Chicago Tribune - October 13, 1980

Phils edge Astros to end 30 years of frustration


By Dave Nightingale, Chicago Tribune News Service


HOUSTON – It has been 30 years – 30 long years – since a National League pennant flew over Philadelphia, since the 1950 Whiz Kids of Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, and Jim Konstanty broke open the bubbly.


“To blazes with the Whiz Kids, we’ll make people forget all about ‘em before we’re done this fall,” growled Greg Luzinski, a Vintage ’80 Phillie.


The forgetting process began Sunday night, when Luzinski and friends ground out a heart-stopping 8-7 victory in 10 innings over the gutty, game, and undermanned Houston Astros in the fifth game of the National League Championship Series.


The victory qualified the Phillies for a Tuesday night World Series date on their own artificial turf against the American League Champion Kansas City Royals.


As for winning a Series, the Phillies have never done that.  Not in 1915, their first trip to the finals.  Not in 1950.  Not in 1964, when they blew a 6½-game lead with a week to play.  Not in 1976, 1977, and 1978, when they lost in the playoffs.


SUNDAY’S GAME was a fitting climax to the week-long Astro-Phillie dogfight.


•  It was the fourth straight extra-inning affair for the two teams, one that saw a 5-2 Houston lead turn into a 7-5 Astro deficit and then into a 7-7 tie, all within the space of nine outs.  “I take my hat off to the Astros,” said Houston Manager Bill Virdon.  “I take everything off to the Phillies.”


•  It was marked with irony, in that the game-winning hit was delivered by Garry Maddox, who, only two weeks ago, was deep in Manager Dallas Green’s doghouse.  “It’s gratifying to get the winning hit considering I didn’t even know if I’d be in the lineup when the playoffs started,” Maddox said.


•  It was a fine forum for Phillie second baseman Manny Trillo to demonstrate his many talents – all of which led to him being honored as the Most Valuable Player in a championship series that dripped with heroes.  “I was watching the TV of the Kansas City-New York series and my wife, Maria, said to me that if that K.C. second baseman (Frank) White could win the MVP, then I should win, too,” said former Cub Trillo, sipping his domestic champagne from his giant silver bowl of a trophy.  “So before we go to the park tonight, I promise her I will win it.”


THE PENDULUM started swinging early in Sunday’s finale when the Astros took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning, after the first of four hits by Terry Puhl (a giant in defeat, who, with Jose Cruz, carried the injury-riddled NL West champions).


The Phillies bounced back with two quick runs on Bob Boone’s single in the second off Nolan Ryan, a major disappointment to Houston this year (he won only 11 games for his $1-million salary – an average of $90,909 a victory), but an eight-strikeout performer in Game Five.


And that’s the way it stood until the last of the sixth, when Houston capitalized on Luzinski’s two-base error and a single by Astro catcher Alan Ashby (pinch-hitting despite a rib separation) to tie the score 2-2.


But in the last of the seventh, 44,802 Astrodome fans had the Eighth Wonder of the World shaking on its foundation when Houston broke through against reliever Larry Christenson for three runs and a 5-2 lead.


PUHL STARTED it with a single, Cruz drew a two-out intentional walk, Denny Walling singled for one run.  Christenson wild-pitched another run home.  Art Howe banged a triple off Ron Reed.


The Philadelphia writers were preparing their stories about another choke.  The hostile fans on the banks of the Schuylkill were building their machine-gun nests at Philadelphia International Airport in anticipation of the team’s return.


But the Phillies weren’t about to quit.  Not as long as a ballplayer named Pete Rose - $800,000 a year and worth every penny of it – still was wearing his uniform.


“Pete wouldn’t let us quit; he’d beat the stuffing out of us if we tried,” said Luzinski.  (The Bull outweighs Rose by 25 pounds, but he sounded serious.)


AND SO LARRY BOWA and Boone opened the eighth with singles against Ryan, whose fastball had dropped a few notches from its 99 mile-an-hour clockings in the first inning, and Greg Gross beat out a bunt to load the bases.


