Philadelphia Inquirer - May 25, 1980
Bamberger looks forward to return
Allen Lewis on baseball
"To think people would take the time to sit down and write me."
The speaker was modest, unassuming George Bamberger. A quarter century spent in minor-league uniforms would cure anyone's ego problems, but George Bamberger never had any to begin with, which is why the 2,000 messages he's received from fans during his convalescence surprised him.
Until he was named manager of the Brewers after the 1977 season, Bamberger was a name only baseball people recognized. Ten years as a pitching coach of the Orioles under resident genius Earl Weaver prepared Bamberger for his first managing job ever. And a 26-game improvement from the year before in his team's performance earned him manager-of-the-year honors as a rookie.
The Brewers jumped from sixth to third and then to second in the American League East under Bamberger, and hopes were high that this year he would lead them to the top. But during spring training in March, the 54-year-old Bamberger was stricken, and underwent heart bypass surgery. Since then he's been recuperating, currently at his home in North Redington Beach, Fla.
His progress is right on schedule. He spends his days following his doctor's orders and writing notes of appreciation to all the fans who have written since he was struck down. And Milwaukee fans are preparing to turn out in record numbers the night of June 6 when Bamberger is scheduled to return to Milwaukee as manager.
"I think I can handle it," he said of the planned welcome. "It'll probably give me goose bumps all over, and it will probably be one of my biggest days ever. Those people have treated me great."
The same can be said of anyone who has ever come in contact with George Bamberger.
NOTES: Too bad the new Padres manager Jerry Coleman failed in his attempt to get his outfielder to use two hands to catch fly balls. Baseball techniques have made great strides over the years, but the one-handed catch isn’t one of them…. George Foster is one of the great hitters in the modern era, but he'll never be a great player because he refuses to slide into home plate, no matter how important the run, and shies away from outfield walls no matter how crucial the out.... When Jim Frey took over as manager of the Royals, the ex-Orioles coach didn't bring his own people as coaches because "I never managed before; I didn't have my own people," Two of his coaches were out of the Royals' minor-league system because "I was all for the policy of promoting out of your own system. If they hadn't done it in Baltimore, I would have never got the job there. Weaver wouldn't have got his job. I think it's a good incentive."... How important is defense? Well, the Red Sox scored the winning run in the 11th inning recently at Texas on four mistakes. Jack Brohamer hit a roller down the first-base line and fell down in the batter's box but was safe when Rangers pitcher Adrian Devtne overran the ball; Carl Yastrzemski hit a double-play ball to second baseman Bump Wills, who threw a changeup to second, causing shortstop Bud Harrelson to be past the bag when he took the throw, and the relay to first was late. Brohamer, thinking he'd been called out, walked off the bag but made it to third with a dive because first baseman Pat Putnam was arguing the call on Yastrzemski. Rick Burleson hit a one-hopper to the mound and Brohamer got in a rundown. He scored when catcher Jim Sundberg hit him with a throw. Boston scored two more runs to win, 7-4, and after the game Red Sox coach Tommy Harper told Brohamer, "We should send you on a one-man commando mission to free the hostages in Iran."
Answer to the last Trivia Question: The Boston Braves in 1950 were the last major league team to have three pitchers with at least 20 complete games each. Vern Bickford led the league with 27, and Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn each had 25. First with the correct answer was: David Marciano of Philadelphia.
Trivia Question of the Week: Name the only players to make at least 3,000 hits in their careers but who failed to win a major-league batting title.
Fans entitled to yearn for champs, but teams earned hard-won respect
By Bill Lyon
"A pro isn't paid just to play well. He's paid to win." – Bobby Clarke
"I guess people will say we blew another one. Nobody seems to appreciate what an accomplishment it is just to reach the finals." – Julius Erving
Bobby Clarke sat there drained. But then his gas tank always is just fumes by game's end. He holds nothing back. What he was saying is that a Herculean effort is not enough. The 1 people demand total victory and anything short of that is failure.
Julius Erving sat there drained, too. What he was saying is that you are remembered only by your latest loss, not your last victory. We are interested only in the bottom line. Coming close doesn't count.
