Kansas City Times - October 21, 1980
Kids even wonder why Frey has not used Splittorff
Royal manager’s choice of Gale as starter in Game 6 draws questions
By Mike Fish, A Member of the Sports Staff
PHILADELPHIA — Manager Jim Frey of the Royals was minding his business Monday, walking casually through the Franklin Plaza Hotel lobby on his way to an elevator.
Frey thought he had answered all the pre-game questions. Yes, he informed an informal gathering of reporters only minutes before, Rich Gale definitely was his starting pitcher for Game 6 of the World Series tonight.
Who else could ask?
Halfway through the hectic lobby, Frey ran across a pack of grammar-school-aged youngsters who were busy hunting autographs. One youngster not only sought to add Frey 's signature to his collection. but he also wanted an explanation on why Paul Splittorff wasn’t starting Game 6.
“Isn’t that something,” Frey, now smiling, cried out. “This little kid, what’s he about 12 years old if that, wants to know why I’m not using Splittorff.
“I can’t believe it. Every way I turn there's somebody asking me the same question. They even got little kids asking me. How does he know about Gale and Splittorff, anyway?”
It was that kind of a day for Frey. There were questions about a 4-3 loss to the Phillies Sunday. Why didn’t he pinch-hit for Jose Cardenal? Did he pull Larry Gura too soon? But the heaviest shots dealt with the starting pitcher tonight.
Frey has elected to go with Gale (13-9) against left-hander Steve Carlton (24-9) in the game tonight at Veterans Stadium. It will be up to Gale, the starter in Game 3 last Friday night, to prevent the Phillies from closing out the Series.
The Royals also will open with John Wathan behind the plate and Jose Cardenal in right field. Catcher Darrell Porter, 2-for-14 (143) in the series, and Clint Hurdle will be on the bench.
Frey’s logic behind starting Gale? He would rather have a right-hander face the Phillies’ power hitters. So Splittorff, a left-hander with a 14-11 record, is not being used.
Splittorff, a 10-year veteran, has refused to talk about his demotion the past two days.
"If Gale pitches good, they’ll say it was a gamble and it worked,” Frey said. “To suggest someone knows how he (Splittorff) would’ve pitched is unfair. I could’ve easily gone with a 4-man rotation and had Splittorff in there, but I felt it would be better with just three starters. That way if it goes seven games I can get Dennis Leonard back in there.”
If the Royals don't hold off the Phillies tonight, Leonard will be on hold until next April. The Royals need victories tonight and Wednesday night at the Vet to stop the Phillies from winning their first World Series.
Gale lasted 4⅓ innings against the National League champions in the Game 3, leaving with the score tied 2-2 after having surrendered seven hits. It was a game the Royals eventually won 4-3 in 10 innings.
“The game’s just not on my back," said Gale. “I’ve got 24 other guys to help out there, too. There's no question I’ll be pumped up. If I win, the sun will come up Wednesday morning. If I lose, the sun will still come up Wednesday morning.”
If the Phillies take the offensive early, Gale won’t be around long. It’s a must-win situation for the Royals. There’s no time to go with Gale an extra inning hoping that in time he will find his control.
“The decision was up to Jim Frey,” said pitching coach Billy Connors. “We talked about it, but Jim Frey made the eventual decision on Richie. He threw well enough to keep us in the game (Friday night).
"We ll use everybody if we have to (tonight). He can't give up a bunch of runs. He can’t hang out there and get buried."
The Royals will be trying to repeat what the Pirates did a year ago — win the World Series by taking the last two games on the road. But in Carlton, a 2-time Cy Young Award winner, they will be facing one of the game's premier pitchers.
Carlton started and won Game 2 in Philadelphia. He gave up four runs on 10 bits before getting ninth-inning relief help from Ron Reed.
"Carlton, that figures,” said Royals’ center fielder Amos Otis. "He's supposed to be the best pitcher on their staff. He’s been there a long time.
"Our backs are against the wall. They're at home with 65,000 maniacs there in the seats. In my opinion it makes a difference. They're leading the Series 3-2, so you'd have to say they’re the best team right now. Ask me how I feel tomorrow. Things might change my mind."
And then there's Hal McRae. The veteran designated hitter realizes it wouldn’t matter if Goliath took to the mound. Carlton, Goliath or whoever, the Royals need a victory tonight.
"Hey we gotta win a ballgame," McRae said. "It doesn't matter who's pitching. When you're down to your last match you don't really care.
