Philadelphia Inquirer - October 19, 1980
Aikens ends search for Series hero
By Frank Eichel, Inquirer Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the first three games, this was a World Series in search of a hero, an October in search of a candidate for athlete's foot commercials.
That is no longer a problem. The world, it seems, is about to become intimately familiar with one Willie Mays Aikens of the Kansas City Royals.
All that Aikens has done in four games is hit four homers, drive in eight runs – including the game-winner Friday night – and hit.467 to lead a Kansas City attack that was supposed to feature speed instead of brute strength.
"Are you sure his name isn't Willie Mays?" Pete Rose asked. "If he keeps hitting two home runs every game, we're sure going to have some World Series."
Yesterday, Aikens, who turned 26 on the night of Game 1, was personally responsible for wrecking the Phillies' hopes of maintaining control of this series.
He homered in the first with a man on off Larry Christenson to give the Royals a 3-0 lead. And he struck again in the second with a bases-empty shot off Dickie Noles. Both were mammoth blasts, so obviously out the moment they were hit that Aikens could, and did, stand at the plate and watch them rise toward the fence in right before breaking into an intentionally deliberate home-run trot.
"When I know it's out, I feel I should take the time to get some enjoyment out of it," said Aikens, a large, soft-spoken man with a slight stutter. "I've been doing that now for the last three or four years. I used to watch Reggie Jackson a lot when I was a kid. I felt if he could do it, I could do it also."
With his performance, Aikens became only the fourth player in World Series history to hit home runs in consecutive innings. The others are Ted Kluszewski of the Chicago White Sox, and Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth, both of the Yankees. Ruth did it twice. And with one more home run, Aikens would tie Reggie's record, set three years ago, of five homers in a single series.
Aikens' heroics have all but obscured the fact that the entire middle of the Royals' lineup has been on an incredibly effective search-and-destroy mission ever since this Series began. If the road-runners – Willie Wilson, Frank White and U. L. Washington – would get a hit every now and then, this Series would be history – in Kansas City's favor.
The No. 3 hitter, George Brett is hitting.400 with two homers, hemorrhoids and all. The No. 5 hitter, Hal McRae, stands at.533 after hustling two rather routine singles into doubles yesterday afternoon. And the gentleman who occupies the sixth hole, Amos Otis, is clubbing the baseball at a.529 clip with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
"We're a well-rounded ball club," said McRae, one of the few Royals with previous World Series experience, his coming with the 1970 and 1972 Cincinnati Reds. "Over the long run, we win on speed and defense, but we've got some guys with some sock, too."
But the plaudits this day rightfully belonged to Aikens alone. He is a hulking figure at 6-foot, 2-inches, 220 pounds, who, amazingly enough, is in his first full season in the majors. Acquired from the California Angels over the winter in a trade that sent Al Cowens, a Royals mainstay for years in right field, to the West Coast, Aikens struggled early in 1980. And the Royals fans, who are being portrayed this week as politeness incarnate, were not exactly patient with the newcomer.
"He just got the bad start," Brett said, "and the fans got down on him. I don't think people realize he had a very serious operation (to repair ligaments he tore in his knee late last season). He worked very hard over the winter to come back from that operation. Now that we are near the end of the season, he is performing as well as we all knew he would. The great thing about it is (manager) Jim (Frey) kept him in the lineup."
With a strong second-half, the big man from Seneca, S.C., who got his unforgettable middle name from the doctor who delivered him, ended up with 20 homers, 98 RBIs and a.278 average. But even that didn't prepare him, or anyone else, for the way he has hit in the World Series.
"I'm a streak hitter, and when I get in a streak, I'm capable of five or six homers in a week," he said. "I'm in a pretty good streak right now."
He was asked: Are the Phils pitching you wrong?
"I couldn't say that," said Aikens. "It's just that they don't know me as a hitter.... They're trying to throw strikes to me and as I've said, I'm a streak hitter and am getting strikes to hit. I'm hitting them hard right now."
The first home run, he said, came , on a fastball. The man who delivered it, Larry Christenson, said it was the kind of pitch that even he, Christenson, could have hit out of the park. The second came on a curve ball from Noles.
"I knew he had thrown me three curveballs in a row, so I sort of guessed the next would be a curve, too.
"It was a big thrill for me to have. the fans ask me to come out of the dugout for a bow after that. I haven't hit all that well in this ballpark, and it was the first time that's ever happened to me."
Aikens said he will not be thinking of the records he may encounter in the days ahead – such as the series RBI record, 12, set by Bobby Richardson of the 1960 Yankees. He said he wasn't even looking for a third home run on his third at bat.
"I thought I was going to get knocked down," he said. "I was surprised they'd come so close to George."
But somewhere, someone is beginning to wonder how the face of Willie Mays Aikens would look on a cereal box.
Brett sprawls, manager howls
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was a two-strike pitch in the fourth inning with one out and nobody on base. No big deal... except the batter happened to be George Brett and the pitch – a Dickie Noles fastball aimed at the inside target Bob Boone had set up happened to tail up and in.
Brett is a fearless hitter. A man doesn't hit.390 in the regular season, doesn't turn around a Goose Gossage, 99 m.p.h. blazer in the playoffs with the pennant on the line if he's afraid of getting hit by a baseball.
George Brett doesn't merely stride into a pitched ball. "He dives right into the ball," Larry Bowa said in unconcealed admiration.
And, on that two-strike pitch, he was ready to do precisely that when the ball took off and came hurtling in the general direction of his chin.
"I yelled, 'Watch out!' when I saw what the ball was doing," Boone said.
The "dive" Brett made at that instant was to the ground. He rolled over on his left side, looked up and asked Boone how close the ball had come to adding another dimple to his chin.
"Damn close," Boone told him.
That was all.
Or, at least, that should have been all.
Anybody who's watched a lot of baseball – particularly National League baseball – knew that Dickie Noles wasn't on a head-hunting expedition. He was simply doing what pitchers have been doing for ages driving a tough hitter off the plate, making sure that he wouldn't be standing up there, all nice and comfortable and relaxed, ready to zero in on the next pitch and hit it as hard as the Kansas City Royals were hitting most of the pitches they saw in the early part of yesterday's World Series game.
