Kansas City Star - October 13, 1980
Salary rhetoric eases; Royals put unity first
By Mike DeArmond, sports writer
PHILADELPHIA – For most of the Kansas City Royals, the 1980 season has been a succession of ice cream and balloons.
The party began in early April, really got going May 23 when the Royals moved mto first place to stay and continues as the club heads into the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
But as the festivities raged through July and August and into the waning days of September, it became increasingly apparent that Hal McRae, Amos Otis and Frank White somehow were missing out on the gaiety.
Like children who wanted a dump truck for Christmas and instead received skates, McRae Otis and White found the revelry tempered by their dissatisfaction over the terms of their employment.
White and McRae seemed to make their feelings known on a daily basis. Otis appeared just as upset but, “I didn’t say much about it.”
The three players’ situations have not changed. Club officials are delaying any confrontations over contracts until after the close of the season. And in the past two weeks, McRae Otis and White have exhibited an ability to lay aside their discontent to the betterment of the team.
“Amos, Hal and myself talked about the situation, our contract problems,” White said. “We all want new contracts. But it really came down to what we wanted the most this year.
“We didn’t want to sacrifice the other members of the team. We have a chance to win the World Series. And even though we might make more money in another place next year, you still might never see a World Series again. We had to put our problems all behind us.”
If the Royals are to take the final step this season and win the world championship, such a single-mindedness would appear to be a must.
Not only have the three players zeroed in on the job at hand, but there seemingly has been a softening in their rhetoric.
Contractual problems never seemed to affect the play of McRae, White and Otis. But at the same time, it was a bad situation; one that was as apparent and as unsightly as a black eye.
“It was a mistake,’’ said White. “What hurt me was that I just didn’t want to be bothered. I was real snappy. I just wanted to be by myself.”
Said McRae: “I know it affected me personally. Then I just made a decision not to worry about it anymore, and I'm not going to worry about it anymore, regardless of what happens.
“It bothered me, but it ran it’s course and it’s done. It was unfair to me and unfair to everybody else. But that’s over with now.”
Manager Jim Frey spoke with all three players before the Royals' final home-stand of the regular season.
“I was aware that they weren’t in a real good frame of mind at the time,” Frey said Sunday. “But when we got back to Kansas City for that last week it was apparent that not only they, but everybody on the bailclub, had said, ‘OK, it's time for us to go to work.’
“The personal things were going to have to be set aside for a couple of weeks. Let's accomplish what we can accomplish as a team.
“This (playoff and World Series) is a big nut for all of us. I think they consciously all made an effort to pull together. I was proud of that fact. I still am.”
Frey played only a part in the mental switch by Otis, McRae and White, however. McRae brought that point home during the team’s workout Sunday at Yankee Stadium in New York.
“It had to come from me," McRae said. “Nobody else could tell me to forget it. I had to reach that decision myself.”
Midway through the season the situation had become so bad that McRae and White wondered out loud if they would return to the Royals in 1981. Management and the players expressed a desire that the three remain with the Royals, but McRae and White doubted the situation could be resolved.
Joe Burke, Royals’ executive vice president and general manager, addressed the subject Sunday.
“My stance is, I’m going to answer all those questions after World Series,” said Burke. “Then I'm going to sit down ami clear my head and go from there."
White, who less than a month ago said he doubted he would want to come back even should contractual problems be worked out, amended those words Sunday.
“I was disappointed over a couple of things that had happened when I said that,” White said. “I still think it (Kansas City) is the best place to play. I’d love to stay in Kansas City."
McRae said, “I’ve already said enough, probably too much about that.”
And Otis laughed off the question by saying, "I think Mrs. Kauffman (wife of owner Ewing Kauffman) likes me too much. I'm her favorite player, so I know she's going to take care of me.”
What are the chances of the three players returning?
“It depends on what they think they’re getting in return,” said White.
