Corpus Christi Caller - October 14, 1980
Walk hopes to fuel Phillies
Leonard goes for Royals in World Series opener
By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA – A year ago this time, Bob Walk was pumping gas at a little station in Newhallm, Calif., near his home for $3.75 an hour. On Tuesday, he will be pitching Game 1 of the 1980 World Series.
The weary Phillies will depend on the rookie right-hander against Kansas City's 20-game winner, Dennis Leonard, in the opener of the 1980 World Series.
Walk was the only pitcher Manager Dallas Green did not use in the exhausting five-game National League playoffs against Houston. Called up from Oklahoma City in May, Walk won his first six decisions and eight of his first nine en route to an 11-7 record.
Three of the Phillies usual starters — Larry Christenson Dick Ruthven and Marty Bystrom — worked Sunday against Houston and ace Steve Carlton started Saturday.
Leonard was Kansas City's big winner, posting a 20-11 record. He was the winning pitcher in the second game of the Royals' American League playoff sweep against the New York Yankees.
This Series marks the first time in history that baseball's world championship will be decided without the benefit of grass fields. Both Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Royals Stadium in Kansas City have artificial surfaces.
The Royals, created 12 years ago as an expansion team, won their first league championship this year ending a string of three playoff frustrations by eliminating the Yankees.
The Phillies, who also had their playoff problems with consecutive eliminations in 1976-77-78, won their first NL pennant in 30 years, beating Houston in a pulsating five-game series.
The city of Philadelphia still was enjoying the afterglow of that victory Monday. Knots of fans were outside the stadium to greet the Phillies when they arrived for a late afternoon workout.
They cheered madly when the first burgundy jersey emerged from the Philadelphia dugout, even though the player wearing it was Hank McGraw, brother of the Philadelphia bullpen ace who serves only as a batting practice pitcher for the club.
Jim Frey, manager of the Royals, said he would use left-hander Larry Gura in the second game of the Series with Rich Gale, another righty, set for Game 3. Carlton will start Game 2 but Manager Dallas Green did not name a third game pitcher.
Frey, who said he was not familiar with the Phils, held a lengthy meeting with his scouts to go over the National League champions. The first priority was pitching.
"I don’t know Walk," Frey said. "I know Carlton."
Walk, 23, spent last season with the Reading Phillies. When the season ended, he went home to go to work while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles slugged it out in the 1979 World Series.
"About a week after the 1979 Series, Doug DeCinces (Orioles third baseman) who lives out here came in for gas," Walk said.
“I didn't even recognize him but I saw his name on the credit card," Walk said. "I asked him if he was the same Doug DeCinces. He said yes, and that was it. I didn't really want to talk to him, I just wanted to know if he was really Doug DeCinces."
After the 1980 World Series some gas station attendant may be asking that same thing of Bob Walk.
“I’m glad that I was able to get things straightened out and Dallas (Manager Dallas Green) could give me another chance," Walk said. He made an 8-1 start in 1980 but slumped down the stretch.
"I'm real happy to have this chance," Walk said. "I really wanted to get into the playoffs, but things never worked out. I felt bad that I didn’t get a chance to do something."
Walk is a power pitcher who mixes a hard slider and curve, which he calls his strikeout pitch. His control problems resulted from a tendency to overpitch, he said.
"The switch from the minors to the major leagues was not all that difficult physically," he said. "The same stuff that wins games in the minors wins them in the majors. The problem is mental. You try to be a little too fine, to overthrow, and that’s when I get into trouble."
“You people asked me last night if I was going to start, and I thought, ‘Why me?' And then it dawned on me," Walk said, "that we had used all our other starting pitchers in that last game (against the Houston Astros)."
"There won't be any letdowns on either side," he said. "The World Series is still the World Series. It'll be a good one, I guarantee it."
Pennant series beyond words
By Ed Spaulding, Caller Sports Editor
While spending most of the decade of the Seventies watching and reporting on sports events, I've had numerous chances to write about every variety of sports story. With no attempt to be very accurate, I'd guess I've reported on something like 1000 football, baseball and basketball games.
Such practice should prepare me for just about anything the world of passes and pitchouts can offer. It didn't.
During the late stages of Sunday's Astro-Phillie finale, it became obvious to me there was no way I could adequately explain what I was seeing. The same words were at my command that are always there. I had plenty of available information and enough subject material to write a couple of decent-sized books.
But a game like Sunday's, coming on the heels of Saturday's bizarre masterpiece and Friday’s thriller, left me feeling like I was trying to scale a mountain in bare feet with a piano on my back. The fingers were willing but the mind was short-circuiting.
And I didn't even have to play. I didn't have $15000 and the dream of a lifetime riding on a bad-hop double, a hanging curve or an umpire's decision.
Greatest of its kind
The five-game orgy staged by the Astros and Phillies was quite simply the greatest series of its kind yet played. Four straight extra inning games. One run separating the teams after five days and 50 innings of play. Except for the long ball, this one had everything. Unfortunately, along with all its thrills and memories, the Championship Series also had a loser. And, of course, it had a winner.
