Kansas City Times - October 13, 1980
‘Next year’ finally comes
After incredible playoffs, it’s Phillies and KC at last
By Mike McKenzie, A Member of the Sports Staff
HOUSTON — The ugly stepsisters get to dance at the ball.
In the years 1978 through 1978 the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals proved best on their sides of the major league baseball fence.
Phillies were East, Royals were West, but never the twain did meet. Till now.
The World Series moves to Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, opening Tuesday night, and the teams who had been swept under, 1-2-3, by the once and always star-kissed Dodgers, Reds and Yankees, this time filed the RSVP.
How many times the pilots of the Royals' charter flight Sunday night must have shuffled the flight plans. Head for Houston, men… oops point it toward Philly. Nope, Houston. Ah, Philly. The Royals stationed themselves at LaGuardia Airport in New York where they had dispensed with the Yankees two nights earlier and awaited an opponent.
The roller coaster outside the Astrodome couldn't have provided more ups and arounds and downs and back again than the loop-the-loop, heart-squeezing wave of baseball action provided under the rounded roof by the Phillies and Astros.
“‘Incredible’ isn’t a bad adjective for it,” said Dallas Green the seldom-jolly giant of a manager who bellows orders to the Phillies. “My heart’s not in too good a shape right now and we're not out of the woods yet. Kansas City? Haven't even thought about them, but we’ll play anybody right now.”
Following a fourth consecutive extra-inning game and a five-game series that consumed more than 17 hours of playing time, relief pitcher Tug McGraw, between gulps of champagne, shouted: "An incredible demonstration of why baseball is the best game going."
What can the Royals and Phillies do for an encore?
The Royals soared in typical fashion — a George Brett home run, Dan Quisenberry relief pitching, Frank White defense, etc.
The Phillies subdued the Astros atypically. Mike Schmidt, Mr. Home Run, struck out twice with men ready to roll home. Steve Carlton, 24-game winner, lasted fewer innings Saturday than be had all year. And hitting heroes were Manny Trillo, a Gold Glove second baseman like White, and Del Unser, whose previous claim to fame was a record for three pinch-hit home runs in a row a few years ago.
"I saw things I couldn’t believe,” said Schmidt, who sat quietly in the delirium that was the Phillies dressing room. "Does anybody know how hard it is to get a single, just a single, with men in scoring position, two out and the pennant on the line? I saw us do it twice, and them, too. Unbelievable. It’ll take a while for this to soak in."
It took little time for champagne to soak in on everybody and everything that moved within reach of a Philly. “You see a release of all the tension of 167 games,” McGraw said. "And five years."
That’s something the Royals could relate to, as the Houston flight plan was junked and they hopped aboard the milk run across Jersey to the City of Brotherly Love. There the dance card for World Series week, at last, is Philled.
Phillies shrug off failures
The Morning Line By Mike McKenzie
HOUSTON – ”Here come the Astros burning with desire…
The rock lyrics blared from the Astrodome public address system and from local radio stations, burning the Philadelphia Phillies’ ears for three days. The Astros gushed desire like so much 11-cent gas, the kind Manager Bill Virdon used to pump as a kid at his father’s country store in West Plains Mo.
“Here come the Astros breathing orange fire…"
But the hot breath on the Phillies’ necks couldn't compare to what history burned into their psyche.
“The self-doubt could only be erased one way,” said third baseman Mike Schmidt, the National League's home run king and probable Most Valuable Player. “Success will erase it all.”
Success, in its second stage, came 8-7 in 10 innings Sunday night against the Astros. The Phillies dispensed with them, desire, taco breath and all, in the NL Championship Series with a second consecutive victory in the expanse called Astrodome.
Stage 3 is next. The World Series.
Three times straight, 1976-78, the Phillies won the NL East, as they did this season. And, like the World Series opponent they host Tuesday night, three times straight they lost.
Only twice had they made it to the World Series, 1950 and 1915. In ’50, the Yankees swept them in four. The last time the Phillies won a home game in post-season championship play, they were in the Baker Bowl, which preceded Shibe Park, which preceded the site of this year's games, Veterans Stadium. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the pitcher and Woodrow Wilson was in his first term as president.
In 1964 the Phillies led the NL by 6½ games with 12 to play, lost 10 straight and finished a game behind the St Louis Cardinals.
In their three division playoffs, the Phillies found bizarre ways to lose. In ’77, with what is generally considered their best team, they led the Dodgers two games to one, had a 2-run lead in the ninth inning with two outs and lost. Manager Danny Ozark was ripped for that one, because a rallying hit tipped off the glove of leftfielder Greg Luzinski, who was usually replaced by then for defensive purposes. That inning also featured one of the most remembered “blown” calls in TV instant replay history: Dave Lopes was called safe at first on an exceptional play by shortstop Larry Bowa of a ball that caromed off Schmidt's glove.