Perhaps it is the giddiness of winning the league title and advancing to the World Series but there seems to be — based on the tone of the dialogue — a touch of compromise in the air.
So, despite the off-field problems, the Royals seemingly head into the World Series united in purpose.
Royals finally confident
By Joe McGuff
PHILADELPHIA – The Royals spent Sunday in limbo. Or maybe it was Houstadelphia. They were a champion in search of an opponent and when the checked out of the New York Sheraton Sunday night and left for the airport, they still did not know where they were going for the World Series.
Paul Splittorff said his preference was to go to Chicago and play the Cubs. Although his choice of opponents was commendable, the Cubs, unfortunately, are almost never available at this time of year.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Ken Brett said. “We’ll just be happy to get out of town. Everyone’s broke and drunk."
The only scheduled activity Sunday was a workout at Yankee Stadium. George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees extended an invitation to the Royals to use the field and also offered to make the Yankees’ National League scouting information available.
The mood at the workout was relaxed and loose. On Friday night the Royals had laughed and shouted and squirted champagne in the clubhouse to celebrate their victory over the Yankees. As they returned to the clubhouse Sunday, the Royals appeared to be a team at peace with itself. The pin-striped monster that had been tormenting Kansas City for four years had been buried, and no one could question the Royals’ ability to win under pressure.
The mood was so relaxed in fact that there was reason to wonder if the World Series might not be something of an anticlimax. Beating the Yankees was a crusade, an affair of honor. Becoming emotional about the National League champion is not easy when you’ve had a team like the Yankees to hate.
Although the Royals were relaxed, they also appeared to be unusually confident. Before playing the Yankees, the Royals were tense and still struggling with some self doubts. Sunday there seemed to be no question in their minds that they would win the World Series even though their emotional intensity might not be as great.
"It probably will be tough to get pumped up again,” Splittorff said. “We were really hungry for the Yankees. But we’ve been playing pretty well and it looks like it’s going to be our year. How can you not get up for the World Series, especially the first time you’re in it.”
Willie Aikens, who was outspoken in predicting a playoff victory after the Royals won the first game from the Yankees, was equally positive the Royais will win the World Series.
“If we play good, hard baseball, play our type of game, I don’t think we'll have any trouble at all beating the Phillies or the Astros,” Aikens said.
Hal McRae expressed the view that the Royals' intensity level can't be as high for the World Series as it was for the Yankees.
"I think we’ll be up,” McRae said. "The war is still on. We want to take the hill. But I don’t think it’s possible to feel the same way about another team as we did about the Yankees because they had a history of beating us. Playing them was like playing a college football game. Now we can get down to playing baseball.”
Darrell Porter said that while the Royals might not be emotional, there is a strong feeling on the team that they will win the World Series.
“It was more than just being pumped up for the Yankees,” Porter said. “It was a confidence thing. We were confident going in. I don’t think anyone on this club felt the playoffs would go more than four games.
“I think this is a great team and I think we'll beat the National League. I just can’t imagine anyone being better than this club. We've got a little bit of everything. We do it all pretty darn well.”
Larry Gura commented that the Royals might even play better in the World Series.
“A few of us will be more relaxed now,” Gura said. "It seemed to be our major goal this season to take care of the Yankees. The Series probably will be more like the regular season. We're going to be nervous, but not as much as when we played the Yankees.
"Joe Pepitone told me once that after the playoffs the World Series seems relaxing. Sometimes when you’re more relaxed, you play better. I think you’ll see us score more runs. Now that I’ve said that well probably get shut out in the first game.”
Although the Royals had to wait until a late hour Sunday night to learn the identity of their opponent, they were unconcerned because they felt they could play equally well against the Phillies, who are a power team, or the Astros, who stress speed and defense.
“I feel we can run and play defense with anyone,” Manager Jim Frey said.
“We’ve got more power than Philadelphia,” McRae declared.
