Philadelphia Daily News - June 25, 1980
Expos Are No Joke
By Tom Cushman
Since coming over to Montreal in the trade that exiled Dan Schatzeder to Detroit, Ron LeFlore has advanced to 10th position on the Expos' list of lifetime stolen base leaders, an accomplishment which is noteworthy for two reasons:
(1) The trade was made only last December
(2) LeFlore did not exactly crash the National League, spraying base hits with machine-gun intensity. "Right after we opened the season, I went 0-for-32, and something like 2-for-52," he was saying, after going 3-for-6 and scoring the winning run in Montreal's 7-6 victory over the Phillies last night at the Vet.
IT WAS AN evening on which the fans booed and cheered with equal enthusiasm, and eventually left the stadium feeling like they had just had a wisdom tooth extracted. This is a sensation not uncommon to Montreal's opponents since Ron LeFlore relocated first base, and the roadrunner act got underway.
"I was beginning to wonder if I could adjust to this league," says LeFlore, who one day discovered that the only adjustment necessary was in his swing. "I think I was really pressing to be accepted by the people in Montreal, and as a result I was overswinging, trying to pull the ball," he adds.
How splendidly he has overcome this early handicap is reflected by the current figures: 64 hits, a team-high 28 bases on balls, a batting average that has risen from the pits to .259, and 38 stolen bases, which ranks him second to the Pirates' dashing Omar Moreno in the league statistics.
"I know I'm much farther along than I was at this time last year," LeFlore says, an observation which will be of no solace to either the catchers around the National League or those who are ahead of him in the Montreal record book.
To place this in perspective, let it be pointed out that the Expos' lifetime leader in stolen bases is Andre Dawson, who began the season wih 84 and now has an even 100. Tied for ninth on the list at 40 are Bob Bailey and Dave Cash, and these days neither are in the proper uniform to defend their positions.
LeFlore, Rodney Scott, and Dawson, the first three hitters in the Montreal order last night, have 78 stolen bases between them, although there were only 74 when the evening began.
LeFLORE DID NOT add to his total on this occasion, but while the Phillies were watching Ron, his teammates carried off everything in the stadium that was not tied down. Mary Sue Styles, queen of the ballgirls, even disappeared (it later was rumored that Mary Sue had been married on Saturday and is honeymooning).
There has been a tendency all along to regard the Expos' position at the Eastern Division summit as illegal. The Pirates and Phillies agreed early in the season that the race would be between them made public confession of the fact on several occasions and were busy kneeing each other in the groin when the Expos ran past.
Peering up from various positions of pursuit, the other contenders attempt to look grim, but still have a hard time not splitting their sides. It has never been easy to take the Expos seriously. I mean, have you ever heard a baseball broadcast in French.
This summer, as June presses toward July and the Montreal lead is 2Vi, it's a real chuckle. Larry Parrish, who hit .307 and stroked 30 home runs for the team that finished second a year ago, has been on the disabled list. So has Ellis Valentine, who hit .276 with 21 homers. So has Bill Lee, whose 16-10 record was tops among the Montreal pitchers last summer. How can they be where they are unless they fixed the standings?
"No matter what you might think, we're doing it with good personnel," says Dick Williams, the manager. "It's a blue ribbon for our farm system.
"I'LL ADMIT I didn't foresee a Brad Mills coming up and playing (third base) like he has, but 1 knew there were two good arms in Charlie Lea and Bill Gullickson (who will start tonight). Charlie Lea was only 1-2 in AAA after coming up from double-A, but he's 2-1 for us and he's been good in all three of his starts. "Frankly, I don't know what we're gonna do when the other three come back. Somebody has to go . . . maybe they'll ship the manager and two coaches."
Williams admits that the show he has going at the top of the lineup could create the illusion that the Expos are winning with speed and mirrors. "Our first three guys make things happen for us (there were 23 hits, 4 runs, and 4 stolen bases contributed by that threesome last night)," he says.
