Philadelphia Daily News - May 28, 1980

Phillies Unlucky in 13th

 

By Bill Conlin

 

Pete Rose saw some nasty sinkers last night, none nastier than the one Larry Bowa threw him in the first inning.

 

"Larry throws some sinkers over there that are like batting against Tekulve," the first baseman said.

 

A rare throwing error by the Phillies' Gold Glove shortstop became the first ingredient in the witches' brew they gagged on throughout a tense, brittle, 3-2 loss to the Pirates in 13 innings of superbly competitive baseball. If Monday night's Pier Sixer was a brawl, this one was a clinic, a doctoral thesis on the small components and odd twists of fate which decide a ballgame between two terrific ballclubs.

 

Phil Garner's slide into the jaws of a certain double play in the fourth was the second ingredient. The tough hombre they call "Scrap Iron" went into second with Spalding Guide form, arms well extended over his head for balance. Balance?

 

WHEN MANNY TRTLLOS lethal machete flick was suddenly diverted off Garner's left wrist. Manager Dallas Green was out there hollering for an interference call from second base umpire Fred Brocklander.

 

"Garner's arms were part of his normal slide," Brocklander said afterward. "If he appeared to move his arms to impede the flight of the ball I would have called interference. But his arms never changed position."

 

Bowa's two-out throwing error on Tim Foli in the first wound up costing Steve Carlton an unearned run on a night the brilliant lefthander had shutout stuff.

 

The routine, inning-ending double-play throw by Trillo, which deflected off Garner's arm into shallow right, enabled Omar Moreno to stroll home from third.

 

The Pirates had a 2-0 lead and Jim Bibby's power pitching made it stand until there was one out in the bottom of the ninth.

 

That's when the hinge of fate swung in the Phillies' direction. Bake McBride walked – only the second walk issued by the 6-5 right-hander. The next hitter was Mike Schmidt, 0-for-3 at that point. Bibby's first pitch to Schmidt was a fastball on the knees. Plate umpire Andy Olson, who fielded a non-stop stream of rhetoric from the Pirates' bench all evening, called it a ball.

 

Bibby did a slow burn. Catcher" Steve Nicosia wasn't much happier. The bench jockeys went to the whip.

 

HIS NEXT PITCH was out over the plate and waist-high, the spot Schmidt would select to hit a baseball if he could tee it up. The third baseman drilled a two-run homer with winning run on Mike Easler's and the game went careening into overtime, deadlocked, 2-2.

 

Tug McGraw kept the Bucs shut down – he allowed one hit in three excellent innings. Bibby, one of the few starters in Chuck Tanner's tenure to reach extra innings, one-two-threed the Phillies in the 10th. But he was in trouble in the 11th when pinch-hitter George Vukovich hopped a single over Bill Madlock at third.

 

Rose was the hitter, the guy you'd want up there in a situation where the possibilities were bunt, fake bunt or swing away.

 

That was the sequence. Rose squared to bunt and fouled it up the third base line, enough of a decoy to have the Pirates charging on the next pitch. Pete switched to El Bastardo, swinging away. But he lashed another foul.

 

Now the count went to 3-2 and G. Vukovich was running. If you're a student of the game, you know that Rose batting left-handed probably inside-outs the ball to left 70 percent of the time. But he had hit the ball to the right side in three of his first four at-bats.

 

WITH VUKOVICH RUNNING, would the Pirates elect to go with recent patterns or the scouting report? Would Garner or shortstop Tim Foli cover second? Garner covered second. And the move prevented the Phillies from having runners on first and third with nobody out.

 

Rose hit the ball sharply to Foli. A less experienced shortstop than Tim might have played safety-first baseball, considering that Vukovich was already bearing down on Garner. But he went for the double play. Garner got off an unimpeded throw and the Pirates had two outs. McBride flied to left for the final out.

