Corpus Christi Caller-Times - October 12, 1980

Strangest game extends playoff


By Ed Spaulding, Caller Sports Editor


HOUSTON – First there was the phantom triple play. Later there was the phantom tag, the phantom tag-up and the phantom catch that became a double play as the tie-breaking run was scoring.


But there was nothing phony invisible or hard to see in Greg Luzinski’s bullet to the left-field wall or Manny Trillo's shot to center. No rule books, umpires' discussions, arguments or long debates were needed to verify Luzinski's game-winning double in the 10th or Trillo's follow-up two-bagger that lifted the Philadelphia Phillies to a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros here yesterday.


There’s also nothing mystical about what's on the line this evening: The Astros and the Phillies will meet in a one-game showdown for either a trip to the World Series or a trip to the house.


The Phillies’ win in Game 4 yesterday should be sent directly to the Hall of Fame without pausing to pass go. Parts of it no doubt will end up in Cooperstown. This was a strange dude, right from its television dictated start time of 3:29 p.m. to its Luzinski and Trillo dictated ending three hours and 59 minutes down the line.


Along the way, the Astros established a National League Championship Series record by extending the Phillies' scoreless streak to 18 innings. The two teams set an all-time playoff (that includes World Series) mark of three extra-inning games in one playoff series. The game was the longest by time in NLCS history.


And it all turned on more strange things than a good Halloween spook story.


"I haven't seen that many strange things happen in one game," said Houston Manager Bill Virdon. “I guess I've had tougher days, but I really can't remember when," said Doug Harvey, crew chief of the NL umpires who worked the game.


"It was just a strange, strange game," said the Astros' Art Howe.


By winning the Phillies forced tonight's sudden death fifth game. That’s only the third time in its 12-year history the NL Championship Series has gone the limit.


Houston pitches Nolan Ryan; the Phillies will counter with Marty Bystrom, a rookie whose total big league career consists of six games he worked for the Phillies in September. He was made eligible for the playoffs only Tuesday following a special ruling by the NL Office. He was the National League's pitcher of the month in September when he was 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA.


Houston scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and seemed headed for the World Series with a 2-0 lead and a steady Vern Ruhle on the mound as the eighth inning began. But the Phils bunched together four singles and a sacrifice fly by Trillo for a 3-2 lead.


Houston countered in the last of the ninth on Terry Puhl's one-out RBI hit that drove in Rafael Landestoy. But the guts of the Phillies, Pete Rose, singled in the top of the 10th, and Luzinski and Trillo rammed two-out doubles to settle the issue.


There were lots of earlier issues that had to be settled. An apparent triple play (the Astros version) or simple out (Phillies’ side of it) started things into strange gear in the fourth. Ruhle caught or trapped a soft line drive off the bat of Garry Maddox and the Astros turned what appeared to be a triple play. It was later, much later, about 20 minutes later, ruled a double play which left neither side too thrilled.


Hot-hitting rookie Gary Woods figured in the next two bizarres. First, Woods was ruled out at third base although TV replays showed third base-man Mike Schmidt never came close to tagging him. Then in the sixth, Woods tagged up and scored what seemed to be Houston's third run on a fly ball by Luis Pujols. Woods was ruled out on appeal for leaving third too soon.


Finally, there was Jeff Leonard's catch (Houston’s view) or trap (the Phillies’ view) of Trillo's drive to right in the eighth. In the ensuing confusion of what became a double play, Rose scored the tie-breaking run.


Got it? If so, advance to the Hall of Fame. If not, forget it. It's a one-game season again for the Astros, just as it was last Monday in Los Angeles.

Woods’ mistake tipped the scaled to Phils’ favor


By Ed Spaulding, Caller Sports Editor


HOUSTON – Bill Virdon had to laugh to keep from crying Dallas Green wanted to cry to keep from laughing out loud Representatives of the umpires and the National League wanted to quote everything from Abner Doubleday to the Congressional Review.


Which left all sane explanations of what really happened here yesterday to the combatants themselves.


Virdon 's Astros had just come within six outs of the World Series. Green's Phillies had just come off the floor to toss their 2 cents worth into just who will represent the National League against the Kansas City Royals next week. And the rulebook and instant replay and the state of the union were being discussed by those who don't figure baseball is hard enough to explain as it's normally played.


"What I thought was a big play," said Rose some 20 minutes into a marathon interview session, "was the appeal at third base. That really helped us. Another run for them in this ballpark with the pitching they’re getting, that would have been tough."


Rose was referring to a sixth-inning tag-up play on which Gary Woods seemed to have scored the third Astro run. "He left a good step and a half too soon," said Rose. "I'll tell you how obvious it was. Even before the play was over, I could hear our guys saying to throw it to third, that he'd left too soon.”


Woods said, "It's my judgment to go. That play (Luis Pujols’ fly to right field) was right in front of me. I knew when I heard the Phillies' bench up screaming that something wasn't right, but what could I do? What did I think when they ruled me out? To be honest I said '— me.'"


Rose also touched on another game-turning play, his eighth-inning single to right that finally broke an 18-inning scoreless streak the Phillies were on. Pinch hitter Greg Gross and leadoff man Lonnie Smith opened the inning with singles and Rose's bouncer to right chased home Gross.


"Another big play was on the base hit I got when (Jeff) Leonard overthrew the cutoff man and I took second,” said Rose. "He had no chance to get Smith at third. Lonnie runs like a deer. In that kind of situation, he should have held me at first and kept the double play in order. Even if Smith scores later, it’s still a tie game and they’re still the home team with the extra bats.”


Even before Rose's hit and Leonard's unwise throw, the tide seemed to be turning the Phillies’ way. A rattled Steve Carlton was gone but relievers Dickie Noles and Ron Reed were handling the Astros. Gross and Smith both singled but neither hit was exactly crushed. Rose’s ball had eyes as it rolled between Art Howe and Joe Morgan.


"What can you say?" asked Ruhle. "A couple of ground balls that could be double play balls. We were that close."


Down 3-2, the Astros pulled out yet another rabbit when Terry Puhl rifled an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game at 3-3. But Puhl was dead when Enos Cabell flied out on a hit-and-run, and the Phillies broke through against Joe Sambito in the top of the 10th.


Again it was Mr. Rose. His single started things, and Greg Luzinski's double into the left field corner proved to be the game winner. But not before Rose re-enacted his celebrated 1970 All-Star game crash at home plate to score the go-ahead run.


"Today is a perfect example of a benefit play for a runner,” Rose analyzed. "Yesterday, the ball was waiting at home plate when Cabell threw me out. Today, (Bruce) Bochy was blocking the plate but he didn’t have the ball. I couldn't slide because he had the plate blocked. The whole key to that play was the catcher didn't have the ball. If he had, he would have planted me."


As it was, Rose planted Bochy, Houston’s rarely used third-string catcher who was in the game because both other catchers — Pujols and Alan Ashby — were hurt.


All of Rose’s words didn't even touch on the strange trap plays involving Ruhle and Leonard that caused utter confusion in most viewers' minds. Those plays are better left untouched. To try to explain them would require more time, effort and words than any of us need exert. Just say the plays, while strange, were called correctly by the umpires. And figure they more or less canceled out and that Game 4 of the National League Championship Series turned on Woods' early exit from third base and four seeing-eye hits in the Phillie eighth and Luzinski's double and Rose's smashing of Bochy in the 10th.