"That's the whole game of baseball right there," Tug McGraw said about that no-ball, two-strike pitch that sent Brett diving into the dirt. "That's the way Abner Doubleday invented the game."
But not the way Jim Frey saw it in the fourth game of the 1980 World Series.
The Kansas City manager came charging out of the dugout, looking and acting about as upset, about as furious as a man can get.
The pitch would have been all but forgotten, if not for the anger in Jim Frey's eyes. He is a small man – 5 feet, 9 inches – in his late 40s, but at that moment it appeared he wanted to get at 23-year-old Dickie Noles, a rather solidly built 6-2.
Frey never got close to Noles; plate umpire Don Denkinger restrained him. But the manager's message was clear. He was protecting his super hitter – even if his super hitter didn't really look as if he wanted to be protected.
"I thought it was a knockdown pitch," Frey said later, after the Royals had evened the Series and his temper had subsided. "He threw the ball at his head, and I went out there to stop that. I told the umpire to stop it right now."
And damned if the umpires didn't listen to him. They issued a warning. No more knockdowns or both the offending pitcher and his manager would be ejected automatically.
Maybe there was method to what appeared to be a gigantic overreaction by the K.C. manager. Maybe, as Phillies general manager Paul Owens suggested later, Frey was actually trying to protect the on-deck hitter, Willie Aikens, who had hit gigantic homers in each of his two previous at-bats and stood near the plate, a la Reggie Jackson, to admire the second one. By raising a fuss over the pitch that sailed in on Brett, Frey rather effectively prevented the Phillies from sending a "message" to Aikens.
Or maybe it was simply what it appeared to be: a gross overreaction. Nothing more, nothing less.
"It (the kind of pitch that stirred up all the excitement) happens every day in the National League," Bowa said. "I will say this, I don't think anybody is going to hit.390 in our league. He's a great hitter. He might win the batting title in the National League. But in our league, you get three, four hits they (the pitchers) are going to let you know they're out there... To me, that's the biggest overreaction job I ever saw by a manager."
And it led to what many would consider one of "the biggest over-reaction jobs" by the press.
Saddled with a ball game that was several notches short of spectacular, the media types naturally zeroed in on that one pitch – a pitch that raised Jim Frey's blood pressure and excited the crowd but had no bearing on the outcome of the game.
"I'll tell you what," said Mike Schmidt, who's had more than a few pitches thrown close to his head in the course of his home-run-hitting career, "if I were a sportswriter I'd put two sentences in about that situation: 'That's baseball. Forget it; we'll get 'em tomorrow.'"
Mike Schmidt can hit the stuffings out of a baseball, but he'd have a heckuva time filling up a sports column every day.
On the other hand, he does a fine job of helping others fill their columns. Yesterday's "knockdown" pitch may have been worth no more than two sentences in writing, but Schmidt discussed the fascinating subject of brushbacks and knockdowns and hitting without fear of getting hit at some considerable length. He practically conducted a seminar on the subject.
Schmidt, like most of us, was surprised at the way Frey reacted.
"I thought maybe he was going to run out there and say something to the umpire, maybe very simply say, 'I think he's throwing at him. I think he should be warned. No big deal. George is a man. He can handle that,' and go right back in the dugout," Schmidt said.
But, as the world now knows only too well, Frey's message was considerably more colorful than that. So colorful that years from now people probably will remember the Noles-Brett incident as being far more than it actually was.
Heck, people reading today's sports pages around the country will think it was a big deal, too, a fact that annoyed Schmidt and some of his teammates.
"That's gonna get a few columns around the country, right?" Schmidt asked the beanball-minded writers gathered around his locker. '"George Brett Knocked Down.' You'd think that was the first knockdown pitch in the history of the World Series. Well, that was the 9,000th."
But it was the first such pitch in the history of World Series play in Kansas City. And the batter was George Brett. And there was no stopping the headlines now.
"Some pitchers just don't like hitters standing up there completely relaxed, hanging out line drives every time they let the ball go," Schmidt said. "I've done it (hung out line drives) many, many times and I've been thrown at. I've had to get up off the ground, but I ain't never had a manager run out on the field and plead for me."
Schmidt paused, flashed a brief smile. "Jim Frey loves George Brett," he said. "I can see why."
As a hitter, said Schmidt, you ''don't ever think" about the possibility of somebody's 90-plus m.p.h. fastball denting your skull.
"You don't ever concern yourself with getting knocked down," Schmidt added. "First time you start thinking, 'I'm gonna get knocked down, I'm gonna get hit,' something like that, you're not going to be a good hitter. You have to have no fear of the ball whatsoever.
"George Brett has no fear of the ball. I have no fear of the ball. The ball's thrown at your head you simply get out of the way of it, that's all. So it hits you in the back or something. No big deal. Greg Luzinski has black and blue marks on his arm right now. Pete Rose's leg's black and blue, right? We're gonna have headlines about George Brett getting knocked down, but there aren't headlines about Luzinski getting hit in the arm or about Pete getting hit in the leg."
Yeah, Mike, but when they got hit there were better games to write about. And besides, their manager didn't act as if he'd never seen an inside pitch before.
"A brushback pitch," Schmidt said sarcastically. "When a guy stands at home plate like this and takes a stride like that" – he gave his best imitation of George Brett attacking a baseball – "the pitcher's got to say, 'Whoa. He ain't putting no quarter in a pitching machine.' You know what I mean?"
Sometimes, Schmidt was quick to acknowledge, the way George Brett hits, it looks so easy you'd think he was putting a quarter in a pitching machine, but those are real, live, flesh-and-blood pitchers with wives and kids and families to feed throwing the ball to him.
"I've seen George Brett hit a lot on TV," said Schmidt. "He's a great hitter. He's got a chance to be one of the greatest hitters of all time, and along the way he's going to get brushed back a couple of times. And that's why he's great. It don't bother him."
