Corpus Christi Caller - October 13, 1980

Astros find little to cheer


No champagne for Houston


By Rob Wood, Associated Press Writer


HOUSTON – Joe Morgan walked through the quiet Houston Astros dressing room Sunday night and said time after time:


"Hold your heads up. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of."


The Astros had been beaten in the fifth game of the National League playoffs 8-7 in 10 innings by the Philadelphia Phillies. And most of them found that hard to swallow.


While most of the Houston players sat facing the wall and seldom taking the time to even answer questions, Morgan, the second baseman and sparkplug who had come to Houston only this year, said repeatedly:


"There is another year and we've played some great baseball."


Joe Niekro, who had earlier pitched 10 scoreless innings before being taken out in one of the Astros' two victories in this series, said: "We scored a lot of runs but we just couldn't hold them.”


Ace relief pitcher Joe Sambito, who couldn't hold the Phillies Sunday night: "The breaks just went against us. (Nolan) Ryan pitched a great game for us. He just didn't get a single break."


Terry Puhl, who had four hits in six at-bats for Houston in a record-setting performance, said of the Phillies:


"They did their job. I think that Kansas City (whom the Phillies face in the World Series starting Tuesday night) has more team speed (than Philadelphia), but you can bet we'll all be pulling for the National League team."


Catcher Alan Ashby said: "This was one of the greatest ballgames that I have ever played in and this was one of the greatest series that anybody has ever seen. We should have won it, but that's baseball.”


A few of the Astros sipped on cans of beer, but there was no champagne this time.


Houston Manager Bill Virdon said of his players: "I feel for them. They worked hard and they really wanted to win, but obviously they lost to a better team. That shows just how strong this league is.


"But the Astros don't have to bow their heads. They are a better ballclub than a lot of people gave them credit for — I have to tip my hat to them.”

Astros come up one game short


By Ed Spaulding, Caller Sports Editor


HOUSTON – The Philadelphia Phillies ended 30 years of waiting and four years of frustration last night by qualifying for the World Series. The Houston Astros ended 18 years of waiting in the quiet desperation of a losers’ locker room.


The difference? A bad hop bouncer and a line drive that came down 18 inches too soon. Or, three hits that could as easily have been three outs. Or about 771 other things. The Phillies’ 8-7, 10-inning elimination of the Astros in the frenzied Astrodome last night could be explained in a thousand different ways. And there 'd still be other forgotten points.


Officially, the Phils ended the longest, most thrilling League Championship Series ever by ousting the Astros on Del Unser's bad-hop bouncer and a sinking liner off the bat of Garry Maddox that struck Astroturf a half step in front of a charging Terry Puhl.


But that winning rally was just the last of a series of events that even television — in its never-ceasing quest for hard-to-top happenings — would find hard to believe.


The Astros led 1-0 in this decisive game of the National League Championship Series. They trailed 2-1, led 5-2, trailed 7-5 and forced extra innings for the fourth consecutive game with still another improbable rally in the last of the eighth inning.


But it wasn't enough. Unser’s harmless hopper became a rally-starter, and Maddox's well-struck line drive became a pennant winner, the blow that won for the Phils their first pennant since 1950. The World Series begins tomorrow in Philadelphia with the Phillies hosting the Kansas City Royals.


"There wasn't any doubt when he (Unser) hit the ball I would get it," said Astro first baseman Dave Bergman. “The ball was staying consistently down. Everything hit like that was staying down. I got down and this time it hit something, a rock, a seam, I don't know and bounced over my head.”


One out later, Maddox drove Unser home. “It really stayed up pretty good," Puhl said of the winning hit. "I didn't think I had a chance but when I got close I just scooped at it and hoped."


For six innings, this game was anything but a wild scoring contest. Close, tense, nerve-racking, yes; but nothing like Game 4 Saturday that featured everything but the kitchen sink.


Nolan Ryan mastered the Phillies except for a two-out, two-run single by Bob Boone in the second inning. Rookie Marty Bystrom wriggled out of trouble repeatedly, giving a first-inning run on Jose Cruz's double and an unearned run in the sixth.


Three hits produced three Houston runs in the home seventh and, just as they did Saturday, the home folks began counting outs toward the World Series. Six were needed on both occasions. And, just as in Game 4, they never came.


"Nolan wasn't wild or anything. He was still throwing great,” said Puhl. "The Phillies just executed. They stayed in and met the ball and got the breaks."


