Philadelphia Inquirer - May 4, 1980

Phillies, Christenson sock it to Dodgers, 7-3

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

To say that Larry Christenson's medical history has gotten kind of famous would be like saying that the Ayatollah's diplomatic history has gotten kind of notorious.

 

You'd have to go back to 1978 to find the last time anybody talked about Christenson without mentioning the words "collarbone," "kneecap," "back" or "groin."

 

The secret word yesterday was "groin" (as in what Christenson strained in his previous start 12 days ago) after he and the Phillies beat the Dodgers, 7-3, at the Vet. But when the secret word came up in postgame conversation, no duck came down, nobody was awarded $500, nobody even smiled.

 

Instead, Christenson cringed and went into a verbal rope-a-dope.

 

"I don't want to talk about injuries any more," the righthander grumbled.

 

It was pretty tough not to notice how excellently Christenson pitched (6-1/3 innings, four ground-ball hits). But it also was almost impossible not to notice that on the basepaths he wasn't exactly running like Genuine Risk.

 

After lining a hit into the corner in left in the fourth inning, Christenson simply jogged to first and stopped. He repeated that act on a subsequent Pete Rose double and Garry Maddox sacrifice fly.

 

But when the subject was brought up later, Christenson seemed to have a hard time understanding why that was relevant.

 

"1 know I can't let myself get hurt again," he snapped. "I was just trying to keep from getting hurt, that's all."

 

Fortunately for the Phillies, it was a day in which they didn't have to depend on Christenson for offense.

 

Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski crashed back-to-back homers to launch a six-run second inning off Burt Hooton. And eventually, seven different guys scored runs, nine got hits and six drove in runs.

 

In fact, it was a 100 percent up-tempo afternoon until the ninth. Then L A. rookie catcher Mike Scoscia drilled a leadoff gapper to right-center.

 

Maddox chased it to the wall, caught his right ankle on the warning track, hopped until he had gathered up the ball and thrown it, and then collapsed.

 

Just as he hit the warning track he twisted his ankle," said Dallas Green. "It didn't swell right away, so that's encouraging, according to (trainer Don) Seger.

 

Seger called . it "a pretty good sprain, x-rays, however, proved negative, and while there was no immediate way to tell how long Maddox will be out, he definitely won't play today, Seger said. But on the whole, Green preferred to dwell on the good news.

 

The resuscitation of the offense certainly qualified. Before Friday, the Phillies had scored 13 runs in their last six games (seven of them in the same game). They didnt figure to break out against the Dodgers, whose staff had allowed 17 earned runs in its previous 91 innings (1.68 ERA).

 

But trends in baseball can change fast. The Phils bombed four LA. pitchers for nine runs Friday. And they took right up where they left off against Hooton.

 

Schmidt started it, pumping a fat Hooton fastball just below the 500 level in left-center leading off the second. Then Hooton got behind Luzinski, 3-and-0. And the Bull crushed one off the top of the home-run display in deep right-center, 440 feet away.

 

Before Hooton was through, he'd been victimized for a Bob Boone triple, a Larry Bowa single and stolen base, an RBI single by Luis Aguayo, a Pete Rose walk and another RBI single by Bake McBride that made it 5-0.

 

Maddox then greeted reliever Bob Castillo with a sacrifice fly.

 

Christenson had a no-hitter until Ron Cey beat out (barely) a chopper into the shortstop hole leading off the fifth. Davey Lopes bounced another single to center in the sixth.

 

And when the Dodgers parlayed two more ground-ball hits, two walks and a fielder's choice into a run in the seventh, Green went to LaGrow.

 

"Everything Larry threw was fine," Green said of Christenson. "And in the first three or four innings, his fastball was just crackling."

 

The Phillies now have won three straight, and these have been their most encouraging three days in a month.

 

They have gotten two significant starting-pitching performances from Christenson yesterday and Dick Ruthven the night before. LaGrow and Tug McGraw have looked good out of the bullpen. And a dose of fastballs from that Dodgers pitching staff seems to have revived their bats.

 

 

NOTES: The homers by Schmidt and Luzinski tied both with Dave Kingman for the league lead at six.... The Phillies held a Kentucky Derby pool. "Pete (Rose) says he's going so bad, he drew Tonka Wakhan (30-1)," Bowa said, chuckling. "The year I was MVP, I drew all three winners in the Triple Crown and the Indianapolis 500 winner," Rose said. "But don't put that in the paper. The IRS will be looking for me."

Phils defy odds with young players

 

Allen Lewis, On Baseball

 

"The biggest mistake I have made was to let Bob Horner play in the big leagues from the start." – Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, announcing that Horner had been demoted to a farm club in Richmond.

 

Ted Turner is not alone. One of the worst misjudgments some clubs make is to bring players to the major leagues before they are experienced enough to handle playing or pitching in top company. It has long been my contention that, with very few exceptions, no player should be on a major league roster until he has had experience in Triple-A, the highest minor-league classification.

 

Time and again, teams have rushed players out of A or Double-A ball, or out of college, to the majors and lived to regret it.

 

Pitchers, their young arms not yet strong enough to withstand the rigors of having to bear down on almost every pitch, have consistently had arm problems when brought up without Triple-A experience. Others, their confidence shaken by failure or by lack of playing time, have had their normal development slowed.

 

In general, the players who are rushed are seen as having exceptional ability and as future stars. In fact, very few of them become stars.

 

Of the 308 players (including eight on the disabled list) on the 1979 opening-day rosters of the 12 National League teams, only 25 do not have Triple-A experience. Nine of those 25 are Padres or Expos, the last two expansion teams. Of the 25, only Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dave Winfield are true stars.

 

Despite the evidence, the Phillies have continually defied the odds and rushed their players – with generally unsatisfactory results.

 

In 1968, they opened the season with Don Money at shortstop and Larry Hisle in center field, although both had only Class A experience. Two weeks later, both were back in the minors. Eventually, each went elsewhere to find his niche.

 

In 1972, the Phillies began the season with Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson on their pitching staff, although the former had no pro experience and the latter had pitched Just seven pro games, all in Class A. Neither was ready, and each required elbow surgery that hampered his development.

 

In 1974, the Phillies rushed pitcher Tommy Underwood from Double-A. This season, they have done it again with pitcher Scott Munninghoff and outfielder George Vukovich.

 

The Phillies might be compared to the man who, despite a very unhappy marriage, married again immediately after his wife died, causing English lexicographer Samuel Johnson to remark that "it was the triumph of hope over experience."

 

 

This hasn't been a vintage year for Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. The University of South Florida team the former Phillies pitcher coaches has a losing record; the first baseman, his son, Jim, is barely hitting .200, and, in a recent loss at Miami, both father and son were ejected.

 

Although Roberts expected to have his best team this year, he typically refuses to use injuries as an alibi. "I just haven't done a very good job of coaching," he said. "That hits the nail on the head. I'm very disappointed in the job I've done."

 

The answer to last week's Trivia Question: George Mullin of the American League champion Tigers won 20 games in 1907. He also lost 20, thus failing to win more games than he lost. No other pitcher on a pennant-winning team ever achieved that dubious distinction. Albert Welsh of Coatesville was first with the correct answer.

 

 

This week's question: In the past 40 years, name the only American League and only National League teams to average more than six runs per game in a season.