Syracuse Herald-Journal - October 10, 1980

The Phils Beat Lynching Mob


By Red Smith, New York Times Service


NEW YORK - The semifinals in the baseball tournament for the championship of North America continued today in new locations, with the American League playoffs moving from the parklike setting of Kansas City's Harry S. Truman Sports Complex to the desolation of the East Bronx and the National League matches seeking cover in Houston's stately pleasure dome. For the Phillies, their fourth pennant playoff in five years didn't escape to the boondocks and creep indoors a moment too soon. There is no proof that they would have been lynched had they stayed in Philadelphia, but the mood at home suggested it.


Having opened the series with their first post-season victory at home in 65 years, the champions of the National League East behaved as though their mission were accomplished. Squandering their fortune with prodigal hand, the wastrels of Kittenhouse Square blew the second match to the Houston Astros, 7-4 in 10 innings.


Out,of their last 10 hits, they got two runs. In the last six innings they left 12 runners on base, making a total of 14 for the game. Twice they had the bases filled with one out and did not score. Once the best ballplayer on their side, Mike Schmidt, stared with loathing at a third strike, ending an inning with three playmates on base and his bat on his shoulder. Once they got three singles in a row for the winning run, but the winning run stopped at third base and died there.


Haunted by playoffs past


They seem haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, and that may be the case. In 1976 they won a half-championship and stopped cold, losing the pennant to the Cincinnati Reds in three straight. Half-champions again in 1977, they won the first playoff game in Los Angeles and lost the next three. On a third chance in 1978, they lost twice at home, won again in Los Angeles and then gave in.


With this series tied at one victory each, they must win two out uf three in the Astrodome or surrender. If they lose the pennant for the fourth time — and it is difficult to see how a team could lose as they lost Wednesday night and still win a pennant — there is no telling what might happen to a great franchise.


"On the whole," W. C. Fields wrote for his own epitaph, *Td rather be in Philadelphia."


"First prize,' the Astros and Dodgers were told last Monday when they played off for the championship of the National League West, "is a trip to Philadelphia."


The jokes live on and on, and so does the patience of the longest-suffering sports fans in North America. A few years back, the Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup in hockey, twice. In the 1960s, the Philadelphia 76ers took the championship of the National Basketball Association. Hardly 20 years have passed since the Philadelphia Eagles last ruled professional football.


Never won Series


The Phillies struggled from 1883 to 1915 to win their first pennant and from 1915 to 1950 to win their second and last. They have never won a World Series.


Yet all these sports sell out. There is no sports community anywhere to compare with William Perm's greene countrie towne. Could it survive another disaster?


The Phillies themselves must be wondering. It has been said that there are players on the team who dislike their manager, Dallas Green, so intensely they don't want to see him win. Green is a big, amiable, bull-throated and blunt loyalist trying to do a job for the organization that has employed him for a quarter of a century. He seems to be uninterested in personal glory, wanting only to succeed at what he is doing and retire to more congenial work behind a desk.


Anybody who would let him down is bush.


As for the Houston Astros, they are perhaps the most unlikely candidates ever to stand within two victories of a World Series. They nibble their victims to death. It has been said that they reflect the personality of their manager, Bill Virdon — quiet, orderly, disciplined and successful.


Ran like Ichabod Crane


Having lost the first game, 3-1, the Astros were losing the second, 2-1, when their starting pitcher, Nolan Ryan, reached his turn at bat in the seventh inning. There were two out with nobody on base, so Virdon let Ryan bat for himself and he stood there and got a base on balls. Terry Puhl then sliced a double to right and Ryan, running like Ichabod Crane, got home with the tying run.


In the home seventh, two singles and an intentional pass filled the bases with one out. Bake McBride struck out on three pusillanimous swings. Then Mike Schmidt took the third strike.


In the eighth after Joe Morgan's double and Jose Cruz's single had produced the first earned run off the Philadelphia relief star, Tug McGraw, in 16 games, Garry Maddox tied the score again by singling a run home. That run was all the Phillies got out of two hits, an intentional base on balls and a sacrifice.