Wilmington Evening Journal - May 29, 1980

Lerch passes test by beating Pirates


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – The eighth inning was the test. Pirates on second and third, nobody out.


Phillies' pitching coach Harm Starrette walked slowly to th mound and just about everybody in the Veterans Stadium crowd of 30,209 thought Randy Lerch was finished. After all, with the Pittsburgh mashers waiting in line what's a 5-1 lead?


"I thought I was gone," Lerch would say later, after the Phillies held on for a 6-3 victory over the Pirates last night. "I figured they weren't going to let me pitch out of it, but then the thought struck me that Herm has never pulled a pitcher this year."


When Starrette left, with the ball still in Larch's hand, Randy knew his immediate future in the Phillies' rotation might depend on what he did next.


What Randy Lerch did was get Tim Foil and Dave Parker to ground out. then struck out the dangerous Bill Robinson with a nasty slider. As the beleaguered Lerch stalked off the mound, he was given a standing ovation by the fans, the same fans who booed him so lustily when he was staggering to six straight losses this year.


"The pitch he struck Robinson out with was the best he threw all night," said Pittsburgh Manager Chuck Tanner. "He was due to pitch a good game; he's a good pitcher. Give him credit.”


Mike Schmidt continued his torrid home-run barrage, crushing a two-run shot off starter Don Robinson in the first inning, his 14th of the year and fifth during this homestand.


Pete Rose raised his batting average to .275 with two doubles and a single to back the Phils' 10-hit attack.


Lee Lacy produced all the Pittsburgh runs. He homered in the second with the Phils leading 3-0 and chased Lerch in the ninth with a two-run blast over the left-field wall. Ron Reed was summoned and gained his second save.


When Randy Lerch went to the mound last night, he was simmering. After his sixth loss on on May 18. Manager Dallas Green removed him from the rotation. Then, with Larry Christenson suffering from another injury, Green called up Dan Larson and Bob Walk from Oklahoma City and both got starts while Lerch smoldered in the bullpen.


"Sure I was ticked," said Lerch, who ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to last Sept. 20, a 2-1 decision over the Pirates. "I thought when Christenson couldn't pitch I'd get another chance. Dallas didn't see it that way."


"After Randy lost his sixth game, we thought it was beet to drop him out of the rotation," said Green. "We wanted him to go out there (bullpen) and think about his pitching."


When first Larson and then Walk got starts and Green kept saying he was undecided about Wednesday's starter, Lerch asked for a meeting.


"I tried to explain to him the situation," said Green. "I told him the reason I didn't announce him as the starter for Wednesday was that I was not certain how well Walk would do. If he had problems early, I was going to use Randy in relief. Tonight, I thought the eighth inning was the key. We really didn't have our act together in the bullpen and I wanted to see what he would do in that situation. Obviously, I am pleased."


"I walked off the mound and settled down after Herm left," said Lerch. "I know that Tim Foli is a tough man to double or strike out. The first two pitches I throw were overthrown; I was trying to strike him out. Then, I said to myself, 'Hey, you're not going to strike this guy out.' I threw the ball in on him and got him out. That gave me some momentum. I've had a lot of success over the years with Parker and had confidence. I let it all hang out against Robinson. I guess momentum swelled."


In fairness to Lerch, he had pitched better than his 0-6 record. One or two innings in most starts sealed his fate. In his previous starts he had given up 12 runs on 17 hits and walked eight in first innings.


"The thing I was concerned about more than anything else was his lack of enthusiasm for pitching and his lack of demeanor on the mound," said Green. “I like aggressiveness and I was not seeing that from him, especially when he got in trouble. To me, he was backing off and the other team picks up on this quickly and pounces upon it.


“Tonight, he was much better in his approach. He worked like a professional. Putting the Pirates down in order in the first was a big lift for him. Then, when we got three runs in the bottom of the inning, he had a little momentum."


"I don't buy that enthusiasm thing," said Lerch. "I think it's overplayed. I'm the type of guy who tries to force things, overthrows a lot. When I was getting in trouble in those other games, I was trying to throw too hard and the ball was straightening out. I knew that and tried to relax.


Dallas said I wasn't trying hard enough. Finally, I said to him, What do you want me to do?' He said, 'Just get them out.' I said, 'Oh, OK.' Tonight, I went out there and kept telling myself not to get in first-inning trouble. When I struck out the first two batters, I think I showed my teammates what I can do. Then, they got me three runs."