 

"They got me totally bewildered," Rose said after pinch-hitter Mike Easler singled home the winning run "with two outs in the 13th. "I hit a ball up the middle my first time up. I hit a ball to his (Garner's) right he backhands for a base hit. I hit one in the hole in the ninth. It's the 11th inning. 3-2 count. and the second baseman covers. I can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he was covering."

 

Another element was tossed into the witches' brew. Vukovich running with the pitch, was close enough to the bag to worry more about being safe than breaking up a double play with a hard slide. He was close enough to spill Garner.

 

"RUNNING WITH THE pitch I was thinking about beating the throw if Pete swung and missed or took a third strike." G. Vukovich said. And who expects a rookie in full stride to remember that Rose has struck out just four times in 144 at-bats this season and almost never is called out looking?

 

Scouting or luck?

 

"Scouting. I guess." Pete shrugged. "Every time I hit the ball tonight I hit it to the second baseman's side, except that time."

 

The final ingredient was tossed into the bubbling cauldron when Madlock led off the 13th with a shot off Dickie Noles' leg. The ball stayed right there while the hard-nosed righthander tried frantically to locate it. When he reached down to pick it up. Noles had plenty of time to make a play on the third baseman. But he picked it up and dropped it and Madlock was on first with a single.

 

Lee Lacy sacrificed him to second – and can you remember the days when some Pirates teams would sneer at a bunt? Noles struck out Garner with a wicked breaking ball and Green ordered an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Ed Ott, figuring Easler, sure to hit for winning reliever Enrique Romo, would be the lesser of two potential evils.

 

Easler, a benchwarmer who has managed four homers in just 48 at-bats. underlines Tanner's tremendous maneuverability. The Pirates' first left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench was Willie Stargell, his second Ott.

 

It must be nice to have a Mike Easler as your court of left-handed last resort.

 

PHILUPS: Larry Christenson was scheduled to undergo surgery for the third time today, this time for removal of significant debris from his right elbow. "I just had to have it cleaned out." the star-crossed righthander said. "It's hurt me since my second start. I don't think pitching before the groin pull was healed contributed to it that much. I figure it's been in there a while. When I stretched out on my fastball it really hurt me. There was no sense in trying to pitch like that."... Randy Lerch will get the ball tonight against a team he has always pitched well against. It goes without saying that a strong outing by the talented lefhander could be to the Phillies what oil is to the Saudi Arabian economy... Steve Carlton fired 11 strikeouts in eight innings to run his major league-leading total to 80. Lefty can't pitch much better against a quality team than he did last night... Kent Tekulve threw three soft ground-ball outs in the 13th to rack up his sixth save... The winning pitcher was Enrique Romo, who struck out Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in the 12th without resorting to his screwball... Combine the 10 best pitchers from both staffs and put them with either lineup and you'd have a 115-game winner. Hard-throwing Don Robinson goes for the Bucs tonight.

Pirates Make Winning Look Easy

 

By Gary Smith

 

In the Pirate locker room, a nickname is a badge of honor no chest should be without. If the boys are still calling you the name your momma thought up, you haven't been adopted by The Family.

 

Mike Easler had one. all right, but it was not the kind of thing he'd want squeezed between parentheses on his Cooperstown plaque. His nickname was Easy.

 

With a name like that on a team like this. Easy felt inferior before he even got into his white socks. There was Cobra – Dave Parker to you – coiled across the room. And Scrap Iron Garner and Mad Dog Mad lock and The Hammer, John Milner. Hell. Easy reasoned to himself, guys on the Mets should be named Easy, not guys on the Bucs.

 

So last spring the Pirates' sixth-best outfielder stood up in front of his locker and announced he was changing his nickname.

 

"FROM NOW ON he declared, "call me The Hit Man."

 

Of course, changing your nickname is like changing your mother – it's one of those things that's hard to unglue. But The Hit Man Crushed two pinch-hit homers in the two weeks after the announcement and a few of the Pirates actually started calling him that.