Yesterday's incident didn't seem to bother him, either. "The only guy that got upset was Jim Frey," Phillies manager Dallas Green said, "George Brett didn't get upset."
"I think he recognized we weren't throwing at him," Boone said.
Had he not recognized that, had he felt the way his manager apparently felt, history tells us that George Brett wouldn't have been bashful about letting his feelings be known. Earlier in the year he got knocked down twice in one at-bat by Milt Wilcox after slugging a three-run homer off the Detroit pitcher. On that occasion Brett had no doubt about Wilcox' intentions and charged the mound.
Yesterday, the K.C. superstar shrugged it off. "It doesn't intimidate me, at all," he said. "He (Noles) is the only guy that knows (if it was done on purpose). I'm not going to accuse him…."
Poor Dickie Noles. He pitched extremely well in his World Series debut, striking out six and allowing just one run – Aikens' second homer – in 4 innings of relief. But the crowd waiting for him to return from the shower room only wanted to talk about the pitch that went screeching past George Brett's chin.
"Can you believe that?" Ron Reed said to Dick Ruthven as they watched the "welcoming committee" that awaited Noles' return. "They're going to crucify Dickie. Oh-and-two, leaning over the plate, he tried to come in on the hands and look at those (censored for sensitive readers). What's he supposed to do – throw it out over the plate and let him hit it?"
Assured that Noles wasn't about to be "crucified" by everybody, Reed's voice grew softer. "I just don't want to see it happen," he said. "I'll tell you what, they take away the inside part of the plate from us, and they might as well ship all the pitchers out."
Noles handled the inquisition exceptionally well, under the circumstances.
"You got to use both sides of the plate," he said. "You can't throw him a fastball low and away. I'll be in Kansas City Memorial Hospital."
Through it all, Noles retained his composure, even acknowledging that Frey "has got to fight for his players. If I was the manager, I'd fight for my players, too."
Still, he couldn't resist adding, "I think if that'd been Frank White or somebody else up there, he wouldn't have said a damn thing."
But it wasn't Frank White or somebody else. It was George Brett, baseball's player of the year, who went diving into the dirt. And you know how anything involving George Brett gets blown out of proportion.
Mike Schmidt put it best. "So far." he said, "this is the hemorrhoid and knockdown World Series."
Bystrom is busy keeping his cool before his start
By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Marty Bystrom sees it as just another walk in the park.
The park happens to be Royals Stadium, Bystrom is the starting pitcher for Game 5 of the World Series, and the Series is now even at 2-2 – but none of this seems to make Marty Bystrom nervous. Maybe that's why he's pitching today for the Phillies.
"Yeah, this game is very important," Pete Rose said, looking ahead to Game 5.
"We're right there in the same position we've been in all year. We have made things exciting and hard. But we don't do anything the easy way."
So the Phils are "back to square one," as Mike Schmidt says, and Marty Bystrom.
They will save Steve Carlton for a game that means winning or losing the Series right there, and they will hope that the rookie Bystrom, September's child, can hold the fort against Willie Aikens, George Brett and the rest of the surging Royals.
Bystrom is only 22, but he is right for the job in one important respect: He doesn't panic easily or let the significance of a situation overwhelm him.
Herm Starrette, the Phillies pitching coach, told Bystrom that he would be the starter in Game 5 before yesterday's game. "Sure, OK, I'm ready," replied the pitcher who was laboring in Oklahoma City all summer until Sept. 1, and then was a magical 5-0 for the Phillies down the stretch.
"They told me that I might pitch the fifth game if we won the first two. I said, 'Damn, we could win it in four, you know.' And I still thought they might want to come back with Steve Carlton. But then they told me (about the start) today.
"I'll just go at 'em the same way I went after Triple-A hitters, I guess. That's the way I went after the Mets, Chicago, St. Louis.... I haven't changed anything since I've come up. I haven't changed anything since Triple-A."
Bystrom didn't give up a run in the first 20 innings he pitched for the Phillies. The Phillies tinkered with their roster and bruised some egos to make him eligible for the postseason, and they started him in the fifth and deciding game in Houston a week ago.
He was not great in that game. He was lucky. The Astros worked him over for seven hits in 5 ⅓ innings but came up with only two runs, only one of them earned.
"I don't try to make perfect pitches and be too fine," Bystrom said. "I just try to throw strikes and let the guys make the plays behind me. Now in Houston, I just didn't have good stuff. I had 11 days off without pitching, and I think that had something to do with it."
He hopes. Bystrom had the opportunity to watch Brett, Aikens, Hal McRae and Amos Otis pounce on yesterday's Phillies starter, Larry Christenson, in the first inning.
"When you watch four games, you do pick up some things," Bystrom said. "Aikens? The two balls he hit out today were low, inside pitches – mistakes, really. Last night (when Aikens won the game with his single in the 10th), it was the same thing with Tug (McGraw). I'll just have to get my pitches where I want 'em with him."
"I was following him when he was going for.400. Wasn't everybody?" Bystrom said. "I'm glad I'll have a chance to face him, you know, just to see what I can do. It will be a challenge to pitch against him, and if he beats me, he beats me."
"Marty will do a good job," catcher Bob Boone said. "He's got a good command of all pitches, about as good a command of all pitches as anybody who's ever come to our club. He was outstanding in September, when every game was a pressure game.
"He's like anybody else. The pressure is from the media and the people in the stands. You block that out, you're OK. I think he has. I don't think he'll feel the so-called pressure here."
Two months ago, Bystrom was pitching in parks with billboards – not fountains – in the outfield. Now in the World Series, he was acting much removed from it, very poised.
"I'll go back to the hotel, have dinner and hang around the room," he said. "I'll get a good night's sleep, and then I'll be ready to go."
The only special thing he did yesterday was call Miami so his father, Franklin, the tax assessor in Dade County, and his 13-year-old brother, Craig, could make plans to fly to Kansas City to attend the game.
"My whole family saw my second start, in St. Louis," Bystrom said. "But this doesn't mean that much to me. They could watch the game on TV if they wanted to. Them being here means more to them than it does to. me."