"You try to take something away from me. That's what pressure means."
Fame’s flip side turns sour for Willie Aikens
By John Schulian, Special to the Kansas City Times
On the flip side of fame, there are no glad hands reaching out to congratulate you, no press-conference audiences forgetting about the way you stutter, no pretty girls waiting to be your friend for the night or the week or whatever.
Once defeat is in the books and the blame is on your rap sheet, the best you can hope for is a loud hissing shower to drown out the kind of unfortunate questions and intramural criticism that burned Willie Aikens' ears Sunday.
The noise of despair grew so loud Aikens didn't even have time to gulp down the piece of chicken he had grabbed as soon as lie set foot in the Royals' clubhouse. Instead, the Kentucky-fried security blanket became a half eaten baton for the unhappy symphony he had to conduct in front of his locker, a symphony that underscored everything George Brett was saying about the broad-backed first baseman 30 feet away.
“You have to make those plays," Brett kept saying disgustedly.
And Aikens had not. While the Philadelphia Phillies had been dumping Kansas City on its regal rump 4-3 and moving within one game of calling the World Series their own, Aikens had begun unraveling the hero’s robe he had so dutifully created for himself.
Suddenly, nobody wanted to talk about his four home runs or his eight runs batted in or his .444 batting average. Who cared for any of that after he had let the game-tying hit ricochet past him in the ninth inning? Who cared for good news after he had spent a fine autumn day looking like bad news?
“He’s the reason we get errors,” Brett said.
Aikens did not disagree. He just slumped a little deeper in his director's chair, sighed a little louder, looked a little sadder. He kept his head propped up with his right hand. More and more of the lamp black that had begun the game under his eyes was winding up on his forehead. "One day you're the hero, the next day you're the scapegoat, huh?” He had it all figured out.
A thick hide is the inevitable result of a life in baseball, and now Aikens was getting a chance to show his. Now he had to bend over and let strangers use him as the target in their game of Pin the Tail on the donkey.
It would all come down to the ninth inning of course — to the ninth inning and the double that Philadelphia's Del Unser rifled down the line, the double that 42,369 eyewitnesses thought Aiken should have flagged down. But there was more to his story than that. None of it was pretty.
There was trouble as early as the fourth inning, trouble that gave Aikens the dubious distinction of having a hand in all of the Phillies’ runs. Bake McBride slapped a ground ball back at Kansas City starter Larry Gura and Gura lobbed an easy throw in Aikens' direction. It should have been the simplest of plays, the surest of outs, but first base umpire Nick Bremigan ruled that Aikens didn’t step on the bag in time.
For a long moment, Aikens insisted he had been done wrong. "I had my foot down by the side of the base touching it," he said, “and all I was doing was trying to step on top of it so the umpire could see easier.”
But Bremigan had seen McBride’s foot get there first. Even the instant replay on television had shown McBride getting no worse than a tie with Aikens. It is writ that a tie goes to the runner.
"I know,” said Aikens, glummer than ever. "I was caught in between trying to catch the throw and putting my foot on the bag. I should have put my foot on the bag first. I blew it.”
He tried to make amends in the fourth inning by ramming a single to left center, but that was for naught. So was his journey to the plate in the seventh, when the Royals were nursing a 3-2 lead and he went up there thinking home run, insurance run.
With two strikes on him, he tried to check his swing, only to have third base umpire Bill Kunkel rule that he had gone too far. "How could he call that far away as he was?" Aikens said. "I argued at him, you bet I did. But after they call you out, you’re pfffft."
It was a feeling Aikens was fast getting used to. In the eighth, Brett fired a 1-hop peg in his direction and the ball bounced through Aikens’ legs. The Philliee didn’t get a run out of it, but Brett got an error and the aforementioned bad impression of Aikens’ glove work. "I still think I’ve improved some," said everybody's fall guy, but nothing he did afterward supported his case.
He was trapped the instant Mike Schmidt singled off Brett's glove to start the Philadelphia ninth. "I had to hold him on," Aikens said, "and I had to try not to give Unser too big a hole to shoot at.” So Aikens came off the bag hard and Unser, the Phillies’ masterful left-handed pinch-hitter, flogged a shot in the space he had Just vacated.
"It was a pea," Aikens said of Unser shot.
He swiped at it with the big glove and didn't come close. "If it was right at me, I would have tried to block it with my chest," he said. But it was to his left, a blur that a nimbler first basemen would have flagged down. "You think so?” Aikens said. "I don't think anybody could have made that play."
