucked him when he got his pitches up. Spartanburg rallied from three runs down to take a 7-4 lead, then blew the lead after the second rain delay.
"We can't lose to that Mickey Mouse outfit," Dr. Weir said when it was over and the hardy fans wobbled to their cars.
Tonight is Ladies Night and all ladies get in for 50 cents. Tomorrow is Family Night and the whole family gets in for three bucks.
"The Phillies send us some promotional items." Dr. Weir said. "Like socks. We gave 'em away on Sunday to fathers who came with their kids. We had 360, which is about average for a hot, sultry Sunday."
The real test will come tonight, with Spartanburg protecting a.001 lead in its division and Nino Espinosa on the mound. If he pitches effectively, will they let him keepthe borrowed socks?
Tomorrow: Espinosa's Spartanburg debut.
Phils Artful vs. Dodgers
By Bill Conlin
LOS ANGELES – Randy Lerch jammed the cotton in his ears before the team bus left for Dodger Stadium.
He didn’t want anybody yammering advice at him. He knew what he had to do and he wanted to seal himself off in a vacuum to sort it all out.
While all about him were losing their heads after his disastrous last start against the Giants, Lerch was able to keep his. He didn't feel nearly as puzzled as he did on the many occasions this season he went to the mound with outstanding stuff and still found a way to lose.
His wretched Giants outing was not difficult to analyze.
"I was like a monkey trying to seduce a football." Lerch said last night after a brilliant 10-inning performance helped carry the Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in 12 innings that rated a 9.8 on a scale of 10. "I had nothing, so that was pretty easy to figure out. Hera Starrette said it's the second time since he's been here that he saw me without a fastball. When Dallas came out to the mound and started hollering that I didn't have a fastball, didn't have a breaking ball I felt like saying, 'No bleep.' I already knew that."
ROOKIE CATCHER Keith Moreland, whose radar throw cut down Davey Lopes stealing for a pivotal out in the 10th. kept Randy glued to his fastball in the early innings. Fourteen of his first 15 pitches were fast balls and they pulled him through the early-inning troubles that have plagued his 2-8 season.
"I told myself (he had to shout with cotton in his ears) that I was going to miss with my breaking ball or it’ll be on the corner." Lerch said. "It worked because my fastball was alive. I got some big strikeouts with perfect breaking pitches on the black and a few that were balls they swung at. That's what happens when they can't sit back and wait on the fastball. As long as I was consistently ahead in the count they had to worry about the breaking ball."
It was a tremendous duel between born -again lefthander Jerry Reuss and Lerch. whose fastball rose Phoenix-like from the ashes of that dreadful Giants start It was also a one-sided duel between second baseman Davey Lopes, whose 1.047.577 votes lead all players in National League All-Star balloting, and Manny Trillo. who is a distant fifth in the election for second base.
Lopes is hitting.238 and last night he butchered three balls in the field, none of which helped the Phillies score. Trillo is hitting.301. He made two magnificent plays in the field and drove in the winning run with a 12th-inning double to right-center off losing reliever Rick Sutcliffe. It was another adagio performance by the twig-slender Venezuelan.
"I PAY NO ATTENTION to the All-Star voting," he said. "In my mind I am the best second baseman. I try to play as hard as can every time I go out there. I cannot say this is the best stretch I have had. I always get a charge when I do something to beat the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, any of the good teams. I get a charge because it helps to prove we are better than they are."
That question was up for grabs in one of the Top 10 games I have covered in 15 seasons, a game in which Lonnie Smith caromed headfirst off the right-field fence in a heroic dive for Steve Garvey's RBI double in the third, in which Bake McBride, who replaced the wobbly Smith in the fourth, came up big on pinch-hitter Joe Ferguson's slicing drive down the right-field line in the 10th.
The Phillies played dirty-uniform baseball. And the Dodgers' fine outfield covered more ground than an LA. hooker.
Reggie Smith reached first on a high throw by Larry Bowa with one out in the eighth, the score-tied, 2-2. Trillo lunged in the hole to spear a scorching liner by Garvey and doubled up Reggie with an under-handed flip that trailed sparks. With one out in the ninth, Manny dove into the hole to make a tumbling catch on Ron Cey.
