Philadelphia Inquirer - October 14, 1980
After 30 years, salvation for Phillies fans
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
And so it's here, the day this city has been hungering for, the day many of its sports-loving natives feared would never arrive... the day the Phillies take the field for a World Series game at Veterans Stadium.
The last time the Phillies hosted a World Series – in 1950 – their home field was Shibe Park.
The time before that, in 1915, home was Baker Bowl.
There was no time before that.
Eighty years of Phillies baseball and only two World Series teams... until now. It would be impossible for the out-of-towners pouring into our city for tonight's first game to grasp the full significance of the 1980 World Series to Philadelphians – to those long-suffering fans who lived through the great collapse of '64, who sat in shocked silence through that nightmarish, two-out, three-run, ninth-inning Dodgers rally in the third game of the 77 playoffs, who agonized as the Dodgers took advantage of a muffed fly ball in the 10th inning to win the final playoff game in 78.
There are few, if any cities that love baseball the way Philadelphia loves baseball. There are no cities that have been subjected to the baseball heartbreaks that Phillies fans have learned to accept as the norm.
And suddenly, at a time when almost everybody thought they couldn't do it, the 1980 Phillies did it – brought the World Series to the Vet in the most dramatic way imaginable, and enabled some old, familiar faces to return to Philadelphia under the happiest of circumstances.
There's something about World Series week that no other athletic event in this country can match. And something about baseball – when it's played the way the good teams play it under big-game pressure – that no other sport can match.
Look around you this week. Check , with your neighbors, your friends, your kids. The excitement is everywhere.
Baseball reaches a remarkably -wide cross-section of the public: men and women, youngsters and oldsters. It grabs them and holds them as the daily drama of a pennant race or a league championship series or a World Series unfolds.
It's a game that isn't tied to a clock, a game in which you can't sit on a lead, can't fall on the ball or go into a four-corner offense to kill time. That's one of the charms of the sport, and one of the reasons why a lead is never absolutely safe...as the Astros and the Phillies kept finding out.
And now, for at least the next couple of days, Philadelphia will be the baseball capital of the world.
The people started flocking in yesterday, ready to converge on the Vet, ready to see if the Phillies can become world champions for the first time in history.
By coincidence, two men who played in the 1950 World Series – Tom Ferrick, then a Yankees pitcher, now a Kansas City scout, and Andy Seminick, then the Phillies' No. 1 catcher, now a Phillies scout – arrived yesterday on the same plane.
"It took us 30 years to get together in another confrontation," Ferrick kidded his old friend.
Seminick made no effort to conceal the excitement he felt at being here, as a guest of the Phillies, to see a World Series game. "I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've been looking forward to it for a long time."
That's the beauty of this. So many people have waited so long, and the day has finally arrived.
Here's Seminick, a 1950 World Series ring sparkling on his left hand, arriving here with his son to share the big moment. "He was four the last time we were in a World Series," Andy said.
He was too young to remember all the commotion, all the excitement that the '50 Phillies created. But his dad remembers.
How could anybody who was a part of it forget the time the '50 Phillies returned from Ebbets Field after beating the Dodgers on the last day of the season to clinch the pennant.
"We came into North Philadelphia station," Seminick said, "and there were so many people we couldn't get off the train."
So on they went to 30th Street station... and another mob scene. "We had a hard time getting to our bus," Seminick recalled.
Thirty years ago, the pennant-winning Phillies arrived by train from Brooklyn. Yesterday, the pennant-winning Phillies arrived by air from Houston.
Thirty years ago, they were champions of an eight-team league at the end of a 154-game season with no divisional playoffs. Now they are champions of a 12-team league at the end of a 162-game regular season plus divisional playoffs. Everything is so different, and yet, in the ways that matter most, nothing has changed, at all. The sense of accomplishment – on the part of the players and the city – is the same. The holiday atmosphere on the streets of Philadelphia, the genuine joy of the people, that's also the same.
There won't be any boos at the Vet tonight when the National League-champion Phillies are introduced. The doubts that have grown over the last 30 years are gone. The fears of yet another disappointment have been erased. The World Series has returned to Philadelphia.
For a change, the Phillies aren't being called bums and worse in October.
For a change, somebody in a Phillies uniform isn't bearing the brunt of yet another shattering disappointment.
If the Phillies hadn't beaten the Astros, a nice guy named Lee Elia would have unfairly carried the burden through the winter. Elia, you remember, was blamed – in blazing headlines – for the Phillies' second-game defeat when Bake McBride didn't score from second on Lonnie Smith's ninth-inning single.