So it's just another job to do, right?
"Yeah," he said, "I just told Herm that I was ready."
Are you always this excited?
"I've just got a lot on my mind right now," Marty Bystrom said, showing a bit of what may really lie beneath the cool surface.
A sampling of fans still believes a title’s on tap
By Dwight Cunningham and George Shirk, Inquirer Staff Writers
The game was over. Behind the long wooden bar, Joe Pisano was holding court, reaffirming his belief and perhaps trying to boost sales to his clientele, which was rapidly thinning out.
"We've been coming back all year long," he said. "How about, it Jerry, the Phillies got a chance?"
A man in a vested suit put down his 25-cent beer, nodding with a pained expression.
"They counted us out in Montreal, in Houston, and now they're beginning to count us out again." He turned to a man at the end of the counter. "Hey, Frank, we gonna do it in six?"
"Absolutely, win it in six," Frank replied. "We're going to be parading down Broad Street come Wednesday morning."
The mood in several Philadelphia watering holes was optimistic, not somber or gloomy as some might expect. Sure, the Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals evened the Series, but it merely postponed an inevitable victory celebration.
On the other side of the tavern – both physically and emotionally – John Lynagh said that he "would like to see the Phillies pitch a lefthanded starter that they haven't got," a comment that brought quiet chuckles. "They need a Randy Lerch from two years ago," he said.
Lynagh's confidence in the home team is buoyed by Dallas Green, and he praised the manager's decision to brush back George Brett as a shrewd tactical move.
"That took a lot of guts. Let's face it, Brett is a national hero. The Royals were getting the upper psychological hand. It probably turned half the country against the Phillies, but that's not the point. The point is to win the World Series."
The Royals didn't hit a ball hard after that, he noted.
Kevin Heppler knew all that talk about World Series victory parades was premature with just two games completed. Still, he said, yesterday's Phillies' loss was actually the first game Kansas City "legitimately" won.
"I want them to win, but it's got to be one game at a time, one game at a time," said Heppler, 25, a stagehand at the Shubert Theatre who said he wasn't particularly enjoying his dinner break. With three outs left, eyes fixed on the large screen that he shared with 40 other pairs at a Center City bar, Heppler wondered aloud who would start today's fifth game.
"I don't know who's going to pitch, but I hope it's (Marty) Bystrom," he said.
Waiting another week for the Phillies to come through after 30 years is going to be easy, said one patron. "And I know just who's going to come through."
"No way, Kansas City is the bottom line," said John Collins Jr., of Gloucester, N.J., the lone dissenter inside the tavern. "The Phillies will be put out of their misery at precisely 11 o'clock Tuesday night. Quisenberry forever."
The gloomy reasoning behind the prediction was simple "common sense." Said Collins: "You never bet on a team to do something that it has never done in its history."
Outside, several cab drivers expressed gratitude that the Phillies lost at least one game in Kansas City, insuring the Series' return to Philadelphia. They said the heightened fan interest also meant more fares to haul around when the celebration begins.
"This brings millions of dollars into the city," said Willie Thompson, of the 1400 block of North 61st Street. "Right now, I'm a converted Phillies fan. I think the thing will go seven games, so that everybody can make a buck."
At the Stadium Bar on Broad Street in South Philadelphia, Dominic Matteo, 57, insisted that Del Unser and Garry Maddox will propel the team to its first championship. "The outfield's going to do it. They've been doing it all along," he said, perched on crutches and sipping a beer. "Sure, I'm relying on past performance, but they've got the talent to pull it through."
A Phillies convert from the U.S.S. Saratoga – confident of a pennant in six games – said he had no regrets walking in the rain to a bar to watch the last half of the World Series after the electricity on the ship went out.
"There are a couple of oddballs who want Kansas City," said Lonnie Cockrell, 21, a machinist's mate aboard the newly arrived aircraft carrier, "but I'd say 85 percent of us want the Phillies to win it."
When the power failed aboard the ship, the Phillies convert said, "I hustled over here to watch the rest of the game. They lost, but that's just so they can bring it back here. Then the party can begin for all of us."
At J.C. Carrol's bar and restaurant at 15th and Arch Streets, Tom Montgomery and the guy sitting next to him watched in stony silence as the last out was made and the Royals had won.
Finally, Montgomery's buddy said, "I tink da Phils are a bunch a bums. They're gonna lose it, and no, you can't use my name. But this team is gonna lose it. There'll never be another Whiz Kids."
"Whiz Kids?" cried a disbelieving Montgomery. "The Whiz Kids? They lost four straight!"
"I still tink the Phils are a bunch a bums," said Montgomery's buddy.
"Naw," Montgomery said. "I think they'll win it in six. It's just that right now they're not gettin' the base hits at the right time."
He sipped his drink, then said, "This was a big letdown today."
Further on down the bar were Mike Snock, 26, and Joe Lapatina, 35.
"I have no doubt they're gonna win this thing," said Snock. "They'll win tomorrow and bring it back to Philly to win it for the fans. This is too good a team to put down. They're not the same team as they used to be."
Snock was wearing a Phillies cap. Lapatina wasn't, but he should have been.
"They played Houston and I didn't think they were going to make it," Lapatina said.
"But they won it as a team, and that's why I say they're gonna win it – believe me – in six games. They're going to come home and win it here and put Philly back on the map."
Across the street, at Suburban Station, Pat McCrossen, a Conrail patrolman who said he'd listened to the game "piece by piece" throughout the afternoon, was grim. His upper lip turned to a sneer when the Phils were mentioned.
"Personally," he said, "I don't think they can win. I don't think so because they always screw everything up at the end. I knew they weren't gonna win today and I knew they weren't gonna win yesterday.
"Now," he said, "they have to play another game at Kansas City – which they won't win – and they'll come home behind, 3-2."
He paused as if to consider the probabilities of a Series win under those conditions.
"Naw," he said, "they'll lose it."
Not everybody, of course, watched or heard the game. But they listened for the signs of victory or defeat in the streets.