But mirrors can be deceiving The Montreal team has stolen 86 bases already this season, the Phillies 46. But the Expos also have hit 49 home runs, only four less than the Phils. And, despite having no one to approach Steve Carlton's efficiency and with Bill Lee on the disabled list, they still have an edge in team earned run average.
"The players who have been used the last couple of months because of injuries have had to bust their butts," says Ron LeFlore, "hut in doing so they've created a situation where when the other guys get back – we're gonna have the kind of bench this team didn't have when the Pirates took them last fall "
THREE TIMES last night the Expos had the lead and three times the Phillies tied them, the last of those ties being forced with two out in the boi-tom of the ninth. After which, in the 10th, Warren Cromartie singled. Ron LeFlore sped home, and the Expos led for the fourth time. There was not to be a fourth tie.
"If I remember right, the 18 Tigers won 42 or 43 games from the seventh inning on," Ron LeFlore said later. "It seems like all ballclubs that get in the World Series have the ability to score consistently in the late innings, and this team is showing that. We have more than one way to do it, but in a number of instances we've been able to force mistakes with our running.
"I know the kind of thing they expected when they brought me over here, and it's beginning to happen between Rodney Scott and me. He knows how to handle the bat whe I'm on base. We can make things happen."
Nor is this a limited philosophy within the Montreal lineup. "We have about eight guys who have the green light as far as running on their own," says Dick Williams.
In other words, the Expos miht wear funny hats, have some new names in the lineup, get cheered and booed both in French and English when at home, and seem to he the kind of team that has wandered into first place by accident. But, as the experience of last night at the Vet also would seem to suggest, these are guys who can do a lot of damage with a long lead.
By Thom Greer
Dallas Green says he has seen tons of bats and helmets and balls thrown onto the field during his years in baseball. And he is positive what Dickie Notes did in Los Angeles last Tuesday night is "not a suspendable offense."
So the Phillies manager was not only pleased that his hard-throwing bullpen star-turned-starter yesterday appealed the S500 fine and three-day suspension levied against him by National League President Chub Feeney, but wants him to follow the appeal through to the highest court in the land, if need be, to vindicate himself.
Noles, charged with intentional-lythrowing a bat at umpire Joe West an inning after West blew a call that would have spared the pitcher a home run off the bat of Steve Garvey, was advised of the fine and suspension in a telegram from Feeney yesterday.
Noles immediately filed an appeal through the Major League Baseball Players Association; the appeal might have been the best stroke of good fortune to befall the Montreal Expos since they got rid of Dave Cash and his moping ways at losing his regular job at second base.
The appeal permitted Noles to start last night's game against the Expos. Four innings after Noles opened the game, he was in the shower trying to wash away the smell of 10 hits and four runs which the Expos had plastered on him en route to a 7-6 win in 10 innings at Veterans Stadium.
The smart money had Noles appealing Feeney s decision to buy time to pitch last night. Most observers are convinced he will withdraw it today and sit out the next three days, during which he would not pitch anyway.
Noles declined to discuss the matter after the game.
Green, who insisted neither he the Phillies advised Noles in the course of action to take, was outraged that Feeney "has concluded that Dickie Noles threw a bat with the intent to hit the umpire." He insisted Feeney is wrong, that the penalty is too heavy under any condition and that there is no precedent to justify it.
Phils’ Staff Pitch Dark
By Thom Greer
Nobody is prepared to challenge Dallas Green's conclusion that his pitching staff was atrocious last night. Hell, the Phils gave up 18 hits.
That statistic alone provides ample testimony to support the contention surely shared by the 32,157 Phillies fans at Veterans Stadium that the overall pitching performance smelled worse than the stuff they shovel out of the stables at Atlantic City Raceway every morning.
The wonder was that the South Philadelphia Hit Men kept clawing their way back into the ballgame. Three times they came from behind to tie, only to lose, 7-6, in 10 innings on a night when humidity was mean enough to knock the snarl off Roberto Duran's face.
But the Phils' pitching was bad.