"It was really blown out of proportion," the third-base coach said before Game 5 with the Astros. "But I understand. This is playoff baseball."
And this is Philadelphia, the city of playoff baseball disappointments.
"The only people I feel bad for were my family and especially my little girl," Elia said. "They're the ones that are going to live with it and bear it."
Not any more, they're not. A couple of incredible, extra-inning victories changed all that.
For the first time in three decades, a National League pennant race has ended, and Philadelphia press and the Philadelphia fans don't have to look for somebody to blame for what went wrong because everything turned out right. The day we thought would never arrive is here. The Phillies are about to play a World Series game at the Vet.
Dan Quisenberry spells relief for Royals
By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer
He is the relief pitcher who fell to Earth, and he is one big reason – with a .390 batting average here and there – why the Kansas City Royals are finally in the World Series. The Royals always knew George Brett could hit. They just didn't know Dan Quisenberry could pitch.
It's not every day that a relief pitcher goes from 10 saves half of them in Omaha one year, which is what Quisenberry did in 1979, to 33 saves, which is the club record Quisenberry established in 1980.
"We knew we had good speed. We knew we could score runs. The only question was our pitching staff," Kansas City manager Jim Frey was saying as the Royals worked out at the Vet yesterday. "And the big difference was Quisenberry. He's the biggest difference between our 79 and '80 clubs. When we went to spring training, we didn't know who our bullpen would be."
It has been Quisenberry for the Royals in much the same way the Phillies lean on Tug McGraw. So if the Royals need a late-inning lead protected tonight in Game 1 or any Series game, for that matter - you will see Quisenberry coming in from the left-field bullpen. You can't argue with success: a 12-7 record during the regular season, a 3.09 earned-run average in 128 innings, those 33 saves.
This righthander seems to have the right stuff – a tough sidearm-submarine motion and a personality that won't let him get very tense. He doesn't seem to be feeling any of the World Series pressure, either.
"See, so much has changed for me in the last year and a half," he said, "that I haven't had time to anticipate the netft few days (the Series). I never anticipated being Fireman of the Year. I just improvise with each day. I think about getting in a game each night, but I don't think much beyond that and I'm glad I don't."
Quisenberry was certainly at ease as the Series media mob swooped in yesterday. At a group interview session, he was asked about his pitching motion. "Well, I was always orthodox, but I had sidearm tendencies," he answered. "I came out of the closet in 1975."
Dennis Leonard, the Royals' starter tonight, then stepped up to a microphone and told everyone, "This is the guy who's gonna come in and save the game?"
About 10 minutes earlier, Quisenberry had been discussing his saga with a cluster of reporters in front of the visitors' dugout. "This is a whole different world, isn't it?" somebody asked.
"No," Quisenberry replied. "There are still wars in the Middle East."
So maybe it isn't great Bill Lee stuff, but it's a shade better than a conversation with Ron Reed.
Perhaps fittingly, the Dan Quisenberry Rise to Fame began at a cocktail party.
Frey and Quisenberry were at one last winter before a banquet in Kansas City, and there they ran into Pittsburgh manager Chuck Tanner and the Pirates' star sidearm relief pitcher, Kent Tekulve. Frey asked Tanner if Tekulve would speak to Quisenberry, talk a little shop, one submariner to another. Tekulve, of course, agreed.
"He knew I threw funny, and he likes guys who throw funny," Quisenberry jokes now. "He said, 'Freaks have got to stay together' – quote, unquote."
But the relationship had a serious and significant side. Tekulve made a special effort to watch Quisenberry throw in spring training. "Between each pitch," Quisenberry said, "he'd make suggestions, like, 'Bend your arm here,' and stuff."
The result was a new motion that had the Kansas City pitcher dropping down and throwing from a more Tekulve-like angle. Quisenberry now considers himself a "Tekulve-taught" pitcher.
"It made the ball sink a little bit more," said Frey. And so an unlikely star was born at 26. Another tall, thin guy was coming out of the bullpen and getting everybody out after 4½ largely undistinguished years in the minors.
Ironically, the World Series was Tekulve's domain a year ago. Now there is talk of Quisenberry's pitching every game against the Phillies if he's needed.
"If he doesn't have to pitch more than two innings (per outing), there's a chance he could keep coming back," Frey said. "Anything can happen. But our experience with him during the year was, if he doesn't throw a lot of pitches, it's OK. Once, I brought him back (the next day) after four innings, but he only threw 38 pitches in those four innings. At one point, I was using him day after day, and he never said his arm was tired or stiff.
