Philadelphia Daily News - May 27, 1980
A Fight Without a Decision
By Tom Cushman
After having already observed several of the East Coast's finest boxers at work over the weekend – Gerry Cooney and Jimmy Young in Atlantic City, Jerry Martin and James Scott from Rahway Coliseum, the Flyers and Islanders from the Long Island Sanitarium – it was both a rare privilege, and challenge, to be ringside last night at the Vet.
Twenty years of chronicling prize fights from Kinshasha, to the Blue Horizon, to Manila, and still there are evenings when you-feel inadequate. Ali-Foreman was an education in self-hypnosis, Ali-Frazier instructed us in the suicidal heroics of which man's spirit is capable, but neither experience was of any value last night. The Phillies and Pirates were my first tag team match.
To complicate matters, there also were problems in debriefing the principals. "I didn't see anybody fighting, but if you guys did why don't you go write what you saw," suggested Dave Parker, from a stool in Pittsburgh's post-fight locker room.
THIS WAS NOT what we had hoped for from one who had been down on the field, but Dave Parker is such a nice chap that no one wanted to hurt his feelings by arguing.
The problem here, of course, is that identifying the principals who rush into a baseball fight is like trying to cover the spawning run by salmon up the Columbia River, the difference being that all the salmon are serious.
Nor was the manager of much assistance. Angelo Dundee can reconstruct every punch that is thrown throughout 15 rounds, but Chuck Tanner was unable to provide even routine details. "How the bleep am I supposed to know who (Mike) Ryan (of the Phillies) went after," Tanner said, in response to a question. "I was in one pile, and there were other piles all over the place."
The problem began in the first inning when Bert BIyleven of the Pirates was asked to pitch to Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, a request of limited appeal since Schmidt and Luzinski had spent the last several days playing paddleball off the stadium mezzanines.
As an alternative, Blyleven walked both, but in the process sent a pitch whistling so close to each that they qualified for aftershave. When Mike Schmidt felt the breeze of a similiar delivery two innings later, the bell for round one sounded.
SCHMIDT, MOVING WITH menace toward the mound, was restrained and, although the dugouts emptied, the scene was typical of the average baseball dispute. It looked like both teams had been invited to the same picnic, and everyone was milling around looking for the beer keg.
The highlight of this performance was the Pirates' Jim Bibby (6-5, 250) – laughing all the while – seeking out Larry Bowa (5-10, 155) and throwing a punch that looked like one of Too Tall Jones' more spectacular misses. Bowa then bent over to tie a shoelace, whereupon Bibby kicked Larry in the back pocket, gently.
You knew right then this was all in fun, or Larry would have stretched him.
When Kevin Saucier stuck a pitch in Bert Blyleven's side three innings later – thereby applying one of baseball's more primitive laws – the mood darkened, although the overview remained that of a fraternity charade.
Blyleven grabbed the ball on the rebound and obviously was planning to hurl it back at Saucier, when suddenly he noticed that his right arm was in a vise-like grip.
Restrained, Blyleven's rage seemed to increase. Perhaps he thought it was Chuck Tanner come to rescue him... this was, after all, the sixth inning.
The hand of peace actually belonged to Doug Harvey, the home plate umpire.
"USUALLY IF YOU can cut off the man going toward the mound, you can stop the fight," Harvey was to explain.
This turned out not to be the usual occasion. The benches again emptied, the fight began, and so did the problems of the journalists assigned to the event.
Jimmy Young bled on Sunday. So did Larry Bowa and other veterans of last night's sparring, the difference being that we know who hit Jimmy.
"Do I look like Jimmy Young?" Phil Garner asked later, pointing to a scrape on his left cheek. Phil, like others in the room capable of speech, seemed to have no idea who was responsible for his souvenir.
"It's all part of the friendly game of baseball," he explained.
Doug Harvey described the incident as untimely. "It's only May, a little early for this kind of thing," he said.
