Camden Courier-Post - May 18, 1980

Christenson homer powers Phillies to win over Astros


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


HOUSTON – The Phillies used a three-run home run by pitcher Larry Christenson and some brilliant defense to stop the Houston Astros, 4-2, last night before 44,284 fans – the largest crowd ever to witness a Phillies-Astros game in the Astrodome.


The process of scoring runs in the Astrodome, which from the outside resembles the world's largest central air conditioner, has always been a laborious one. It is the consummate pitcher’s park, hermetically sealed against such intrusive factors as wind, rain and untreated air.  It’s expansive outfield – the fences are 340 feet away along each foul line and 390 to the power alleys – allows a pitcher tolean back and throw without having to worry about every fly ball leaving the playing area.


"This park historically has not been a park you see explosive innings in," said Phillies Manager Dallas Green. "I'm looking to get a run. I don't care how I do it. You get a run here, then they have to get two. And they're having trouble scoring, too.” 


It came, then as a great surprise to everyone – most especially Houston righthander Joe Niekro – when Christenson smashed his homer with two out in the second inning. Christenson put himself up, 4-0, with the homer, sending it into the left field stands just to the third base side of the 390-foot sign.


Green was playing it close to the cuff when Greg Luzinski opened the third with a ground single to center. It was the Bull's first hit on this road trip, snapping an 0-for-18 slump. Green had Luzinski running as Bob Boone walked on a 3-2 pitch and an out later Larry Bowa would hit a ball that turned the inning into a big one.


The Astros' run boycott came to a halt in the third, when Cesar Cedeno delivered a two-out two-run single. The runs, Houston's first in 25 innings, cut the Phillies lead to 4-2.


Christenson began the game demonstrating that he may be at his best, pitching with two weeks or so rest. He had not pitched since May 3, getting rained out of one turn and missing another in Atlanta because of a sore elbow. In that May 3 start, he went 6 innings in a 7-3 victory over the Dodgers after going 10 days without pitching because of a groin pull.


Indeed, Christenson's stuff was as good to the bases as it was to the plate. He picked off Joe Morgan at first, throwing to the bag four times before nailing the Astro second baseman to end the first inning.


Christenson struck out Cesar Cedeno and Enos Cabell consecutively after allowing a leadoff single to Jose Cruz in the second, and picked off Cruz at second to avoid further damage in the third.


Astro starter Joe Niekro opened the third with a single and, after Christenson fanned Denny Walling, went to second on a single to center field by Terry Puhl. Morgan flew out to right, but Christenson walked Cruz to load the bases. Cedeno then singled home Niekro and Puhl. Christenson fell behind . Cabell, 3-1, before working a pickoff with shortstop Larry Bowa to catch Cruz and end the inning.


PHIL UPS – Christenson's homer was the 10th of his career, putting him one shy of the team record held by Rick Wise... McBride extended his team-high hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning single... the streak matches his longest as a Philly.

Baseball fans fear long, dull summer


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – The thought of quitting cold turkey made the men shake their heads in dismay. It was a bad time, indeed, to be a baseball addict.


One more week and the daily supply of runs, hits and errors would be cut off indefinitely by the players who had vowed to strike major league baseball. Just like that! And the dreaded summer without baseball would be upon them.


You'd think the people involved in the nationat past time would be aware of the trauma, civic unrest and general chaos they were about to create within a segment of the population that has never known what it's like to survive without a daily box score fix.


There would be no period of withdrawl, which might not have been a bad idea. Trim the schedule down to a game or two a week until the average fan could get used to the idea of opening conversations with something other than, "Hey, did you hear how the Phils are doing?"


A hotline would be a great help, especially with the betting crowd. Call a special number and you get to hear tapes of Richie Ashburn’s old rain delay interviews and a pre-recorded message of comfort from Dallas Green.


An act of mercy for the desperate members of the 13-run pool, to be sure, but it would still amount to little more than putting Band-Aids on the temples of a guy with a headache.


"We could follow soccer, said Mike, the words catching in his throat even as he spoke them to his friends, many of whom could tell you in an instant the starting lineup for the 1954 All-Star game, the best double play combination in the International League and what Billy Martin was drinking the last time he punched a marshmallow Salesman.


Cos fixed Mike with a sorrowful stare, obviously convinced that bis friend was already beginning to show signs of the strain. Then, he held out his hand and counted off the priorities of the typical sports fan during the summertime.


"Number one, baseball!" he said, touching one finger. "Next, football, basketball, hockey and broads. A week or so from now, there's only going to be one of those five things around. I think women are-going to love this strike."


It's not inconceivable that, if the strike dragged on into the dog days of summer, the Saturday afternoon din of lawnmowers could become deafening as vacant-eyed husbands asked their wives, "You got any other chores that need to be done?"