 

This season he has already hit two more. Last night all The Hit Man did was slash a pinch-hit single to right to drive across the winning run in the 13th inning of a 3-2 Pittsburgh win at Vet Stadium.

 

"Some of them still call me Easy." Mike Easler admitted sadly, "but when I go up to hit they call me The Hit Man to get me going. I think of myself as the best pinch-hitter in baseball."

 

The best pinch-hitter in baseball was the fourth-best left-handed hitter on the Pirate bench when this game seethed into the 12th. The Bucs had saddled a 2-0 lead entering the ninth when the Phillies fell right into their trap, scoring twice to send it into overtime.

 

Playing the Pirates in extra innings is like playing Rommel on sand. While you're scrambling for new columns of squares in your scorebook, they're deciding which tank brigade to crush you with.

 

"When we get in that situation, it's like we have the advantage." pointed out reliever Kent Tekulve, who recorded the save. "They're running out of people, but us. you get rid of one and there's another one backing him up."

 

LAST NIGHT THE Buc bench sent a splinter through Dickie Noles' heart. He had tiptoed past John Milner and Willie Stargell pinch-hitting in the 12th with a fly ball and a called third strike. And then in the 13th, with Madlock on second and two outs, he walked pinch-hitter Ed Ott intentionally to bring up reliever Enrique Romo or whatever was left in the pulp of the Pittsburgh bench.

 

But the Pirates weren't out of left-handed lightning yet. Up walked Mike Easler and he tore into a Noles slider to end the Phillies' chances of two straight comeback-to-back wins over their tormentors from across the state.

 

"When things are nice and copacetic, we don't get up for ballgames," explained second baseman Phil Garner, who accounted for one Pittsburgh run by deflecting Manny Trillo's double play flip with his wrist. "We can't stand prosperity. When things look bad, we kick in and go to work.

 

"Easler, he's The Hit Man. As long as he hits, he can get away with changing his nickname."

 

Easler is 29 and has been trying to get a name transplant most of his life. "I tried to change it to Boomer in the minor leagues, but it didn’t work," he said. "Easy just seemed natural to everybody, because of my name and because I'm easygoing."

 

EASY WAS GOING nowhere last spring when hhe decided his title might be to blame.  His brother convinced him that a positive name can smash a negative karma. Doesn't an Englishman's belly pull in two inches when its owner becomes a lord? Doesn't the lowliest mongrel on earth lift his snout and uncurl his tail just from hearing his name called at a higher octave?

 

"My brother's really into positive thinking," said Easler. "He said, 'Sometimes a name can mean so much. Change your name and you think better of yourself.'

 

"So I sat down and rigged up this nickname. I wanted a dangerous name. The Hit Man makes you sound much more mean and aggressive. When they call you Easy, they take you for granted. I never liked it. Put a name like The Hit Man on yourself, you gotta live up to it."

 

It's three words long and tough to call out " across a steaming shower room, but Easler feels he has earned the courtesy. He hit.271 as a pinch-hitter last year and this year he is 3-for-9 off the bench, the first two home runs.

 

Last night the Pirate bench spent most of the event insulting the umpiring crew, until John Candelaria finally got heaved at the end of the ninth. But The Hit Man says he can't get involved in such sub-plots if he is to carry the terrible burden of his new name.

 

"I CANT SIT AND jive around," he said. "I've got to concentrate on the game. The secret to pinch-hitting is being confident, staying loose the whole game, praying, being aggressive and paying attention.

 

"The numbers say that the pitcher has the advantage. But when I go up there I put it in my mind that I'm better than he is. It's a challenge, pinch-hitting. It's better doing this for a club that's the world champion than playing every day for a losing team.

 

"What makes this team great is there's so much talent and no jealousy. I could be 25th man on this team but I feel just as important as the first."

