Philadelphia Inquirer - May 19, 1980

Baseball talks break off as deadline nears

 

By Hal Bock, Associated Press

 

NEW YORK – Negotiations in the stalemated baseball contract talks abruptly broke off yesterday, four days before the strike deadline.

 

Representatives of the owners and players attended two bargaining sessions with federal mediator Kenneth Moffett, but met together for only two or three minutes before the talks ended.

 

Moffett declared a recess and returned to Washington with his counsel, David Vaughn. The mediator said that he and Vaughn would remain in touch with both sides, and that he expected to call them back into session before the deadline of midnight Thursday.

 

"I can't see any light at the end of this tunnel," Moffett said dejectedly. "The chances for averting a strike are not good."

 

He said there would be not be any talks today.

 

The atmosphere in these talks turned decidedly frigid Friday when each side rejected a proposal from the other.

 

The owners turned down a suggestion that the rest of the contract be settled while the difficult free-agent compensation question is placed on hold for two years, with a committee to examine the question.

 

The players dismissed an owners' bid to continue all terms of the expired 1976 agreement through the start of the 1981 season while bargaining continues.

 

At yesterday's meeting, Moffett asked the Players Association representatives a single question on behalf of the club owners.

 

"The question was: 'What is deficient in the owners' proposal as it relates to impasse and retroactivity?'" the mediator said.

 

The owners' representatives repeated the question, and, in a joint statement by league presidents Lee MacPhail and Chub Feeney, said: "We have indicated that the clubs will continue to recognize all of the players' rights during this season and that any improvements in a new basic agreement will be retroactive when a agreement is reached. With these assurances in place, there is nothing to be gained by the players if they strike."

 

Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, called it "a nothing proposal, one which would have the players work throughout the season under terms of a four-year-old agreement."

 

Miller seemed angrier than he has for some time during these talks.

 

"There is clearly an attempt to con the players into accepting no improvement in their contract, to accept 1976 terms while the owners collect 1980 revenues. They're attempting to get a year free with no improvements," he said.

 

Miller was asked if a strike could be averted.

 

 

"It's late in the day," he said.

Ryan zips Phils, 3-0, on 4-hitter

 

Whiffs 10 as Astros check five-game skid

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

HOUSTON – It was the eighth inning. The Phillies had two men on. And that Texas mirage Dallas Green thought he saw was Nolan Ryan getting tired.

 

"It looked to me," said Green, hopefully, "like we were gonna have an inning."

 

Maybe Green hadn't heard about that amazing, colossal Nolan Ryan stat of all time. In eight seasons with the Angels, Ryan took a lead into the eighth 114 times. He came out of it winning a mere 109, losing two and gulping three no-decisions.

 

But yesterday it was the Astrodome, not Anaheim. And when Ryan started the eighth by allowing a Greg Gross walk and a Pete Rose single, it was clear Nolan the K was going to have to do more to hold that 3-0 lead of his than just browse through his record book.

 

Instead, Ryan browsed through his catalog of pitches and stopped at page one the one detailing the fastest fastball on earth.

 

Vroom. He bombed a 96-m p h. fastball past Bake McBride. One out.

 

Whoosh. Another 96-shot by Mike Schmidt. Two out.

 

Bam. Three straight fastballs past Greg Luzinski. End of inning. End of ball game.

 

"I guess," said Green, after Ryan had four-hit the Phillies, 3-0, "that's why he got all the money."

 

The Astros gave Ryan a $4.5 million contract over the winter. But yesterday was his first chance to play genuine stopper. The Astros had lost five straight at home, nine of 11 altogether and had scored in one of the previous 31 innings.

 

"I went out there," said Nolan the K, "with the intention of shutting those guys out."

 

It was apparent, from the way he scorched through the first four innings (one hit, six strikeouts) that he was sure going to have a shot at it.

 

"All you can do with a guy like him,", said Luzinski, "is just try and stay close to him. You try and get a good-pitched game and just hope he'll wear himself out."

 

That, however, isn't Ryan's history. He has calfs like most people's thighs, pushes off that back leg with everything he has and keeps on bombing from the first inning to the ninth.