"In my opinion, the pitches BIyleven threw to Schmidt he threw at the buttons, which is where that kind of pitch belongs. The man has a right to brush back a hitter.
"The one thrown by the Phillies pitcher does not fall in the same category. Tanner wanted him out of the game, but under the rules all I could do was warn him at that point. Once that was done, all the pitchers were under the same warning and any one throwing at a batter again would be gone, along with his manager."
At intervals, Harvey and his crew thought they had brought the main battle under control, only to have satellite fights fan the flame again. It was for this reason that Lee Lacy of the Pirates and Herm Starrette, the Phillies' pitching coach, were ejected. "After things had calmed down, Lacy tried to restart it with his mouth," said Harvey. "Later Herm did the same thing. They both were warned, but they wouldn't shut up."
LACY, LIKE THOSE around him. was more reticent in the clubhouse. In contrast to most post-fight scenes, aside from the blare of the tape machine, a great calm had settled around the gladiators by the time reporters were admitted. We had not realized until this moment that we were dealing mostly with pacifists.
"All I know about what happened is that I was trying to be a peacemaker," said Lee Lacy, in explaining why he had been ordered by Harvey to remove himself from sight.
Bert Blyleven also was able to sum up his role in a single sentence. "I have nothing at all to say," he said.
"What is this, 'Face the Nation?'" Bill Madlock asked, as several authors approached to inquire about his role.
"Their bullpen started the trouble the second time," Madlock point out. "I had nothing to do with it. other than I noticed that (Mike) Ryan was kicking some guys who were down and I tried to get him to stop."
Shortstop Tim Foli, one who reportedly had bled for the team, said his role also was that of peacemaker. "These things are gonna happen occasionally," he added. "I usually look for one guy – this time 1 grabbed (Bob) Boone to make sure he didn't step in one of the piles of people. I held him and we just kind of sat there and watched."
CHUCK TANNER SAID HE is certain Kevin Saucier threw at his pitcher intentionally. "I can't read his mind," the Pirates' manager admitted, "but that's the way I saw it. He knew damn well he wasn't gonna bat again himself tonight. He'll have to sometime, though."
"I do not have a statement that will help you guys sell your papers tomorrow," said Willie Stargell. "The only thing worth remembering is that when you look in the record books 100 years from now the score will still be the same, and nobody will care about anything else."
It was about that time that an unidentified voice yelled, from across the room. "Hey, this is Joe Frazier's town. We're lucky they didn't bring him down to help."
Lucky for Joe. Like the rest of the regular fight crowd, he'd wouldn't have known how to score it.
Phillies Battle into 1st
By Bill Conlin
A crowd of 45,394 showed up at the Vet last night to watch the Phillies and the Pirates. Would you believe a hockey game broke out?
God Bless Kate Smith.
It was the first of 18 games between the beasts of the East. Even if the season series goes downhill from here, it still has a chance to be sensational.
Wrapped around the wild, bench-clearing, lump-raising brawl which erupted after a Kevin Saucier fastball sought retribution on the left hip of winless Pirates starter Bert Blyleven, the teams managed to play a memorable baseball game.
"The most exciting game I've ever seen," said Bill Giles, who was responsible for only the post-game portion of the Memorial Day fireworks.
Giles might not be your best witness,. Senator, but it wasnt bad.
SCORE THE FIGHT a draw. Larry Bowa came out of it with a small cut on his lip. The Pirates' double play combination of Tim Foli and Phil Garner suffered a slightly cut eye and cheekbone bruise, respectively. There were some stepped-on feet – somebody's gotta tell rookie righthander Bob Walk, who made his first big league start earlier in the evening, that you don't go into a baseball fight in stocking feet. But nobody wrenched a back, broke a finger or twisted an ankle. Bruised feelings outnumbered broken bones, 50-0.
The game? It overshadowed the rumble. And baseball fights, good ones, are so in frequent it takes a helluva game to do that.