 

He'll come off the wood in the top of the 13th as long as Chuck Tanner asks him too, but The Hit Man does have one small request. Please don't make today's headlines say Easy Does It.

The Inside Story of That Brushback Pitch

 

By Stan Hochman

 

Doug Harvey, the umpire, said that the pitch Bert Blyleven threw, the one that made Mike Schmidt so angry, was a terrific pitch, a basic brushback pitch, as much a part of baseball as $500,000 contracts.

 

"Right at the buttons." was the way Harvey described it after the Pirates and the Phillies had brawled 15 minutes Monday night.

 

Never mind that the Phillies wear zippers, not buttons. If the umpire is right, if Schmidt over-reacted to a plain old high-and-tight fastball, then what happened afterward was a dangerous charade, a tooth-for-an-eye, an eye-for-a-tooth scuffle that was unwarranted.

 

"Doug Harvey." Schmidt said last night, "once again, helped get things under control. And he had a helluva job with some mighty big people out on the field.

 

"But I think he's out of line a little when he talks about me over-reacting to those pitches.

 

"DOUG DOESN'T KNOW my history against that pitcher. I'm hitting the ball pretty good coming in, keeping the shoulder in. And at least once every at-bat, I have to dive out of the way.

 

“I don’t mind getting knocked down if I’m swinging the bat good and the pitcher feels he has to resort to that.

 

"But I don't think one particular pitcher can take that liberty. I'm standing off the plate. And the very first pitch he throws me this season is right at my head.

 

“The next time is when I gestured at him. I don't remember what I said.

 

"Probably something about him having better control than that. Probably that if he did it again I was coming out there after him.

 

"Harvey says he's been in the league 19 years and can recognize a pitch. Well, I've been in the league eight years and I don't know that he's stood at home plate with a bat in his hands.

 

"I'm standing a yard off home plate," said Schmidt "To throw at my head, he's got to throw it a yard inside.

 

"It doesn't matter if it was a knockdown pitch, intentional, unintentional. I felt I had to say something to protect my manhood.

 

"I DON’T THINK Dave Parker would stand up there and let a guy throw at him.

 

"We faced Blyleven five or six times last year. That means I must have had about 25 at-bats against him. I'll bet I had 15 pitches thrown right at my head.

 

"That's a helluva lot of pitches before losing my poise. And I don't think I lost my poise. And then, as far as I was concerned, it was over."

 

Huh? Does that mean that Schmidt would not have been disappointed if Kevin Saucier had not thrown one at Blyleven's belly button?

 

"In no way, shape or form," insisted Schmidt. "I mentioned to Lerrin (LaGrow) when he had the chance, and to Kevin later on... 'Let's consider the ballgame, we don't want it to get out of hand.’

 

"I believe there's a time and a place to protect your hitters. I told them. There'll be a time and a place.'

 

"I respect Saucier as much as I ever did. But I felt I had said my piece.

 

"As it turned out, we won the ballgame and played too much good baseball to have it marred.

 

"I just lelt you've got to do what you've got to do," said Schmidt. "I got hurt the last time this happened, busted a finger.

 

"This time I wound up at the bottom of the pile. I've got cuts all over my legs from spikes. Sure, the cuts don't hurt as much when you win.

 

"IT JUST GETS TO the point where it's a test of manhood. I've got a family. I know it's an occupational hazard for me to get out of the way.

 

"If I ever come up with a fear of a baseball, it's time to get out of the game. But there comes a time when you have to realize the guy is taking liberties with your life.

 

"There's lots of guys been hit in the head and never gotten over it. I'm a gamer. The guys we're playing against are gamers, but there comes a time when you've got to establish you've had enough."

 

The Pirates insisted that the book calls for Blyleven to pitch the sizzling Schmidt inside, because that sets him up for the wicked curve ball that used to be the pitcher's meal ticket.

 

But Greg Luzinski, who follows Schmidt in the Hneup, thought Blyleven had crossed the thin, invisible line between a message and a Rawlings massage.