Rose worked Ryan for a walk to force home one run.  Pinch-hitter Keith Moreland forced Rose to score another.  Pinch-hitter Del Unser singled off reliever Ken Forsch for a third run.  And Trillo parked a liner into the left-field corner for a triple, two more runs and a 7-5 Phillies lead.


Dismantle the machine-gun nests.


But the Astros, whose talent ratings are a lot smaller than their heart sizes, wouldn’t quit.


The Phillies brought in Tug McGraw, the National League’s premier relief pitcher in the September-October stretch drive, to hold the lead.  But Tug couldn’t do it.


CRAIG REYNOLDS opened the inning with a single.  Puhl added another hit.  Rafael Landestoy (Joe Morgan’s defensive replacement) drilled a two-out single.  And Cruz followed with another single to tie the score 7-7.


Get the machine-gun nests ready again.


“My breaking pitches weren’t sharp,” said McGraw, who was only on the fringe of the spotlight.  “They were breaking, all right, but not enough for me to get away with them.  As I found out.”


Frank LaCorte, the fourth Astro pitcher, struggled through the top of the ninth, retiring pinch-hitter George Vukovich with two out and two on.


And in the last of the ninth, Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green went for broke, summoning 17-game winner Dick Ruthven in relief, apparently ending Ruthven’s chances of a World Series start on Tuesday.


“I couldn’t worry about that; we had to get to the Series first,” said Green.  “Tuesday’s pitcher?  I couldn’t care less.”  (It probably will be rookie Bob Walk, who wasn’t used in the playoffs.)


RUTHVEN, his team’s sixth pitcher and 20th player in the game, put down the Astros in order in the ninth, providing – you guess it – extra innings again.


The 10th started innocuously when Mike Schmidt struck out for a third time.  But Unser hit a low liner toward first base and the ball hit the seam where dirt meets AstroTurf, hopping over Art Howe’s head for a double.  One out later, Maddox laced LaCorte’s first pitch on a low line into center field for a double, Puhl just missing a shoestring catch.


“I really haven’t had the kind of year I wish I’d had, but this makes it all worthwhile,” said Maddox, his eyes bleary from the champagne dripping out of his hair.


Ruthven still had three outs to go, however.  He retired pinch-hitter Dan Heep on a grounder to Trillo.  He got Puhl on an easy fly to Maddox.  And he got Enos Cabell to hit the ball into the air – again toward Maddox.


IN THE 1978 playoffs, Maddox dropped a fly ball in the 10th inning in the final game against Los Angeles, costing the Phillies a chance at the World Series.


“This time, I got under it, I got my glove on it, I squeezed it with both hands because I guess that’s the way they want me to catch it,” said Maddox, with only the slightest tinge of malice.  “And we were on our way to the Series.”


The clubhouse scene that followed Sunday was wild, wet, and wonderful – as usual.


Steve Carlton’s wife, Beverly, was crying her eyes out.


Maria Trillo was cuddling Manny’s MVP trophy.


Coach Billy DeMars was asking for help in opening his champagne bottle because “I haven’t had much practice at this sort of thing.”


And half an Astrodome away, a weary Virdon rubbed his eyes and sighed:  “I guess all I can say is wait ‘til next year.”

Phils slay ghosts of playoffs past


By Bob Verdi, Chicago Tribune News Service


HOUSTON – Alas, the Philadelphia Phillies have discovered what winning is all about.


After pitiful playoffs past, they have been called every scurrilous name in the book. They have been called timid, and they have been called arrogant. They have been called old, and they have been called immature. They have been accused of making things hard on themselves, and they have been accused of taking things too easy. Chokes, jokes, and clumsy blokes. The Philadelphia Phillies were all of the above. They were the gang that was over the hill without ever climbing it, without ever getting to the top, and nobody, least of all their fans, would let them forget.


But now, you can cancel all those ascriptions. Because, Sunday night, the Philadelphia Phillies finally became winners. They beat more than the Houston Astros 8-7 in 10 innings to capture their first National League pennant in 30 years. They beat history.