The victorious Phillies carried on in the usual way of a winner, which is to say more bubbly ended up on clothes and the floor than in the mouth. Phillies players doused everybody foolish enough to venture near their locker room, and that included Ruly Carpenter, who owns the ballclub and pays the wages, and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who knew full well what to expect and got it in mass quantities.
The delirium in the Phillie clubhouse surpassed anything I've seen in sports and I've seen teams win the national championship in football and qualify for just about every honor possible in basketball and football. To put it simply, the Phillies freaked out.
And this was 30 minutes after the end of the game. long after the final out, long after the big eye of ABC had returned viewers to their local stations.
The Astro clubhouse was about a three-minute walk around the level two corridor of the Astrodome. The facilities of the two teams were similar hut the mood was like contrasting a New Year's bash with a wake. The Astros took their medicine like men but they hurt and I couldn't help but feel the hurt with them.
I felt bad for all of them, but I felt worse for a certain few. Bill Virdon deserved better, but he was part of a winner once as a member of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Joe Morgan has been to the top, too, and Nolan Ryan at least has his moneybags to break the painful fall.
Terry Puhl and Joe Niekro and Joe Sambito and Alan Ashby were among those who didn't attempt to duck the press, and I admired both their efforts and their words.
Puhl may have made the best single statement of the night when he said, "It wasn't stolen from us, it was taken. We were watching them; it's not like they stole something. They just took it."
That they did. But Puhl and Niekro and Sambito and Ashby are good ballplayers. They'll have other chances to sip champagne and play the American League champion.
J.R. Richard may not. And Art Howe, Bruce Bochy and Gary Woods probably won't. Howe is no kid. His baseball days may be winding down and he may never get this close again.
Bochy and Woods are what we call "the fortunate" when they happen to land on a championship team.
Alone, they lack the ability to make a winner, but somebody has to warm up pitchers and pinch hit and play right field in the seventh inning of 10-1 games in mid-July. These guys live for a chance just to see their names on a World Series roster.. They probably won't get that chance again.
And Richard. Who knows what's in the big guy's future? He may never again put on that No. 50 and stare down at home plate. He wasn't an active part of this team, of course, but he was part of the spirit that drove it.
• • •
This was a few minutes before 1 a.m. Monday. The game, the season were two hours in the past and the fans were mostly gone their disappointing ways.
I walked across the Astrodome's massive parking lot, now reduced to a vast concrete waste broken occasionally by a car or a blowing paper cup.
A tall man in a funny-looking straw hut was close by signing a baseball. That happens all the time at a major league game and I almost ignored it as I looked for my car. As I got close I noticed the man in the straw hat almost beside me. He stopped by his own car, a dark blue job that seemed too small for his body, and begun loading things on the top to unlock the door.
I wanted to go over and say something, an encouraging word, a chins-up. But what the heck could I tell Art Howe that would possibly ease the way he was feeling.
And for the second time that night, I felt inadequate.
Defeated Astros hold heads high
By The Associated Press
HOUSTON – The Houston Astros were numbed by the devastating comeback ability of the Philadelphia Phils in the final game of Sunday's National League playoff series, but no Astros player hung his head in shame.
The players left the Astrodome Sunday night with an 8-7 loss hanging over their heads but they talked like winners.
"I'll always remember this series as one in which there were no losers," Houston Manager Bill Virdon said. “Both teams deserved to play in the World Series but un-fortunatly only one can make it and that's Philadelphia.
"We didn't get to the end of the rainbow but we proved a lot to people everywhere and we proved a lot to ourselves,” pitcher Joe Niekro said.
It was a case of the Astros, who survived all season on scratching and clawing out one-run victories not being able to rally one more time.
Their lineup depleted by the losses of pitcher J.R. Richard, center fielder Cesar Cedeno and hobbling injuries to catchers Alan Ashby and Luis Pujols and second baseman Joe Morgan, the Astros’ string finally ended.
“You can't convince me which is the better team," relief pitcher Joe Sambito said. "That's about as even a series as you'll ever find. Some guys may take it harder than others but I'm proud to be an Astro."
Ashby said, "One of the Phillies players told me that next to this, the World Series would be a piece of cake. I believe it. We just had a super, super series. When we had them 5-2, I thought we had them beat. Our relief pitching held up all year long. These games are supposed to be ours."
But the Phillies, tagged as heartless and choke artists, proved they were the team with the most resilience. After Houston took a 5-2 seventh-inning lead, they came right back with five runs in the eighth inning.
And when Houston tied it at 7-7 with a two-run ninth, Garry Maddox finally put an end to it with a game-winning double.
"How many time have we come back this season?" Sambito asked. "We've battled and battled. We just didn't have one more comeback in us. We didn't die. When we were behind 7-5, we could've kicked it. in Something kept telling me we'd pull it out.
"But we didn't."