He stared at the disbelieving reporters crowded around him and shrugged at their sudden silence. At last he had time to take a bit of chicken, but when he did, he regretted it. You could see it by the way his tongue dug at his teeth, there was a piece wedged between his teeth and he couldn’t get rid of it — couldn’t for the life of him. It was stuck, just like Willie Aikens, the hero who used to be.
(Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate)
Series not computing for Frey
The Morning Line By Mike McKenzie
Philadelphia — To find a team that won Games 6 and 7 and the World Series, coming from a game down in the opponent’s home park, you have to go all the way back to 1979. The Fam-uh-lee of Pittsburgh beat the Orioles twice in Baltimore last October and took the Series 4-3.
For the Royals to repeat that feat, accomplished only five other times in 32 7-game Series, Manager Jim Frey needs something besides “Does Not Compute” to flash on the board when he pushes buttons.
Frey’s button-pushing throughout the Royals’ championship season left him smelling like a rose many times, even when it was suspect.
In the World Series, leave off the rose. Some is just plain smelling.
Foremost, there is no pardonable way to have Jose Cardenal at bat with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, down a run, and the Series on the line.
That climax to Sunday's Game 5 was the most glaring Freyism, not the only one.
The one that stands above all else is the continued pressure placed on the arm of relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry. Frey is asking too much.
“He's been doing it for us all year," is the manager’s counterpoint. All year in the eighth and ninth innings, and yes, occasionally earlier. But not in seven consecutive games across 11 days, especially with sixth- and seventh-inning calls.
Twice Frey pulled Larry Gura too soon to hurry to Quisenberry. Gura has given the Phillies only eight hits and four runs in 12-plus innings.
“In a short series,” says Frey, “you're definitely going to be less patient with the starters.”
Less patient is one thing; foolhardy another.
Then there is a matter of tapping all resources. Frey has not used pitchers Paul Splittorff, Marty Pattin or Ken Brett.
Frey speaks of a week’s research and thought going into the decision to have Dennis Leonard ready for three starts, thus squeezing to three starting pitchers, thus leaving out Splittorff. But the same logic that applies to Gura's effectiveness against the Phillies’ right-handed power lineup applies to Splittorff, because they are so similar.
Pattin wasn’t used frequently in regular season, but his 4-0 record in middle relief proved him reliable. Ken Brett was obtained for the same reasons as Cardenal — insurance — so why use one and not the other?
In contrast, manager Dallas Green of the Phillies has shown confidence in his entire bullpen so far. Plus, he started rookies in Games 1 and 5 — Bob Walk and Marty Bystrom — and used greenhorn Dickie Noles in tight relief situations.
Further evidence of Frey’s pushbuttons having gone haywire are situations such as:
• Not substituting Pete LaCock for Willie Aikens in late innings for better defense. LaCock might not have fielded Del Unser’s clutch double Sunday that tied the game, but Frey's “book’’ calls for the switch.
• Having Willie Wilson, the potential winning run, steal second with George Brett at bat in Game 3. Frey explained the percentages favoring Willie Aikens getting a hit or the Phillies an error, as opposed to Brett an extra-base hit. Brett’s only a .390 hitter this year and the best extra-base hitter in either league.
In Game 2, Wathan faced Ron Reed — right-hander vs right-hander — as time ran out on the Royals in defeat. Jamie Quirk, a left-handed swinger, had been limbering up to pinch-hit… but for Cardenal two batters later, not Wathan. There were no two batters later. Why not Hurdle for Wathan, if the opposite holds?
Sunday, Frey had Brett play closer at third on Mike Schmidt because Schmidt had bunted the game before. “Ain't no way I was going to bunt in that situation," Schmidt said of his ninth-inning smash Brett knocked down that started the winning rally. Everybody knew it. But Frey’s orders were, “Don't give him the bunt."
Also questionable were situations in the third and fifth innings with runners at first and second, none out. Wilson did not bunt. Frank White did, again numbing Brett’s effectiveness since with first base open he could be pitched around.
Frey has answers to each situation, thoroughly logical to him, mapped ahead of time. He is not a hunch player. "I don't even know what a hunch is," he says. "I also know I could be dead wrong, but you have to make decisions and stick by them.”
Like starting Cardenal in right field for Game 6 tonight. Like starting Rich Gale, leaving Splittorff to rust.