"I told him I wasn't going to use him, and he said, 'I can go in and get three or four hitters out if you need me.' That didn't surprise me, because it seems like there's less strain on his shoulder than what a guy who comes over the top feels."
Quisenberry, who was a small-college all-America pitcher at LaVerne (Calif.) College (where he brought his sidewinding nature out of the closet), does not feel that the world has to know every move he makes during the World Series.
"I don't think it matters what kind of cereal I eat, what kind of cream I use 'in my coffee," he said. "I want to lead a quiet life, and, for the most part, I've done it."
But he will have trouble doing it during the next week or so, especially if he's always on the mound.
"I'd rather not be known," he said as the writers scribbled this fact down. "I don't know if that's possible at a World Series. But I'd rather have the camera on my wife. I didn't dream of playing major league baseball so I could be on TV. I dreamed of getting major league hitters out – the mini-confrontation between a pitcher and a hitter.
"I see this (the Series) as the ultimate confrontation, and I don't care if 90 million people or 50 people see it."
Phils tap Walk to start
Rookie only fresh pitcher
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Steve Carlton pitched Saturday, so he was out. Marty Bystrom, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson all pitched Sunday, so that did it for them.
Somebody or other had to be the Phillies' starting pitcher tonight in their first World Series game in 30 years. But the choices were not exactly many. There was Bob Walk, and then there was... uh... and, er… um... nobody.
"Walk," said pitching coach Herm Starrette, "was it."
So when the Phillies and Kansas City Royals open the World Series tonight at the Vet, it will be Bob (The Whirlybird) Walk himself out there opposing Dennis Leonard.
Carlton will be able to come back and pitch in tomorrow's second game. And Dallas Green said cryptically yesterday that he feels he can get "two and a half" starts out of Carlton if the series goes seven.
After Carlton, Ruthven would pitch Game 3 Friday and Christenson probably would work the fourth game Saturday, Starrette said. But that is a way down the road. And tonight, before TV broadcasters Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek and a baseball-crazy city, that guy on the mound will be Robert Vernon Walk.
Actually, it probably is appropriate that a rookie pitcher start tonight. After all, these are teams featuring two rookie managers and two complete rosters full of guys to whom the World Series is a whole new world.
But no rookie pitcher has started the first game of a World Series since Joe Black did it for the Dodgers in 1952. It might not seem to be such a notable thing until you consider what Walk was doing during the last World Series.
"I was working in a gas station in Newhall, Cal.," Walk said. "I just pumped gas, changed the oil, did tuneups, the usual stuff."
The games were on the radio, and he caught a Wilver Stargell home run or two between fill-ups. But now, one year later, Stargell will have to listen as Bob Walk plays. Needless to say, you would not have imagined, this scenario back on Opening Day.
"I don't think I'm going back to the gas station," Walk said happily yesterday. "I think the World Series share ought to see me through the winter."
The selection of Walk also takes on a little awesomeness when you consider that only two other Phillies in history have had the honor of starting a World Series opener. The first two were those noted no-names, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jim Konstanty.
Alexander, a mere Hall of Famer, was the starter in the opener of the Phillies' first World Series in 1915. Konstanty, a Cy Young Award-winning reliever, was the surprise starter in the Phils' second Series, in 1950.
"I had no idea they were the other two guys," Walk said yesterday. "It's been a long time, though. I know that."
Walk might not have won quite as many games as Alexander and Konstanty. (He was 11-7 this year.) But he has nevertheless become something of a legend in his own way. He is the Phillies' most charming flake since Jay Johnstone.
At one point this year, he went to the plate to hit without a bat. Another time he was in the trainer's room during a game when they flipped on the TV.
"What's this – 'This Week in Baseball?' "he asked.
"No," he was told. "It's our game." He got a haircut on a day he was supposed to start, an all-time taboo for a pitcher. He did so much walking around the mound during one of his first starts, at Wrigley Field, that Green said, "If we'd given him a lawn mower, he'd have cut the whole damn infield."
He provided the Phillies media event of the year one night when he got knocked out early, went home and then came back to talk to writers.
He has been described by a teammate as "not from planet Earth." But he also can pitch when he's throwing strikes. He was 9-2 on Aug. 16, lest we forget. And the Phillies could not have won without him.
However, lately Walk has vanished like a veritable Pancho Herrera. He was last seen 12 days ago, starting against the Cubs.
