Allentown Morning Call - October 14, 1980

The Series could be anticlimactic


By Gordon Smith, Associate Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – The cold, carbide-tipped chisel was about to carve the first letter on the tombstone... flowers had been ordered... a hearse was on standby… the grave had been dug. 


Everything it takes to accommodate the dead was ready for the Phillies. 


They would be laid to rest parallel to their Phutile brothers – those bungling beauties of 1976, 1977 and 1978. 


But this time "Dame Destiny" would be on the side of the tormented. And tonight the Phillies will make their first World Series appearance since 1950.


It will be fuzz-faced Phillies' rookie Bob Walk (11-7) against Kansas City's Dennis Leonard (20-11 ) in a match of righthanded pitchers in this Veterans Stadium lidlifter of the 77th autumnal classic. 


Those not fortunate enough to have tickets can tune their televisions to Channel 3, 4, 17 or 28. Game time is 8:15. 


NBC's Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek will attempt to rival the marvelous job done by ABC during the National and American League championship series, and the radio (KYW and WCAU locally) will be handled by Vin Scully, Sparky Anderson and Win Elliot. 


Both the Phillies and Royals are loose beyond anybody's wildest projections. They have buried identical stigmas – those of choking in the big games. 


To many, including some of the players, the series looms as an anticlimactic best-of-seven-games confrontation. Such feelings are justifiable. 


The Phillies outdistanced Houston's Astros in the most dramatic and exciting semifinal in major league baseball history. 


The baseball world and that part of the globe's populous moonlighting as sports-types were virtually breathless after four games. Then Game 5 Sunday night won a spot in history for producing the most incredible championship series-clinching comeback. 


Kansas City's emergence as champion of its league was equal to that of the Phils in terms of shedding the proverbial monkey on the back.


The Royals had gone to the well three times and come up with an empty bucket against the Yankees in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Like the Phils, the Royals couldn't be trusted in the "big ones." They, too, were "chokers." 


The drama that rode the Phils-Astros series like a parasitic barnacle, wasn't apparent in the Royals-Yankees series. "But," as George Brett said yesterday, "who needs drama. All we wanted was three wins and a ticket out of town." 


That's precisely what the Royals got. Using only four pitchers, they allowed the Yankees only six runs in a three-game sweep. Brett became the new "Mr. October" with his Game 3 winning home run; the Yankees and Reggie Jackson were denied a spot in their fourth World Series in five years. 


But, as anticlimactic as people believe this series might be, make no mistake. Before too many pitches are thrown, new drama, controversy and interesting issues will bloom, and the emotional roller-coaster that is championship competition will begin another gut-wrenching trip. 


Already there is considerable interest concerning the Phillies' use of a designated-hitter.


For those National League diehards who don't really follow American League baseball, the DH is a controversial animal that comes into play every other year at World Series time. 


In the American League, the pitchers don't bat. Instead, a DH is employed. He may bat in any position in the order, not always ninth, the customary spot for pitchers. 


The thinking when the A.L. began the practice was to produce more offense. It has worked, but not bombastically. 


To the Phillies, however, it might prove to be the advantage they need to bring their fans and the franchise a first world championship. The big question is: Who will it be? 


Phillies Manager Dallas Green wasn't sure himself as of last night. He indicated, however, that Del Unser, who did so well in the playoffs and came up with two crucial hits in Game 5, would be the man. 


The next question was: Against lefthanders like Larry Gura and Paul Splittorff, who would be the DH? 


Green, detecting the possibility of someone creating an uncomfortable issue revolving around leftfielders Greg Luzinski and Lonnie Smith, dodged the question.


Pete Rose, however, laughed at it. "It would be interesting to see how 'The Bull' would handle the DH," Rose deadpanned. "We could give him a bucket of chicken, sit him in the sauna, and call him when it was his turn to bat." 


Rose was asked what he might do against lefties with the DH. and said, "I'd probably go with Lonnie in left-field, and Greg as the DH. Lonnie is a better fielder; everybody knows that. But I'm not the manager. Ask me in two or three years," he said. Hummm… 


Another interesting sidelight, and one unexplored to now, is how the Royals fare against righthanded pitching. In the American League series, they faced all lefties – Ron Guidry, Rudy May and Tommy John. 