There are two ways to view Frey’s button-pushing in '80. One is that lie did many or most things right, as re suits show. The other is that despite his method and ploys, the Royals would have won anyway. The Royals might have surfaced the same way with Mork from Ork managing.
Whichever, the moves that have been perfumed by victory suddenly reek from defeat.
The ramifications? Only eight of 28 teams that lost the fifth game of a 2-2 World Series rallied to win in seven. "We’re holding the hammer," says Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa. And the echo of its pounding could make for a long winter of What Might Have Been second-guessing in Royals country.
Phillies show friendly side to attendant
By Mike McKenzie, A Member of the Sports Staff
Philadelphia newspapers reported Monday that a gathering of approximately 200 people at the airport was snubbed by the Phillies upon their return shortly after midnight from their Sunday victory in Game 5 of the World Series in Kansas City.
The team's charter flight parked at the opposite end of the terminal from where it normally unloads and the Phillies boarded buses in the dark outside where fans couldn't see them. The fans’ disappointment and disgust duly was reported, further tarnishing the Phillies' public image.
That image is tainted enough by members of the Philadelphia press corps who regularly cover the Phillies. When George Brett of the Royals came up with a case of hemorrhoids, Mark Whicker of the Philadelphia Inquirer commented, “It’s about time the other dugout had to deal with a pain in the tail, too."
Some members of the Phillies are very cooperative with the media — most notably Tug McGraw, Pete Rose, and Mike Schmidt.
Steve Carlton never speaks to the press. Others hide in the training room, even after victory sometimes. Answers from several are curt, some putdowns, always complete with sneers.
But one lad in Kansas City views them differently.
"They're not bad guys,” said Tommy Clune. He is the Royals employee in charge of the visitors' clubhouse.
“I can see how they get that reputation, I guess" Clune said. "But to me they’re a good team to work around, really funny and loose.”
Clune began his work under his brother, Pete, the clubhouse attendant for visitors before and after the Royals were formed. When Pete, now a bank president, moved on, Tommy continued under Billy Jones, now trainer for the Kansas City Kings. Four years ago, Tommy took over fulltime while continuing toward a degree from the Uuniversity of Missouri-Kansas City in business administration, which he hopes to attain next year.
Many people probably think they 'd love his job, rubbing elbows with baseball stars of ail visiting teams, yet Clune is but a casual baseball fan. "I don’t get that caught up in the games, although I enjoy getting to know the players,” he said. He also said be views them in terms of his prosperity, for the bulk of his income comes from tips.
His job involves keeping supplies of gum, candy, and post-game buffet on hand, and keeping equipment and clothing in place.
“Ballplayers throw their clothes everywhere, and we make sure it's picked up and in place at their lockers,” Clune said of his 6-man clubhouse crew. "The Phillies were easy to deal with, very friendly. But it’s a whole different level. They want something, they need us to help them. The press is more bothersome to them.”
Clune rates the Yankees the most demanding team he has dealt with, and the Twins the least demanding. On a scale of Yankees-to-Twins, the Phillies rate "a notch above the middle," he said.
The live wire in the clubhouse besides McGraw and Rose is Larry Bowa, who has one of the worst reputations with the media. "He gets his words in,” said Clune. “Carlton talked to me, asked for a few things. He's a nice guy. None of them treated us bad.”
When the Phillies arrived Thursday their equipment was late and not prepared when they went to Royals Stadium for a workout. “We'd heard the workout was canceled, and I expected some complaining,” said Clune. "They gave us a semi hard time, but just joking. Otherwise I was well-prepared for them, with extra supplies. They had me trying to round up tickets, too.”
After McGraw lost the Friday game, be complained to Clune about the small size of drinking cups. "He told me after he loses, he complains a lot,” said Clune. "I told him to make a list and just wait until the end and do it all at once.”
Clune said the Phillies used more coffee than any team he has been around. "Rose told me, ‘I don’t know what it’s like in the American League, but this won't cut it around here.' So we made extra," said Clune. “We couldn't keep the pot full."
Part of the job is keeping people out of the clubhouse who don't belong, and the crush of the World Series complicates that task. The first night, Clune almost chased out a man hanging around the food table, and it turned out to be a part-owner of the Phillies.
Over a season, and several seasons, Clune becomes well acquainted with the Royals' opposition. With the Phillies, it was a 1-time shot.
"We didn’t have time to get to know them individually," said Clune. "But they treated us nice.