Realization of their accomplishment was received warmly in the Phillies' clubhouse. There is delirium, and there is delirium, and then there is what went on in the basement of the Astrodome Sunday night, to be continued into Monday morning.


"I THINK YOU can see that these gays finally got tired of losing." said Pete Rose. "What else can it be? There is that fine line between winning and almost winning. Well, we’ve crossed it. What does it mean to me? That's what they got me for, I guess. But what does it mean to them, that’s more important."


A lesser team, or at least a Philadelphia Phillie team of recent vintage, surely would not have survived what this team survived this weekend in the Astrodome, nominally baseball's most intimidating building. Surely, these Phillies made mistakes, scores of mistakes, when the game was on the line. But one mistake they did not make was surrendering. Always, it had been what they did best.


"For one reason or another, it always seemed that when they handed out courage, they handed more of it out to the team we were playing, than to us," Mike Schmidt said. "It’s as difficult to answer the people who criticized us for not winning, because we never backed it up by winning.


'The things we were supposed to do to other teams, other teams did to us. How do you forget the time three years ago when the Dodgers score three runs to beat us in the ninth after they have two out, nobody on base, two strikes on the batter? And then they beat us the next night, and we’re out. Things like that happen, yeah, but they always seemed to happen to us. But this, this will make up for all those cold winters when you really never wanted to answer the phone."


DALLAS GREEN, the Phils' burly manager, had talked about his team’s character for weeks. Observers who had acted as pallbearers before, chuckled. These were still the same old Phillies, they suspected. Characters maybe, but not character. When Green told his players he didn't want their wives on this trip because he didn't feature the carnival atmosphere of previous years, they kicked as they always have kicked.


But Sunday night, the Phillies put all their petty peeves aside and decided to win a ballgame. Even though they weren't supposed to make it two straight, even though they fell back 5-2 in the seventh, and even though Green himself made some questionable moves, such as wasting a man such as Lonnie Smith to pinch run without leaving him in the game, and such as using a tired Larry Christenson to almost lose the game when Dick Ruthven was ready – "I was screaming from the bullpen I was so ready" – to come in and win it, which he did.


It would have been more comfortable if the Houston Astros had been willing hosts, but they were anything but. They aren't losers, they just didn't score as many runs. Watching them play baseball is like eating broccoli. In time, you acquire a taste for it.


'Tug McGraw calls this the most unbelievable series in the history of baseball, and maybe he’s right," said Rose. "I don't remember anything so emotional. And the thing was, it was a roller coaster. We'd be up for two innings, then they get up for two innings. But I never saw a bunch that wouldn’t quit like them. You realize, with their series against the Dodgers, how many emotional games they’ve had in a row? But they’re great, and they’ll be back."


OF COURSE, THE PHILLIES, as presently constituted, will not be back. They are aging. Win or lose the World Series, they will get a facial. And that made Sunday's outcome all the more proper. For a professional athlete, security is nice, buff so is a trophy case with some trophies in it.


"There will be changes here, there have to be," said Greg Gross. "We have been through so much on this team. Another disappointment would have been too much to think about."


But the Philadelphia Phillies don't have to hide anymore. They won the big game Sunday night.


“Is this cup for me?" asked Manny Trillo, the second baseman who was voted Most Valuable Player of the series. "This silver cup for me? Then I drink champagne out of it if it is for me."


And all those giant egos and giant paychecks and giant question marks embraced for one giant celebration.


“I NEVER, IHEARD so guys tell so many guys they loved each other," said Schmidt with a shrug. “At last, we’re all brothers."


Meanwhile, back it the reality of a losing dressing room, Terry Puhl was glued to a folding chair amidst members of Astros Anonymous.


"We may be the team of tomorrow," said Puhl, "but give them credit for being the team of today."

Royals finally find a destination


By Robert Markus, Chicago Tribune News Service


NEW YORK – “We don’t care where we go,” said pitcher Ken Brett with a laugh.  “We’re all broke and drunk and tired and we’re ready to get out of this town.”


The Kansas City Royals, having clinched the American League pennant Friday, were almost literally up in the air Sunday over travel plans for the World Series.