"That's no mystery," said Royals Manager Jim Frey after his team's brief workout at the Vet yesterday afternoon. "We won the West Division by 14 games," he said. "And there are a helluva lot more righthanded pitchers than lefties." 


The Royals batted .286, led, of course, by "Mr. Almost .400," Brett (.390). Brett's 24 home runs and 118 runs batted in also led the team. 


But KC's designated hitters accounted for 119 RBIs, Hal McRae being the top dog in that department with 89 RBIs, 14 homers and a .297 average.


Mike Schmidt, of course, is the Phillie about whom the Royals worry most. Schmidt's major league high of 48 home runs and his 121 RBIs pose a major threat, naturally. 


Smith was the most consistent Phillie with a team-high .339. Second-baseman Manny Trillo is currently the hot man. He batted .292 in the season, but was the NL's championship series MVP with eight hits in 21 plate appearances (.381).


Shortstop Larry Bowa, not exactly anybody's favorite in the nice-guy department, left a mediocre season behind and batted .316 in the playoffs, and Luzinski, although still nothing more than an "Alphonse and Gaston" act in leftfield, was hot in the playoffs with a Phillies high of four RBIs and a .294 average. "The Bull" batted a dismal .228 during the regular season. 


Rightfielder Bake McBride carried a .309 average through the season, and was second in the RBI department with 87. Centerfielder Garry Maddox was next with 73. First baseman Rose knocked in 64.


Catcher Bob Boone, hurt during Sunday's final playoff game, will probably play tonight. "We sent him for precautionary X-rays," Green revealed, "but our trainers think he's alright... just a severe bruise on his left foot – we think.


"I don't believe we'll ever forget that (playoff)" Green said. "The team atmosphere was the greatest we've had in a long time. I believe we all grew jig a little last week.'' 


Rose was at his best, as always, during interviews on the field yesterday. "I've never been in a series like that one," he said. "So many highs and lows... a very emotional series... it mentally drained us... but there's no pressure in a World Series. It's all in the playoffs. Now it's time to fire-out, and enjoy."


Royals' starting pitcher Leonard " admits he doesn't know much about the Phillies. "I've seen them on television," he said. "I know they have some power in Schmidt and Luzinski. We neutralized the Yankees' power – Jackson – and it will be our job to keep the ball in the park." 


And so it unfolds. The fans are in a frenzy and thousands were in the stadium yesterday watching the workouts.


As each Phillie appeared, the roar was thunderous. Some of the Phillies even responded with smiles. If nothing else, that in itself is good news for this group with a history of nastiness. 


The only thing better would be a World Championship.

‘Gas pumper’ will start for Phillies


By John Kunda, Executive Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Bob Walk didn't know the man from Adam. "He just pulled up to the pump and said, 'fill 'er up,' and that's what I did." 


It wasn't until the stranger gave Walk his credit card that Walk recognized the name. "Are you Doug DiCences from the Baltimore Orioles?" he asked. 


Walk got an affirmative answer. It was like ' something out of one of those American Express commercials.


"You had a great year, congratulations," said Walk. "It must be a tremendous experience to play in a World Series." 


Nowhere in the conversation did Walk tell the stranger that he was a professional baseball player - -himself. "I was too embarrassed to tell him that I was a minor league pitcher," Walk said. 


It was a year ago, almost to the day. when Walk met the stranger, who happened to be DiCences. Walk was pumping gas at a service station in the little community of Newhall, Calif., some 40 miles north of Los Angeles. DiCences lives in that area. 


Isn't it something? 


The man who will pitch the World Series opener for the Phillies tonight was pumping gas for $3.75 an hour last year at this time. 


There's nothing the matter with pumping gas, but it sure as heck is a long way from the pitcher's mound at Veterans Stadium. 


"It was a good off-season job for me," Walk said yesterday shortly after the Phillies arrived for a late afternoon workout at the Vet. "I had to do something." 