"I knew they didn't win," said a woman at 16th and Chestnut streets. "I didn't hear no cars honkin.'"
The woman then ducked behind her umbrella, jumped a curbside puddle and disappeared into the rain.
A bit of taste in the stands of a posh K.C. hotel
By Steve Twomey, Inquirer Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ah, the bleachers. The World Series. Bottom of the eighth, the home team holding a precarious lead. Staccato clapping erupts from the packed steel rows far from the action, the People's Section.
Sandra Horn beck can't stand it any longer. The tension is too much. Time for a drink.
She flags a vendor, stylishly dressed in a blue-and-white Royals uniform.
White wine, please, says Sandra, with some small onions on the side.
Certainly, says the vendor. Wait a minute. What kind of bleachers are these anyway?
The cute kind, of course.
They are not at Royals Stadium but in the lobby of Crown Center, a gleaming, if somewhat antiseptic, complex of shops, condominiums and hotel rooms about a mile south of downtown. Picture The Gallery with room service, and you'll get the idea.
Anyway, for the American league Championship Series and now the World Series, the management of the hotel decided to bring baseball to the lobby.
So, on one edge of the central cocktail pit they put a large-screen TV. On the other, they erected three rows of bleachers. Out came waitresses in Royals uniforms. Out came a hot dog and popcorn vendor.
And Kansas City loves it. Each day or night of a game, the bleachers and cocktail chairs are filled with men in business suits and women in evening gowns. Even though the stadium is miles away, these fans yell and clap in unison as if the field were right down below. They eat hot dogs and popcorn and they drink.
Only they don't drink much beer. White wine, please, because everything is, indeed, up to date in Kansas City.
"Culturally, we're a lot farther ahead than people think," said Sandra.
They are not just the Kansas City Royals. They are the Hutchinson Royals. And the Shenandoah Royals, and the Hays Royals and the Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma Royals.
They are, clearly, not just one city's team. They are the team for a huge chunk of the country, perhaps for a larger chunk of the country than any other baseball team.
That is a bit incomprehensible to Easterners. Go 90 miles north of Philadelphia and you run into the Yankees and Mets. South, it's the Orioles. The Pirates close in quickly on the West.
But the Royals are it here in Mid- America. They are the only baseball team between St. Louis and the West Coast, between Dallas and Minneapolis. That's a lot of real estate.
The Royals fever has spread to places as far away as New Mexico.
Check the parking lot at Royals Stadium. It's filled with cars from Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as the two states that surround Kansas City – Missouri and Kansas.
"Arkansas Loves the Royals," said a sign carried at Friday's game.
"We don't draw geographic lines around here," the manager of a radio station in Shenandoah, Iowa, told the Kansas City Times. Shenandoah, by the way, is about 150 miles from home plate.
A school in Lawrence, Kan., about 35 miles away, set up a World Series Learning Center. A bank in Ottawa, Kan., which is about 50 miles away, held a contest to give away a single World Series ticket.
Even in Philadelphia there are Royals fans. Philadelphia, Missouri, that is, a tiny hamlet in the far corner of the state several hundred miles from Kansas City.
"I know that everybody here is proud the Royals are in the World Series," said the postmaster.
An out-of-town reporter, used to the condition of the streets of Philadelphia, called the mayor's office here the other day to find out if the city was sprucing up to impress all its World Series visitors.
Kristi Smith, an aide to Mayor Richard Berkeley, was positively indignant.
"We don't have to clean up our city," she said. "It's always clean."
She's right. It is. From the hills and wide streets of old downtown to Crown Center to all the frame-house neighborhoods, it is, compared to Philadelphia, a very tidy place.
How do they do that?
Aside from the celebrities of the baseball world – Gene Autry, owner of the California Angels, Danny Kaye, a part-owner of the Seattle Mariners, and so on – there aren't a whole lot of big names and big doings in Kansas City connected with the World Series.
Oh, there are tons of house parties and such, and there was one big local bash thrown by a cable TV executive that featured Henry Block. You know, the tax man.
And there is, of course, Peter Marshall, the host of the Hollywood Squares TV show. But he doesn't count, since he's here only because his son, Pete LaCock, is a reserve first baseman for the Royals.
Beyond that, slim pickings. Yet there is one celebrity who has received a special police guard from the city, who was a special guest at the cable TV party and is a special guest at all the games.
Yes, the biggest celebrity at the World Series may just be one William J. Green. Oh, well.
They are pretty desperate for tickets to the games here, but a classified ad in the local paper revealed a new level of desperation:
"Invalid seeks World Series tickets. Please, no scalpers.
Garagiola makes the grade, but NBC’s report card for Series is mixed
By George Shirk, Inquirer Staff Writer
The "incident" was botched.
The radar gun was fascinating.
Seaver's been lukewarm, Kubek's been cold, Garagiola has been hot, and Harmon should go home.
Is this any way to present a World Series?
You guessed it. It's report -card time for NBC and its coverage of the World Series, and, if you've watched it, you know that it's a mixed report.
In general, the network has done a good job, considering that millions of folks out there watching think a slider is a baserunner instead of a pitch.
Particularly interesting in yesterday's game was NBC's decision to show the fabled "spheroid tracking system" radar gun, which measures the speed at which pitches are thrown.
Even a baseball purist had to be interested in the gun, the digital readout of which was pictured in the upper left corner of the screen in the early innings.
And, for the doubters, there was announcer Joe Garagiola, who, in the style for which he is known, said "the first time I ever heard of this radar thing was when a state trooper caught a tree going 35 miles an hour and, the second time, it was a barn and they had some kind of court suit."
Garagiola's got a lot of critics, and has faced a steady barrage of attacks ever since he began doing baseball for NBC. Most of the critics say he's too wordy – that he clutters up the broadcast.
Maybe he does. But it's tough to be funny all the time, and sometimes his anecdotes just don't work. But Willie Aikens doesn't hit a home run every time, either.
More from Joe:
"As a catcher," he said yesterday, "you can merely suggest (what pitch a pitcher should throw). The bunionhead's got the ball."