In those comments of a diabetic rink rat and an arthritic-kneed sky-walker, both athletes of consummate class, there is reflected what has become an unfortunate tendency by a sizable segment of the Philadelphia sporting populace to be vocally disenchanted with the professional teams of this city.
Frankly, I think those fans have become spoiled. They do not know how good they really have it.
This has become, in the last few years, the best sports city in the country.
• In the last eight consecutive years, the Flyers have qualified for the playoffs and have reached the finals four times.
• The 76ers have reached the playoffs five straight years, the finals two of the last four.
• The Phillies reached the playoffs three seasons in a row.
• The Eagles made the playoffs the last two seasons, advancing deeper each time.
Folks, that's not too shabby. It's a record, in fact, that no other city can equal. Only Boston comes remotely close.
And yet there are those who grumble only that, with the exception of the Flyers, these teams have failed because they have not "won the whole thing."
Those people should be sentenced to a sports year in such desolate outposts as Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland, where playoffs are something you watch being televised from other cities.
The sports followers of this city get their money's worth, and given the financial circumstances of the times, that is particularly remarkable.
What I find especially disturbing is the attitude, one which is encouraged by hyper-critical media, of consistently whining that this town is the victim of "chokers." We seem determined to rush to quick judgment that every playoff elimination is strictly the result of the home team 'blowing" another one.
It is unfair. Worse, it is inaccurate. This is not intended as an apology for the Eagles or the Phillies or the Flyers or the Sixers. But it is meant as an indictment of those who are so stubbornly reluctant ever to admit that the other team might have had a little something to do with the result.
Sure, the Sixers could have played better in that sixth game against the Lakers. No alibi necessary. But in the stampede to rip the Sixers, nobody ever bothered to point out now well the Lakers played, particularly without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Because the Sixers lost, what was also lost was everything else they accomplished. In case you forgot, the Sixers were not even supposed to be in the finals. The Celtics were going to blow them away, remember?
Similarly, last winter the Eagles went down to Tampa and went belly-up. But the Buccaneers played a superior game that day – probably played over their heads because they certainly reverted to form the next game. But all anyone could do was moan about the Eagles' flop and cavalierly overlook the play of Tampa Bay. Similarly, in the course of this Stanley Cup, the question has been: "What's wrong with the Flyers?" Mostly, the answer is: The Islanders. They have done the one thing necessary to beat the Flyers: They have scored often on their power play, made the Flyers pay dearly for every penalty, taken their aggressive, attacking style away from them, made them back off, cautious and hesitant. Yet there is a perverse insistence that it is solely the Flyers' fault.
The media have become paranoid in their concern to avoid being "homers." But just as it is possible to be blinded by loyalty, so too can you lose objectivity and judgment by trying too hard to lean the other direction. Critics often become enamored of their jobs, to the point of assuming they should always find fault, even if none exists.
And the fans, well, maybe they just enjoy booing, have become so accustomed to losers that they do not know how to react around winners, are so uncomfortable with success that they regard anything short of a world championship as abject failure.
The only thing wrong with wearing a hair shirt is that you develop a terrible rash and you never stop itching.
Larson is impressive in Phils’ 5-4 victory
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
What do you do when you're rained out in Oklahoma City – except grab the next plane to anywhere?
Dallas Green was faced with this momentous question 10 days ago. And instead of heading for the airport, Green gathered up the Oklahoma City 89ers braintrust and started grilling them on pitchers.
They ran down the usual suspects Bob Walk, Jim Wright, Marty Bystrom. Not ready. Then there were Burke Suter and Paul Thormodsgard. Not ready, either.
And then, sandwiched somewhere between Porfirio Altamirano and Carlos Arroyo, the name of one Dan Larson came up.
Dan Larson came up again last night – in person. Three hours after walking off the plane, he pitched 5-1/3 three-hit innings as the Phillies beat the Houston Astros, 5-4.
Larson, an ex-Astro, didn't get the win. He left with a 2-1 lead, and Kevin Saucier then allowed the tying run. But he gave Green just what he wanted – enough decent innings for his team to have a chance to win it.