After an afternoon workout in Yankee Stadium, the Royals were told to have their bags packed by 9 p.m. and be ready to board a bus to the airport at 10:15.  They were on their way to somewhere, but they wouldn’t know where until the Astros and Phillies finished their evening’s business in the Houston Astrodome.  When their plane took off shortly before midnight, it wound up being a 20-minute hop to Philadelphia.


Nobody knew which team the Royals would meet before they left and few of the players seemed to care.  Of those who did express a preference, like Amos Otis and Hal McRae, the overriding consideration seemed to be the difference in seating capacity between the two National League stadiums.  Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia seats 64,976, the Astrodome only 45,000.


PLAYERS, OF COURSE, share in the gate receipts for the first four games.


“I’m hoping for Philadelphia,” said McRae.  “It’s a short flight and there’s that 65,000 seating capacity.  It may sound idiotic and a lot of people won’t believe it, but I think we’ve got more power than the Phillies, too.”


More power than a team with Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in the lineup?  “Yes,” affirmed McRae.  “Look where we play.  You could hit balls in our park where the guys say, ‘Stay with it’ and in their park the same ball is in the upper deck.  You hit a ball in Kansas City and you’re cussin’ where in Philadelphia you’re getting’ skin.”


Manager Jim Frey agreed with his designated hitter.  “We play in a difficult park to hit home runs so we don’t have a lot of people with big numbers,” Frey said.  George Brett led the team with 24, just half of Schmidt’s National League-leading 48.


“If we played in a smaller park, we might end up with 150 homers,” Frey said.  “If you play in Philadelphia, the home-run ball is the big thing.”


IN THE ASTRODOME, it isn’t and that’s why Brett said he thinks the Royals would be dynamite there.  “Our team would hit awfully well in Houston,” he said.  “We’re not a long-ball hitting team.  Oh, yes, we can hit them, but we don’t depend on long balls to win.  Some teams depend on it and when they play in the Astrodome, they’re in trouble.”


Frey announced the starting pitcher for Tuesday night’s opener would depend on the opponent.  Against Houston, it would be left hander Larry Gura, with right hander Dennis Leonard if it’s Philadelphia.


“It doesn’t matter to me,” said Gura.  “Houston’s the bigger ballpark and it would be better for pitchers, but that’s the only difference.”


“Speaking only for Dan Quisenberry,” said Dan Quisenberry, “I like to face power hitters.  Rather that, than a whole team of hitters who slap line drives this way and that way.”


Willie Aikens summed up his teammates feelings best when he said, “Most of us have seen the Phillies and Astros on TV.  From my view, I see we have a better team than either and most of the guys can probably see the same thing.


“If we go into the World Series and play our game, I don’t think there’s any doubt at all of our beating either the Phillies or Astros.”

Playoff Notes (excerpts)


So What


ABC was patting itself on the back Sunday for solving announcer Keith Jackson’s logistics problems Saturday.  Jackson covered the Texas-Oklahoma college football game in Dallas for ABC-TV, then hustled to Houston to pick up his National League baseball playoff chores in mid-game.


A representative of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, however, was not impressed.  “I think the whole thing – that the network could not see fit to keep its entire announcing crew together for all of the championship series broadcasts – was demeaning to the sport of baseball,” said Bob Wirz, Kuhn’s director of information.


Astros’ iceman


HOUSTON OUTFIELDER Terry Puhl is a Canadian who grew up playing baseball only 2½ months a year.  “When I was a kid,” he says, “and it came September, all my buddies used to put away their bats and gloves and take out their hockey skates.  I didn’t care for that too much, but because of the weather up where I lived (Melville, Sask.), I didn’t have much choice.”


…Manny Trillo says he keeps hearing the Phillies will try to obtain Bruce Sutter and Ivan DeJesus from the Cubs in a deal that will ship pitcher Randy Lerch, outfielder Greg Luzinski, and another player to Chicago.  “Ivan can’t wait to leave the Cubs,” says Trillo.  “He hates it there.”