That drew a response from color-man Tom Seaver. "Now we're bunionheads?" the Cincinnati pitcher asked.
Seaver's interesting, but needs work. He gives us great appetizers but has yet to serve the main course. He teases us with the kind of inside baseball stuff we all want to know, but doesn't carry it through.
Yesterday, he said Pete Rose "rarely breaks his bat." That was that. Just when we're asking him to tell us why, the broadcast continued.
Those of us who do, in fact, know that a slider is a pitch and not a base-runner, are becoming frustrated with Seaver. C'mon, Tom, speak up, speak up.
And shut up, Tony.
Tony is Tony Kubek, whose incessant babbling rarely takes us beyond the obvious facts of baseball. He is as informative as static.
In the sixth inning, the Kansas City fans started booing Rose loudly. The picture came from the blimp, showing a full park and a cars-only parking lot.
"Those boos are not coming from outside the stadium," Kubek said. "They're coming from within." Thanks, Tony. We were wondering about that.
Most of all, though, it has been the "news" coverage that has been lacking.
On Dickie Noles' fourth-inning knockdown pitch of George Brett, the network cut away just as it showed us the Phillies' bench clearing and a security guard scurrying down the Royals Stadium aisles.
After a couple of commercials, Merle Harmon told us that someone had "thrown something" toward Pete Rose, and that "Pete Rose reacted."
That was it.
Like 'em close? Phils do, too
The Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Royals yesterday was the team's 13th consecutive game decided by two runs or less, or in extra innings. That may be one of the longest sustained runs ever of tight season-end baseball by a contending team.
Seven of the 13 games went into extra innings. The other six were decided by a combined total of 10 runs.
Here are the scores, beginning with the last easy win before the streak began:
Oct. 1 – Phillies 5, Cubs 0
Oct. 2 – Phillies 4, Cubs 2
Oct. 3 – Phillies 2, Expos 1
Oct. 4 – Phillies 6, Expos 4 (11th)
Oct. 5 – Expos 8, Phillies 7 (10th)
Oct. 7 – Phillies 3, Astros 1
Oct. 8 – Astros 7, Phillies 4 (10th)
Oct. 10 – Astros 1, Phillies 0 (11th)
Oct. 11 – Phillies 5, Astros 3 (10th)
Oct. 12 – Phillies 8, Astros 7 (10th)
Oct. 14 – Phillies 7, Royals 6
Oct. 15 – Phillies 6, Royals 4
Oct. 17 – Royals 3, Phillies 2 (10th)
Oct. 18 – Royals 5, Phillies 3
Royals rip Phillies to pull even
Aikens homers twice in first two innings to spark 5-3 victory
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Willie Wilson, previously thought to be missing in action, looped Larry Christenson's fourth pitch yesterday to left for a single. You could have guessed right then there would be trouble.
Eighteen pitches later, Christenson had thrown two doubles, one triple, one wild pickoff attempt, one home run into a waterfall and – lest we forget – gotten one out. He also was striding toward the dugout with a career World Series earned run average of 108.00.
He had gotten the Phillies down, 4-0, and they wouldn't recover. Dennis Leonard didn't look so hot at holding 4-0 leads in Philadelphia. But, apparently, letting him have one every start isn't foolproof strategy.
Leonard and Dan Quisenberry held onto enough of this one for the Royals to win Game 4 of the Series, 5-3. So the Series is even at two games apiece. There are three games left, and the Phillies have to win two of them. And haven't we heard that line somewhere before?
"I don't know why the pressure's on us," shrugged that old Phillies philosopher, Mike Schmidt. "All we've got to do is win one here and go back to Philly, and it's gonna be the Royals that have the pressure."
It's all very simple except for the "win-one-here" part. The Phillies only have one more shot to do that, and that comes this afternoon (Marty Bystrom vs. Larry Gura).
Yesterday's shot got away in those ill-fated 22 pitches by Christenson. And Christenson was the first to dump the blame all on his right-arm muscles.
"The first inning's important to any pitcher, and I just didn't get through the first inning," Christenson said. "It's a very disappointing thing. It's happened to a lot of pitchers before. It's happened to me before.
"It's the worst game I've had all year.... It's my fault. I let the team down. It's as simple as that."
Christenson hadn't won since Aug. 29, but he had pitched extremely well. In fact, he had thrown shutouts in three of his six starts since then. He didn't get wins in any of them.
But yesterday, he wasn't the same guy. Wilson was 1-for-13 before he stepped up in the first. The rumor was that the Royals were planning to ask him to have a hemorrhoid operation, since that didn't seem to hurt George Brett's swing any.
However, Wilson dumped a 2-1 pitch into short left, and Christenson immediately had to become conscious of the fact Wilson was just about foaming at the mouth to steal a base or 12.
Before he even got a pitch off to Frank White, Christenson wheeled and tried his A-1 pickoff move. Instead, his throw bounced past Pete Rose, and Wilson sprinted easily to third.
Christenson then got White to pop to Bake McBride in short right. Wilson held, since Brett was next, but at the time, people actually were debating if holding him was the right move.
They only had three pitches to debate it, because Brett slashed a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line. It rolled into the feared hockey-rink corner, and McBride had to wait for it to spin out. By the time it did, Brett had pumped around to third for a triple.
Next was Willie Aikens, who apparently is auditioning this week for the lead in The Wilver Stargell Story. Christenson got one strike on him with a fastball, tried to get a second fastball in on him, and got it up. Whoops.
Aikens lined it over the 385 sign on the right-field wall and over the wall that runs behind the right-field wall. It landed just under a billboard for something called "Plumpers." The "Plumpers" sign is located amid the lovely Royals Stadium waterfalls.
The way Aikens is swinging, the Phillies might consider playing their outfielders amid the waterfalls, too. But that isn't allowed. Aikens home run was allowed, so the score was 3-0.
"That's a tough pitch (the inside fastball) to make for a righthander who stands on the far side of the rubber," Christenson said. "It's the first inning. I'm not sharp with it yet. It's the first time I've been on that mound. That mound is sloped more than the one in the bullpen. I wasn't gripping the ball real well.