 

"For some reason I've always been 8ble to maintain my stamina over the course of a game," Ryan said. "Going nine's no big deal. I've thrown enough pitches to go nine a couple times."

 

Ryan fanned 10. keeping the Phillies guessing by consistently throwing his big curveball for strikes. Heck, a few Phillies hardly even knew he had a curveball.

 

"I went up there the first time keying off the fastball," Luzinski said. "Then I get breaking balls. This is a guy I've faced maybe one time in my career. You know he's a fastball pitcher, and now all of a sudden he gets his breaking ball in. That's what made him so tough today."

 

The Phils had their one serious early threat in the fifth, when Manny Trillo got a high changeup, thanked the heavens and ripped it to right-center for a triple. But Ryan overmatched rookie pinch-hitter George Vukovich and got him to bounce to third.

 

Then came the eighth. Gross pinch-hit, Ryan went 3-and-2 on him and then lost him. It was only Ryan's fourth walk of the day. You say "only" because Ryan has averaged 5.9 per nine innings this year.

 

Next Rose (three of the four hits) lined a single to center. "I just got behind Pete a couple times," said Ryan. "And I just wasn't able to pitch him the way I wanted to."

 

So it was first and second, and the hitter was McBride. Bake was riding a 12-game hitting streak and a .486 average with men in scoring position. But Ryan had fanned him twice earlier, in the first on three breaking balls, in the third on two breaking balls and a flameball out of the strike zone.

 

But now this was no time to be fooling with breaking balls, and Nolan the K knew it.

 

"I'm a power pitcher," said Ryan, understatedly. "I've got to make them hit my best pitch. I'm not taking a chance on hanging a curveball."

 

He calmly threw three fastballs McBride never had a shot at. Down went Bake's streak.

 

Next was Schmidt, who had walked twice and struck out once. Schmidt also had seen a heavy diet of curves and changes. Ryan threw him three fastballs, missing with two. He came back with his one curve of the inning, and Schmidt, geared for the fire, took it for strike two. Ryan blazed a rising fastball. Schmidt missed it. Two out.

 

"Schmidt helped me out," Ryan said. "He chased a bad pitch. I thought he might be trying to get the bat out quick, so I pitched him up and he chased it."

 

Finally, along came Luzinski, a two-strikeout victim earlier. The Bull looked for the curves he had seen earlier, got three sailing fastballs and missed them all.

 

The Dome's radar gun, which earlier had timed three Ryan rockets at 98 m.p.h. and nine others at 97, registered 96 on all three strikeout pitches.

 

"Yeah, he'd lost a lot," Luzinski said. "From 98 to 96."

 

As Ryan (now 2-3) was humming along, Randy Lerch was continuing his pursuit of the Matt Keough Trophy.

 

Lerch is now 0-6. But maybe his whole problem is that they insist on starting all his games in the first inning. If they would start them in the second or third, that record wouldn't look so bad.

 

Lerch has given up at least one run in the first inning in six of his last seven starts. His first-inning figures for the year: 12 runs, 17 hits, eight walks (one intentional).

 

His day began yesterday with a leadoff single by Rafael Landestoy, who came in hitting .182. Terry Puhl bunted him to second, and Overbrook's own Jeff Leonard made it 1-0 with a single to left.

 

Lerch's second inning wasn't much of an improvement. The eminent Luis Pujols (lifetime average: .156) drilled a one-out double. That made it about time for Lerch's regularly scheduled walk of the pitcher. Yep, he walked Ryan, who has one hit since 1971, on five pitches.

 

Landestoy was next, and he doubled his RBls for the year (from one to two) with an RBI single to right. Lerch got an out from it because Bob Boone stepped up on the throw to the plate and gunned down Landestoy trying for second. But that was just a momentary reprieve.

 

Lerch threw Puhl, a tough fastball hitter, a high fastball. And Puhl roped it to center for a base hit that made it 3-0. Another revealing Lerch statistic: opponents are batting .409 against Lerch with men in scoring position.