In ’78 the Phillies lost two at home to the Dodgers, and lost the deciding game when Garry Maddox dropped a fly to center field.
The Astros? Nothing compared to the yoke of a loser’s past the Phillies carried into the playoffs. “We simply couldn’t have any excuses this time," said Harry Kalas, the long-time Phillies play-by-play announcer. “This meant much more to our franchise than Houston's. They had to just be ecstatic to be in it.”
Schmidt observed, “Winning under our circumstances with all the emotion and adrenalin that's flowed, means there couldn’t be as much pressure in the World Series wherever or whenever it's played. There just isn’t that much electricity to be created. The only thing that didn't happen to keep us from winning is for the Astrodome roof to fall."
This was not a year the Phillies were expected to be much better than the fourth-place finish of last season, mainly because it was virtually the same team.
Prime time appeared to have passed them by. Pete Rose is 39, every other regular is between 30 and 35, and the main pitching strength, starter Steve Carlton and reliever Tug McGraw, are 36.
But new manager Dallas Green, an extra large man with an extra hard cover, had built the farm system for the Phillies. He infused young talent, where softer more conservative Ozark was inclined to stay with aging veterans. Outfielder Lonnie Smith, catcher Keith Moreland, and pitchers Marty Bystrom and Dickie Noles made major contributions.
Also, Green talked long and mean about "character," defining it as work habits and team concept The Phillies bore the rap as a clan of vastly talented individuals concerned with personal statistics.
“We've stayed within ourselves pretty good,” Green said. “We just weren’t in a position to out-talent everybody this year like other years. We couldn’t hammer them. We were just regimented in seven years of Ozark, comfortable with it, and needed some tails kicked. I guess I kicked them."
McGraw fits a definition of character, though not the one intended by Green. The left-handed relief specialist wrote a book after glory years with the Mets, entitled "Screwball.” The double meaning alludes to his best pitch, and his personality.
Following the freak series against the Astros, McGraw commented, "It was like riding through an art gallery on a motorcycle. You don’t remember what pictures you saw
“But time was starting to pass right by us. We couldn't live with looking back on the last five years as totally wasted."
McGraw serves as prime example of the Phillies revival. McGraw gave up a record four grand slams last year and was ineffective most of the season. This year he was hurt the first half, but by mid-Juiy he saved 11 games and allowed barely over half a run every nine innings. He pitched in all eight of the Phillies' last eight games, including the clinching series that edged Montreal by a game, and in ail five of the playoff games against Houston.
The Phillies went from six games behind Montreal on Aug. 10, and a subsequent tongue lashing from Green after a double-header loss In Pittsburgh, to the title. They had withstood up-and-down hitting by Rose, prolonged injury and slump by Luzinski, and a scandal in mid-summer concerning prescription drugs which had papers referring to them as the Pillies.
Down the stretch, Schmidt took the lead. He batted in the winning run seven times in the last four weeks, four in the last five regular season games, while topping Eddie Mathews’ all-time home run mark for third basemen by one with 48.
“We’ve always believed in ourselves,” said Schmidt. “The problem is though you can talk about that, talk about desire and pride and heart and will to win all you want, and if you don't win the fans say,’ You kidding me?’ That’s why each win was only as big as the next day until we won it."
As for the Astros who had waded through 19 seasons of existence before tasting champagne, final-game starter Nolan Ryan said, ‘This has been an emotional stressful month."
Formerly little more than the Lastros until last season, the Astros blew a 10-game lead from July in 79, and nearly blew a 3-game lead this year. The Dodgers swept three straight on the final weekend in Los Angeles. But the Astros won a sudden-death playoff for the West Division crown.
After their formation in 1962, the Astros hired a witch doctor one night to put a hex on the Phillies, who had beaten them 17 straight times. This time the Astros had millionaire Ryan. Neither worked.
Phils edge Astros, will face Royals in Series
By the Associated Press
HOUSTON – The Philadelphia Phillies sUfed a dramatic comeback with a 5-run eighth inning and rallied again on 10th-inning doubles by Del Unser and Garry Maddox, defeating the Houston Astros 8-7 Sunday night and advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1950.
The Phillies will meet the American League champion Kansas City Royals in the Series opener Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
With the score tied at 7-7 in the roller-coaster fifth game of the best-of-5 National League Championship Series, Unser hit a 1-out double to right field in the 10th. After Manny Trilo flied to center field, sending Unser to third base, Maddox hit another double in front of Terry Puhl in center, scoring Unser and breaking the tie in the fourth straight extra-inning game of the series.
