Philadelphia Inquirer - May 18, 1980
Astrodome streak holds as Phils win
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
HOUSTON – Thanks to Manny Trillo's nuclear-powered arm, Larry Christenson's bat and other assorted marvels, the Phillies won their fifth straight game in the Astrodome last night.
Even though that streak did have an offseason in the middle of it, talk about your eighth wonders of the world....
"I can remember losing five in a row here," said Larry Bowa after the Phillies' 4-2 victory over the Astros. "I can remember not scoring here for three days. But winning five? I can't remember that. Hey, weird things happen here. I know that."
How weird? Well, how about a Phillie hitting a ball so far that there was no doubt it was going out of a park that is about as large as Camden? And how about him doing it off a knuckleball? And how about it being a pitcher doing the hitting?
"Yeah, I've thought about hitting home runs here," said Christenson, the perpetrator. "Everybody does. But it's not easy. I was even thinking about that in batting practice. I hit a couple out there that were just bullets. And they didn't even come close to getting out."
But then that was off those pre-game balloons of Bobby Wine. In the second inning, along came the real item an official, made-to-order, hanging Joe Niekro knuckler.
"I'm sure Joe wouldn't say it was a very good one," Christenson said "Oh, he did? Nah, it just hung up there and dropped right in my zone. It just hit my bat, I think."
Christenson now has drilled 10 career homers, more than any Phillies pitcher in history except Rick Wise (11). And he now has two off Niekro. The other was a rocket to straightaway center in Philly a few years back.
"I guess they're the two longest home runs I've hit," Christenson said.
Christenson's 420-foot shot into the lower deck in left-center last night gave him a 4-0 lead.
All he had to do after that was hold it against a Houston offense that hadn't scored in 22-1/3 innings going into the game. But then, as the Astros' Enos Cabell observed, this is one club that isn't paid to hit.
"Hey, the pitchers make all the money on this team," Cabell said. "They ought to pitch a shutout if they want to win games."
But even J. R. Richard and company can't do that every night, which is why people had all those doubts about the Astros in the first place.
Christenson (3-0) extended that scoreless streak to 25 until the Astros got two runs on Cesar Cedeno's bases-loaded single in the third. But this was a night in which Christenson helped himself in a lot of different ways.
Behind, 3-and-1, to the dangerous Cabell, he picked Jose Cruz off second to escape a potentially harrowing inning. Earlier, he had picked Joe Morgan off first.
"I've had a couple pickoffs in a game before," Christenson said. "I've also had a couple balks in a game before."
The pickoff of Cruz was a Bowa production.
"I thought maybe we could get him the first time he was out there," Bowa said. "I even told Larry in the dugout the next inning, 'I think we could get him the next time. So think about it.' He said OK. So then hell, he's struggling, he's 3-and-1 to Cabell. I said, 'Why not try it now?' "
Bowa signaled the play by just breaking for the bag. Christenson whirled, threw and had Cruz by eight feet. Except he almost threw the ball away.
"I saw Larry break, but I already had the grip for the slider," Christenson said. "It almost slipped out of my hand. He really made a good play to hold onto it."
Besides his various pickoff heroics and Babe Ruth imitations, Christenson didn't pitch too badly, either – especially for a guy who hadn't pitched in 11 days and who had worked only 9-2/3 innings in four weeks.
"He had a real good slider, and I'll tell you what the first two innings he had a great fastball," Bob Boone said.
"He threw very well for location, too, I thought. That was a big thing. After all that time without pitching, that was the one thing I was worried about – control."
In the fifth inning, however, Christenson's elbow began to stiffen, as it had after his last start May 7. So Green ran Kevin Saucier out there in the sixth. The manager had incurred a dose of Christenson's wrath for docking him a start last week for that same elbow problem.
"It's really no major deal," Green said. "He hadn't been out in 10 days. He'd thrown 71 pitches. They've got the lefthanded hitters coming up. It's the perfect spot for Saucier. There's no sense in Larry going out and pushing it."
Saucier, who has not allowed a run in three appearances this month, worked a hitless sixth and seventh. But with one out in the eighth, Morgan sent a shot up the gap in right-center.
It was a triple 99 times out of 100. But Trillo roamed way out into medium right, then unleashed a supersonic, 200-foot relay throw. Mike Schmidt decoyed Morgan into not sliding, then grabbed the throw and tagged him out. Cruz followed with a single, so it was a key play.
"Not many guys could make that throw," Green said. "But I thought Schmitty really made the play. Morgan was decoyed about as good as you could be decoyed. I don't think Morgan thought the ball was anywhere near the bag."
Dickie Noles then went out and threw a 1-2-3 ninth. And so it was five in a row. If this is possible, what could be next? How about solving the players' strike?
NOTES: While nobody has used the strike as an excuse for anything, "it's getting tough not to think about it," said Larry Bowa. "You try not to when you come to the park. But then somebody will ask you about it. And then it's just on your mind."
Main issues ignored as strike date nears
NEW YORK – The crucial compensation issue did not come up for discussion in two negotiation sessions yesterday, less than a week before the threatened baseball players strike.