One reason he's been so low-profile was that he went 3-6, 5.83 over the final two months. And with Bystrom going 5-0 and Christenson returning, he dropped on the Pitcher You'd Most Like to See Out There charts.
But in his final regular-season start against the Cubs, he found himself again. He allowed six hits 'and one run in 7⅓ innings, fanning seven and walking only two. He has thrown only three times in the bullpen since, so no one will know until tonight whether he still has that groove.
"My problem isn't making adjustments in my delivery," Walk said. "It's just in my approach. Sometimes I seem to muscle up on the ball when I should be out there just staying loosey-goosey.
"My problem the last month was just inconsistency. One game I'll go out and throw real well. Another game I won't even be close to being the same pitcher. I think it's all mental attitude."
Walk was not exactly a surprise choice to start tonight, considering he was the only rested pitcher on a weary staff. He didn't pitch in the momentous series in Montreal. He also was the only Phillies pitcher who didn’t pitch against Houston. And he didn't expect to.
"The only way I thought I'd get a chance to pitch was if our starter got knocked out in the second inning," he said. "I knew they weren't going to use me in the seventh inning or anything. I've never relieved before, in my life, and the National League playoffs isn't a good place to start."
Still, he says, he never even considered the possibility he might start in the World Scries until people started mentioning the possibility to him after Sunday's game.
"I said, 'Why would they pitch me?" " he said. "Then i realized everybody else in the rotation pitched (Sunday)."
Green finally came to him yesterday and made it official. Walk said, "Oh, yeah. All right. Fine."
And suddenly, there he was at the Vet yesterday afternoon, talking about the Royals.
"They wear blue uniforms; that's about all I know," Walk shrugged, "I know their names. But I don't even know if I could put their names to their faces, except for like (George) Brett or (U. L.) Washington. I'd recognize the toothpick."
It will be some scene tonight. A city that has waited 30 years for this moment, letting that pent-up emotion out. Two teams whose most famous achievements before this year were not making it to three previous World Series. And a rookie pitcher, a year out of a California gas station, throwing the first pitch.
"It really hasn't hit me yet what I'm about to do," Walk said yesterday afternoon. "Probably I'll be home tonight, sitting there watching TV or something, and then it will hit. I slept OK last night. Passed out is more like it. But tonight, I think, I might have a little trouble."
Vermeil: Pete Rose ‘could play linebacker for us right now’
If there's one guy who uses the term "character" as much as Dallas Green, it's Dick Vermeil. So it's only natural that the Eagles coach would be a big booster of the Phillies manager.
"I'm excited about seeing Dallas Green succeed," Vermeil said on the eve of the Phillies' first World Series appearance in 30 years. "I like his approach. If he decides to stay in, his position, I think they'll be in this situation more often. I just wish I could see the games. But I don't have the time. I can't let myself get involved."
Of course. This is, after all, football season, and this is, after all, Dick Vermeil – the guy who says he doesn’t read the papers, the guy who practically lives in his office at the Vet. Don't tell him they also play baseball in the stadium in September and October. Still, some news about this World Series thing has somehow leaked under the door of Vermeil's film room.
"I know nothing about baseball," he said yesterday at his weekly press conference. "But I am a Dallas Green, (owner) Ruly Carpenter, Pete Rose fan. I like Pete Rose's personality. He could play linebacker for us right now.
"With the personality they've got, the intensity and togetherness, that sort of stuff, they can win it. If they just don't second-guess the guy who makes the decisions – who bats, who pitches – they'll do it."
And so he was back to the subject of Dallas Green.
"I hope some of the players appreciate what Dallas has given them," Vermeil said. "I've seen some articles about some of his players getting mad at him for disciplining them. Maybe more should get mad.
"I just hope they don't tow our cars away. You go to work at the stadium, cripes sake, and they tow your cars away. That shouldn't happen.”
The commissioner's office has named the six umpires who will work this year's World Series. Paul Pryor, Harry Wendelstedt and Dutch Rennert will represent the National League. Bill Kunkel, Don Denkinger and Nick Bremigan were the American League umpires selected. In tonight's opening game between the Phillies and the Kansas City Royals at the Vet, Wendelstedt will be behind the plate, Kunkel at first, Pryor at second, Denkinger at third, Rennert in left field and Bremigan in right field. This is the first Series assignment for both Rennert and Bremigan. The official scorers for the Series will be Bob Kenney, sports editor of the Camden Courier-Post; Phil Collier of the San Diego Union and Don Pfannenstiel of the Independence (Mo.) Examiner.