Walk got the job in Newhall. where he makes his winter home, a couple of days after he completed his summer pitching chores with Reading. He had a fine season with the Little Phils in Berks County, posting a 12-7 won-lost record and an Eastern League leading ERA of 2.24. 


"I listened to the World Series (last year)," he said, "but I wasn't that much interested. Yeah, I was rooting for the Pirates even though they beat us out." 


Walk, who will turn 24 in November, admits he's not up on World Series trivia. "I vaguely remember the 1965 World Series," he said, "I was only eight or nine at the time. The Dodgers won it, didn't they?" .


But here it is, a good number of years later, and Walk finds himself in a starting role in a World Series. 


Walk didn't even pitch in the championship playoff series against Houston. And didn't Dallas Green use everybody but the batboy? 


"There was some talk about who'll be the starting pitcher last (Monday) night after the game, " Walk said. "Somebody said it might be me. I said, 'naw, it can't be me.'" 


Suddenly it dawned on Walk. ''Hey, they don't have anybody left. I guess it will be me." 


About three o'clock yesterday, Herm Starrett, the Phils' pitching coach, gave Walk the word. "All he told me was that I'd be in there tomorrow," said Walk. 


Walk didn't do any handstands or look for a spot in the 700 level to dive off. He took the news somewhat calmly, but admitted, "I was a little surprised." 


Green simply said, "I have no qualms about starting Bob Walk." 


What happened to Walk in the playoff against Houston? Didn't Green have faith in him, or did he just forget about him. 


Neither of the above. 


"I thought the pitchers we used were the best at the time," said Green, again repeating he isn't the least bit concerned about Walk's inactivity. 


Was Walk upset? 


Not at all. "They never had the opportunity to use my talents," he said. "I never in my life have been used in relief. I wasn't disappointed. I understood. He couldn't afford to start me. He has his starters.”


Walk hasn't pitched in 12 days'. But the last time he did, he was more than pleased with his performance. That was a load off his back. 


Walk has had control problems. "I was overthrowing," he said. "I have no reason to believe that that condition (overthrowing) is still with me." 


Walk talked with confidence. "The win over the Cubs (his last start) did it," he said. "I have no concern over my control. Hopefully, I have things together." 


The Phils are hoping Walk can prove to be a bonus. Does Green hope to get at least five or six good innings from the lanky 6-3 Californian? "Hell," said Green, "I'm looking for him to go at least nine innings." 


Pete Rose sounded a little more concerned. "If we get by tomorrow (tonight)," the unofficial team captain said, "We'll be okay. Lefty (Steve Carlton) is ready to go again." 


Walk said he might "toss and turn" a little thinking about his World Series debut. But then added : "It beats pumping gas." 


Maybe next time he meets DiCences, the compliment can be returned.

Phils-Astros: This one won’t be forgotten for a long time


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


When sports writers type "30" at the end of their stories, their work is done. And when their work is done, most sports writers enjoy, and are very good at, two things: chewing the fat and drinking beer – not necessarily in that order. 


A large and loud crowd of writers were doing both with great enthusiasm at about 2 a.m. Monday in a bar in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston – about 2½ hours after the Philadelphia Phillies had clinched their first National League pennant in 30 years with a rousing 8-7, 10-inning win over the Houston Astros. 


One of the media types, a jolly fellow from Cleveland who's been on the baseball beat for more than 25 years, was dominating the conversation. "That was the greatest series I've ever seen," he said with great emotion. "And I mean playoffs or World Series. 


"I mean it," he continued, his fervor increasing. "We may all be dead and gone before we'll ever see another playoff as exciting as this one." 


Exaggeration? Maybe. A few guys kept bringing up the 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. And that one was a dandy. 


But it matters not, really, whether the Phils-Astros, the Reds-Red Sox or some other series is chosen as THE best. The point is, it seems to me, that if you couldn't get excited about the Phillies' amazing comeback victory... well, you're just not a baseball fan. 