The Phillies came back from one run down to win it in the ninth, 7-6. They needed just four pitches by relief ace Kent Tekulve to tie it. Tekulve is a guy who usually gets out of the ninth with four pitches. But this game was about as "usual" as mud-storms in Portland, Ore.
Mike Schmidt led off the ninth and doubled into the left-field corner. Greg Luzinski legged out a bouncer up the middle. Bob Boone chopped a double over third and it was 6-6. Second and third, nobody out... Chuck Tanner brought the infield and outfield up and ordered an intentional walk to Garry Maddox, who had a double, homer and single off Blyleven.
Larry Bowa was the hitter and Tekulve fell into a 3-1 hole. Bowa bounced a single into right, pinch-runner Lonnie Smith scored and the Phillies were in first place by percentage points.
THE TROUBLE STARTED in the first when Blyleven came up and in to Schmidt.
"The third baseman wound up walking. So did Greg Luzinski. How many back-to-back walks was that for the season? Schmidt grumbled to the press Sunday after he and the Bull went back-to-back with homers for the fourth time this season that the press would make too big a deal of the feat.
"... You writers are all gonna make a big thing out of the back-to-back homers." Schmidt said, insulting his audience and his own intelligence. "The Pirates pitchers will come to town and they'll read all that stuff and I guess all we'll see is... ball three, ball four."
There was an excellent chance that all the Pittsburgh pitchers, even those who are not of the reading persuasion, received lavish detail on the, home run tear from the advance scout who has been charting the Phillies. Even those pitchers who ignore scouting reports and read box scores exclusively might have been led to believe that the Bull-Schmidt duo has been beating more lately than the traffic out of the parking lot.
When Schmidt came up again in the third, the Pirates had chased Walk, called up from Oklahoma City Sunday to replace ill-fated, surgery-destined Larry Christenson. The hard-throwing 6-3 rookie was undone by Willie Stargell's two-run homer in the first and a liberal sprinking of well, walks. Three walks, a wild pickoff throw by Boone and a bases-loaded single by Ed Ott propelled the Bucs into a 5-1 lead.
TO THAT POINT – indeed after it – Blyleven was hardly Randy Jones out there when it came to pinpoint control. Mr. Nine-or-Nothing walked three in, the first two innings and was deep in the count on nearly everybody.
Schmidt ledoff the third and Blyleven sailed a fastball in the vicinity of his leonine countenance. Mike is almost never given to displays of anger, particularly with 45.000 witnesses. On this occasion, however, his too, too solid flesh did melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew, to quote Casey Stengel. He pointed a left index finger at Blyleven and started toward the mound, a la the Bruce Kison Incident of July 8, 1977. The righthander came to meet him halfway and both benches emptied, a dress rehearsal as it turned out.
At this point it would be helpful to develop the sequence of events with some Schmidt quotes. However, Schmidt, Luzinski, Maddox. , and Boone were out of the clubhouse and gone before the media was admitted. You will just have to bear with our poor efforts to reconstruct the scene without expert testimony.
Schmidt walked and Maddox made it 5-3 with a two-run homer.
BLYLEVEN LED OFF the fourth and Lerrin LaGrow was pitching It was not the best time for retaliation though. "Lerrin's been having a hard enough time finding a groove without putting the leadoff hitter on base with the top of that order coming up," said pitching coach Herm Starrette, who received a game misconduct during the brawl.
Saucier came on in the fifth and the lefthander hit Stargell with a pitch that really and truly got away. If Hollywood ever makes The Kevin Saucier Story, Charles Bronson will play the lead. (Clint Eastwood is unavailable; he's making The Dickie Noles Story). Saucier barely had his bags unpacked last season when he drilled Cubs righthander Mike Krukow for holding target practice on the Phils in Wrigley Field. What's more, he freely admitted intentionally throwing at the Cubs righthander, a no-no. Chub Feeney doesn’t like that. You're supposed to say, "Shoot I was trying to waste a pitch inside and the ball just ran in on him." Or something.