The DH? It’ll be Smith, Unser, Luzinski, Gross or Moreland
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Dallas Green never liked the designated-hitter rule in the first place.
But nobody was asking him yesterday if he liked the DH. Whether he likes it or not, the Phillies still have to use one against the Royals in the World Series this week.
So all anybody was asking him yesterday was who that DH might be. And it was easier coming from three runs down on Nolan Ryan than to get an answer to that question.
"Wait a minute," Green protested. "I just got off the plane. I don't know anything about a DH. I'll figure that out tomorrow."
Green did admit that he might consider using a lefthanded-hitting DH against righthanded pitchers and a righthanded DH against lefthanded pitchers. But not necessarily.
"To some degree," he said, "it will depend on the pitcher and how we, as a coaching staff, want to attack Kansas City."
He also was asked whether it would be safe to assume that Keith Moreland would not be used as a DH since he is the No. 2 catcher.
"No," Green said. "It's not safe to say that."
So the Phillies' main DH possibilities come down to these:
• Use Lonnie Smith as DH and play Greg Luzinski in left.
• Use Luzinski as DH and play Smith in left.
• Use Del Unser or Greg Gross in left against righthanded pitchers and use Luzinski or Smith as DH.
• Use Moreland as DH and play any of the above in left.
Green wasn't even dropping hints at which way he would go. But since somebody asked Pete Rose at the pregame press conference yesterday, Rose made his nomination.
"The way we've been playing with Lonnie Smith leading off, I'd use him in left and keep Bull as the DH," Rose said. "I think that creates a lot of excitement at the top of the batting order."
But Rose also conceded that Gross and Unser both had an excellent offensive series against Houston, so maybe they should play left. In any case, Rose thought that Luzinski might like life as a DH.
"We can just give him a bucket of chicken and a beer and let him sit in the sauna," Rose said.
Bob Boone went right from the plane to the hospital to have his left foot X-rayed yesterday. The left foot is the one Boone used to block the plate on Enos Cabell in the fifth inning Sunday.
Boone limped away, but the injury is thought to be just a bad bruise. The X-rays were only precautionary, Green said. And Boone should play tonight.
Tug McGraw pitched in all five games of the Houston series. He also pitched in the only two games in Montreal that meant anything the weekend before.
That's seven games in 10 days. And the question, after he gave up two runs in the eighth inning Sunday, was just how much more McGraw can pitch. He was scored upon in three of the last four games of the Houston series. He hadn't allowed an earned run in 16 straight games before that.
"Common sense tells you that you can't use him every day," said pitching coach Herm Starrette. "If we had to use him tomorrow, he could probably go two innings. Yet we don't want to use him two innings. We can't afford to keep using him two innings every damn day."
To avoid that, somebody else in the bullpen has to come through. And no one out there besides McGraw has pitched well consistently since the first half.
"I think the other guys are capable," said McGraw the other day. "It's just that I'm hot, so they're using me. Maybe the reason the other guys are not as sharp as they should be is that I'm so hot, they haven't been getting work."
NOTES: This will be the first World Series to be played entirely on Astro-turf.... Only five players on the two teams have been in a World Series before – Rose (1970-72-75-76 Reds), McGraw (1969-73 Mets) and Steve Carlton (1967-68 Cardinals) among the Phillies, and Hal McRae (1970-72 Reds) and Ken Brett (1967 Red Sox) of Kansas City…. The last brothers to play on the same team in a World Series besides George and Ken Brett were Felipe and Matty Alou, who played for the '62 Giants.
The Team That Wouldn’t Die
By Bill Lyon
There's something almost obscene about watching Pete Rose play baseball. Anything that someone enjoys that much must be illegal or immoral.
He doesn't play the game as much as he wallows in it, with wild abandon, with throbbing passion, with salivating joy.
Pete Rose with a bat in his hand is like a glutton clutching a rack of lamb.
Two years ago, when the Phillies paid more than $3 million to acquire him, he said with characteristic bluntness: "Hell no, ain't any player worth that. But some of 'em are makin' it and if they are, I should, too."
He always has played the game like the guy kicking down the door in a police raid, and the Phillies were convinced he could kick in the door to the World Series. It took a long time but finally the sparks he throws off have set the Phillies aflame.
Call them The Team That Wouldn't Die.
For a long time they were called other things, the most popular being a seven-letter word beginning with "c-h" and ending in "o-k-e-r-s."