“Hey, none of that is really an excuse. I just wasn't able to make that pitch. I had one strike on him, so it was my mistake. The pitch just shouldn't have been made."
Hal McRae then lined a single to center. At least it looked like a single at the time. But McRae didn't stop at first and he beat Garry Maddox' throw to turn it into a double.
So the Royals had hit for the cycle in the space of five hitters. Two pitches later, Amos Otis began their run at a second cycle by bombing a waist-high fastball a foot below the top of the wall in right for an RBI double. That was it for Christenson.
"I talked to Booney when I went to take him out, and he said it was quite obvious he didn't have it," Dallas Green said. "Larry usually has a real good pop on his fastball. And Booney said he did not have that at all today."
That was Green's assessment. Christenson smiled at it. "I didn't have much time out there to figure out if I had a good fastball or not," he said. "I thought I was fine. You can second-guess anything you want to. It was just a matter of me not doing it. Give them credit. They hit the ball, too. They could have popped every one of those pitches up. They didn't.
"Location? That was one factor. Another factor is they ripped the ball. What can you say? You saw it. I saw it."
That was the game right there. But the way the Phillies have overturned leads lately, and the way they overturned a lead on Leonard last week in particular, you couldn't be too sure of that. Dickie Noles, soon to become Jim Frey's favorite National League pitcher, came on and eventually kept the first-inning score at 4-0 by getting Wilson with the bases loaded. The Phillies came back with an unearned run in the second, but the Royals got another in the bottom half to make the score 5-1.
That run came on another Aikens homer, this one a Reginald Jackson stand-and-watch-it classic that landed halfway up the Royals bullpen. Aikens thus became the first man in Series history to hit a pair of homers in two games in the same Series.
Reporters later questioned whether the Phillies had the correct book on Aikens. Green laughed and responded, "If you've got a book you want to give me, I'll use it. I really believe you're right. We may not be pitching him right. Now what gave me that idea? Look, the kid's just on a roll. It might not matter how we pitch him."
The home run didn't bug Green much. Home runs happen. What did bother Green was McRae coming up after the home run, lining one to right and stretching that into a double, too.
Noles kept him from scoring. In fact, he and Warren Brusstar kept everybody from scoring over the next seven innings. But that made three instances in two innings of Royals taking an extra base on a Phillies outfielder. That is the way the Royals have played all year, of course. But Green apparently would rather not watch them play that way against his team.
"I just didn't like the way we went about our work the first couple innings," the manager said, launching his first real critical salvo of the postseason. "They were taking extra bases and using their running game pretty much as they wanted. They were swinging the bats as they wanted. Their pitcher didn't have that great stuff, but we didn't get to him.
"It looked like we were satisfied until we got four runs down. Then we said, 'Let's cut it down and get to work.'
"It looked to me like we weren't totally ready to play today.... You can't keep hoping for rallies. You can't always call on character. Eventually, base hits and pitching are going to have to do the job."
Across the room, Schmidt was busy expounding the theory that "after the first inning we won the game, 3-1." When he heard of Green's accusations, he summed up his reaction in one word: "Ridiculous."
"That's just second-guessing," he said. "If they don't score four runs, he never says that, right? And what did anybody have to do with that except the pitcher and the catcher?
"McRae taking the extra base? That's just a question of a couple balls that were hit where having a little lead like that gave him the liberty to try that. Something like that might make the other team look bad. It makes it look like they're not ready. But that's just after the fact – what it looked like. It's just good baseball."
The Phillies had somebody on in every inning, but didn't score again until the seventh. Manny Trillo doubled. Larry Bowa singled him to third. Bob Boone crushed a long liner to deep left-center. It was a home run in Philadelphia. But it was a sacrifice fly in Kansas City, because Wilson made a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch at the edge of the warning track.
"If he doesn't catch that ball, we're, gonna come back and get them," Schmidt said. "If it goes through it's a double, and it puts us in a position for a big inning. That catch took us right out of things."
The Phils had one charge left in them in the eighth. Rose started it with a double, and Frey immediately went to Quisenberry, for the sixth straight postseason game. McBride moved Rose to third with a ground ball. Schmidt scored him with a sacrifice fly.
Then Quisenberry submarined his way to four straight ground balls. There would be no miracle comebacks this time.
"This, to me, is like a little road trip, and they won the first two," Del Unser said. "Now we've got to start playing tougher, executing, doing the things we have to do to win games.
"But pressure? We're in the World Series, man. There ain't no pressure here. Getting here was where the pressure was."
Up until now, anyway.
Scouts’ rundown on Royals off base
Analysis By Allen Lewis, Special to The Inquirer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Phillies are beginning to wonder if the scouting reports they were given before the World Series are worth the paper they're written on.
The Kansas City Royals, who have come roaring back to tie this Series after losing the first two games in Philadelphia, are defying the scouting reports, and this is causing more than a little concern among manager Dallas Green and some members of the National League champions.
For instance, there's Willie Aikens, the lefthanded-hitting first baseman who is now threatening to tie or break Reggie Jackson's World Series home run record.
Aikens hit a pair yesterday and now has four for the Series. Green was asked if he should get a new book on him.
"Well, if you've got a book, I'll use it," he said. "I do believe we're not pitching him right. The kid's on a roll.
"You try to play this game by the book, but regardless of what the book Analysis says, you can sometimes throw it out the window."
Shortstop Larry Bowa mentioned that Royals rightfielder Clint Hurdle and designated hitter Hal McRae have both hit too many balls away from the way the defense has set up.
"One of the reasons we looked bad on some (of the hits) is that we're playing too many of them completely different," he said. "It's very difficult to play a team, especially on Astro-Turf (actually Tartan Turf), when you're not positioning yourself right."
The scouting reports certainly didn't lie about that fact that the Royals like to run, yet several Phils appeared to be caught by surprise in yesterday's defeat.
After Aikens homered in the first inning to give Kansas City a 3-0 lead, McRae hit a routine single to center, rounded first base at full speed and kept on going. By the time center-fielder Garry Maddox threw it in to Bowa, McRae was sliding safely into the bag. He eventually scored the run that made it 4-0.
