Philadelphia Inquirer - May 31, 1980

Cubs pound Larson, top Phils, 10-7

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

CHICAGO – The great thing about Wrigley Field is that it's an equal-opportunity destroyer.

 

Tim Blackwell has never been mistaken for Dave Kingman. But stick him into a Wrigley jetstream, and he becomes just as fearsome.

 

Until yesterday, Blackwell had never hit a home run in seven big-league seasons, most of them spent toiling as a backup catcher to other backup catchers, on teams that really played only one catcher in the first place.

 

But for parts of five of those years, Blackwell did his hanging out in either Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. So it had to be a matter of time before the right pitcher would throw him the right pitch on the right day with the right atmospheric conditions.

 

That pitcher, that pitch, that day and that atmosphere came along yesterday afternoon. And Blackwell didn't miss his chance. With a Lake Michigan breeze gushing hard out toward Moline or someplace, he ripped a down-the-pipe fastball from Dan Larson halfway up the right-field bleachers, capping a six-run first inning and sending the Phillies to a 10-7 loss to the Cubs.

 

Of course, things such as Tim Blackwell homers are well-detailed in the Wrigley Field Handbook of Pitchers' Nightmares. Other things happened to Larson yesterday that nobody ever warned him about.

 

He walked the leadoff hitter, the reincarnated Lenny Randle. Randle stole second on him one pitch later. Then things got worse.

 

Ivan De Jesus singled. Pete Rose booted Larry Biittner's roller for an error that could be chalked up to Astroturf-withdrawal disease. Mike Vail started a 4-for-4 day with an RBI single. Larson extended a two-out, bases-loading walk to that noted .186 hitter, Steve Ontiveros.

 

After all that, Larson was still only down by 2-0. But. then he ran a full count on Blackwell, which is a certifiable disaster-wish on the order of taking a bunch of arsonists on a Colonial house tour. So the Phillies tried to help him out of it by working a pickoff ploy on the runner at second, Jerry Martin.

 

Trouble was, Larson wasn't around when they tutored that play in spring training. He didn't recognize the sign for it when it was flashed, so Bob Boone had to trot out to explain to him just what was going on.

 

"The first time (the play was on), he could have just gone over and tagged Jerry, that's how far off the bag he was," said Larry Bowa, who was supposed to receive the throw. "But then, when Booney went out, he knew something was up."

 

Before the next pitch, Martin took almost no lead. So Bowa, who is supposed to signal the play by breaking for the bag, never broke. Larson started into his motion, thinking pickoff, then got confused. He stopped abruptly for a balk, and it was 3-0.

 

That left first base open and the pitcher up next. But Larson threw Blackwell two of his distinctly average fastballs anyhow. Blackwell fouled one back, parked the next one and it was 6-0.

 

"Geez," Larson muttered. "Second and third, the pitcher coming up, I've got to throw a tougher pitch. Even if I walk him I face the pitcher. That's my fault."

 

The first-rate Wrigley breeze wasn't his fault. But Larson was philosophical about that.

 

"I don't think the wind had too much to do with the way I pitched," he said. "Blackwell hit that ball as well as he could. A lot of places it's probably the third out. But hey, a lot happened before that.

 

"I've never pitched here when the wind was that bad. But you've got to pitch the same no matter what park you're in. The only thing I could do different is throw sinkerballs. And I'm not a sinkerball pitcher. Even that might not help. You saw (Rick) Reuschel today. He is a sinkerball pitcher, and he gave up seven runs."

 

Reuschel, the Chicago starter, did a magnificent job in protecting (just about) that six-run lead. He did give up seven runs. He did allow homers by Boone and Bake McBride. He did serve up 13 hits, including two each by McBride, Boone, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt.

 

But he also kept the score out of 23- 22 range, a definite possibility given the conditions. And he kept Schmidt and Greg Luzinski from drilling any baseballs through somebody's bedroom window on Waveland Avenue. So all in all, seven runs don't tell you how well Reuschel pitched.

 

"When they got the six runs, I knew that was never gonna be enough," said Bowa, "not the way ; that wind was blowing. But they did have one of their best pitchers out there. He was tough."

 

So from the first inning on, the game evolved into a weird kind of 17-run pitchers' duel. The Phils chipped at Reuschel for a run in the second, three in the third and one in the fifth. That got them to within 7-6.

 

But Lerrin LaGrow, who had pitched well for three innings in relief of Larson, wore out. Vail bombed a two-run homer over the bleachers in left-center in the bottom of the fifth, and the Cubs never led by fewer than three after that.

 

"I stretched Lerrin out about an inning too long," Dallas Green admitted. "I was just trying to get that innlng out of him so I could use a pinch-hitter the next. In this ballpark, you can go through a pitching staff in a hurry."

 

Green went through Kevin (Sugar Ray) Saucier, Ron Reed and Dickie Noles after LaGrow, and each pitched well. But McBride's ninth-inning homer was all the Phils managed against Reuschel.

 

How well did Reuschel pitch, really? All you need to know is that he gave up seven runs, and Preston Gomez still let him go nine. But of course, he didn't have to face Tim Blackwell.

 

 

NOTES: Rose's error was his first of the year. "It's tough when you play on AstroTurf for three weeks and then go to this junk," said Bowa. "It's a whole different kind of game. That's why they stay in contention all year."... But Boone's eighth error of the year couldn't be chalked up to the surface. Like most of his earlier errors, this was a throwing error. Boone now has as many errors as he had all last season.... Vail, an official Phillies-killer, had a homer, a double and two singles. He has hit .436 (17-for-39) against the Phils the last two seasons, with 20 RBIs. "Has he ever had a bad game against us?" Bowa wondered.... The Phils won't have the pleasure of facing Lynn McGlothen (3-1 against them last year) this trip. McGlothen pulled a muscle in his leg, so Willie Hernandez (1-3 this year) will start against Steve Carlton today.... Kingman has not started the Cubs' last nine games with a mysterious (allegedly imaginary) shoulder injury. But he is supposed to play today.