The kids were a totally different problem. Where were they going to get their annual supply of sweatshirts, T-shirts, gym shorts, batting helmets and tube socks?


"I got my kid a baseball signed by Eric Gregg, the umpire," said Mike. "He thought it was great. But I don't know how long that's going to hold him. And, what am I going to I tell him when he asks me to take him to the Vet to see the fireworks?"


Cos groaned. Fireworks. This was no time to be worrying about fireworks. Next thing you know, people would be worrying about the Phillies Phanatic and whether he's going to die of loneliness.


The important thing was having to come to work each day without a pennant race going on... without Schmitty battling Kingman for the home run crown... without Rose going for 200 hits... without having every-day proof that the Chicago White Sox had the best young arms in baseball (a Coz prediction)... without the suspense of the trading deadlines and the debates about the voting for the All-Star team. God, it made the Spanish Inquisition look like a Sunday School picnic.


Kevin, who had remained silent during the discussion, finally lifted his beer mug and said, "Men need an escape. That's what sports gives them. Without baseball in the summer, I think people are going to go goofy."


Everyone nodded in agreement. Then they turned and stared at the giant television screen. It was blank. But, somehow it didn't seem to make any difference, because if you looked long enough and hard enough, you could see Larry Bowa turning a double play, Garry Maddox making a running catch, Reggie Jackson swinging from the heels and the shine on Joe Garagiola's head.


"Maybe we could all take in a Little League game," said Mike.


"Yeah," answered Cos. "Just what we need, a summer with the Bad News Bears."

Drama in baseball rests on strike talk


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


HOUSTON – Baseball begins its sixth – and perhaps final – week of play today beneath the lingering cloud of a possible strike. It will not really matter who wins or loses during these last few days, because the truly important game will not be played on a field.


Rather, whatever drama connected with the sport will come from a negotiating table, where the struggles to obtain a new Basic Agreement rapidly approach the 11th hour. Indeed, the attention of players, owners and fans alike will be riveted on Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Players Association, and Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator.


Few players were heartened by the news yesterday that the owners had turned down Miller's most recent proposal. They had thought Miller removed the major stumbling block in the talks Thursday, when he withdrew demands in the area of free agency and the reserve clause. Miller suggested the thorny issue of free-agent compensation be put aside while negotiations continued on other items such as pensions, health and safety questions, and minimum salaries.


But the owners responded to the offer with an emphatic "no!" There was, the owners said, no reason why the players could not continue with the season while the two sides bargained on all the issues, which include an owner proposal that teams losing players to free agency be compensated according to a complicated formula.


At the same time, it was hinted that Miller's movement on the crucial issue was more a public relation ploy than a sincere attempt to avert a strike, which is set for midnight Thursday.


"As it stands now," said the Phillies Bob Boone, "a strike will occur. It's sad, but it seems there's no other choice."


Boone, the player representative for the National League, says the owners' proposal on free-agent compensation is "totally unacceptable. If it comes down to that being the issue, there won't be baseball. It's as simple as that."


Miller's offer to table the free-agent issue while continuing talks would have opened the door to the only real alternative remaining for the two sides: continue negotiations while still playing.


"I expect that's what will eventually happen," said Boone. "If we agree in principle on the major issues, yon can continue to work and continue to negotiate."


The players, however, will not continue the season unless there is some agreement on the major issues. They would, Boone said, be willing to accept a measure of compromise.


"Any kind of compromise (on free agency) is a step backward," said Boone. "But you have to weigh it against the other gains we might get with the pension fund or salaries. Right now, it hurts us too much."


But the owners, in effect, have told the players to take a hike. Their refusal to accept Miller's latest proposal can only be interpreted as a call to arms.


"If the owners want to see how strong we are, well, they'll see bow strong we are," said Boone.


The owners are gambling that players are beginning to waver in their resolve, that the rank-and-file ballplayer doesn't want to go on strike anymore than he wants to strike out in front of 50,000 people.


"The owners," maintained Phillies General Manager Paul Owens, "don't want a strike. And, I don't think, the players do either. The beautiful game of baseball is going to get hurt because the fans aren't going to put up with it I know our fans will take a long time getting back."


It's true that many players, frankly, are concerned about money. They're a little nervous about going through the summer without a paycheck. Others are acutely aware of the damage they will be doing to the game if they strike. The same thing could be said for the owners, who – despite considerable financial preparation – know they could be digging their own grave by allowing a lengthy walkout.


But the die has been cast the battle line drawn, by these latest developments. During spring training, when the Players Association first set Thursday as their strike deadline, the possibility of it actually occurring seemed remote. As time went on and negotiations went nowhere, a strike became a possibility.


Now it is inevitable.