Wilmington Evening Journal - May 27, 1980
Bowa, Phils fight back for win over Bucs
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Larry Bowa was bloodied but unbowed last night after helping the Phillies bowl over the Pittsburgh Pirates in another of those no-love-lost grudge matches between the National League East strongboys at Veterans Stadium.
The Phillies' volatile shortstop won't be mistaken for a strongboy in anybody's league, but it was Bowa who emerged with the bloody nose from the bench-clearing free-for-all in the sixth inning and Bowa, again, who had the game-winning hit in the ninth.
"Sure, the fight may have helped spark a comeback," said Bowa after the Phils' 7-6 victory had moved them into first place, .004 points ahead of the Pirates. "But fights can help spark the other team, too. I remember the Pirates were 11 games behind us one year and we had a fight and they really came after us. It's an unfortunate thing... bad for baseball."
He meant the fight, not the Phillies' dramatic comeback in the bottom of the ninth against Kent Tekulve that dwarfed the mammoth Memorial Day fireworks show that promo whiz Bill Giles had planned.
It was Bowa's bases-loaded single through a drawn-in infield that gave the Phils their fifth straight victory – and 10th in 13 games – while the Pirates lost their third straight and seventh of their last 10.
Mike Schmidt started it with a double down the left-field line. Greg Luzinski beat out a high chopper over the mound for a single, with Schmidt flying to third.
Bob Boone, batting a feeble .212, doubled over third. Schmidt scored to tie the game, pinch-runner Lonnie Smith churned into third and nobody bothered to cover second as Boone strolled in.
Garry Maddox, who already had three hits off starter Bert Blyleven, was intentionally walked to load the bases for Bowa, who had doubled home a second-inning run but went out his next three times.
Bowa waited out a 3-1 count, then drilled a Tekulve fastball past drawn-in second baseman Phil Garner to end the game.
"I hit three balls right at (first baseman) Willie Stargell tonight, but that one found a hole," said Bowa. "They say Tekulve's struggling, but he sure looked like the same Tekulve to me."
"Bowa really showed me something," said Phils' Manager Dallas Green. "He hung tough against one of the tougher relievers in baseball. I didn't have the 'take' sign on. I signaled him, 'If it's there (waist high), hit it.' And he did. Tekulve's not going to walk a guy, I promise you that."
While the game-winning rally provided the night's heroes, the sixth-inning brawl that brought players and coaches scurrying in from benches and bullpens provided the most conversation.
It had started when Phillies' lefthander Kevin Saucier hit Blyleven on the hip with a fastball. Blyleven had buzzed Schmidt and Luzinski in the third, bringing players onto the field, but with no mayhem ensuing.
But after Saucier plunked Blyleven, all hell broke loose. Blyleven Kicked up the baseball he had been it with and charged the mound, intending to plant the baseball in Saucier's hip. But home plate umpire Doug Harvey caught up with the Pirate pitcher and grabbed his hand.
Blyleven and Saucier tried a few head butts while in the grasp of other players, then everybody joined in. And when it was over, Bowa was walking off with a bloody nose and fire in his eyes.
"I can't say he (Blyleven) threw at Schmitty on purpose," said Bowa, "but Sauce (Saucier) obviously felt he had to do something. It was an unfortunate situation. It was when the coaches started jawing at each other that punches got thrown.
"Bull (Luzinski), Schmitty, Dave Parker – those guys were pulling people off, not fighting. They could kill guys if they got started. I didn't see who punched me but, yeah, I got hit good. I told Sauce he'd get me killed."
Dallas Green, who was on the scene faster than any manager in recent history, denied that anybody had ordered Saucier to deck Blyleven. But then nobody has to tell him.
"Saucier's not a backoff guy, he never has been," said Green. "He's never been afraid to take a challenge. I don't say he'll knock every body down, but his philosophy is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Saucier wouldn't talk about it after the game.
"It happened, it happened; I don't want to say anything about it," said the reliever. We won the game; that's all I want to talk about.”
The Saucier-Blyleven bout was only the preliminary to the main event.
As the 45,394 fans cheered and order seemed to be restored, Phils' bullpen coach Mike Ryan suddenly emerged from the pack, dragging several Pirates with him toward shallow left field.
"I was just trying to pull people off when three of their players pointed at me," Ryan said after a quick shower. "They said, 'C'mon, let's go,' and I was ready to oblige, so we met somewhere and I had three guys around my neck.
"You don't want to fight but, hell, you're only human. You don't like to get hit. You retaliate. They were pointing at me. Maybe they thought I did something to one of their players when they were down. It may happen again, who knows?"
Ryan didn't seem to be particularly worried about a rematch, either.
Once the pushing and shoving stopped, the Pirates' Lee Lacy and Phils' pitching coach Herm Starrette apparently had pushed and shoved enough to be ejected. Starrette drop-kicked a glove, then heaved the ball toward the right-field wall en route to the dugout.
"I hate to see it happen," said Starrette, "but it's part of baseball. We want to win, they want to win. But they've got to expect retaliation (for Schmidt's knockdown). Nobody told Sauce anything."
The Phillies, in first place despite a severe shortage of starting pitchers, started Bob Walk, who was 5-1 at Oklahoma City and just got off the plane Sunday. Walk lived up to his name, issuing five passes in the 23 innings he lasted.
The rookie right-hander allowed just two hits, but they happened to be Willie Stargell's two-run homer in the first inning and Ed Ott's two-run single with the bases loaded in the third. And Walk contributed to his own undoing with a fielding misplay before Ott’s hit exiled him to an early shower.
Omar Moreno had opened the inning with a walk, then stole second. Tim Foli laid down a sacrifice bunt that Walk fielded and threw late to third. When catcher Boone tried to pick off Moreno at third, he overthrew Schmidt and a run was home. Two more walks loaded the bases before Ott unloaded two of them.
"The kid was in a pressure situation," Green said of Walk's major-league debut. "I'm not totally disappointed. Things just didn't work out for him. He mishandled that throw to third. If we'd have gotten out of that inning, he'd have been all right.
"But, like all kids making their first big-league start, he was overthrowing, trying to do more than he's capable of. He didn't stay within himself, but I think he'll be OK."
Maddox, who had three hits off Blyleven and is 10-for-15 against the Dutchman in two seasons, doubled and scored on Bowa's double for the Phils' first run, then homered with Schmidt on base in the third to make it 5-3.
Maddox tracked down Stargell's tracer shot to right center with two men on base in the seventh, turning a sure extra-base hit into a sacrifice fly for the Bucs' sixth run.
The Phils made it 6-4 on Pete Rose's single and a double by Luzinski in the seventh before Maddox singled, stole second and scored on Manny Trillo's hit in the eighth to make it 6-5 and set the stage for the ninth-inning dramatics.
"I have to be proud of this team," said Green as fireworks echoed from the field. "We had to grind out some runs tonight. We were down 5-1 at one stage. This club's got character. They say they've got the ‘Family' in that (the Pirates') clubhouse, but we've got our own family here. We've grown up together.
"We worked hard all spring and all year to change the character of this club. We won't back off, we won't be intimidated. We'll come back against anybody."
Last night they did – and in style – with their bats, arms and fists.
And in what may have been his most difficult feat of the night, Larry Bowa tried not to mouth off and give the Pirates any added incentive, just in case the Bucs read the papers.
"They're the defending champions, the world champions," Bowa said. "There's a lot of respect for both teams, there's so much talent on these teams. One game doesn't do it; we've got 17 left.”
And they could all be as dramatic as last night's premiere.