Meeting without Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Players Association, the main progress in the two sessions was a clarification of a misunderstanding that had developed over whether the owners had withdrawn all their previous proposals.
Ken Moffett, the federal mediator handling the negotiations, said, "The players felt that all items previously agreed to had been withdrawn. This is not true, and a misunderstanding as to what is on the table was cleared up. The players were reassured that anything previously agreed to in the negotiations was at status quo."
Another session was scheduled for 10 a.m. today, but it was not known whether Miller would attend that session.
The two lawyers who have been accompanying Miller to the negotiations – Donald Fehr, counsel for the union, and Dick Moss – were at yesterday's sessions to represent the players. Rusty Staub of the Texas Rangers, who is on the disabled list, also sat in on the talks.
The owners were represented by Ray Grebey, their chief negotiator.
The possible player confusion revolved around the crucial compensation issue. Currently, the only compensation that a team losing a free agent gets is an amateur draft choice. The owners favor some form of major league player compensation for the team losing a free agent. The players fear that additional compensation would restrict movement.
The owners rejected a proposal that, if agreement could be reached on other contract issues, the players would accept a status quo in all areas of free agency while the subject, including the owners' demand for compensation, is studied by a joint committee.
The owners then promised that if the players don't strike, "the clubs will maintain all the present terms and conditions of employment in effect at least until the opening of the 1981 season." The contract that expired Dec. 31 was signed in 1976.
The players feared that, if an agreement was not reached, tne owners would declare an impasse, then unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment and eliminate free agency.
Miller scoffed at the owners' promise. "They have been trying anything possible to con the players into continuing to work under a 1976 agreement while they collect 1980 prices," he said.
In an interview with NBC yesterday, Miller said that the owners had taken all their proposals off the table because the players had rejected management's latest compensation proposal. "We're back to square one," Miller said.
Strike would aid the minor leagues
Allen Lewis on baseball
If the expected strike of the players takes place, will it be a boon to the minor leagues? It would seem so.
Without the national and regional telecasts, as well as the many big league games available in hundreds of towns and cities on cable, the fans in the more than 100 minor league areas may decide a minor league game is better than nothing and turn out in large numbers. And they may find the product is remarkably good entertainment.
There won't be many attendance records set no matter how well the minor league clubs do, however. Younger fans today might find it difficult to believe how widespread minor league baseball was some 30 years ago.
Immediately after World War II, almost every city and town outside the 10 areas where the 16 major league teams were located had a ' team, and minor league attendance set records for four years in a row, peaking in 1949 when the 59 leagues drew almost 42 million. Nowadays, there are fewer than 20 minor leagues and their total attendance is i less than 14 million.
If there's no major league baseball this summer, newspapers in minor league areas may devote more space to their teams, too. It could be interesting.
In regard to the possibility of a strike, it may well be that the players are counting on the same thing happening that did in 1972. That year, the players went on strike April 1. It took only until April 13 to reach a settlement, primarily because of a compromise offer by the owners.
The owners were not prepared for a strike eight years ago. This time they are. If the players go on strike Friday it won't be just a two-week stoppage, unless the players yield in the matter of compensation for free agents.
If the players don't yield within a reasonable period after the strike begins, you can expect no more major league baseball this season. If the stoppage is a relatively long one, the owners will just write off the 1980 season.
Such a strike will be an unfortunate landmark in the stormy history of labor relations, for it's doubtful there has ever been a walkout by employees as well-paid, and with a pension plan that is second to none.
As usual, the real losers will be the fans. When there is an eventual settlement, the fans will be asked to pay for it in the form of higher ticket prices.
During all the negotiations, commissioner Bowie Kuhn has remained behind the scenes. Some weeks ago he did claim he had an ace up his sleeve that he would play at the right time to try to prevent a strike. All I can say is, "Play it, commissioner."
NOTES: Although Bill Madlock and the Pirates protested the severity of the penalty assessed Madlock for his altercation with umpire Gerry Crawford, the fact that National League president Chub Feeney cracked down hard can only be applauded. No matter the provocation, physical contact with an umpire must be prevented. If an umpire makes too many mistakes, he should be fired, not assaulted.... The rule that resulted in the ejection of Padres manager Jerry Coleman because he came out to argue a balk call needs revision. Umpires are instructed to eject anyone who comes out of a dugout to argue about foot positioning on a balk call. Coleman did, but the umpire who called the balk was reversed by his colleagues, and Coleman was still ejected. Ridiculous! Maybe Coleman at that moment recalled what his wife said last winter when he told her he had accepted the managing job. She asked, "Are you out of your mind?"
The answer to last week's Trivia Question: Bill Terry and Fred Lind-strom combined to collect 485 hits for the 1930 Giants, the most by two teammates in major league history. First baseman Terry tied the National League record with 254 hits, and third baseman Lindstrom had 231. Scott Henkels of Philadelphia was first with the correct answer.
This week's question: Name the last major league team that had three pitchers with 20 or more complete games.