“The air was different than usual, because it's the World Series and everybody feels it. They were more tense, excited, psyched, and other ingredients. You could see it in their faces. I guess you'd just describe it as a Series feeling.”
Phillies’ fans love and hate their team
By Jeffrey R. Coplan, A Member of the Staff
PHILADELPHIA — To paraphrase Dorothy, this sure doesn’t look like Kansas City, Toto.
Kansas City’s opposite number in the 1260 World Series is simply a different version of America. While Kansas City still bears the stamp of the raw frontier, Philadelphia breeds the age and tradition you would expect of a place founded in 1681.
Where Kansas City is typically suburban, with its 1-family homes and half-acre lots, Philadelphia is thoroughly urban, filled with bricks and brown stone row houses along narrow streets.
Instead of the generally homogenized society common to younger cities in the Midwest, Philadelphia has preserved strong ethnic neighborhoods, testaments to the great immigrations of the 19th century.
And, until recently, the two cities were pulled apart in their attitudes toward their baseball clubs. In Kansas City, where the citizenry took to their scrappy young Royals from the start, it’s been a cross between “Loveboat” and "Little House on the Prairie.”
But in Philadelphia, the fans and their Phillies seemed to resemble an installment of "Divorce Court,” the one where the split was delayed only because neither side wanted the children.
Ever since the franchise was established in 1883, the Phillies were the Harold Stassens of the National League. They finished dead last 24 times. In 1964, they blew a 6½-game lead with 12 games to play. In 1976-78 they won their division only to lose in the playoffs each time. And when they reached the World Series — in 1915 and 1950 — they won but one of nine games.
Phillie fans lived and died with their team, but they were only human. After being hurt so often, they became less inclined to show it, like Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca.” They became notorious for deriding their own players, even during successful seasons. In the recent National League Championship Series against Houston, four of nine Phillie starters were booed by their home crowd when the lineup was announced.
In Kansas City, this would be taken as bad form and disloyalty. In fact, it is simply a different style of loyalty, as evidenced by the bloated attendance figures at Veterans’ Stadium.
The philosophy of these fans is simple.
“When the Phillies are wrong I boo, and when they are right I yay," said a truck driver named Jim Plumley, as he stood outside Pat’s Steaks. "If a player makes $165,000 a year, I have a right to boo.”
Pat’s Steaks is the local equivalent of Arthur Bryant's, a simple comer stand where people have ordered cheese steak sandwiches, Philadelphia’s gastronomic pride for 50 years. It’s located in the Italian section of South Philadelphia, once the home of Frankie Avalon and Sylvester Stallone, and draws patrons of all colors and classes.
Pat's put up a lite billboard across the street last week before the Royals first came to town. The billboard reads, “Congratulations to the New World Series Champs, the Phillies” — and on Monday night, you couldn't find a customer who disagreed with that prediction.
"They should of won this series in four games,” said Benny Landi, a burly longshoreman. "They just didn’t want the Royals to feel too bad.”
Didn't he ever get discouraged by his team's past failures?
“Was you ever married?” Landi replied. "Once in a while your wife lets you down, but she always brings you back.”
After the Phillies' dramatic victory Sunday in Kansas City, thousands of fans here took to the streets in a riotous celebration, as if to make up for all the parties they've missed before. If their team wins the big one either tonight or Wednesday, this old Quaker town will be launched into Mardi Gras and New Year’s Eve, all rolled into one.
“Take the population of Philadelphia and that's the roster of the Phillies," said Pete Simone, the manager at Pat's. ‘ ‘When they win, we win and when they lose, we lose. We don’t let them down and they don’t let us down — and that's the truth.”
But what if the Phillies do lose these last two games of 1980? "If the Phillies lose, these fans will turn on them," said Jim Boyle, another cabbie.
"And I mean they'll turn on them.”
Slumps hit Wilson, Rose at worst times
By Mike Fish, A Member of the Sports Staff
PHILADELPHIA — It was as if someone had switched off the power. The season had been full of base hits and public adulation for Pete Rose and Willie Wilson.
Now the hits have dried up. They're coming fewer and farther between. At the worst of all possible times, Rose and Wilson are slump-ridden during the World Series.
For every player who can’t buy a hit, there’s a Hal McRae, Bob Boone or Larry Bowa. The World Series is capable of transforming Bucky Dents into celebrities and making a super-star of Reggie Jackson.
There is no middle ground. You either produced splendidly under the intense October pressure or crumble in the prime-time limelight. Anything in between goes unnoticed.