Late in that first inning, Royals shortstop U.L. Washington hit a bouncer near second base, and Bowa fielded it and threw to first a fraction of a second too late. A quicker release might have rung up the third out.
In the second inning against Dickie Noles, McRae again hit a ball that might have been held to a single. But he kept on going and beat right-fielder Bake McBride's hurried throw.
"They thought maybe I couldn't run," McRae said after the game. "I have been watching their outfielders, and I felt I could do that. Any time you play like that, you give your team a lift. But the key to doing anything like that is to get base hits."
Asked what the difference will be if the Royals do win this World Series, McRae said, "We'll win it with speed and defense."
In that regard, manager Jim Frey admitted it was important for his club to score first, and that the running game often helps them to do just that.
"With our ball club, it is important," he said. "But today wasn't a typical day. We normally keep scoring runs when we get ahead.... We haven't been able to do that against the Phillies the way we are capable of. That may be to the credit of the Phillies. Again today I had the steal sign on a lot but our guys just weren't able to get the jump."
In the other clubhouse, Green was surprisingly low key, but he may be getting ready to summon one of his vociferous team meetings.
Asked if he thought some of his players lacked concentration at times, he replied, "I totally agree with you. I don't know what was in their minds. Everybody knows their guys like to run. This was a first chance for them to really do that. I would hope our guys would react in the future. Everybody has been talking about how much they want to be in the fall classic, but we got to bear down. And we can't continue to leave men on base.
"But there are no surprises. We know they can run and push us. That's their style of game. Still, there's no defense for the home run, and that's what beat us, not the extra bases."
Series Notebook: Steaming Greg Luzinski will get his swings today
By Inquirer Staff Writers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Greg Luzinski doesn't have a fever anymore. He hasn't had a fever since Thursday.
But he wasn't in the Phillies lineup Friday. He wasn't in the Phillies lineup yesterday. And he isn't very happy about it.
"I'm all right," Luzinski said yesterday. "I've been all right all along. I don't even want to comment on it. I was expecting to play (Friday)."
Dallas Green said Friday that he didn't want to play Luzinski that night because it was a cold evening and he thought Luzinski could use the extra rest.
He did say then that Luzinski would play yesterday. But instead, Del Unser played left and Lonnie Smith was the designated hitter. Luzinski just sat and seethed.
"I went with Del because I felt the lefthander might handle (Dennis) Leonard a little better," Green said, although Smith, like Luzinski, bats Series notebook righthanded. "And I thought I'd give Bull one more day to get his feet on the ground.
"I know he's not too happy about it. But I've had baseball players not too happy with me before. Bull will definitely play tomorrow, That's a concession I'll make to you fellows that I don't usually make. He definitely will play."
That brought up the next logical question would Luzinski play left or DH? Green laughed.
"I'm not gonna get into that," he said.
Royals relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry, who has recorded a win and a save in the last two days, is relishing his new status as the world's foremost authority.
He is the current darling of the press for an obvious reason: The most innocuous question, when posed to Qujsenberry, can produce a startling answer. When asked a few days ago how he developed his underarm style, the reliever with the red mustache and the slow sinker said he "always had underarm tendencies but came out of the closet" five years ago.
Yesterday, after saving Game 4, he held court once more:
Question – Do you throw hard enough to retaliate if the knockdown of George Brett had escalated into a war?
Answer – Sure. If I was throwing hand grenades.
Q. – Have the Royals' pitchers had a retaliation meeting?
A. – We have decided with our World Series checks we would invest in nuclear arms.
Q. – What was the feeling in the clubhouse this morning?
A. – I sensed a lot of people needed 15 minutes of sleep. But the brilliant cup of coffee our clubhouse man supplied made up for that. We were confident. The clubhouse meeting (manager) Jim (Frey) held prior to the third game was the funniest meeting of the year....
The people who run the World Series are about as records conscious as auditors from the Internal Revenue Service. The records they keep, like records from time immemorial, are made to be broken – or at least tied.
In four games, the Phillies and the Royals have broken or tied a number of records, some of them significant, some of them trivial in the purest sense of that word.
Three records have been broken. Willie Aikens, with two home runs in Game 1 and two more yesterday, has set the standard for most multiple home run games in a series – two.
Amos Otis, the Royals centerfielder, set a record Friday night for put- outs in a game by an outfielder – nine.
And the fans of Philadelphia and Kansas City, in association with whoever sets the ticket prices, have set a record for the largest player pool – $3,915,870.79.
Eight records have been tied:
• Home run, first series at bat, Aikens.
• Most home runs, first series game, two, Aikens, Game 1.
• Most consecutive innings hitting home run, two, Aikens, Game 4.
• Most double plays started, game, three, Larry Bowa, Game 2.
• Most double plays, game, first baseman, four, Pete Rose, Game 2.
• Most double plays, game, both clubs, six, Game 2.
• Most runners left on base, extra innings, 15, Phillies, Game 3.
• Most sacrifice flies, club, game, two, Game 4.
NOTES: The top Phillies hitters in the Series so far are Bake McBride (7-for-15, .467) and Larry Bowa (7-for-16, .438).... Five Royals are hitting.400 or better – Hal McRae (.533), Amos Otis (.529), Willie Aikens (.467), Clint Hurdle (.444) and George Brett (.400). The Phillies team ERA is 4.52."You guys want us to shut guys down who have hit.300 all our lives," Green said. "Guys like Brett and Aikens and McRae have been hitting.300 for a while." Those guys haven't hurt the Phillies as much as they could have, though, because the people in front of them haven't hit at all. Willie Wilson is batting.118, Frank White .111 and U. L. Washington .188. "So far they're about the only ones we have been able to handle," Green said. "But I don't know if there is a book on Brett. And the way Aikens is swinging, there may not be a book on him at this particular time, either."... The Phillies are scheduled to arrive back in Philadelphia shortly after midnight tonight. They will fly into the International Airport on a United charter.