"There's other words start with 'c-h' too," Pete Rose suggested. "Like 'c-h-aracter.' And 'c-h-amps.'
Team of character
"Anybody watched us the last couple of weeks can't have any questions about this team's character. All them extra-inning games, all that comin' from behind. You knock this team down, you better not turn your back and walk away, you'll get blindsided.
"Just look what we did in the last innings of those last two games down in Houston."
In the closing innings of Saturday and Sunday, The Team That Wouldn't Die scored 11 runs in a wild, implausible playoff series that should be flash-frozen and preserved.
In the vortex of all the swirling madness of The Team That Wouldn't Die was Peter Edward Rose, 39-year-old man-child, absolutely glorying in the pressure. He immerses himself in it like other people luxuriate in a hot tub.
The man who can't throw threw out a runner at home.
And The Team That Wouldn't Die won. The man who can't field choked off hits with his glove.
And The Team That Wouldn't Die won again.
Full speed ahead
The man who can't run kept scoring from first, even if he had to trample the catcher to get to the plate.
And The Team That Wouldn't Die kept on truckin'.
In one particularly memorable clutch situation, Pete Rose was given the bunt sign. He fouled off the first pitch, and I swear he did it on purpose. And he took the next pitch, right down the pipe, for a called strike. And I swear he did that on purpose, too, because he wanted to hit, not . bunt. He proceeded, of course, to get a hit. Disobedience? By the strictest interpretation, yes.
But there is in Rose the same flame of rebellion and desire that burned in the general who thundered: "Retreat, hell. Charge!"
And The Team That Wouldn't Die won.
And now they seem to be taking on those same fiery characteristics. For all great players, all great teams, are marked by tunnel vision. Between the lines, nothing exists but the game itself. They are totally absorbed in the moment, in the season, in their sport. Yes, that does make them lopsidedly one-dimensional. But it is the price that success seems to demand.
Shrugged off woes
Pete Rose has paid it. In his two seasons with the Phillies, he has endured enough personal turmoil to crush a normal man. There has been a paternity suit, a divorce, drug charges. He's had his name dragged through the tabloids, splashed across the gossip pages.
There has been enough whispering and scandal-mongering to cave in most people. Rose has not merely endured, he has thrived. Chaos does not seem to dent his concentration. It never does with the great ones; there is, of course, a sad flip-side to this. When it is taken away from them, the game, their life-support system is severed. Retirement is an agony. They have to find something else to absorb them, and often the replacement is destructive.
"Sure, I had every right to be hissed off this summer," Rose agreed. "My picture's on the front page, Pete Rose divorced, Pete Rose in drug probe. But I can blank that stuff out of my mind. Hey, there's always another game."
And now there is a World Series.
And if the Phillies are weary and emotionally wrung dry and limping, he will be there, yapping and belly-flopping and spelling out those "c-h" words for them, convincing them that they really are The Team That Wouldn't Die.
Unser session with DeMars paid off
By Allen Lewis, Special to The Inquirer
Outfielder Del Unser is the epitome of the dedicated veteran who knows he has a part-time role and works hard to make the most of any chances manager Dallas Green gives him to help the Phillies.
Before the game that gave the Phillies their first pennant in 30 years Sunday night in Houston, the 13-year major leaguer looked up batting coach Billy DeMars and asked to have another session.
It wasn't the first time Unser had worked with the former major league infielder who has gained a solid reputation as a batting coach – but the other sessions hadn't been too productive.
This time DeMars and Unser worked on hitting balls off the batting tee.
"He must have hit 75 or 80 balls," DeMars said, "and he got his swing going."
The recapture of the 35-year-old lefthanded hitter's swing came just in the nick of time. Called upon to bat three times in the first four games, all Unser had to show for his efforts was a routine fly ball and two strikeouts. But in the eighth inning of Sunday night's pennant-deciding game in the Astrodome, Unser lined a single to right-center with two out that tied the score at 5-5. Moments later, he scampered home on Manny Trillo's triple that gave the Phillies the 7-5 lead they hoped would hold up.
Unser then went to left field, hoping he wouldn't need another time at the plate. But the dead-game Astros came back to tie the score in the eighth, and Unser came up to face reliever Frank LaCorte with one out in the 10th. He hit a hard smash wide of first base that hopped over Dave Bergman's head for a double, and one out later came home when Garry Maddox lined a two-base hit to center field.
Maddox is another pupil of DeMars, who has been trying to get the fleet outfielder to shift his weight forward when he swings and to hit down on the ball to avoid pulling his left shoulder away.