"It happened so quick I can't explain it,” said Bergman. "A ball out of the reach of Craig Reynolds. A ball out of Nolan's reach. A bunt. How can you explain it?"


"The ball off his glove,” said reliever Joe Sambito. "It could have been a double play. If Nolan gets the double play, we’re in here throwing champagne."


Trillo's two-run triple following the three tap hits, a bases loaded walk to Pete Rose, an infield out and Unser’s pinch single made it 7-5.


Improbably, incredibly, Houston struck right back with four hits, the last two coming off the bats of Rafael Landestoy and Cruz with two outs to tie the game at 7-7.


It went that way until the 10th.


"To me, this is what the game of professional baseball is all about," said Phillie relief pitcher Tug McGraw.


For the Phillies and the neutral fans, maybe so. Philadelphia was in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and was staring down the loaded gun of a "choke under pressure" label.


For the Astros, it was a defeat beyond words. If only the emotions would go away as quickly as that 5-2 lead that looked so safe with two innings to play.

Disbelief grips Astros


By Ed Spaulding, Caller Sports Editor


HOUSTON – Joe Morgan walked around in shorts, sandals and sorrow. Enos Cabell pitched shoes, socks, sweat bands down, across, anywhere. Reporters milled around, afraid to ask the icebreaking question. Art Howe faced inward, either crying or wanting to.


And nowhere was heard a discouraging word. Or any other word for that matter. The only thing to break the silence of the Astro locker room last night was silence.


Finally, Joe Sambito said something. One by one, his teammates followed his lead. The words came hard, they came in tones so low few could hear them. But they came. And they all said the same thing. It was: How could we lose? How could we lose this way? Why us?


"I thought all through it, ‘We’re gonna come back, we’re gonna come back, we’re gonna come back.’ We were so close," said Sambito.


"I couldn't give you a lot of words," said catcher Alan Ashby. "It's a moment of daze, bewilderment, sadness, sorrow, some tears."


"I was sure we were gonna win this one," Howe whispered.


"I thought this was ours. I thought we had it," said Puhl.


"I'll tell you what. This series, no matter who won, who lost, you can’t convince me who's the better team," said Sambito. “We were about as even as you could want."


"I really feel for Cesar (Cedeno)," said Puhl.


"I saw some heart out there on the part of both teams that I’ve never seen before," said Phillie third baseman Mike Schmidt.


"There aren't any real losers on the field today," said the Phillies' Tug McGraw. "After watching these last five games, it's easy to see why baseball is truly the American past time."


"I don't so much feel it was stolen as taken," said Puhl. "We were watching it, doing all we could, but they took it.


“One thing I cannot believe," said Puhl, "is I'm not gonna put on this uniform again this year.”

Phils finally taste victory


By the Associated Press


HOUSTON – It took four tries, but the Philadelphia Phillies finally drank the champagne instead of crying in the bucket.


The Phillies, who lost in the National League playoffs in 1976, 1977 and 1978, won it all Sunday night with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Houston Astros.


The triumph gave the Phillies the National League pennant and bought a ticket to the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, starting Tuesday night in Philadelphia.


This was a team that even many of the 2.6 million fans who watched them play at home and the mass media claimed had no character.


"I’ve badgered them since spring training about the necessity for character,” said Phillies Manager Dallas Green.


Green, tears in his eyes, champagne dripping from head to foot of his 6-foot-5 frame, holding another bottle in his hand, said:


"I don’t know if I’ll live through this… but I don’t know any greater display of character than this team showed in September and in this series. They didn't quit. It was incredible."


Second baseman Manny Trillo, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the tension-filled, five-game championship series, said he told his wife at lunch Sunday, "I am going to get it (the MVP) for you.”


Veteran catcher Bob Boone, who has suffered through a sub-par season because of a reconstructed knee and has been the victim of continuous booing at home, lay prone on a table in the training room, visibly exhausted.


"It's unbelievable,” Boone began, the words coming slowly. "It relieves all the pent-up emotions of all the years. Believe me, it's all worth it."


Garry Maddox, whose 10th-inning double drove home the winning run in the Phillies’ second straight extra-inning victory, described it as "the happiest day of my career.”


The scene in the clubhouse was as wild as could be expected. More champagne was squirted than swallowed. Players hugged each other. And Pete Rose capped the feeling in the room in the bowels of the Astrodome when he said: "This was the pressure series. The World Series will just be fun."