For starters, every one of the five games was a dandy, each one seemingly surpassing the one before in excitement. It was an emotional roller coaster – but a roller coaster on which the biggest hill was saved for last. 


●  Game One was a great pitching duel between the Phils' Steve Carlton and the Astros' Ken Forsch, Greg Luzinski's two-run homer sparked the Phils to a 3-1 lead, and the incredible Tug McGraw, the "You Gotta Believe" guy, picked up the save.


●  Houston scored four times in the 10th inning to win Game Two 7-4 and headed for the Astrodome dead even. No one realized it then, but it was to be just the first of FOUR STRAIGHT extra inning games. 


●  Game Three belonged to Joe Niekro. He shut out the Phils for 10 innings, and rookie Dave Smith took care of the 11th. Joe Morgan tripled in the bottom of the 11th; and his pinch runner, Rafael Landestoy, scored the winning run on Denny Walling' s sacrifice fly and the Astros began to sense the kill.


All three games were exciting, make no mistake. But they eventually paled by comparison to the Phillies' incredible comeback victories in final two games. 


Game Four defied description. There was the triple play that wasn't, three blown calls by the umpires and a phantom throw by the Phils' Lonnie Smith. 


Gary Woods was called out for leaving third base too early after scoring what would have been the Astros' third run on an apparent sacrifice fly by Luis Pujols. Had Woods scored, the Astros' run in the bottom of the ninth on Terry Puhl's single would have won the game 4-3 instead of tying it and sending it into overtime. 


There was Pete Rose scoring from third to tie the game 3-3 while Mike Schmidt was being doubled off first base on the Manny Trillo line drive that Jeff Leonard never caught... and Rose scoring the winning run in the 10th inning, racing all the way from first on Luzinski's pinch-hit double, bowling over Astro catcher Bruce Bochy – who never caught the throw to the plate in the first place.


McGraw, who pitched the bottom of the 10th for his second save, described the zany game this way: "It was like driving through an art museum on a Honda. You saw a lot of pictures but you don't remember them too well." 


Game Five will be remembered mostly as a demonstration of guts and determination – by both teams. 


First Houston took a 1-0 lead. The run was produced by Puhl and Jose Cruz, perhaps the two most heroic Astros throughout the series. But the Phils fight back to take a 2-1 lead on Bob Boone's single off a 99 mph Nolan Ryan fastball after Houston manager Bill Virdon decided to pitch to the Phils' catcher with two out and pitcher Marty Bystrom due to bat next.


The Astros tied the game in the sixth when Luzinski butchered Walling's liner to left and Pujols singled in Walling. 


But all of that was mere exercise. The real drama was still to come. Houston scored three times in the seventh on a single by Walling, a wild pitch by the Phils' Larry Christenson and Art Howe's triple. 


The Phils, who came up short in the playoff pressure cooker three times from 1976 through 1978, were ripe for the picking. But, although Ryan was still firing in the 95-99 mph range, the Phils miraculously fought back, loading the bases with three straight hits. Ryan left when he walked Rose to force in the fourth run. 


Clutch hits by pinch-hitter Del Unser and Trillo completed a five-run outburst. With a 7-5 lead, the Phils were jubilant. Victory was in their hands.


But it slipped away; and with it, the momentum – and jubilation – switched to the Houston dugout. Somehow, the Astros found the courage to tie the game 7-7 with two runs in the W eighth. Puhl and Cruz, of course, batted in the do-or-die runs. 


But the final swing of momentum and emotion belonged to Philadelphia. Back-to-back doubles by Unser and Garry Maddox and two innings of perfect relief work by Dick Ruthven closed it out. The National League flag will fly over Veterans Stadium. 


When it was over, everyone from the players and coaches to the Astrodome grounds crew was emotionally spent. 


Mike Schmidt, after admitting, "I was a dead weight today. The guys just had to drag me along with them," said, "I just can't believe all the obstacles, this team overcame in this series. After this, the World Series will be a piece of cake." 


Maybe Schmidt was right, maybe not. But I have to go along with the writer from Cleveland. I think it was the greatest postseason series ever played.


And I'm happy as hell I had to see it.