Philadelphia Inquirer - June 2, 1980

Phillies fall to Cubs


Green questions himself in 5-4 loss


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


CHICAGO – Dallas Green ripped off a shoe and fired. It clattered off the nearest wall and skipped into the next room.


One down, one to go. Green tore off the other shoe. Zap. Strike two. Same spot. Same result.


Heck, Green didn't use to throw that hard when he pitched. But there still are days Green finds it easier to throw than manage. And the Cubs' 5-4 victory over the Phillies yesterday was one of them.


"That," fumed Green between post-game fastballs, "was a horse-manure piece of managing."


He pushed a clump of gray-black hair off his forehead and held a hand over his face for a long time. Then he looked up again.


"That (bleeping) game," he sizzled, "was mine and nobody else's."


Green started talking about the seventh inning of what was, at the time, a 4-4 game. He had righthander Ron Reed on the mound, Dave Kingman on first with two outs and lefthander Kevin Saucier already loose and ready in the bullpen.


The batter was the lefthanded-hitting Scot Thompson. Reed's first pitch to Thompson bounced in front of the plate, caromed away from Bob Boone and sent Kingman to second.


In the dugout, Green's wheels turned. He leaned on the top step, all set to go get Reed. But for some reason, he stopped. Reed kept pitching.


The count went to two-and-one on Thompson. Then three-and-one. Again Green started to make a move. Again he didn't.


Thompson looped Reed's next pitch off the end of the bat to short center. It dropped in front of Garry Maddox, Kingman scored the winning run, and when the Phillies came out to hit in the eighth, there was good old Bruce Sutter. They went six up, six down, and Sutter had his 11th save in 19 outings.


But Dallas Green could hardly watch at that point. He doesn't like being second-guessed in the first place. But he hates it worst when the biggest second-guesser is himself.


"I've got the (bleeping) lefthander down there," he said, after he had no more shoes and no more socks left to throw. "When he makes the (bleeping) wild pitch, now I've got to go to the (bleeping) bullpen like I'm (bleeping) supposed to."


The batter, Thompson, is a good young hitter (.289 last year as a rookie). But he has been platooned for two seasons and hardly ever sees a lefthander. The two guys after him in the lineup are Steve Ontiveros and Tim Blackwell. They are each switch-hitters. But Ontiveros is batting .200 righthanded. Blackwell hit .182 righthanded last year.


"He takes him (Thompson) three-and-one, then I've just got to put him "on and bring the lefthander in," Green said. "That way I turn the 'other two (bleeping) guys around (and make them hit righthanded), where they ain't gonna hit anyway. Bleep. The next guy (Ontiveros). he's hitting a buck-90 (.190) anyway."


Such are a manager's frustrations. And Green had plenty yesterday before that, just watching a 3-0 third-inning lead slip away, bit by bit.


Bob Walk triggered a three-run rally for himself with a leadoff single in the third. Then, with the hit-and-walk on. Pete Rose singled. A Bake McBride single made it 1-0. Ivan DeJesus' error made it 2-0. Greg Luzinski's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.


But the Cubs got one run back just by making Walk live up to his name.  He walked Lenny Randle. the leadoff hitter in the third. Later, he walked Kingman to load the bases. Then, after fanning Mike Vail for the second out, he issued his fifth walk of the day, to Thompson, forcing in a run.


After that, though, Walk settled down. He retired six straight before he hung a curve to Kingman with two out in the fifth. Kingman ripped it into the bleachers in left center, and it was 3-2.


Then Walk got three more in a row, but got behind Blackwell, three-and-one, with two out and nobody on in the sixth. So Blackwell bounced the inevitable fastball just beyond Rose for a single.


"That's the out we've got to get. I know that," said Green. "But the kid , was pitching like hell. So...." So he left him in to pitch to pinch-hitter Larry Biittner. He got behind, 2-and-0, then threw him "a horse (bleep) fastball," Walk said.


"I just tried to get it over the plate so I wouldn't walk him," Walk said. -"And he hit it out."


It soared off the fence that runs behind the bleachers in right center, and the Cubs led, 4-3. Biittner is kind of a neo-Manny Mota, anyway. As a pinch hitter, he's 26-ror-82 (.317) since 1978.


The Cubs then went to their put-it-away bullpen act of Dick Tidrow and Sutter. Tidrow (1.67 ERA) got the first two outs in the seventh. But then he ran into the smoking gun that is Mike Schmidt. Schmidt fired his 17th homer into the third row in right center with a remarkable flick-the-wrists, inside-out stroke.