"I don’t know what pitch he threw me,” Maddox said. ‘‘Their pitcher (Frank LaCorte) shook off a sign and I think he threw me a fastball, but I really wasn't looking for any particular pitch. I just wanted to get a hit."
The Phillies were losing 5-2 after the Astros’ 3-run seventh. But they scored five runs in the eighth before the Astros came back and tied the score with two runs in the eighth.
The Phillies’ winning run came off LaCorte the fourth Houston pitcher. Dick Ruthven, the last of six pitchers for Philadelphia, was the winner.
,The Astros tied the score in the eighth inning off reliever Tug McGraw who was making his fifth appearance in the 5-game series.
Craig Reynolds led off the Houston eighth with a single and Puhl got a record-setting fourth straight single after pinch-hitter Gary Woods struck out. Third baseman Enos Cabell then struck out before Rafael Landestoy singled to left, scoring Reynolds. Jose Cruz delivered another single to center field, tying the score.
The Phillies' 5-run rally was fueled by Trillo’s 2-run triple as they took a 7-5 lead.
The Astros trying for their first NL pennant in the team’s 19-year history had taken a 5-2 lead off relief pitchers Larry Christenson and Ron Reed in the seventh inning.
But the Phillies stunned the confident Astros in the eighth when they loaded the bases on three straight singles off starter Nolan Ryan. Larry Bowa started the rally with a single to left field, Bob Boone singled off Ryan's glove and Greg Gross got a bunt single loading the bases.
Ryan walked Pete Rose forcing home the first run and bringing on relief pitcher Joe Samblto. The left-hander faced only one batter, giving up an RBI fielder’s-choice grounder to pinch-hitter Keith Moreland for the second run.
Unser, a pinch hitter, then tied the score with a single to right of reliever Ken Forsch. Trillo, voted the Most Valuable Player in the series, followed with a tie-breaking triple bringing home pinch-runner Ramon Aviles and Unser.
The Astros fell behind 2-1 before tying in the sixth inning and then scoring three times in the seventh.
Houston tied the score 2-2 in the sixth on Alan Ashby's pinch-hit RBI single that chased rookie starter Marty Bystrom and brought on Warren Brusstar.
Puhl led off the Houston seventh off Christenson with one of his four singles, setting the record for most hits in a Championship Series with 10 and tying the record for most hits in a playoff game. Puhl was sacrificed to second by Cabell before Astros' second baseman Joe Morgan grounded out for the second out of the inning.
Christenson then intentionally walked Cruz and faced Denny Walling, who drove a tie-breaking single to right field, scoring Puhl and sending Cruz to third.
Christenson's wild pitch then allowed Cruz to score Houston's fourth run before Art Howe tripled home another tally for the Astros off Reed, giving them a 8-2 lead.
The Phillies gave Bystrom making his first playoff appearance, a 2-1 lead through the first five innings on Boone's 2-run single in the second.
But Bystrom, who joined the Phillies Sept 1 and compiled a 5-0 record, made each inning an adventure for the Phillies as Houston left six runners stranded over the first five innings.
Ryan, meanwhile, struck out seven batters over the first five innings and still trailed in the game.
The Phillies tagged Ryan for two runs in the second inning. After Greg Luzinski took a called third strike, Trillo lined a single to center field and Maddox walked.
Bowa grounded out to Ryan for the second out, but Boone followed with a booming single to center field that brought home both runners.
Only two Royals players have Series experience
By Mike Fish, A Member of the Sports Staff
NEW YORK — If you've been eliminated in the playoffs every time it’s hard to acquire World Series experience. The only expertise can come from watching the Series on television.
So the Royals are hardly World Series veterans. Playoff veterans true, but that’s as far as it has ever gone. Now the Royals are ready to try something new after finally defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Manager Jim Frey has participated in a World Series before as first-base coach for the Orioles. And so too have left-handed pitcher Ken Brett and designated hitter Hal McRae.
In 1967 Brett was a 19-year-old pitcher with the American League champion Boston Red Sox. Brett, who started the season in the minors, relieved in two games of the Series against the St Louis Cardinals.
McRae also made it to a World Series as a rookie with Cincinnati in 1970. He also played for the Reds in the '72 Series against Oakland.
“All I can remember is being nervous," Brett said. "I’d never been in St. Louis in my life. I was scared to death.
