Reading Eagle - May 28, 1980

Garner’s Ice Pack Fits Bucs’ Image


By Doyle Dietz, Eagle Sportswriter


PHILADELPHIA – Last year Willie Stargell gave out gold stars to his Pittsburgh Pirate teammates to wear on their hats when they contributed to a victory.


Stargell’s gesture made for an interesting sidelight to what was to be a World Championship season for the Bucs.  And it gave sportswriters something else to write about the team.


There was only one trouble with the gold stars though, they really didn’t fit the Pirates’ image.  Because of their aggressive style of play, the Pirates don’t bring to mind gold stars.


When you think of the Pirates, you think of welts and bruises.  Because of that, the ice pack Phil Garner had wrapped around his left wrist following the Bucs’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday at Veterans Stadium seemed more appropriate than a gold star.


Pittsburgh won – and moved back into first place by a game over the Phillies in the National League East – when pinch-hitter Mike Easler singled home Bill Madlock in the 13th inning.  Easler’s hit made a loser out of Dickie Noles and a winner out of Enrique Romo.


But neither of those pitchers would have seen action if it hadn’t been for a head’s up – or hand’s up – play by Garner in the fourth.  Garner slid into second with his arms above his head on what looked to be a double-play ball by Steve Nicosia.


Manny Trillo took Mike Schmidt’s throw to force Garner, but when Trillo threw toward first base, the ball hit Garner’s left wrist and bounced into left field.  That allowed Lee Lacy to score from third on a fielder’s choice and give the Bucs a 2-0 lead. Lacy’s run turned out to be very important because Schmidt hit a two-run homer run, his 13th of the season, in the ninth.


“It’s the little things like that help in the long run,” Garner said.  “The big guys do their thing, but the little guys have to do the little things.”


Hard-Nosed Team


Catcher Ed Ott, who received an intentional walk just before Easler’s hit, said the play Garner made it typical of the things the Pirates have been doing since the start of the season.


“That’s a blood-and-guts play,” Ott said.  “It’s what this team is all about.  It’s hard-nosed baseball.  That’s what it’s called.”


And hard-nosed baseball is what starting pitchers Jim Bibby of the Bucs and Steve Carlton of the Phillies gave the 35,489 fans sitting in the second game of this four-game series.  Until Schmidt’s home run on an 0-1 pitch, it seemed as though Bibby would have his sixth win in seven decisions.


Carlton also had pitched well enough to have run his record to 9-2 and would have had a shutout if it hadn’t been for the tainted run in the fourth and an unearned run in the first.  Carlton struck out 11 and allowed five hits in eight innings, and Bibby struck out seven and allowed seven hits in 11 innings.


Confidence Helps


This season Carlton has gotten off to his best start in his 15 years in the major leagues.  He’s been the one reliable starter the Phillies have had thus far, but Bibby’s fast start has been a surprise for the Pirates.


Bibby entered the season with an 81-80 major league record.  So far though he’s been the ace of the Bucs’ starting rotation, and none of the other starters has more than two wins.


“He’s a confident pitcher this season,” Ott said.  “Last year he was a spot starter, and it took him a while to get his confidence.


“Before he was just a hard thrower, and now he knows how to pitch.  He’s a smart pitcher, and he’s had good stuff every time out – even in the game he lost.  Every time out he’s pitched a helluva game for us, and he’s been a confident pitcher.”


Luck With Bucs


There’s no question that the Pirates are confident.  Even after losing Monday’s game when the Phillies scored four runs in the final three innings – including two in the ninth – for a 7-6 win, the Bucs were loose and free before Tuesday’s game.


And when a team is loose, it seems as though that team gets the lucky breaks.  One of those breaks came in the 11th when pinch-hitter George Vukovich opened the inning with a single, but Pete Rose followed with a double-play grounder to shortstop Tim Foli.


“I wasn’t looking for anything (from Bibby),” Vukovich said.  “I just wanted to get on base and start a rally.


“With Pete, Bake (McBride) and Mike coming up next you’d think there was a run there.  Pete hit the ball hard, but it was a double play.  I didn’t expect the second baseman to be covering on the play, but they played the percentages and got away with it.”


Rose had hit the ball to second baseman Garner in three of his previous four at bats.  But in the 11th Garner was covering second base, and Rose hit the ball to Foli.


“He hit the ball so hard and everything happened so fast,” Vukovich said.  “I didn’t have time to try and break up the double play.  I was just trying to slide hard to beat the play and be safe.”


Garner had time to think in the fourth, and he was able to break up the double play.  He didn’t think his slide was anything special, though.


“I always slide that way with my arms up,” Garner said.  “I’ve got a thousand pictures of me sliding that way.


“I’m just lucky I didn’t get his in the head because he (Trillo) drops down so low when he throws.  I started my slide late, but I still tried to break up the double play.


“It’s blood-and-guts baseball all the way.”


And the kind of baseball where an ice pack is more appropriate than a gold star.