"Everything is so magnified,” said Wilson, a .182 hitter through Game 5 of the Series. "An error is magnified, a hit is magnified. The pressure is put on by the media and the questions.
"You go out for batting practice and there are 600 reporters. I don’t feel the pressure if I’m going good, but if I'm going bad it bothers me. People start asking me why, and I start thinking. I go 0-for-9 after having 230 hits (this season) and everybody wants to know why I’m in a slump."
Wilson and Rose (.158) aren't the only players struggling at the plate. Royals pitchers have had little trouble with Garry Maddox (.167) or Greg Luzinski (.000). Frank White has been a wizard in the field but he has provided little offense (.085). The same is true of Darrell Porter (.143).
"If we were down 3-2 in the Series I might worry about my hitting," said the volatile Rose, who is 3-for-19 against the Royals. "But look, I've come out of slumps quickly before. I still may get the hit that wins the Series.
“I've never done that well in the Series, except for once (’75 against the Red Sox), but I’ve won a couple times and that’s what counts. This game is 75 percent luck and right now I’m not getting any breaks."
So far, at least, the luck has been with McRae (.450) Amos Otis (.560, 3 HR, 7 RBI), Willie Aikens (.444, 4 HR, 8 RBI) and George Brett (.350). The Philly fortunes have rested with Boone (.400) Bowa (.400) Del Unser (.500 and two game-winning hits) and Mike Schmidt (.388, 2 HR, 5 RBI).
“Maybe pressure causes people not to play well," said McRae. "If you do well your mood starts to change. I started getting base hits and then I expected to get a base hit every time up.
“The first game of the series I got a hit and hit another ball hard. I got the feeling I don't know what it is, really. Maybe it’s that your concentrating more. Maybe it's natural ability coming forward."
If there’s an answer, Wilson would like to hear it. Wilson has struck out nine times through the first five games, only two short of the all-time Series record.
He is a puzzled young man. He has studied his stance in the mirror, analyzed video replays and still isn’t sure what's wrong. What Wilson needs and would like is a professional tutor, a batting instructor.
“All this time I’m in a slump and nobody told me why," Wilson said. "I had to find out on my own. I watched movies of myself hitting.
“Why don't we have batting instructors? Gordy (Mackenzie) and Jose (Martinez) are suppose to be our instructors. I asked Jose to look at me earlier when I was going bad. I knew I looked bad and he said everything was fine. I knew I looked like (bleep)."
Just what success in the World Series brings is another question. If Wilson snaps out of his slump with crucial hits in the next two games he might be the next Mr. October.
He could be used to push stereo systems, underwear or maybe even some fashionable under-arm spray to the American public. Bucky Dent did it, Reggie did it, Johnny Bench…
"Not everybody is marketable. it’s just the cold facts," said McRae. “I've done well in two (World Series with the Reds) and people didn't know who I was. Next year, who cares.
"You can do certain things with some of the guys and not with others. Certainly they might do something with George, Tug McGraw, Rose… Mike Schmidt. There could be things for some people, but we’re not in the best market (Kansas City).
“I don’t expect anything. So I’m not gonna be disappointed.”
Society’s changes reflected in pastime
By Jeanne Meyer, A Member of the Staff
Theirs will be the stuff of World Series flashbacks a decade from now: Willie Aikens’ home runs; George Brett’s hot bat; Frank White's defensive plays at second base.
Just as the scribes of this series reach back to recall past glories — Babe Ruth’s hitting, Willie Mays' fielding, Reggie Jackson s October break through — every World Series is baseball history in the making.
“Baseball, more than other sports, is conscious of its past," said Dr Joe King, a Texas Tech University professor who teaches a class called "History of Baseball: A Mirror on American life." King was in Kansas City last week for a conference of the Western History Association.
"We are always measuring ourselves against the past," King said. "Look at how interested fane are in records, like George Brett reaching Ted Williams’ .400 mark."
But today’s fans might not even recognize the game as it was played in its infancy — with no boos, no beer, no calling the umpire a bum.
"In the 1860s to early 1870s, it was an amateur game, played by the upper middle class," King said.
“It was a gentleman’s game. Fans were well-behaved and the umpire received respect because he usually was just token from the stands before the game and thought to be someone knowledgeable about baseball. If you criticized the umpire, you’d be fined.
“Fans were decorous and kind — no screaming at the umpire, although cheering was acceptable. All that changed as the game became professionalized and the players were paid. Paying fans figured that in buying a ticket, they bought the right to yell at the umpire and at the players.”
