Wilmington Morning News - May 27, 1980
Phils offer more than fireworks in Bucs battle
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA – Fireworks? You want fireworks ?
The Phillies provided lots of fireworks – during and after the game – in last night's Veterans Stadium showdown with the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the National League East.
And when it ended, the Phillies had followed their sixth-inning fisticuffs with some ninth-inning fireworks against Bucs' relief ace Kent Tekulve for a 7-6 victory that moved them .004 percentage points ahead of the Bucs, who had lost three straight games and 7 of 10.
The Phils, headed in the opposite direction, won their fifth straight game and 10th in their last 13. Maybe the sixth-inning fireworks during a bench-clearing brawl got the Phillies started, but once the batting pyrotechnics started in the bottom of the ninth, they put promo king Bill Giles' annual Memorial Day fireworks festival to shame.
"A helluva game!" shouted Pete Rose as he rushed to beat the crowd home. "It was dangerous to be on that field tonight, but it was a helluva game!"
The Phils went right after Tekulve, trailing 6-5. Mike Schmidt, who'd walked twice against Pirate starter Bert Blyleven, opened the ninth with a double down the left field line and raced to third on Greg Luzinski's high infield chopper that the Bull beat out for a single.
Bob Boone, who entered the game with a .217 average and was 0-for 3 against Blyleven, doubled over third. Schmidt scored to tie the game, Lonnie Smith (running for Luzinski) churned into third and nobody bothered to cover second as Boone trotted in.
Garry Maddox, who already had three hits – including a two-run homer as the Phils battled back from a 5-1 deficit – was intentionally walked to load the bases. That brought up Larry Bowa, who'd 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, who'd been bloodied by an unknown assailant in the sixth-inning brawl. "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."
Last night he didn't have to.
While the ninth-inning rally set the stage for the regular fireworks, the fans were still buzzing about the sixth-inning brawl. It started when Phils' left-hander Kevin Saucier, who has been known to hit a batter in his time, plunked Blyleven in the hip with a fast ball.
Though nobody would admit it, this was retaliation for a Blyleven pitch that low-bridged Schmidt in the third inning. Both teams came onto the field at that time, but just milled about, with no punches being thrown.
In the sixth, however, Blyleven charged Saucier, with mayhem on his mind – and a baseball in his hand. Blyleven had picked up the ball he had been hit with and would have throw it back at Saucier, had not home-plate umpire Doug Harvey grabbed his hand.
Blyleven and Saucier did exchange a few head-butts in the grasp of several players as the dugouts and bullpens emptied.
"Saucier's not a backoff guy," said Green. "He never has been. He's , never been afraid to take a challenge. I don't say he'll knock everybody 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 the combatants after order seemed 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 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."
Of course, they didn't have to.
The game started routinely enough. Bob Walk, making his first major-league appearance since being called up from Oklahoma City on Sunday, retired the first two Pirates he faced. Then he walked Dave Parker and Stargell lined a home run to right field.
The Phils got one back off Blyleven in the second on back-to-back doubles by Maddox and Bowa. But the Pirates added three more in the third to kayo the rookie righthander.
Omar Moreno started it with a walk and, with Tim Foli batting, stole second. Walk fielded Foli's sacrifice bunt and threw to third, but Moreno beat the throw and Foli was safe at first.
"We threw the kid into a pressure situation," said Green of Walk's 2.2 innings, which included five walks and four strikeouts. "He mishandled that throw to third. If we'd have gotten out of that inning, he'd have been all right."
But catcher Boone compounded Walk's problems when he tried to pick off Moreno at third and overthrew Schmidt. Moreno scored easily and Foli moved to second. After Parker lined to first, Stargell was intentionally walked.
Bill Robinson flied out, but Walk walked Bill Madlock to load the bases. Catcher Ed Ott followed with a two-run single up the middle to send Walk to the showers.
Things slowed a bit until the fight in the sixth inning got the teams' juices flowing again.
"They've got the 'family' over there," Green said of the Pirates, "but we've got our own family here. We've grown up together. We've worked hard all spring and all year to change the character of this club. We won't back off, we won't be intimidated and we'll come back against anybody."
The Pirates got a run off Tug McGraw in the seventh on singles by Foli and Parker and Stargell's sacrifice liner to right-center that Maddox caught on the run.
The Phils got that run back in their half of the seventh on Luzinski's double down the left-field line that scored Pete Rose, who had opened the inning with an infield single.
Maddox opened the eight with his third hit, a single to right, then stole second. He went to third on Bowa's groundout and scored on Manny Trillo's single to center to make it 6-5. That kayoed Blyleven, who was roundly booed as he left the field.
On came Tekulve and out went the Pirates, making a winner of Ron Reed, who's now 3-0 after a horrendous start. There will be three more renewals of this no-love-lost rivalry at the Vet, then three games at Three Rivers Stadium next week. It should be interesting.
EXTRA INNINGS - Blyleven, who quit the Pirates, then returned after cooling his ego, is 0-6 lifetime against the Phillies... The righthander is 0-4 this season... Phils are 15-7 in May... Steve Carlton (8-2) vs. the Bucs' Jim Bibby (5-1) tonight at 7:35... Green hasn't decided on his pitchers for the final two games of the series, but the Pirates will use Don Robinson and Eddie Solomon.