Allentown Morning Call - May 27, 1980
Battle a draw, but Phils win the war
By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Well, where do we begin? Let me count the ways.
With Philadelphia Phillie catching coach Mike "Irish" Ryan drop-kicking a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates? With an account of the season's first battle between a utility outfielder and a 43-year-old pitching coach? With the first major league appearance of one Robert Vernon Walk who just two days ago was another guy in Oklahoma City and is now. apparently, the fourth starter on baseball's hottest team?
Or, simply, by stating that the Phillies and the Pirates last night played one of the damnedest baseball games anyone will ever see at Veterans Stadium.
And to think that many of the 45,394 spectators, the season's second largest crowd, came to see the postgame fireworks show.
The Phillies finally won it 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning on a bases-loaded single by Larry Bowa, the fourth straight hit of the inning off super-reliever Kent Tekulve. That's all. Tonight. Ramon Aviles will flatten Dave Parker in a best-of-three-falls in the middle of the infield before the start of Game 2 of this series.
On most nights, the Phils' ninth inning rally, which gave them first place over the Pirates in the National League East by a few percentage points, would have been enough. But that came long after Kevin Saucier, in the best spirit of Moose Dupont and the long-departed Dave Schultz, touched off the first bench-clearing, bullpen-clearing brawl in several seasons at the Vet.
It began when Bert Blyleven, who must now be ready to go into analysis with the way his season is going, pitched tight to Mike Schmidt in the first inning, then again in the third. Depending on your perspective, he was either "using both sides of the plate," or brushing back one of the best hitters in baseball.
Schmidt opted for the latter and started out to the mound after the second tight one. Along the way he pointed his finger at Blyleven, apparently the secret signal to empty both benches. But nothing became of that.
Blyleven came up in the fourth but was not brushed back by Lerrin LaGrow who had relieved Walk in the third. But when Blyleven came up in the sixth, it was Senor Saucier on the mound and – in the best tradition of those tobacco-chewing maddogs of yore – he let Blyleven have it right on the shoulder. And the pre-fireworks fireworks were underway.
Blyleven reached for the ball and started after Saucier with umpire Doug Harvey climbing on his back, forgetting the old rule about tackling the man low. Blyleven dragged Harvey along and he and Saucier finally met near the mound, though catcher Bob Boone and Schmidt were already restraining him. Enter benches and bullpens.
It appeared to be all over after a little scuffling – heck, Bill Madlock and Bake McBride were having a great time pretending to fight well away from the action – when. suddenly, catching coach Ryan became the center of attention.
This reopened the issue in earnest though scoring punches were tough to chronicle. Bowa. playing the role of Neville Chamberlain, received one but said later he didn't know who landed it. Possibly the saddest person of all was Dickie Noles. who is cut from the same whole cloth as Saucier; he was pacing around looking for an opening but could never find one.
Saucier would not comment on the fight. And most of the other Phillie players hustled out of the dressing room to watch the fireworks. So, most of the postgame attention turned to Ryan.
"If you're out there and they're trying to get you. you've got to retaliate." said Ryan, no stranger to such situations during his playing career which included a stint with the Phils. "I think they thought I did something to one of their players when he was down."
Note that Ryan did not say he DIDN 'T do something to one of their players though, one supposes, that was implied. But not by Pittsburgh's Bill Madlock.
"The whole thing was over when Ryan came in there and started kicking guys." said Madlock. "That's when the whole thing started up. I had no idea why he did that."
And Ryan had to share the spotlight with pitching coach Starrette who, with Pittsburgh reserve Lee Lacy, was ejected from the game.
"They were just looking for somebody to toss out and Herm was there," said Green, "Well, there was something going between him and Lacy, I guess. But I'll trade Herm Starrette for Lee Lacy any day."
He was asked how he rated the performance of his coaches.
"I pick a good staff, don't I?” he said with a smile.
Blyleven had no comment about the brushbacks (if they were brushbacks) nor the game. And with good reason. He had a 5-1 lead after 2½ innings but Garry Maddox's two-run home run made it 5-3. Then he had a 6-3 lead after 6½, but Greg Luzinski's RBI double made it 6-4. Then Manny Trillo's RBI single in the eighth made it 6-5 and Blyleven left to the warmest reception since Anita Bryant visited the clubhouse of the Gay Rights League.
However, things still didn't look too bad for Blyleven. Grant Jackson got him out of the eighth and. with Tekulve on the mound. Blyleven was still a good bet to get his first win of 1980 and his first ever over the Phillies in seven decisions.
But Schmidt hit Tekulve's first pitch of the ninth into the leftfield corner for a double. Luzinski beat out an infield hit which should tell you how far shortstop Tim Foli had to go to get it. And Boone bounced a hit over third to score Schmidt and tie the score at 6-6. An intentional walk to Maddox with men on third and second loaded the bases for Bowa.
Bowa worked the count to 3-1 and many thought he'd be taking the next pitch. But he lined it through the drawn-up infield into rightfield. then performed the Mohawk Warrior Victory Dance after pinch-runner Lonnie Smith scored the winning run.
Opinion: Play ball now – and strike later?
If the Philadelphia Phillies of baseball's National League wind up strong also-rans, like the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League and the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, it won't be because of a strike. They're playing baseball and, judging from games Friday. Saturday and Sunday, playing very well.
Less than 10 hours before the widely expected strike would have canceled Friday's 13-game schedule, representatives of the club owners and the players agreed to disagree on the basic issue the totally inequitable free agent compensation system, a monster the owners themselves helped create – and play on.
How do you agree to disagree over a union contract? You appoint a committee. That's what the owners and players did. Two general managers and two players will meet no later than Aug. 1 and arrive at joint or separate recommendations on free agent compensation by Jan. 1.
If owners and players have failed to agree on this thorny issue since their basic agreement expired in December, how can a two-two committee be expected to come up with anything but two-two votes by January. Most observers believe they can't.
Neither side wanted a strike Friday. The owners didn't because Memorial Day weekend ushers in the most profitable period of the long baseball season. The players didn't because they feared long-term, unfavorable reaction among baseball buffs, the middle-income fans who pay ever-increasing prices to watch millionaire superstars do their thing.
So now it's wait till next year. There may be some give on one side or the other, but if there isn't the owners could unilaterally impose their compensation proposal between Feb. 15 and 20 and the players could notify owners of a strike date by March 1.
Batter up this year. But next year?