EXTRA POINTS - Green said Lerch will get a start next week when the Phillies play the Pirates in Three Rivers Stadium... Rose, with his two doubles, moved into sixth place on the all-time list with 625... He passed Hank Aaron... Manny Trillo played a spectacular second base... The Phillies lead the National League with 76 doubles, 201 runs and 38 home runs... Bake McBride has hit in 20 of his last 22 games... The three-game series, which was to end this afternoon with Dick Ruthven pitching against Eddie Solomon, has drawn 111,092... The Phils are in Chicago tomorrow afternoon, with Larson going against Rick Reuschel... It will be Lynn McGlothen against Steve Carlton on Saturday and Dennis Lamp against Walk on Sunday.

Young leukemia victim called ‘lighthouse to others’


By Jane Brooks, Dover Bureau


DOVER – Words of faith and hope written by a young leukemia patient four years ago are framed in black in the Dover High School yearbook's dedication to the senior who “became a lighthouse to others."


Thomas C. Childress would have graduated with the Dover High Class of 1980 next Saturday – but he lost his battle with leukemia on April 15.


In an essay written when he was 14, Childress told about his fight against cancer, the miracle of remission and the "faith in the Lord that I will live a long life."


The former Little League all-star, sports fan and player who wanted a career helping young children, never lost that faith in spite of the disease that ravaged his body, chemotherapy that slowed his reflexes and pain that he hid from his friends.


The 1980 yearbook already had gone to press when Tom Childress died in Kent General Hospital. But the yearbook staff designed a dedication page, bearing a picture of Childress and a memorial message using his own words.


"In June 1976, a lump was found in my neck. After testing, it was discovered I had leukemia.


"In July, I was operated on and given only six months to live. I was sent to Delaware Division, where they gave me strong medicine that made me anemic and subject to catching many diseases.


"On July I3 my pastor, Rev. McClung, came up to see me at the hospital. He asked me if I knew I had leukemia and if I had faith in God. I said yes, I had faith that I was going to walk out of the hospital healed. We prayed for a few minutes, and I felt a lot better. I prayed every night before I went to sleep and read my Bible. I had a lot of faith in the Lord. I knew a lot of churches were praying for me.


"One day I was really sick and had blood transfusions, but that night I was healed from leukemia. The next day I asked the doctor to go to a Phillies double-header ball game. He was shocked, but he made tests. He said everything looked fine, and you can go, and I said, "Thank the Lord.' My family was shocked that he was letting me go, and I'm sure they were thanking the Lord too.


"I received radiation and grew stronger every day. After one year I had no sign of leukemia, thanks to the Lord. Pretty soon I will only have to go up to the hospital four times a year, and I thank the Lord for everything he has done for me. I am now 14 years old, and I have faith in the Lord that I will live a long life."


The dedication tribute, inserted in the yearbooks before they were distributed to students last week, concluded: "Thomas Childress lived almost 4 years after he wrote this story, and during that time he bacame a lighthouse to others, sending out rays of faith, comfort and cheer. He never complained, but gave praise to the Lord in good times, and in troubled times."


Al Garbayo and Tom Childress had been "best friends" since fifth Srade at William Henry Middle chool. They played Little League ball together, tossed around a basketball, played tennis and cheered for the Phillies. They were to have graduated together and gone on to different colleges, Al to study political science and Tom to the Wesleyan Bible School in Allentown, Pa.


When they started their senior Eear, Tom's disease still seemed to be in remission. He went for treatments only every few months and seemed to be doing fine, Al recalled.


Then one day Tom cleaned out his locker, telling his friend jokingly, "I've gotta take all these books home – I'm a studying boy you know." Later, at a Phillies game, he admitted that he was going back into the hospital.


Tom never returned to school, but kept up with his studies in a home tutoring program. His family will receive his diploma.


Garbayo and Childress went to Florida for Christmas vacation to visit Tom's oldest brother, Ron, in Gainsville. "It was a great trip, we had such fun," Garbayo recalled. . The boys swam, played tennis and spent Christmas Day on a train ride to Miami. The Spanish-speaking Garbayo joked about Tom's bilingual attempts, calling him "Span-glish."


Childress planned to return to school in January, then in February. "He always wanted to be active. He pushed 100 percent even when the medicine he was taking slowed him down," Garbayo said. The chemotherapy took his hair too and that bothered him, but he never complained and he never told anyone when he was hurting."


Garbayo returned from a school band trip to Atlanta in April to learn that his friend was back in hospital. "He was semi-conscious, but he knew I was there. I told him I loved him and I know he heard me. He was a good person. He was close to God. I miss him... a lot of people miss him," said his friend.