Beer also was a latecomer to the sport.
“The early American Association league allowed beer at games, but the National League was contemptuous of them, referring to them as the ‘beer and whiskey league,’” King said. “Chris von der Ahe, for example, was a brewer in the 1880s who found that owning a baseball team, the old St Louis Browns, was a good way to increase his beer sales.”
The baseball class may be the only such college course offered in the country, King said. But it doesn’t dwell on baseball trivia or batting averages.
“What we are interested in — and the average fan perhaps doesn't know this or reflect upon it — is how baseball is reflected in our culture," King said. “We are looking at society through a microscope.”
Some of baseball lore is myth. For example, Abner Doubleday, the man credited with Inventing baseball in 1839 at Cooperstown, N.Y., was not the founder of baseball, King contends.
"No single Individual invented baseball,” he said. "Baseball traces Its roots to England and cricket. The (Doubleday) legend began because a farmer maintained that he had seen Abner Doubleday play baseball, but historians doubt that he did.
"it's a nice legend, and they figured Cooperstown was a nice place for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown just sounds better than say, Hoboken, N.J."
There also are precedents in the past for modern baseball "firsts." Racial integration is an example.
“Jackie Robinson didn’t integrate baseball; he reintegrated it," King said.
“In the late 19th century, there were blacks playing with whites in major league baseball. One player, for example, was a catcher named Moses Fleetwood Walker, a college-educated man. But late in that century, baseball became a function of the larger society as it moved toward ‘separate but equal,’ and it became segregated. That’s when Negro leagues were formed in the early 20th century."
The idea of a players' association also is not new.
"Players' organizations are almost as old aa the game itself," King said. "John Montgomery Ward, both a good player and an attorney, led a players’ association in the late 19th century. In 1890, the association organized a strike against tlie National League and formed its own league, but they didn't have the organizational skill and it lasted only one season.”
Whatever its origins, King says Americans follow baseball because "they like to think of themselves as playing by the rules, living by the rules. And umpires make sure that baseball games are played by the rules.
"The game has great beauty, great symmetry. It also shows off the individual, more so than in football. You are part of a team, but there la great individualism. When the batter is at the plate, it's just him against a Nolan Ryan fastball."
King grew up in Brooklyn as a Dodger fan and switched to the Yankees and then to the Texas Rangers.
”I am very much a fan. As a historian, I try to be objective, but I let my hair down in front of the TV.”
From all he knows of baseball’s past, can he forecast the winner in the current series?
"Historians are terrible prophets," he said, laughing. “But I follow the American League. I can only say that I would like to see the Royals win."
TV doesn’t score with Phillies fans
By Steve Nicely, Broadcast Critic
Apparently most Philadelphia Phillies fans regard the NBC World Series announcers about as highly as Royals fans regarded the ABC an ouncers in the playoffs. In baseball terminology, they think the NBC coverage stinks. They think it is definitely biased in favor of the Royals.
That sentiment is emerging in Philadelphia newspaper columns. Daily News columnist Jack McKinney treated the subject Monday as follows:
“If Steve Carlton can win the most meaningful game of the year Tuesday night, it will mean more than just the baseball championship of the universe for the Phillies. It will also mean one less night of Joe Garagiola, a consummation devoutly to be wished.
“Ever since NBC moved in for the ultimate glamour of the national pastime, I’ve been hearing people complain about the pro-Kansas City bias of Joe Garagiola and his partner Tony Kubek. At first I was inclined to dismiss the complaints as provincial paranoia, then I started listening closely. Yep, it's there.
“The way Garagiola and Kubek call it, everything the Royals accomplish seems to come across larger than life, but let the Phillies do something positive and one of the two broadcasters — or both — will find a way to praise it with faint damns. Any Royals fielding play that goes beyond the merely routine is replayed at least three times with gushing voice-overs.
"There was also the matter of screening finalists for the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, which Garagioia and Kubek got around to Sunday. Remember, this was Game 5.
"When last heard from on the honor, the two announcers were sorting it out among Willie Aikens, George Brett, Amos Otis and Hal McRae, a guy that doesn't even own a fielder’s mitt. Not one of the Phillies rated a mention and all they did was come on and win the flaming game."
The Philadelphia Inquirer has yet to comment publicly on the perceived bias, but television editor Barbara Wilson summed up the opinion of the City of Brotherly Love about the NBC coverage.