What Saucier threw Blyleven with two outs and nobody on in the sixth was a waste pitch, all right. It tailed in on Bert's hip like a heat-seeking missile homing on a jet aircraft's tailpipe. Blyleven took it personally. As he started for the mound, the pitcher picked up the ball and prepared to enact the old Biblical admonition "A Rawlings for a Rawlings.”
Plate umpire Doug Harvey did a heroic job – Doug was magnificent throughout the milling brouhaha – of keeping the enraged pitcher from throwing the ball at Saucier. This time the benches emptied and it was no drill. See iom Cushman and Stan Hochman for round-by-round.
"IT WAS A great game to win," Saucier said afterwards, slipping a tape recorder and rope-a-doping a notepad. "I ain't talking about it. The ball was moving really good for me tonight. I had good stuff."
Does he read the Bible on occasion. "Yes," Kevin said.
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord?
"No comment," he said.
The rest of the Wild Bunch – catcher Keith Moreland, who hasn't had this much fun since the last Oklahoma game and Noles – say they had no idea their buddy would go after Blyleven. "Both teams can be thankful the five biggest guys Parker, Stargell, Bibby, Bull and Schmitty, were acting as peacemakers," said Noles, who kept buzzing into the scrap only to be hauled out by teammates. Moreland said he was too busy warming up Tug McGraw to notice what Saucier was up to.
It remained for Bowa to wear the high hat and tails of peace ambassador.
"Sauce felt they were throwing at our players, felt he had to do something, I guess," Bowa said. "I told Sauce after I got hit – I don’t know by who – he was gonna get me killed. I'd hate to see Schmitty, Parker. Stargell or Bull get hurt for the year in something like that. I can't say that Bert Blyleven was throwing at Schmitty or Bull, but I’m sure Bert knew Sauce was throwing at him. I think what happened tonight reflects the respect both teams have for each other."
PETE ROSE WILL buy that. "We know they're the team to beat and they know we're the team to beat " he said after a 3-for-3 performance. "You're gonna get a lot of hard baseball played between these two teams. Not too bad for the first of 18 games, huh?
Bill Giles will toast that sentiment.
"I hope the photographers who got shooed off the field during the fight got in good and close before they left," Giles said.
The action crackled. The crowd howled for more.
The baseball game wasn't bad, either. And it doesn't figure to be chopped liver tonight, when Steve Carlton squares off with Jim Bibby, who is 5-1.
Phils’ Starrette Pleads Innocent
By Stan Hochman
Herm Starrette would never tell a pitcher he's got to throw at somebody. Not even if that somebody had just dusted his best RBI man. Twice.
Starrette did not tell Kevin Saucier to throw at Bert Blyleven last night, even after Blyleven had brushed Mike Schmidt back. Twice.
Starrette will swear to that on a stack of Sporting Newses. which is baseball's bible.
"If I have to ask a pitcher to do that," Starrette said after the brawl was over, "then I don't want him around."
THE PHILLIES WANT Saucier around, because he's left-handed, tough and healthy. Tough, healthy lefthanders are in short supply. Righthanders, too.
Anyway, Saucier hit Blyleven in the ribs in the sixth inning to ignite a brawl that did everything but scatter volcanic ash over South Philadelphia.
It was a two-stage fight, with Starrette ejected during the intermission, along with Pittsburgh's Lee Lacy.
Before he left. Starrette drop-kicked a glove 30 feet and threw a baseball, the one Saucier had used to plunk Blyleven, 240 feet The old record of 227 feet was held by Monk Meyer.
"I don't know why I was thrown out," Starrette insisted, sounding a lot like Richard Nixon.
"Jim Bibby and I were yelling at each other. But I didn't cuss the umpire or anything. "HE DIDN'T SAY. but maybe he felt I was prolonging the fight. I know he threw Lacy out, and that must have had something to do with starting the second melee.
"Then, I guess he felt he had to throw somebody else out.
"I was out there to get Saucier. We can't have another pitcher get hurt. I was just trying to get 'em separated.