“I didn’t even know how to tie a tie. In fact, I was lucky to even get in a World Series. A guy got hurt (Sparky Lyle), and another guy went in the Army (Bill Landis). He (Manager Dick Williams) had to pick somebody from the roster and I was the only left-hander.
“I can still remember pitching to Mike Shannon, (Julian) Javier and Bob Gibson in the fourth game. I didn't throw anything but fastballs to Shannon. 1 got him out, and then Javier is the next batter. He’s so geared for the fastball because that's all he’s seen in the on-deck circle. I threw him a curve and he must have done everything but fall down swinging at it.”
McRae’s post-season experience with the Reds came in 1970 and '72. Both years McRae platooned against left-handers. Bemie Carbo hit against right-handers.
And in 20 at-bats, McRae hit 450 (9-for-20).
“When it was over (in ’70) I’d been in the big leagues one year,” McRae recalled. "I'd played in a World Series. I’d played well, and I was gonna make more on the World Series share than I did in salary.
“So I felt great. I had a heckuva year. It’s a little different this time. Back then I wasn’t worried about a thing.”
That first World Series is still the biggest thrill for McRae.
“It was a thrill," he said. "You can never equal the first time. You have all the attention in the world focused on the two participating ballclubs. It’s the place everybody dreams of going. Before you become a ballplayer and, even once you become a player, it's still the dream.
"I think the best attitude the players on this club can have is to look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime deal. It could be the last time for a lot of players in this room. So they better reach for all the gusto they can this time. They better try and win and not just feel good to be here."
After his early brush with fame Brett spent the next two seasons in the minor leagues. He later pitched in the playoffs with Pittsburgh (1974 and ’75). Both times, the Pirates lost in the playoffs.
"I didn’t realize what I was getting into back then," Brett said. “This World Series would mean more. Just from the standpoint that I’ll appreciate it more.
"The past 13 years I never quite made it again. And considering this summer, the fact that I thought I was done with baseball, it’s gotta have more significance.
“I don’t feel quite the same though. In Pittsburgh I felt I was pretty important to the team. In some respects I feel kind of like an outsider this time because l've only been with them a month."
Royals return to work in New York; Series pitching rotation set
By Mike Fish, A Member of the Sports Staff
NEW YORK — The Royals returned Sunday afternoon to Yankee Stadium, the scene of the greatest victory in Royals' history.
Gone were New York’s boys of summer — Reggie Jackson, Goose Goasage and the rest of the Yankees. They had already left town for the winter. It is the Royals who are working out this October in preparation for the World Series.
Manager Jim Frey put his club through a casual 2-hour workout at the stadium. Late Sunday evening the Royals flew to Philadelphia, where they will open the World Series Tuesday night against the Phillies, who became the National League champions by beating the Houston Astros 8-7 in 10 innings.
After a day of leisure Saturday there was work to be done. The Royals didn’t know If they would be playing the Astros or Phillies so they prepared for both. And Frey made out separate pitching rotations de pending on which club prevailed in Game 5.
Now that the Phils are the opposition, the Royals will open with righthander Dennis Leonard. Leonard will be followed by left-handers Larry Gura and Paul Splittorff and right-hander Rich Gale. Had the Astros won Frey would have reversed the assignments of Leonard and Gura.
The World Series lineup will remain as it was during the playoffs with John Wathan and Clint Hurdle platooning in right field.
“This is a rush-rush thing,” said Frey. “I’ll have to go on whatever the scouting reports are. I'm speaking in terms of how to pitch to them, on how to defense them, when to play the hit-and-run.
“With the Yankees of course we had a scout with them for a month. We added his information to what we already knew about them.
“You have to understand that we don’t know a heckuva lot about this ballclub. I watched the last couple of games on TV But I’m gonna have to sit down with our scouts and really go over their reports."
From what Frey saw on his TV screen, he knows Philadelphia has strong pitching. What he also saw some sloppy defensive play.
“The Philadelphia club’s strength is their right-handed hitting,” Frey said. “That is, they have people like (Mike) Schmidt, (Greg) Luzinski, (Manny) Trillo and (Bob) Boone. Their left-handed hitters — (Pete) Rose (Larry) Bowa and (Bake) McBride — are not their power hitters.
“I feel we're also capable of hitting home runs in Philly. We’ve got four or five guys in our lineup who can hit the ball out of a park (Veterans Stadium) like that.”
Both Gura and Leonard were in front of their TV sets for Games 4 and 5 with pencils and pads, making their own scouting reports.
“I won't do anything until I get to the park and look them (notes) over,” Gura said, "because I'd probably forget them. I take notes, see how they pitch a particular hitter.