Balks helped bury the Dodgers.
Pete Rose singled with one out in the fourth after the Dodgers scored two runs in the third. Mike Schmidt, who has conducted a career reign of terror against Reuss, bounced a double off the top of the fence in right-center. Smith played the carom expertly and Rose stopped at third. But Reuss balked and it was 2-1. Greg Luzinski tied it with a sacrifice fly.
THE DEFENSES TOOK over until the top of the 12th. Bowa, all but paralyzed by a diet of Reuss sliders on his fists, was hitting left-handed against Sutcliffe and singled to right with one out. Sutcliffe broke his hands without stepping off the rubber and Bowa was awarded second. Trillo scalded a gapper and the balk was probably a moot point. Bowa would have scored from first. But the balk call upset Sutcliffe and could have influenced the pitch he threw Trillo.
Tug McGraw picked up the save with a 12th inning which featured a swan dive, layout position, by the lefthander. Cey led it off with a single to center on a ball Bowa would have one-hopped if he had been playing a normal shortstop. "Hey, Wino," Bowa hollered to Bobby Wine, who waved him deep into the hole for Cey, "we dont need two third basemen out there. We already got Schmitty."
Rudy Law came in to pinch run and center-fielder Derrell Thomas had a bunt sign. He popped it softly up the first-base line. McGraw charged the ball and made a tremendous diving try. He caught it in fair territory, but the ball kicked out of his glove and rolled into foul territory. Law was frozen while the ball was in the air, though, and Pete Rose alertly gunned it to second for the force. Tug struck out Steve Yeager and covered his eyes when pinch-hitter Jay Johnstone smoked a semi-liner up the middle. But Bowa climbed the ladder for a spectacular final out, a fitting climax to a superb game of major league baseball.
Lerch says the cotton in his ears made the crowd of 41,340 sound like background music in a doctor's office. "I was able to keep track of my thoughts," he said. "My problems are mental out there, not physical. I'm strong, I've got a great arm. Everybody expects me to win. I expect me to win and I'm gonna win."
HE SAYS HE GOT new hope for the rest of the season during a visit to the Phillies executive offices one day last week. "My uncle was in town and I went up there to see him before a game," he said. "There's a blown-up picture of Steve Carlton from his Cy Young year in 72. 1 got to thinking that Lefty didn't even win his eighth game that year until well into June. Which means he won 19 the rest of the season. I said to myself there's no reason I can't get myself together and win 10-12 games the rest of the way."
He's got the arm. He's got a team behind him that beggars the 72 Phillies. And last night he showed signs of having the head.
"What I saw out there tonight was a pitcher who wanted to win," Dallas Green said. "Too bad he didn't get a W, but the Phillies got one and that's the idea. I want to see him do it again and again. He pitches like this the rest of the way and his Ws will fall very nicely into place."
PHILUPS: Lonnie Smith came out of his kamikaze collision with the fence with a battered left side from head to toe. "He's a tough kid," Dallas Green said. "He was hurting all over, but he went up there hacking the inning after he hit the fence. His rib cage was bruised so I got him out of there."... Keith Moreland said he put everything together when he gunned out Davey Lopes with a perfect throw with two outs in the 10th. "The fundamentals were perfect," said Moreland, who played wearing a rubber pad around the right knee he bruised badly in a freak fall after Sunday's game... Bake McBride shrugged off the sensational catch he made in front of the right field-boxes on a slicing drive by Joe Ferguson in the 10th. "I got a real good jump," Bake said. "I was just afraid I'd run out of room."... Dickie Noles comes out of the bullpen to make his first start tonight. He'll oppose Dave Goltz, the multi-million dollar free agent who has the fans muttering with his 3-5 record and 4.1 ERA The Phils torched the lefthander at the Vet.
There were four winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Dodgers game, winners of four tickets each were, John D. Clancy, Jr., of Trenton, Margaret Guest, Charles T. DuBoyd, Sr., and Jim Weeney, all of Philadelphia.
So far the Daily News has paid put $5,230. Today's entry coupon appears on this page.