Chicago Tribune - June 8, 1980

Cubs play the clowns in Phils’ circus


By Richard Dozer, Chicago Tribune Press Service


PHILADELPHIA – Ringling Brothers’ circus is performing at the Spectrum, which is next door to Veterans Stadium.  Thousands are turning out nightly to watch wild animals, high-wire acts, clowns and magicians.  But those who prefer to witness magic being performed by baseball players would be better served by coming to the Vet.  Here, the Phillies’ pitching staff, which is playing this weekend without Steve Carlton, is executing nightly sleight-of-hand against the Cubs.


Saturday night, Manager Dallas Green reached down into his bag of tricks as far as he could for a starting pitcher and sent Randy Lerch against the Cubs.  Lerch had won only one game while losing seven.  His earned-run average was 4.87, and in 61 innings he had given up 64 hits.  But he beat the Cubs 5-2.


Just as the Cubs had set rookie Bob Walk on the right path 24 hours earlier, they came flailing to the rescue of the faltering Lerch.  Lerch shut them out for five innings.  By the time the Cubs scored a run, they were down by three.  And when Mike Vail hit a home run in the seventh, there was ample warning to call in rookie Dickie Noles, who earned the save.


With their fourth consecutive loss, the Cubs fell into fifth place in the National League East.  The Phillies are a game from the top now, and already the division is resembling two three-team races – once for first, one for last.


Rick Reuschel, who had pitched two complete games in a row, had an off-night, and, as Manager Preston Gomez indicated, that’s something the Cub staff rarely has the luxury of surviving.


“It’s tough when the pitcher has to go out and say, ‘I have to pitch a shutout to win.’  We’re just not hitting.”


Reuschel gave up nine hits, walked one, and was upset over a questionable call at the plate on which Pete Rose was called safe while coming in from second.


The play was so close, Rose said, “If he (the umpire) had called me out I wouldn’t have complained.”


THE PHILLIES started their scoring in the second inning when Bob Boone doubled to left, and Manny Trillo singled him home.  Another leadoff double brought in two in the fifth, this one by Rose.  Bake McBride singled to right for the score and took second on the near-miss throw to the plate.  A later single by Boone scored McBride.


Reuschel was taken out for a pinch hitter in the sixth, and maybe it was too early for such a move, even though he had enjoyed only one hitless inning, the fourth.


The Cubs had only three singles off Lerch when they began to threaten in the sixth.  Mike Tyson walked with two out, and Larry Biittner’s third double in two nights went deep to left center, enabling Tyson to break the shutout.  Dave Kingman, who later got a harmless single, bounced to the pitcher this time, and the Cubs were left to try again.


By the time they did,however, Dick Tidrow, their most efficient relief pitcher, had become the victim of four singles and a sacrifice fly by Rose as the Phillies extended their lead to 5-1.  Vail’s fourth homer opened the seventh, and when Lerch walked two while retiring two, Green went to Noles.


THE AILING Bill Buckner came in to pinch hit and may have been a little too anxious to contribute.  He swung at the first pitch, hit it sharply, but right at left fielder Greg Luzinski.  After that, Kingman’s two-out single in the eighth and Steve Ontiveros’ walk made up the only Cub offense.


The circus is a matinee Sunday, and so is the third game of this series.


In Philadelphia, there is some question over which is the greatest show on earth.