"Maybe Bibby thought I was piling on. Or he may have thought I had the kid do it. But I'd never do that. I don't know what's going through his mind.
"But if we get guys going back (to the dugout) with dirt on their pants, I'd expect our guys to retaliate. I don't want anybody throwing at anybody's head. But I don't want a pitcher who doesn't want to protect our men.
"I'd be a fool to say he wasn't trying to brush him back."
YET FOOLS RUSH IN where angels fear to tread. While Starrette was throwing and kicking equipment . around, bullpen coach Mike Ryan came thrashing into the mob scene. He looked like a bowling ball trying to pick up a 4-7-10 split.
"He looked," suggested Starrette, "like Joe Palooka."
Ryan thought he looked more like Joe Walcott, refereeing the Ali-Liston fight in Poland Springs.
“I was just trying to pull somebody off," said Ryan, with the straightest face this side of William Penn.
"A couple of their guys pointed at me. Three of 'em. I don't remember who. It might have included their third baseman (Bill Madlock).
"I said, 'Come on, let's go.'. They said something to me. By that time, I had a couple of guys on my neck. I got up looking for whoever it was.
"I didn't come in with the intention of hitting anyone. We're in there with the intention of breaking something up. I guess they thought I did something to somebody and mistook me for someone else.
"I TOLD 'EM, 'You want part of me let's go.' They were happy to oblige.
"Coaches are supposed to quiet things down. The players, they vent their frustrations.
Ryan had watched the foreplay from the bullpen, which is a long way from the scene of the crime.
"I guess Blyleven was just letting him know he's out there," Ryan said. "And I don't know if Kevin threw at him on purpose.
"As far as I'm concerned, the ball got away from him. That's between Kevin and himself. I know he didn't get any orders to do it."
Ah yes, the ever-popular unspoken code to go with the inevitable unwritten rules of this wonderful game.
So what ever happened to the unspoken and unwritten scenario that calls for coaches to be the medical corpsmen of baseball wars, tending to the wounded, dragging them to safety?
AND HOW DID MANAGER Dallas Green feel about his 43-year-old pitching coach getting ejected for instigating hostilities after calm had been restored?
"I told him," said Green with the warped humor that comes from winning a game in the ninth inning "that I'll trade Herm Starrette for Lee Lacy any day.
"Actually, Herm was the victim of circumstances. The ump was trying to get order and wanted to throw somebody out.
"He banged out Lacy because Lee was right in the middle of the second go-round. Tempers flare in that situation. I don’t think anybody likes to be called a bleep-bleeper."
Green had battle scars on his right leg, spike wounds. But he thinks the benefits of last night's scuffle will last long after the bruises have healed.
"We talked about the character the club all spring," Green said. "We're a baseball team that's gonna stick together.
"They've got the family and we've got our family here. We grew up together.
"We worked hard to change the character of the club. Today, we showed we're not gonna back off.
"We're not gonna be intimidated. That's not a challenge, that's just us. I'm sure Chuck Tanner is telling his club he's proud of the way they went about it."
Terrific. A Memorial Day version of Family Feud, with no losers, only winners. The families? How does the Jukes against the Kallikuks grab you?
There were four winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the fifth inning of the Phillies-Pirates game, winners of four tickets each to a future Phillies game were Claude LeBlanc of Lin-denwold, N.J. plus Nick and Terry Valecce, Joe Mazur and G.J.'Beaven, all of Philadelphia.
In the fourth inning of Saturday's Phillies-Astros game, Rita D'Angelo, Angel Cooper, and Mary Link, all of Philadelphia, each won four tickets. In Sunday's third inning of the Phillies-Astros game, Agnes Galvani of Philadelphia won $50 plus four tickets on a double by Greg Luzinski. Bettie Samuels of Philadelphia won $35 on a single ($10) and RBI ($25) by Bob Boone.
Winners of tickets only were. Clayton Bordick of Roslyn and William Reisman and Jack Bitzer, both of Philadelphia.
So far the Daily News has paid out $4,685.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 70.