 

"The easiest thing for a pitcher to say is that he's trying to pitch him inside," Luzinski said.

 

"As a hitter, you usually have a feel as to what is meant. When Mike went out there (striding toward Blyleven) I said to Harvey, 'That's three of 'em, two to him and one to me.'

 

"You get tired of it. He shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. Schmitty is way off the plate this year.

 

"I THINK BLYLEVEN could have been, trying to set the tempo. The very first pitch was up and in. He's trying to give him a message.

 

"Me, I've led the league in being hit. Lots of times it's my fault, I crowd the plate, I don't get out of the way quickly enough.

 

"And I've always said, if I'm intentionally drilled, I'll do something about it. Maybe not right then, but I'll remember it.

 

"I remember Larry Dierker drilled me. I walked to first base. The ball was laying there. He looked at it and I told him, 'Come on, come get it.'

 

"Twitchell was pitching, a 1-0 game. He said, 'I'll get him.' I told him there's a time and a place for everything.

 

"You put it in the back of your mind," said Luzinski. "You try and get a big hit, beat him in a game. But, I'll protect myself.

 

"Parker has done it. I've seen Willie Stargell get hit and just walk out in front of the plate. The point was made.

 

"The one time I went out there (against San Diego's Bill Greif) I had told Dick Allen, 'I'm gonna get drilled.'

 

"He set me up for it, threw me a curve ball for a strike and I bailed. Next pitch, he threw behind me."

 

Last night there was some pre-game needling. Tim Foli yelled to Larry Bowa, "Next time, you find me... and we'll talk about it."

 

PARKER JOGGED IN front of the Pittsburgh dugout with his hands taped and a towel wrapped around his telephone-pole neck. "The reason," he yelped, "nobody hit Pete Rose, is because no one wanted to bust his hand on that butcher-block head."

 

The mood was cautious, but the belligerence had faded. And the game, a splendid, dramatic contest, included a ninth-inning two-run homer by Schmidt that tied the game and sent it rattling into extra innings.

 

Schmidt scooted around the bases, saving his emotion for the home-plate reception committee.

 

"I don't trot around the bases," Schmidt explained. "I don't showboat, I don't show the pitcher up. I hit too many homers for that.

 

"It's tough enough to hit the fastball, the curve or the slider when the pitcher's got his poise. It's even tougher when the pitcher's got other things on his mind."

 

Jim Bibby had other things on his mind after Schmidt's homer. Mainly the pitch that preceded it, called a ball by plate umpire Andy Olson.

 

"There's a lot of theories on that," said Luzinski. "Some guys say that after a homer, the next pitch is down the pipe.

 

"The pitcher knows that, but Nolan Ryan did that, tried to overpower it, and got it where I could hit it.

 

"TONIGHT, BIBBY WAS mad, but I couldn't see what he was so mad about. Anyway, at that point, if he makes a mistake and I get a pitch to drive, the ballgame is over.

 

"He threw one out over the plate, but it sailed a little. I popped it up. It was the kind of pitch you drive to the opposite field, but I just didn't. And that's baseball."

 

That's an accepted part of baseball, as opposed to the mauling, menacing mob scene of the night before. Schmidt has seen too many guys get their buttons scrambled by head-hunters and he felt he had to issue a warning, even if it ultimately meant wading into a thicket of spikes and other sharp objects.

 

"Last time these two teams got involved, I got hurt," he said. "But you can't think about that. And last time it happened, they beat us four straight."

 

Right, of course, does not always make might. And that's baseball, too.

3 Winners

 

There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the sixth inning of the Phillies-Pirates game, David R. Coskey of Westmont won $10 plus four tickets on a single by Pete Rose. Beverly Viteo and Ed Hogan, both of Philadelphia, each won tickets to a Phillies game.

 

So far the Daily News has paid out $4,695.

 

 

Today's entry coupon appears on this page.