In 1976 and 1978 the Royals left New York in despair after suffering playoff losses to the Yankees. Sunday they left New York expecting to become world champions.
Considering achievements, White should sleep like a baby
By Mike DeArmond, sports writer
PHILADELPHIA – Frank White normally has no trouble sleeping the night before a big game. He flips off the light, settles into bed and the next thing he knows it is morning.
But last Tuesday night, on the eve of the opening game of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in Kansas City, the Royals' second baseman tossed and turned. Wednesday, he went 3 for 4, stole a base and drove in two runs in the Royals' 7-2 victory.
The second night was worse, or perhaps as good.
"I knew how important a 2-game lead would be coming back to New York,” White said.
So, after more tossing and turning Wednesday night, White went 2 for 3 Thursday night in game two and scored another run. Kansas City won 3 2.
Friday night in New York White proved human. He committed a throwing error. But he also turned in two standout defensive plays and hit a home run in four at-bats as the Royals won 4-2 and captured the American League pennant. White was named the most valuable player of the series, having gone 6 for 11.
“Being the MVP in the playoffs is something that I never imagined would happen to me,” White said.
Now, as White looks forward to the World Series that begins Tuesday night at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, he finds it hard to imagine what wonders remain in store.
He speaks of dreams coming true, and almost seems incapable of perceiving the dream of a World Series title. Instead, he focuses on beating the Yankees.
“It seems like whenever you see a player going from another club to the Yankees, it’s always the fulfillment of a life-long dream,” White said. “Rick Cerone, when he came over from Toronto, said he'd always dreamed of playing for the Yankees. Tommy John always dreamed about playing for the Yankees.
“The Yankees have been placed so high that when you’re playing on a lesser team, so to speak, it’s really an honor to beat them.
“My dream was always to be in the big leagues. And from the time I got there, my dream was always to beat the Yankees.
“We best them this year, and really, my story is complete.”
That really isn’t true, of course, but it offers insight into the depth of White's joy at beating the team that frustrated the Royals in the 1976, 1977 and 1978 American League playoffs.
"I feel good saying we beat the Yankees,” White said. “I feel good now walking in New York, walking through the hotel."
When White walks, it is without a swagger. When White walks, and talks, it is with a new sense of dignity in a man who always has comported himself with dignity.
For three years White has been recognized as one of the premier second basemen in baseball. His chief competition for No. 1 honors at that position has come from the Yankees’ Willie Randolph.
Considering White’s effort in the playoffs, he might be expected to claim the No. 1 title.
White, however, is content to let others judge the point.
Is he the best?
“I won’t sav that," White said. “I think I can do anything at second base that any other second baseman can do. Whether that makes me better or less, I’ll let other people decide.
“I’ve never been one to really carry a bailclub. I’ve never been in a position to drive in a lot of runs, a lot of key runs.
"Whatever I do, I’ll accept.”
White has slain his dragon. He is confident that when other dragons appear on his horizons, as they undoubtedly will, he will slay those as well. Lately, White has been sleeping well, and having only pleasant dreams.
Never-say-live Phils do it the hard way
By Ron Rapoport, service of the Chicago Sun-Times
HOUSTON – They can take down the machine-gun nest that was being set up at the Philadelphia airport.
Somebody go to WC Fields’ grave and kick a few rocks on it.
The Philadelphia Phillies are losers no more.
It wasn’t easy. Even in victory, the Phillies showed a lot of the old never-say-live moxie that has inspired generations of their fans to scream, moan, throw things and create material for stand-up comics from coast to coast.
They blew leads the Houston Astros generously gave them. They struck out in bunches. And they let balls bounce off their gloves.
But in the end they won this wildest and most pleasurable of all league playoff series, one in which everything known to man and Abner Doubleday took place. The Phillies' 8-7 victory in 10 innings Sunday night at the Astrodome affords them their first appearance in the World Series since 1950. Only a churl would point out that the Phillies were swept by the Yankees on that occasion.