Before Maddox knocked in that pennant-winning run, he walked down the dugout past DeMars.
"I don't usually say anything to our hitters during the game, but this time I couldn't resist," DeMars said. "As he went by I just said, 'Move into the ball and hit down.'"
"When he went up there he had a perfect swing at the ball, and when it fell in there that was some feeling," DeMars said. "Later on at the party, he walked up to me and said, 'Thanks.'
"I'm not blowing my own horn or anything but last night in bed I couldn't sleep, and it really made me feel good to think that maybe I had a little hand in helping us win the pennant. All the hours and all the hard work – it really felt like it was worth it."
NOTES: Although manager Jim Frey has experience as a coach with the Baltimore Orioles, only two of his Kansas City Royals players have previous World Series experience. One is pitcher Ken Brett; who was a 19-year-old with the Boston Red Sox in 1967 and the other is Hal McRae, a platoon outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds in 1970 as a rookie and again in 1972. Brett pitched briefly in two games without allowing a run, while McRae has a.450 average (9-for-20) in eight games. Brett pitched for the Phillies in 1972, posting a 13-9 record and setting a home run record for pitchers, then was traded to Pittsburgh for second baseman Dave Cash after that season. The lefty pitched for the Pirates in the 1974 and 1975 Championship Series, but the Bucs lost both times.... Royals pitcher Larry Gura is glad NBC is televising the World Series. He feels ABC hasn't given his team fair treatment.... New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner thinks Kansas City has too much of an advantage because of their artificial surface, and is considering installing a rug in Yankee Stadium.... Umpire Ed Vargo, who worked behind the plate in the Phillies' pennant-winning game, suffered a fractured finger on his right hand Sunday night when he was hit by a foul tip. "It's the same one that was broken before," Vargo said before leaving Houston yesterday.... The Phillies were surprisingly low-key at their victory party Sunday night. Most of them were emotionally drained after the grueling last few weeks.
What else? The Phillies!
Tonight, the fans of Philadelphia will experience something not seen in this town in 30 years: The opening of a World Series involving the Phillies.
The rare event takes place at Veterans Stadium at 8:15 p.m., when rookie Bob Walk takes the mound for the Phillies against Kansas City Royals ace Dennis Leonard.
One thing is sure regarding the outcome of this 1980 World Series: Whichever team captures baseball's highest prize will have done it for the first time in history.
76ERS at New York (TV-Ch. 48, 7:30 p.m.; Radio-WCAU-1210, delayed tape, 11 p.m.)
World Series Preview (TV-Chs. 17, 3, 8 p.m.)
Kansas City at Phillies (TV-Chs. 17, 3; Radio-KYW-1060, WCAU-1210; 8:15 p.m.)
Wide-eyed Royals to start Leonard in first Series
By Larry Eichel, Inquirer Staff Writer
Once this World Series gets going, once it develops a character of its own, once one team pulls ahead and the other falls behind, they will begin to care about who becomes the champions of baseball. But for now, the Kansas City Royals, like the Phillies, are still very much in the "just-happy-to-be-here" stage.
The Royals, like the Phillies, have a long and painful history of not being here. Like the Phillies, they won divisional titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, only to lose in the playoffs. And, like the Phillies, they finally succeeded in shaking the label of the team that couldn't win the big one by capturing the flag this season.
"As far as the people of Kansas City are concerned, we've already won the World Series," the Royals' star third baseman George Brett said yesterday after his team had held a brief, windswept workout under a leaden sky that suggested November more than October. "We beat the Yankees in the playoffs. They'll be very happy with this season no matter what happens now."
"It's such a relief just to get into a World Series that it didn't matter to me whom we played," said Dennis Leonard, the blond, bearded righthander who won 20 games in the regular season and will start in Game 1 tonight.
But Dan Quisenberry, the Royals' underarm relief ace who registered 12 wins and 33 saves this season, was rooting for the Phillies as he and his teammates sat in an airport lounge in Newark Sunday night, waiting to find out where their chartered plane would be taking them. The Phillies, he felt, were kindred spirits. A Kansas City-Philadelphia matchup, he knew, would be altogether fitting and proper.
"I think they resemble the Royals a lot you know, just missing out," he said in apparent seriousness although, with Quisenberry, it is hard to be sure. "I'd heard they were under a lot of pressure, a lot of bad raps. I saw an interview with Larry Bowa about being booed, and I sympathized with that. I can understand what you go through in that situation. It's nice to see guys like that get a chance. If I wasn't in baseball, I'd be rooting for the Royals and the Phillies."