 

 

NOTES: The Phillies on the road trip: McBride 10-for-33, .303; Bowa 9-for-29, .310; Maddox 6-for-21, .286; Trillo 7-for-21, .333; Rose 11-for-32, .344; Schmidt 6-for-27, .222; Boone 3-for-32. .094; Luzinski 2-for-23, .087; Aviles 1-for-7, .143; Unser 1-for-7, .143; Gross 0-for-12, .000.... Matchups for the Reds series at the Vet: Steve Carlton (6-2) vs. Frank Pastore (4-1) tonight, Dick Ruthven (4-2) vs. Charlie Leibrandt (3-2) tomorrow, Larry Christenson (3-0) vs. Tom Seaver (2-2) on Wednesday.

The strike nobody wants

 

By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor

 

NEW YORK – It rained, but the people came anyway. More than 48,000 showed up yesterday – the largest Yankee Stadium turnout of the year – to see the home team play the Texas Rangers, to claim their free Yankees caps, to display the homemade signs that were mostly variations of "We Love Reggie," to stand in the middle of the seventh inning while Paul Richardson, the organist, played, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," to do all the things that baseball fans do.

 

That was the good news.

 

The bad news was that nobody knew when the gates of Yankee Stadium would open again. Nobody knew if the next home stand in baseball's best-known park would begin on time or, indeed, if it would begin at all.

 

"Four games to go," a man said to Reggie Jackson after the Rangers' 5-4, 10-inning victory, and the Yankees slugger nodded.

 

Here it was, mid-May, and there was a possibility that the Yankees, the Rangers and 24 other major league clubs were already deep in the "stretch drive."

 

Extra innings

 

Even as the Yankees were blowing a three-run lead in the Bronx, the men who control the immediate future of the sport were meeting in Manhattan and wasting another opportunity to settle the really big baseball confrontation scheduled yesterday in this city: the one between management and labor.

 

That one, too, appears headed for extra innings.

 

For many, the strike that threatens to halt play in the major leagues before the next weekend rolls around will, if it comes to pass, leave scars that will be difficult to heal.

 

"The public doesn't want a strike," Jackson, the Yankees' player representative, was saying. "The players don't want a strike. I don't think the owners really want a strike. But when a disagreement comes Up...."

 

You'd think, at a time like this, when the national economy is in such rough shape, when baseball popularity is so high, when so many big league players are making big money, when so many teams are drawing big crowds, that reasonable men would find a solution to the problem that might shut the gates at Yankee Stadium and Veterans Stadium and all the other big league stadiums for weeks to come.

 

'It stinks'

 

But they haven't – at least not yet – and so there they stood yesterday, the Reggie Jacksons, the Mike Griffins, the Ron Guidrys, the Bobby Browns, the Yogi Berras, the Frank Lucchesis, all wondering if their season really was about to end.

 

"Look at me," said Berra, the Yankees' first base coach. "Thirty-four years, and this'll be the first lime I had a summer off except when I got fired in August by the Mets."

 

"My whole life has been baseball," Lucchesi, the Rangers' third base coach, was saying.

 

Recently, somebody interviewed him on the radio. Lucchesi didn't say who was right or who was wrong; like so many others, he really isn't sure. What he did say was, "It stinks."

 

"I never thought it could happen," he said. "When you have a glove on when you're 9 years old and you're playing baseball through your whole life, when maybe you used to get D's in school because you wanted to go out and get in a pepper game and not do your homework, when baseball means that much to you, this is just unbelieveable. If there's a strike I think Abner Doubleday is going to turn over in his grave.

 

A lucky guy

 

"I've been in (pro) baseball since I was 18. That's – my God, that's almost 35 years. Believe me, a few negative things have happened to me over the last few years, but baseball's been good to me. I'm a lucky guy, a guy who did not play one day in the big leagues and ended up managing two big league ball clubs (the Phillies and the Rangers), and I'm still in the big leagues...."

 

And the thought of a summer without big league baseball absolutely floored him. "I figured it out the other night," he said, pulling out a piece of paper and jotting down figures. "My first year in pro ball (1945) I made $325 a month. Then I went to $300, then $300 again, then I got a $25 raise to $325 a month.... My first year as a player-manager in the minor leagues I made $575 a month."

