Allentown Morning Call - May 8, 1980

Rain erases Phils’ lead over Niekro


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


In just about every competitive sport, there exist "equalizers" factors that can and oftimes do bring two very unequal teams closer together:


In football it can be a muddy field. In basketball it's sometimes a dominant personage like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and in hockey it's usually the "hot goaltender." 


In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves – two teams of widely divergent abilities and destinies – it happens to be a 41-year old pitcher named Phillip Henry Niekro. Which explains why the Phils tried very hard – albeit unsuccessfully – to complete last night's getaway game against the forlorn Braves – and were willing to sit out a three rain delays, one a two-hour and 19-minute job, to do so. 


Philadelphia had rocked its old nemesis for three rare first-inning runs and led 3-0 when the rains came for the first time after Atlanta batted in the second.


But, alas, at 11:40 p.m., rain was still falling, so umpire crew chief Bob Engle called a halt to the proceedings with the Phils batting in the third. Niekro, who loses to the Phils about as often as our beloved planet is visited by Halley's Comet, was reprieved. 


"Sure, it hurts to see that early lead go down the drain," Phils' manager Dallas Green said, "especially since we don't usually have much luck against Niekro. And tonight he wasn't throwin' very good it was one of those nights where you just know you would have kept right on hittin'. 


"And we'd sure like to be playin' the Braves now since they're playin' without Horner (Bob) and Matthews (Gary).


"But you've got to give the umpires credit – they tried as hard as they could to get it in. You can only run out there and then have to stop so many times. Heck. I was lookin'for the sun to break through at any time." 


The Phils wanted to replay the game today – they have the day off before opening an eight-game road trip at Cincinatti tomorrow night. But the Braves, who haven't had an off day for 19 days, refused. A league rule allows a club to refuse to play a makeup game if they haven't had a day off in that span. 


Green's gang jumped al! over the "Knuck-leball King." who came into last night's fray with a 23-13 lifetime record against them – second to only Tom Seaver, who is 25-11. 


Pete Rose fouled off a couple pitches before drawing a leadoff walk. On the first pitch to Bake McBride, Rose took off and, when McBride obliged by rifling a double to the gap in right center, he scored easily. 


After Mike Schmidt flied out and Greg Luzinski drew a four-pitch walk, Greg Gross, playing in place of the injured Garry Maddox. lined a double to left-center to chase home "Shake and Bake" and "The Bull." 


Christenson worked in and out of a irst-and-third. no-out jam in the second. 


Then the rains came. During the next 139 minutes, the crowd, which was small to begin with, dwindled to the proportions of a Toronto at Oakland gathering. Play resumed at 10:23, the Phils went quietly in the second, and the Braves failed in the third. 


Mike Schmidt led off the home third with a solid single to center and play was halted again at 10:32.