Dickie Noles was first into the stables. Ten hits and four runs in four innings. Ouch!
"IT WASN'T WHAT I'm used to seeing out of Dickie Noles," Green said of his former ace relief man who has allowed four homers since moving into the rotation two starts ago. "He didn't pitch a smart baseball game." There were a couple of pitches in particular that upset Green, but he declined to be specific until after he talked with his pitcher.
To his credit, Noles readily admitted, "They just beat my ass. All I can say is they gave me an old-fashioned ass whipping." Amen, brother.
Enter Lerrin LaGrow. Two walks and two hits in ⅔ of an inning. Phew!
"He's been plagued more than most with base on balls." confirmed the manager, "much more than what you'd expect from an experienced pitcher."
Ron Reed gave up only four hits and a run in two innings. But that was only because in the seventh inning, after the first two men Reed faced – Brad Mills and Roland Office – ripped singles to right field, Pete Rose leaped to the moon to stab Ron LeFlore's rising line-drive bullet that had "double" and "two RBI" written all over it.
But before Dallas Green fired off the salvo of sarcasm-dripping words, "It's the same pitch he's used all year," at Tug McGraw for throwing up the side-armed fastball that Warren Cromartie laced into right field to drive home LeFlore with the winning run in the top of the 10th, he should have considered that it was he, Manager Dallas Green, who emasculated McGraw.
Green cut off Tug McGraw's scroogie.
GREEN TOOK away the Tugger's money pitch when he ordered the intentional walk of right-handed hitting Gary Carter, one batter before Cromartie stepped up in the 10th. Of course, Green is a knowledgeable baseball man who was going with the percentages. The law of the game says righties like Carter devour southpaw hurlers. But sometimes, especially in situations like last night, perhaps you should say to hell with the percentages.
McGraw's screwball is null and void against left-handed hitters. It has been for sometime. Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates. Willie Stargell, John Milner or Ed Ott will gladly tell you about McGraw's screwball, if they can stop laughing long enough. McGraw knows it So much of the time, he seldom screws around with it.
Conversely, McGraw destroys righthanders with the pitch. Who knows what McGraw would have done against Carter? Carter will beat you. He already had driven in the Expos' sixth run in the eighth inning. But against the white-hot-hitting Cromartie, who is hittiing a hefty.315, McGraw was a dead duck in a shooting gallery.
"I wanted it inside more." McGraw said of the pitch to Cromartie that toppled his record to 0-3 and dropped the Phils 2½ games behind the Eastern Division-leading Expos. "I got it too much over the plate. I got beat with a good pitch. If I get the guy (Cromartie) out, it's a great pitch. I got Jay Johnstone with it in L.A. last week and I've used it against other lefthanders.
YOU THROW THE pitch that's appropriate at the time. I just didnt get it to the right place. It wasn't the out pitch. It was the get-command-of-the-plate pitch. I just didnt get it where I wanted."
Would he have preferred to pitch to Carter?
"Hey. you like to think you can get anybody out," McGraw said. "It doesnt matter who it is."
Cromartie's shot was fielded perfectly by Bake McBride in right. But when McBride tried to shift the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, he lost the handle. By the time he grabbed it. he'd lost a full step. It probably wouldn't have mattered, anyway, since LeFlore moves around the basepaths with the wings of Mercury on his feet.
To be sure, most of the Expos waste little time getting around the bases. And at the plate, they spray the ball in all directions. All told last night, they had a man on base in every inning. They left 14 baserunners stranded.
"They're tough to defense," McBride said, "because they use every inch of the field."
"They're pesky little devils," echoed Dallas Green. "JUAt least they. were tonight They're all over the place."
Of course, the Phillies were not exactly twiddling their thumbs, especially in the fifth inning when they came from four runs back to tie the score the first time. Larry Bowa opened the inning with a double and after Manny Trillo walked. George Vukovich, pinch-hitting for Noles, got on base when Chris Speier opted to force Trillo going into second.