 

Even as manager of the Phillies Lucchesi never made more than $35,000 a year, and for !he first couple of years he made considerably less. It wasn't until he replaced Billy Martin as manager of the Rangers that his salary soared. But even that hardly made up for the early years.   

 

"Thirty-four years," he said, "and I figured out I made roughly $418,000. In one year players make more than I did in 34 years."

 

And yet the big leagues are in danger of grinding to a halt in a few days. The longest of all baseball summers may be just ahead. Frank Lucchesi can't understand it, cither. And it bothers him.

 

Reggie Jackson, one of those players who makes more in a year than the Frank Lucchesis of the baseball world make in a lifetime, didn't seem nearly as upset.

 

"For me," he said yesterday, "it would be nice to get away for the summer for a while. Since the negotiations have broken down, I wish they'd just go home today."

 

Today. Right now. Not even wait until the Thursday night strike deadline.

 

"I'm not mad or bitter at anyone," Reggie said, noting the surprised looks on some faces, "but why continue to argue? Just have a parting of the ways. Go have a beer and relax and watch TV. Go home and let me go home for a while and maybe we can work something out. But to continue to beat a dead horse is a waste of time, it seems to me."

 

There was a time, he said, when he attended the meetings, listened to the speeches and the arguments, the proposals and the counter-proposals. Not any more. It was too aggravating, too frustrating.

 

So here he was, ready to go home, ready to take a couple of weeks off, then go to work for the companies he represents.

 

But surely he, too, would miss baseball. Wouldn't he?

 

"I'd miss it before the summer was over," Jackson replied. "But you've never had to go out and been forced to do something, and if you don't do it you have to think about it, you have to worry about it every day. The daily pressure that you're under... for me, it'll be a relief if it stops. The daily pressure of having to perform takes its toll on me."

 

On the other hand, a baseball strike – surely, a long baseball strike – would take its toll on all those players who haven't been making big money and who don't have lucrative jobs representing candy companies, etc., to fall back on.

 

Aren't you concerned about all the players who can't afford to strike? Jackson was asked.

 

Anger flashed across his face. "You've got a guy with a $20,000 nut (expenses) a month," he snapped. "Do you think he's going to get hurt? I don't like your question because it makes it seem like I'm saying, 'Screw the little guy.'

 

"I'm going to loan a few guys on the club money, but I don't want sympathy for it. I don't give a damn if you write it. I don't give a damn what people think.... I'm having a good start. I'm hitting the ball good. I have a chance at 400 (career) home runs this year. If we go oul on strike for a month and a half, selfishly I'm going to be hurt, too."

 

Yeah, but what about all the players who can't afford a long strike, the kids who have just made it to the big leagues, the Mike Griffins, the Bobby Browns, the Dickie Noleses and all the rest.

 

"They've known about it (the possibility of a strike) all along," Jackson replied.

 

And so, he was saying, they should be as ready for it as he is. At least, they'd better be ready for it.

 

"If you just break off for a couple of weeks, have a little clearing of the air, it may put things back in the proper perspective," Jackson said. "That's personally how I feel, whether it's right or wrong.

 

"If the players are going to be hurting for money, they'll change their thoughts. If the owners are going to be hurting for money, they'll change their thoughts.... That's the way it goes. There are 900 million people in China that don't give a damn. They're trying to get a bowl of rice."

 

But there are a lot of people in this country who do give a damn. There are the Frank Lucchesis, who can't even imagine a summer without baseball. There are the Mike Griffins and the Dickie Noleses, who can't afford a strike, who have to decide if they'd rather go back to the minor leagues to earn their salaries instead of being unpaid major leaguers.

 

And there are the 48,000-plus who ' showed up at Yankee Stadium on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and the 32,000 who went to Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium to watch a recent game despite a highly publicized campaign to boycott it, and all the millions of people like them who think big league baseball is important.

 

 

Reggie Jackson may welcome a vacation from baseball. They won't.