“As far as I'm concerned, the camera work is OK,” Ms. Wilson said. “It’s the announcers who are going to drive me away from the act. That is the feeling here. Very definitely, the American League prejudice is there.
“When NBC was interviewing George Brett Sunday, I thought Tony Kubek sounded like an idiot. They also sounded like idiots during McBride 's questionable catch in right field. Kubek and Garogiola had a running argument about it that went on for innings. As far as we were concerned, we didn't give a damn.”
When she asked for my candid opinion on the matter, I explained the recent history of how the Royals had been repeatedly ground into the dust during playoffs by the Yankees and ABC. Many fans here harbor a superficial hatred for the Yanks and all things New York. Nobody has personified New York more than Howard Cosell on ABC, unless it was Billy Martin, this year's fili-in for Cosell.
"I see," she said. “You feel like NBC has come to your rescue.”
Not to the rescue, but certainly less biased. Candidly, we agreed, there probably are very few people in Kansas City or Philadelphia capable of assessing the announcers objectively at this point.
Unless it is Rex Polier, radio-TV columnist in Philadelphia for The Bulletin. He had just finished writing his column for today and read part of it over the phone:
"Emotionally strung-out Delaware Vaileyites have complained during the World Series that NBC, Joe Garagioia, Tony Kubek and Tom Seaver were biased in favor of the Royals. That’s always a charge by the home team, but I don't think it holds up. Any network sportscaster who was noticeably biased wouldn't last a week.
"We can recall our Midwestern origins when no radio commentator ever escaped bias charges from that area’s rabid Notre Dame followers. If you didn't exclaim about the glories of the lads from the Golden Dome at all times you were a bum.
"It's still the same with TV and the hometown team supporters. If there is anything to say about Joe and Tony and Tom, it is that they are frequently boring, especially Garagioia, whose folksiness kills me.”
Polier said one reason the Phillies fans are so hot is that the NBC World Series contract excluded the team’s hometown broadcasters from announcing the game on Channel 17, the station that has carried the Phillies Baseball Network telecasts through out the season and the playoffs. He said the local announcers "are kind of like household pets."
"Everybody knows them and likes them, but frankly they are admittedly pro-Phillies," he said. 'They are never too critical, nor are they expected to be.
“The Phillies in the past few years have captured everybody's imagination. The fans like to bear nice things about them, even though the fans are not above booing a Phillies player when he strikes out.
"Emotionally, the entire city is about down for the count."
World Series Notes: Brett campaigner cushions support
From staff and wire service reports
From the advertising salesman who gave us "George Brett for President” bumper stickers and T shirts comes another brainstorm: The "I Supported George Brett for President” hemorrhoid seat cushion.
The round cushion, 15 inches in diameter with the all-important hole in the center, will hit local department stores and sporting goods shops by Friday, said Ron Mears, Kansas City, Kansas salesman with Appreciated Advertising. Suggested retail price: $5.
As the bumper stickers and T shirts before it, sales from the hemorrhoid cushion will benefit the George Brett baseball scholarship fund at Mears' alma mater, Kansas City, Kansas, Community Junior College. Mears is president of the school’s board of trustees.
Sales have boosted the fund by $15,000.
RICH GALE, who carries the Royals' hopes into the sixth game of the World Series tonight, approaches the assignment against Philadelphia in a rather matter-of-fact fashion.
“I said before we re going to ha ve to beat Steve Carlton to win this thing," Gale said. "Now we’re at that point. You either beat Carlton or we lose it in six."
DEL UNSER’8 sweet swing has helped get the Phillies within one victory of baseball’s world championship, but he says that if things go according to plan, it won’t have to take them any farther.
Unser has delivered two key pinch hits in the 1980 World Series — one shy of the record. But all things considered, Unser would prefer he not be needed.
"I hope I don’t have to get a hit,” Unser said. “I hope Lefty (Steve Carlton) shuts them out. I hope Lefty throws the way he can. If he doe,s we can win."
NBC'’s COVERAGE of the World Series has produced some innovations that will be seen in more parts of the country next season.
Most prominent among them is getting simultaneous shots of different happenings on the baseball diamond. In the sixth inning Sunday, fans throughout the country saw Clint Hurdle tagging up to score on a fly out to right field by U.L. Washington.
"This gives you peripheral vision that you have at the ballpark but that TV doesn’t normally have,” said Don Ohlmeyer, executive producer of NBC Sports.