"I'm looking to see when they hit and run, that kind of stuff. I got down all the times they stole second what the count was when they stole what the situation was.”
Gura has a slight advantage over the other Royals’ pitchers because he played in the National League for parts of four seasons (1970-73) with the Chicago Cubs.
“The key could be the umpires" Gura said “If we get a National League umpire (at home plate) we might have to adjust. They're (National League pitchers ) used to throwing the ball low, and if they've got an American League umpire he might not call it (a strike)."
Even with scouting reports the Royals' pitchers have a strange feeling about pitching against hitters they haven’t previously faced.
“It's better to pitch against somebody you know," said Leonard. "It can be real tough if you don't know a hitter. Maybe this guy (Manager Dallas Green) might bunt with certain guys stuff like that.
"Just what I’ve seen from watching TV, they’re gonna have to score more than two runs a game to beat us. They’ve had some low-scoring ball-games. That won’t happen with us. You have to score a lot of runs to beat us, particularly on Astroturf.”
Just waiting to celebrate
Fans won’t see heroes right away, but final party will be a whopper
By Paul Vitello, A Member of the Staff
The relationship between a baseball fan and his team is not all spiritual. It needs an occasional down-to-earth physical experience to sustain itself.
So when Pittsburgh clinched the National League pennant last year, Pirate fans discoed on the infield which was still warm from the feet of Willie Stargeli and Co.
And when Yankee fans overwhelmed security guards to back-slap the Bombers for snatching another pennant from Kansas City in 1978, they got so close to their boys they almost killed them.
But Royals fans — who already know what it means to wait — must wait some more for the pleasure of that special personal encounter with Kansas City's first American League championship team.
They will have to wait until after the World Series, in fact. That is when the city’s official celebration for the Royals is planned. If they win the Series, the city plans a celebration for the world champion Royals. If they lose, the city will throw the same party for the AL champs.
After a long weekend of rest in New York, the Royals fly directly to Philadelphia for the first two games of the World Series, Tuesday and Wednesday night. They are scheduled to come home after Wednesday night's game, but there is not going to be an official party.
"The Royals organization is not encouraging any kind of big celebration at the airport," Mayor Richard L. Berkley said after talks with team officials over the weekend.
“It's partly a question of logistics, and the hour," he said “But mainly I think that in the middle of the Series the team will not want a big celebration. Not that they do not appreciate the fans. And not that there is any way to stop people from meeting them at the airport."
Royals officials could not be reached Sunday, but their tentative schedule calls for the team to arrive in Kansas City in the early morning hours Thursday. The next three games are to be played here; the last two, if needed, in Philadelphia.
When it is finally time for partying, though, the celebration will be grand.
Tentative plans call for a ticker-tape parade on the day after the Series ends, starting downtown and ending at the Liberty Memorial Mall, Berkley said.
If the Royals win the Series there will be a ’spontaneous" celebration the same day, though the location of that one is uncertain. Berkley said it would be either at the Crown Center Square, where 20,000 people gathered Friday night to celebrate the pennant victory, or between the Union Station and Liberty Memorial.
As for the pause in Royals madness, Berkley expressed confidence that it would be short. "Everyone knows we're going to win the Series," he said. "Everyone's ready for Round 2 of the celebration."
Gura thinks ABC coverage showed bias
Series Notes By Mike Fish
Several Royals had bitter comments about ABC-TV’s coverage of the American League Championship Series, particularly the exposure given the Yankees.
“I'm glad NBC is covering the story (World Series) because they’re not biased’’ said veteran reliever Larry Gura. “It’s just been ridiculous, second-class treatment. Like last night (Saturday) it took Keith Jackson to say we won. Howard (Cosell) didn’t mention it in the pre-game show or anything
“He didn’t mention it until some-body else did. He didn’t want to say a thing about us winning."...
Third baseman George Brett was pictured on the front page of a New York tabloid Saturday. Brett, a glass of champagne in one hand and an attractive blonde in the other, was photographed celebrating at a local discotheque…
Yankee owner George Steinbreaaer met with club officials Saturday morning, less than 10 hours after the Royals eliminated New York. Among the recommendations made were that the Yankees improve their team speed. With that in mind, Steinbrenner has suggested artificial turf be installed at historic Yankee Stadium.
“It's a different ballgame,” said Steinbrenner. “You drop a fly ball in back of the shortstop and the ball bounces 12 feet into the air while the outfielder has to wait for it to come down.
“It’s too much of an advantage to give Kansas City every year.”…
Steinbrenner has not made an official comment on whether Yankee Manager Dick Howser will return next season. Howser has been rumored to be headed for the manager's job in Boston.