AFTER ROSE grounded out. McBride smashed a towering shot to center field that appeared destined for seats below the Marlboro sign. Perhaps it was the heavy humidity that held it up. Whatever, the ball fell into Andre Dawson's glove about head high at the center-field wall. But Dawson never had the handle. The ball scooted up out of his glove. Only Dawson's tremendous concentration permitted him to get his bare hand on the ball, but it popped right out and against the wall before the centerfielder fell to the warning track cuddling the ball to his chest.
Triple! To hell with Dick Williams' argument with first base umpire Dave Pallone that he'd blown the call. Triple! Two-run triple!
Even Williams could not argue about the shot Mike Schmidt blasted to the black tarp beyond left field to follow McBride. It was his 21st homer of the year, and suddenly the Phils were right back in the ballgame.
The Phils quickly fell behind in the sixth when LaGrow, despite two outs, served up two doubles and two walks before Green could rush in Kevin Saucier to put out the inferno created by his pyromaniacal teammate.
If you loved Pete Rose's heart-stopping jaunt in which he scored from first on a single against Cincinnati last May, they would have had to call in the first aid squad for you last night.
ROSE WALKED to open the seventh inning, with the Phils trailing, 5-4. McBride slapped a single to right that would have normally sent Rose, moving with the pitch, to third. Roland Office quickly fielded the ball, but Rodney Scott misplayed Office's throw back to the infield, which was Rose's cue to score. The ball rolled between Scott and Speier as Rose streaked down the third-base line home, sliding across the plate to tie the score at five before the startled Expos even felt the sting of Rose's thorn.
"We're a team capable of doing that." Green said of his club's tri-comebacks. "I've said it all year. But I don't find a damn thing encouraging about this game."
It was suggested that perhaps the Phils were due for a loss like this. "I don't believe it for a minute." Green snapped. "If you play that kind of baseball, you're going to get your ass beat."
Especially if your pitching staff is in a mass coma.
PHILUPS: Dick Ruthven, who suffered a shoulder bruise in a fall, may return to action by the weekend. "It's a little more encouraging today than before," Dallas Green said. "But he's still on a day-to-day basis. Maybe he could be back by Saturday at the earliest."... Bob Walk (2-0) is scheduled to start tonight against Bill Guillickson (0-1).
Schmidt Homers for Payoff
By Lorenzo Biggs
John Sakala of Philadelphia became the second contestant in less than a week to win $1,000-plus in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. Last Friday, Joe Mareno Sr. of Philadelphia won $1,075.
During the fifth inning of the Phillies-Expos game last night, Mike Schmidt's two-run homer sent $1,050 (the additional $50 for two RBI) to a rather subdued Sakala, who had been informed of his new-found fortune by his granddaughter.
"My granddaughter just called up, and said I had just won $1,000," Sakala said. "1 though she was kidding… I wasn't sure. The only thing I've ever won was a bottle of whisky in a raffle. I've been sending two (payoff) coupons in every Monday and Wednesday, and I was getting tired (of not winning).
I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING the Phillies since I was a kid," said the 65-year-old Sakala. "Followed them for 60 years. My father took me to my first game when I was five years old, when the Phils used to play at the old Baker Bowl at Broad and Lehigh."
Sakala, who says all the Phils are his favorites, hopes to send a thank-you card to Schmidt for his unexpected jackpot.
"I'll use half the money to pay bills," Sakala said. "The other half I’ll use, to get tires for the car, a new hot water heater, and maybe... take a trip down to the shore."
Otis Johnson, of Philadelphia won $125, plus four tickets to a Phillies game, on Bake McBride's RBI triple. Justin Michael of Reading won $50 and tickets on Larry Bowa's double. Caspar B. Carpenter of Philadelphia won $25 on Pete Rose's RBI.
Winners of tickets were Frank A. Bartolone of Wayne, Bernie Wenger of Broomall and Jim Weeney and Jean H. Everett, both of Philadelphia.
So far the Daily News has paid out $7,650. Today's entry coupon appear on Page 67.