"That ball was down and in." said Schmidt, who is now on a 65-homer pace. "I don't know how the heck I got it out there. I was looking for a ball away, got it in on the hands, just kept the shoulder closed and went the other away."


Schmidt shrugged. "I don't think," said Larry Bowa, "he knows how strong he is."


But Schmidt's dramatic stroke to tie it was lost in the climactic bottom of the seventh. And so, on a day in which three homers flew through a breezeless Wrigley Field afternoon, Green was sitting there afterward, heaving shoes and talking about a walk he never issued.


"Home runs never beat you here," said Green. "It's always the guys that get on before the home run. Like today. It wasn't those home runs that beat us. It was that gul-durn walk."


NOTES: Schmidt got his 17th homer, 11 games ahead of his 45-homer pace of last year. His eight homers in Wrigley over the last two seasons have come off seven different pitchers (Bill Caudill twice).... Phillies averages for May: Smith .417, McBride .330, Rose .320, Luzinski .312, Schmidt .305. Aviles .304, Trillo .288, Aguayo .273, Maddox .263, Unser .263, Bowa .258, G. Vukovich .250, J. Vukovich .250. Moreland .250, Boone .178, Gross .125.... As a team, the Phillies hit .281 for May, with 30 homers.... Pitching figures: Carlton 6-1, 1.65; Ruthven 4-2, 3.06; Reed 3-0, 2.50; Christenson 2-0, 6.00; Saucier 1-0, 0.75; Lerch 1-3, 5.46; McGraw 0-0, 2.00; LaGrow 0-0, 5.25; Walk 0-0, 15.00; Munninghoff 0-0,; Larson 0-1, 6.00; Noles 0-2, 3.46.... Randy Lerch (1-6) vs. Don Robinson (1-1) tonight in Pittsburgh.

Phillies won’t rush Wright


By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor


WICHITA, Kan. – A few days ago at Veterans Stadium, Phillies' manager Dallas Green pulled some papers out of his desk drawer and shuffled through them until he found what he was looking for – the latest report on Jim Wright.


"Here," he said. "Take a look at this."


It read like early 1977 revisited. It read as if somebody had invented a time machine, and Jim Wright had stepped back three years – before the pain in his right forearm grew unbearable in the summer of '77, before he had to undergo surgery to remove a bone growth in 78, before the bone snapped while delivering a pitch in 79.


He had pitched seven innings for Oklahoma City against Iowa, allowing two singles. "Great control," the report said. "No three-two counts. Best fastball of year."


The temptation must have been great to look at that report and get on the telephone, rush Jim Wright to the big leagues, hope that he can create some order out of the chaos that is the Phillies' starting rotation. But Dallas Green wasn't about to fall into that trap.


"He's been through too much mentally," he said. "I'd rather struggle up here than say, 'We're going to take a shot with him (before he's absolutely ready).' When he comes up here, he's going to be a good pitcher. He's going to be ready. You can book it."


Toiling in minors


Now it was early evening and Jim Wright was sitting on a table in the trainer's room, caught up in his labors. In his hand was a needle and thread. In just over an hour he would be starting against the Wichita Aeros, the Chicago Cubs' top farm team. At the moment, though, he was sewing his jock strap back together.


"Why don't you get a new one?" trainer Ted Zipeto needled him.


"Hey," the pitcher retorted. "This is the minor leagues."


And Jim Wright, unlike so many minor leaguers, is glad to be here. Truth is, he's glad to be anywhere playing baseball this year because, through no fault of his own, he came so very close to being nowhere.


Wright can thank the Phillies for making it possible for him to return to the Triple A league he tore up three years before, and to the game he has wanted to play since he was a little kid. They stuck with him when other organizations might have forgotten him. They showed, and continue to show, patience when other organizations might have pressured him into producing now, or else.


'Shot him up'


The Cubs, for example, traded Manny Trillo to get two of the Phillies' other top minor league pitching prospects, then released one of them, Derek Botelho, when he came down with shoulder problems. "There's a 22-year-old kid, and they shot him up (with cortisone) in spring training," said Wichita's Manny Seoane, another former Philly farmhand. "I told him, 'Don't let them do it,' but they did it."