"There wasn't that feeling of having the monkey off my back for me personally," said Jim Frey, Kansas City's rookie manager. "It's my first year with the club. But for some players, some people in the organization, you could say that. It was a big relief for them to beat the Yankees. It was like the Yankees had a black hex on us or something. So I'd say these are two clubs with pretty much the same background. There are a lot of people in this series who haven't been here before."
In fact, the Royals have only two players with any World Series experience. Hal McRae, their designated hitter, made two series appearances in the early 1970s with the Cincinnati Reds, hitting.450. The other, left-handed relief pitcher Ken Brett, known best in recent years as George's older brother, had a cameo role in the 1967 series with the Boston Red Sox.
Such lack of experience makes good conversation, but no one really knows whether it makes any difference. The same can be said of another burning issue around the batting cage and in the hotel lobbies on the eve of Game 1: Will the Royals be rejuvenated from their three days of rest after their three-game sweep of the Yankees? Or will they be rusty? Will the Phillies be sharpened by having to battle for their lives in Houston over the weekend? Or will they be emotionally, if not literally, hung over?
"I don't know whether it's an advantage or not to have the layoff," said George Brett, offering the only intelligent answer. "People said that about our division race. We won it with about three weeks left, and everybody said we'd be at a disadvantage going into the playoffs. And we came out and played three exceptional baseball games. I don't think we're at a disadvantage because we beat the Yankees three straight. I don't really think we're going to let down now."
There is one thing Brett is sure of. Compared to trying to hit.400 for the season, as he nearly succeeded in doing this year, playing in a World Series is a piece of cake.
"I don't feel any pressure right now," said Brett, who hit a mere.390 on the year, knocking in 118 runs in 117 games. "I think all my pressure's gone. I just have to go out and play good baseball. It doesn't matter if I go 2-for-5 or 0-for-4 anymore as long as my team wins.... When all you do is talk about something for two, two-and-a-half months, you're going to end up wanting it pretty bad.
"I wanted to hit.400. And I knew every at-bat I made an out I was lessening my chances. I started getting anxious, pressing at the plate, swinging at bad pitches. Teams stopped giving me anything to hit, but I swung anyway. Every time, I was putting another nail in my coffin. There is no coffin in this. This is fun."
Frey chose Leonard to open this "fun" series for the obvious reason. The Phillies' power hitters are right-handed; Leonard is the Royals' best righthanded thrower. Larry Gura, the lefthander who won 18 games in the regular season and Game 1 of the playoffs with the Yankees, will start Game 2 with Rich Gale, a tall righthander, working Game 3 at Kansas City.
The series is widely perceived as a contest between the speed of the Royals, highlighted by Willie Wilson's 79 steals and.326 average, and the power of the Phillies, featuring Mike Schmidt's 48 homers and 121 RBIs – the sleek line-drive hitters against the burly sluggers.
It is undeniable that the Royals have more speed than the Phils. In addition to Wilson, who will finish high in the American League balloting for most valuable player, they have shortstop U.L. Washington with 20 steals, second baseman Frank White with 19, outfielder John Wathan with 17, centerfielder Amos Otis with 16 and Brett with 15.
But it is not so clear that the Phils have an edge in power. Even though their home park, Royals Stadium, is nearly as inhospitable to the long ball as the Astrodome, the Royals hit only two fewer home runs (115) this season than the Phils, who played in the friendly confines, as the saying goes, of Veterans Stadium.
"When we play on the road," Frey said, "I feel we've got four or five guys who can hit a home run. And in this park, my impressions are that the ball flies out of here a lot easier. I think we have some people who can reach the seats or at least the canvas."
"Even though they have only two fewer homers than we did, they do have guys, Schmidt and Luzinski, who can hit it out at any time," Leonard noted. "It's going to be the pitcher's duty to stop those guys from beating you. I saw how the Houston pitchers were trying to pitch them, and they were pretty successful."
Frey said his opening game lineup against Bob Walk would have Wilson in left, Otis (.251) in center and Clint Hurdle (.294) in right. Brett will be at third with Washington (.273) at short, White (.264 and the MVP in the American League playoffs) at second and Willie Mays Aikens (.278 with 20 home runs) at first. Darrell Porter (.249) will catch with Hal McRae (.297) the designated hitter.
"You know," the manager said, "I think this series is going to be a shootout."