"When I was in Oklahoma City, we talked considerably about the pitching staff," Green said, "because I was very concerned with our pitching staff. Not as concerned as I am right now, but concerned enough where I wanted to check their thinking on who might be able to help us."
Green's concern now is that Larry Christenson's elbow is still "puffed up" and Randy Lerch is 0-6 and in limbo. Larson won't answer all those concerns. But "he's a professional," Green said.
"I know he's not gonna scare, and he'll give you a good job. I'm not saying a Suter or a Thormodsgard wouldn't have given me one, as well. But I know Danny. I know what he can do."
After Larson departed, the Phils broke open a 2-2 game with a two-run sixth off loser Joaquin Andujar (2-11 since July 4, 1979). Then Bob Boone knocked in an ultimately crucial insurance run in the eighth, the first run off the Houston bullpen in 23-1/3 innings since May 5.
Tug McGraw pitched the last three innings to earn his third save. But he allowed two eighth-inning runs that made a 5-2 game a little more exciting than Green was hoping.
"Tug always lends a little excitement, doesn't he?" Green sighed. "But he pitched pretty good, all in all."
When Larson heard he was being called up Friday, the first thing he asked was: "Was the strike settled?"
"We didn't get a paper," Larson said. "Hey, I just wanted to make sure."
You couldn't blame Larson for suspecting the worst. He was invited to spring training, but Dave Rader had a better shot to make this club than he did. You wouldn't even say he got a look. It was more like a blink.
"I didn't even think they'd be looking at me after what they did with me this spring," Larson said. "They didn't give me a very good look. I thought if they did anything at all with me, it would be in September. Then, with the strike, you know, coming here was the last thing I expected."
But in between he came up with a slider ("I just thought I needed another pitch"), went 4-2 at Okie City with two tough losses, and then there he was last night, after flying all day from Oklahoma City.
He got in at 4 p.m., slipped on the No. 49 jersey that still had "Eastwick" scrawled on the inside and found himself starting.
The only run off him through five innings was Denny Walling's leadoff homer in the second. This sometimes happens to curveballers who get behind, 3-and-1, and have to go with their very average fastball. Walling now has two hits against the Phillies in two years, and both are homers.
Boone saved Larson from what might have been a game-turning crisis in the same inning by picking Cesar Cedeno off third. This came two pitches after Cedeno had stolen second and one pitch after Larson had wild-pitched him to third.
"When you've got an aggressive runner like Cesar, those are the kind of guys you've got a chance at," Boone said. "Everything's got to fall perfect, though. Is there a sign we use? Yeah, but that's a professional secret. I can't divulge that, can I? Hey, you want to know about the strike? First time in three weeks I haven't had anything to say about it."
Mike Schmidt tied the game in the third, tripling in Rose. Next came Greg Luzinski, and you can tell things are going the Bull's way these days. Joaquin Andujar broke his bat, and Luzinski still muscled a single through the right side to make it 2-1.
Meanwhile, Larson was acting more like Don Larsen. He set down 10 Astros in a row until Rafael Landestoy led off the sixth with a bloop single that plunked between Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and Luzinski in short left-center.
Landestoy stole second and moved to third on Craig Reynolds' chopper to Rose. That inspired Green to do his Chuck Tanner imitation – which simply requires a motion to your bullpen.
Green brought on Saucier to pitch to three straight lefthanded hitters. But the first in the procession, Terry Puhl, flied to the warning track in right, scoring Landestoy with the tying run. And so Dan Larson's record still read 0-0.
Saucier almost gave up the go-ahead run, too when the next hitter, Jose Cruz, bombed one to right. It missed going out by 18 inches for a double.
Saucier turned into the winning pitcher when the Phils rallied for two in the sixth off Andujar.
A double by Luzinski (7-for-his-last-15) and a walk to Boone started the inning. Then a force-play grounder by Garry Maddox set things up. Bowa chopped one over Walling's head at first for one run. And, after Houston elected to pitch to him, Trillo then fought back from 0-and-2 to stroke a single into the shortstop hole for the second run.
On came Larson's former Astros roommate, Joe Sambito, who had not been scored on in nine straight outings. He fanned Keith Moreland, putting n end to that inning. But the Phils were on their way to winning their eighth game in their last 11.