The Phillies didn't do that with Wright. They were convinced, even during those two bleak years when he couldn't pitch, that he had the potential to be something special, and now that confidence and that patience seems likely to be rewarded.


Not this week, surely. Or this month. When an athlete has been idle for two years, it takes time to put everything back together. Wright is using muscles he hasn't used since 77. Not surprisingly, after that strong effort at Iowa, his shoulders stiffened up. It was sore, when he took the mound against Wichita on Friday night. His fast ball was a couple of feet short of what it had been five nights before. But he still made good pitches. He still went six innings and allowed only one run and six hits. "Think what he'd do if his shoulder didn't hurt," said first baseman John Poff, his road roommate.


A lot of courage


"He showed a lot of courage, character, guts," 89ers manager Jim Snyder enthused. "I'd like to have nine, 10 pitchers with his makeup. When he gets it all back together, he's going to be some kind of kid to put on that staff up there (in Philadelphia)."


He's some kind of kid now. Baseball should have more like him. All professional sports should have more like him.


No complaints. No griping. No bemoaning the bad luck that has dogged him since the middle of the 77 season.


It hasn't been easy coming back this spring, but Wright has made remarkable progress. And perhaps that last outing, in which he had very little, yet got the job done, best illustrates how far he's come.


“I definitely felt as if I wasn't part of anything in baseball for two years," he said. "The second year was the worst. I was home the whole year. I felt a little alienated, a little outside of the circle. I was just away from it too long.


"It was a lot harder this year than it had ever been before. I was psyched to go to spring training, but there was a little fear there, you know. I didn't want to go through the same thing again. It would have been really hard to handle."


Nothing could have been much harder than last summer, when he was away from baseball, filled with doubts about whether he'd ever return.


"I learned a lot from it, I think," Wright said. "I learned to appreciate things more. It's just great to be back here again. It's just great to be out running sprints again. Anytime I get bummed out about running or getting tired, I just think, 'How'd you like to be home and wishing you were out here running?'"


He's seen how other organizations have handled friends of his – the Botelhos, the Seoanes and he's thankful for the way the Phillies have bandied him.


"I know it costs a lot of money to develop a ball player, and the Phillies' invested a lot of money in me over the years," he said. "Just the medical costs alone over the last two years have been tremendous. It's a big risk. I'm sure ninety percent of the baseball world that knew about my injury, that knew about the Jim Wright situation, probably figured I wouldn't pitch again after breaking my arm.


"I think a lot of it was my faith in the Lord, because I never gave up hope, because I really felt it was in His hands. I didn't think it was in the doctor's hands. I didn't think it was in my hands."


But supporting his wife and their two young children, that was in his hands, and that's what concerned him most during the long period when his pitching future seemed so shaky.


"It really made me stop and think," Wright said. "Gosh. Here I am with a family and all of a sudden I may be without a paycheck. I might have to get a job overnight. I couldn't go back to school. Too many mouths to feed. That really scared me. It just kinda wakes you up to reality because really, in a way, you're a little bit outside of reality in baseball. I mean, conditions are sometimes bad (in the minors). People complain. But you've still got it so much better than anyone else. So much better than the average working man.


"I don't feel the Phillies owe me anything. It kinda gets on my nerves a lot of times when ballplayers say they hate this and they need that and they think they deserve it. I think with the chance of a guy making the major leagues as slim as it is, you have to be thankful just to be where you are.


"It's a dream come true for me. Ever since I was a little kid, when anybody asked me what I wanted to be, I said a baseball player." And now here he is, playing the game he loves again, and trying to prove himself all over again.


"I don't care what Jim Wright did before," he said. "It's like I haven't won a game in my life. I've got to prove everything a second time."


That thought doesn't make him bitter, merely determined. Some young men in his position would be envious of all the pitchers who have made it to the Phillies ahead of him – the Dickie Noles, the Kevin Sauciers, the Bob Walks.


"There are a lot of guys I've played with that are in the big leagues now," Wright said. "I think that's great. I can't be envious of them. I'm happy for them. If I'm worried about what somebody else is doing, that means I'm worrying that I can't do the job."


Healthy, he can do the job. Nobody doubts that for a minute.


Healthy, Jim Wright can be the answer to a lot of Phillies problems somewhere down the road – and maybe not that far down the road.


But first, they're going to make, sure that he's all the way back, that he's as ready to make the big jump as he was just before the injuries struck him down. No matter how difficult a time the big club is having finding pitchers during the current emergency, the Phillies still seem determined to do what's best for Jim Wright.