And besides, as Garry Maddox drifted back under the last fly ball and the Phillies’ dugout joyfully emptied, there was one inescapable conclusion.
For every winner there is a loser. For every disbelieving Philadelphian applauding the images on his television set, there was an Astros' fan learning for the first time what happens when great expectations come to naught.
The toilet paper and the cups full of ice and the boos from all parts of the Astrodome mixed in with the polite applause and the buzz of disappointment. On the field, the Phillies were a joyous little band in the midst of a hostile, sullen mob getting its baptism in the Church of the Aggrieved Loser.
The Astros, after all, had not gone down quietly. Not until they’d lost a 3-run lead in the twinkling of an eye in the eighth faming and then come back from two runs down only to fall victim to two Phillies' doubles in the 10th was it all over.
“Someone came up to me in the dugout,” Houston relief pitcher Joe Sambito said of the moment after the Astros had scored three runs in the top of the eighth to take a 5-2 lead, “and said, ‘National League champions. How does it sound?’ I said, ‘Come to me in half an hour.' ”
But within seconds, none of the Astros were contemplating the taste of champagne any more. Before they or any of their fans in the Astrodome had even had a minute to stop pinching themselves to see if it was true, it no longer was.
Larry Bowa’s single, Bob Boone’s dribbler off Nolan Ryan’s glove and Greg Gross’ perfect bunt down the third-base line loaded the bases for the Phillies with none out in the eighth inning.
Said Alan Ashby, the sore-ribbed Houston catcher whose pinch single in the sixth inning tied the score 2-2, “They did it so fast, getting those guys on. It seemed to happen before we even realized it. Those ballgames were ours. All year long our relief pitching has done it.”
But this time it could not. The Astros were left only to find out how it feels to lose.
Green’s Phillies show character – and then some
By the Associated Press
HOUSTON – The Philadelphia Phillies finally did it Manager Dallas Green's way.
Green, who had ruffled his players’ feathers throughout the season with demands to show more character, got what he wanted Sunday night. The Phillies refused to fold, finally beating the Houston Astros 8-7 in the fifth and deciding game of the National League Championship Series.
“I’ve badgered these guys ever spring training that we need to show more character,” Green said in the Phils' dressing room. “I don’t know of any greater display of character than was shown by our team tonight It was incredible.”
The Astros, National West champions for the first time in their 19-year history, had built a reputation all season for rallying from the brink of defeat, but the Phils stole their thunder in the finale.
“I saw stuff out there tonight that I couldn’t believe,” Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt said in a champagne-drenched dressing room. “We had heart second to none. Both teams were digging for it. There was so much at stake. I can’t believe we did it."
But the Phillies did, winning in the 10th inning on doubles by Del Unser and Garry Maddox that broke a 7-7 tie and sent Philadelphia into the World Series against Kansas City. It will be the Phils’ first Series since 1950 and only their third in history.
The Phils lost the 1950 Series to the New York Yankees in four straight games, and dropped the 1915 classic to the Red Sox in five games. Maddox doesn’t expect a repeat of the team’s previous World Series showings.
“You can have a lot of talent on a team and still not win," said Maddox. “But this team has the talent and the ability to work together as a team to get the job done. That’s what we did tonight, and that’s why we won.”
Left fielder Greg Luzinski, champagne dripping from his hair, echoed the feeling of the entire team.
“Let them say we don’t have heart anymore,” Luzinski said. “I think we proved to the world that we don’t have a quitter on this team.”
Relief pitcher Tug McGraw, who appeared in each of the five playoff games said, “There weren’t any real losers on the field today. I’m just so proud to be a Philadelphia Phillie today. As you can see around you, the guys are loose with 162 games worth of emotion All year long people have doubted us, but today we proved them all wrong.
"I’m just so proud to be a part of such a wonderful series. After watching these last five games, it is easy to see that baseball is truly the American pastime.”