Reading Eagle - May 31, 1980

Phils Tandem A Smash Hit


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Not since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth’s home-run record 19 years ago have two sluggers boomed away in tandem like the Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.


In 1961, the first year the schedule was expanded from 154 to 162 games because of the addition of 10 new teams, it seemed the entire nation’s attention was riveted on the two New York Yankee sluggers.


Maris failed to break the Babe’s 154-game record of 60 homers, but slammed his 61st on the final day of the season.  Mantle, ill with a virus and almost forgotten in Maris’ final pursuit, finished with 54 home runs.


Together, Maris and Mantle combined for 115 home runs that year, breaking the mark of 107 set by Ruth, 60, and Lou Gehrig, 47, in 1927.


Schmidt and Luzinski have always been considered a potent duo, but never before have they both gotten hot at the same time.


Schmidt leads the major leagues in both home runs, 14, and RBI, 38, and is tops in the National League in runs with 35.  Luzinski is second in homers with 12 and has 27 RBI.


Schmidt, the No. 3 batter, has hit in 23 of the last 37 games for a .294 batting average.  In May he has hit .293 (27 for 92), including 10 home runs and 25 RBI.


Luzinski, batting cleanup, is hitting .308 in May (27-89), with eight home runs and 17 RBI.  Four times, he and Schmidt have cracked back-to-back homers.


They’ve had a lot of help from teammate Bake McBride, who has hit in 21 of his last 23 games for a .320 average, three home runs and 23 RBI.


The Phillies lead the National League in doubles (82), home runs (40) and runs (212).


And it’s a good thing, because the Phillies’ pitching is in shambles, despite manager Dallas Green’s insistence that his pitchers will be alright.


The Phillies posted a 16-8 record in May, winning 11 of their last 16, but the only sign of consistent major league pitching has come from Steve Carlton (8-2).


What has kept the Phillies winning and enabled them to creep 1½ games behind the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East has been their hitting.


Both Luzinski and Schmidt are keeping a low profile about their hitting.  Both know how quick the ball can start going right at people instead of between them.   Luzinski likes hit groove and hopes he can continue his deadly short, compact swing.


Schmidt insists that he isn’t in any special groove.


Vail Clubs Phils


CHICAGO (AP) – Mike Vail had his opportunity, proved his point and Friday received the ultimate compliment from the great Pete Rose who said, “I’ve never seen Mike Vail have a bad day at the plate.”


Vail blasted four hits, including a two-run homer and a double, and Tim Blackwell hit his first major league homer to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 10-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.


For two seasons Vail has been begging and badgering the Cubs to “play me or trade me” and finally got the opportunity when Dave Kingman suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago.


Vail has responded by hitting at a .403 clip in addition to playing a more than adequate defense.  He no longer insists on being traded but is willing to wait and see what happens.


“Mike Vail will be in the lineup until he stops hitting,” said Manager Preston Gomez.  “Dave Kingman will be back tomorrow, but Vail will start in right field.”


Unaware of Gomez’ proclamation, Vail said, “From now on I’ll do what the manager says.  If I’m in the starting lineup, fine.  If not, I figure I’ll get a chance to pinch-hit with the bases loaded.


“I’ve had my chance and proved what I’ve always said:  that I can hit and I can play good defense,” said Vail.  “I feel I should be in the lineup on a regular basis.”


Vail singled in a six-run first inning capped by a three-run homer by Blackwell, his first in 563 major league at-bats.  Vail doubled in the second inning, hit his second homer in the fifth with a man on base and singled and scored in the seventh.


The lusty attack enabled Rick Reuschel, 4-4, to turn in his first complete game of the season, despite a yield of 13 hits including home runs by Bob Boone and Bake McBride.


The Phillies came close but never could overcome the six-run lead the Cubs established in the first inning during which Pete Rose committed his first error, leading to four unearned runs.


Not making any excuses, Rose said, “It was an easy play but that’s the first time we’ve played on natural turf in over a month and I just closed my glove too soon.  We didn’t even get a chance to have infield practice.”


Heavy morning thunderstorms prevented batting and infield practice, and Rose’s bobble of Larry Biittner’s ground ball following a walk and a single by Ivan DeJesus led to a run.  Vail singled in the second run, and a walk to Steve Ontiveros left the bases loaded with two out.


Losing pitcher Dan Larson, 0-1, then balked in a third run scored before Blackwell hit his homer.


Vail cracked his two-run homer in the fifth and singled and scored in the seventh to provide the margin of victory.