They want to let that stiffness in the shoulder work itself out. They want to let that old confidence return. They want to make sure they do nothing to jeopardize a pitching career that still, alter all those setbacks, has the look of something special.

Phils, Pirates begin series


The second series of the season between the two teams that figure to battle for the National League East title starts tonight (7:35, KYW-1060) at Pittsburgh when the Phils meet the Bucs.


The Phillies will send Randy Lerch, fresh off his first win of the season, at the Pirates, who will counter with Don Robinson.


It usually takes until September for the people of Pittsburgh to come to the support of their baseball team, but last week's brawl between the two teams at Veterans Stadium should hype the attendance and bring out any hockey fans who have not previously been to Three Rivers Stadium.


The second series of the season between the two teams that figure to battle for the National League East title starts tonight (7:35, KYW-1060) at Pittsburgh when the Phils meet the Bucs.


Tonight's game will not be on television since ABC is carrying its first Monday Night Baseball telecast, but games tomorrow and Wednesday will be on Channel 17.


BASEBALL PHILLIES at Pittsburgh, 7:35 p.m. (Radlo-KYW-1060) New York Yankees at Kansas City (backup game: Cincinnati at Los Angeles) (TV-Ch. 6, 8:30 p.m.) 

Walk struggling with… walks


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


CHICAGO – Bob Walk tends to take bis time between pitches. Lots and lots and lots of time.


In the time Walk takes between pitches, you probably could read the entire Sunday New York Times. You could get through to an airline phone-reservation clerk. You could paint your entire living room.


When Walk gets the ball back, he is not ready to just return to the rubber and fire. He strolls around the infield. He looks out at the scoreboard. He goes to the resin bag. He takes off his cap. He puts his cap back on.


"Geez," said Dallas Green after an exhibition of this yesterday. "I thought Billy Williams (the home plate ump) was gonna fall asleep."


In his two starts since the Phillies recalled him from Oklahoma City, Walk has run a lot of deep counts. He walked five in innings his first start. He walked five and went to three balls four other times yesterday.


Green isn't sure whether all those deep counts are causing Walk's fidgeting, or whether the fidgeting is causing the walks. But Green watched Walk roam around the infield while he was walking the bases full in the third inning yesterday, and he couldn't take it anymore.


"If you'd given him a lawn mower, he'd have cut the whole damn infield," Green said.


So when Walk got back to the dugout, Green had pitching coach Herm Starrette talk to him about his "approach" to pitching.


"You'll notice that after the third inning, he worked faster," Green said. "Herm told him, 'Forget what the balls and strikes are and just go after the hitters.'"


Walk didn't walk anybody after that. He did give up two homers and three runs, which erased a 3-1 Phillies lead. ,


But beneath all that it was evident that Walk has ability. Just the way he fought out of that bases-loaded mess in the third told you that.


"That should have helped his confidence because he had some pressure on him, certainly," Green said. "He's got good enough stuff to win, no question about that, if we can get him just a little calmed down on the mound."


It is tough when you are a pitcher named Walk, and your biggest enemy is the walk.


"I couldn't count how many of those jokes I've heard," Walk said. "Millions, it seems. The ribbing in the stands yesterday was terrible. But it really doesn't bother me at all."


Those walks, however, do.


"They bother me more than anything," he said after the Phillies' 5-4 defeat. "I can't even eat a piece of chicken now, I'm so upset inside. Home runs don't bother me, even. But those damn base on balls. There's nothing I can do about a home run. But I can change those bases on balls."


Walk has walked before. He led the Eastern League in walks and strikeouts last year.


"But I usually don't walk this many people," he said. "I'm just kind of confused right now. I don't know what the problem is. I don't know what I'm doing different other than just not throwing strikes. I don't feel nervous out there, considering. I don't know. Maybe I'm trying to do too much. Maybe I'm trying too hard to hit the spots."


Yesterday pointed out one other area where Walk might need work – his sliding. After he'd bounced his first big-league hit (and second anywhere since his last high school game in 1974) in the third, he tried to score from second on Bake McBride's single. He stumbled coming around third, then tumbled in with the newly invented knee-first slide.


"I can't remember the last time I had to slide," he said. "I wasn't going to slide. Then, at the last second, I decided to. That's the worst thing you could do. The umpire didn't even call me safe. All he said was, 'What the hell was that?'"v