Philadelphia Daily News - October 24, 1980
They Sat and Waited… and Won
By Ray Didinger
The TV platform in the Phillies clubhouse was jammed Tuesday night. Pete Rose, Tug McGraw, Mike Schmidt and a dozen other players took turns gulping champagne and telling America how it felt to be world champions.
However, there were 30 different stories in that locker room, players and coaches all sharing a very special moment. These are a few stories that never got on camera.
John Vukovich worked his way throogk the crowded clubhouse, through the sweaty bearhugs and the frothy jubilation.
People kept offering their congratulations. Vuke would shake hands and smile but, all the while, his eyes kept scanning the room.
Finally, John Vukovich saw the man he was looking for. He leaped and let out a yell.
"Hey. Dallas," he shouted. "Dallas, we did it."
Dallas Green turned away from the interview he was doing. Green reached out and hugged Vukovich, pressing his head against his chest.
"I'm proud of you, Vuke," Dallas Green said. "You know I'm proud of you."
Dallas Green knows what John Vukovich went through to be a part of this championship team. He was the head of the Phillies farm system in the 70s. He wrote the bus tickets for Vuke when the third baseman made the rounds from Spartanburg to Tidewater, from Reading to Eugene.
GREEN KNOWS THAT John Vukovich paid his dues to the organization. He signed with the Phillies in 1966 and played in the minor leagues with all the big names, like Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski.
But they all shot past Vukovich. like motorists passing a hitchhiker at 80 MPH. They went on to become stars in the big time. Vuke was stuck in the bushes. Good field, no hit – that was the label they slapped on his forehead.
Vuke played bits of eight seasons in the major leagues but was never considered anything more than a spare part. This spring, he went to Clearwater as a non-roster player, baseball's equivalent of a panhandler.
At age 32, he was given almost no chance of making the ballclub. But he volunteered to learn a new position, catcher, and his team spirit fit in nicely with the "We, Not I" approach of the new manager.
So Dallas Green kept John Vukovich on the Phillies roster. And, on Tuesday night, Vuke sat in the Veterans Stadium clubhouse, staring at his left hand, wondering how a World Series ring would look there.
"I used to dream about this," Vukovich said. "I dreamed about it the day I signed my first pro contract. After a while, I began to think it would never happen, but this spring I felt we really had a shot.
“WHY? TALENT. ITS not hard to look around our clubhouse and see that we have the talent to win a world championship. You start with guys like Schmitty, Rose and Lefty (Carlton)... hey, that’s three Hall of Famers right there.
"Me, I just wanted to help the best I could. I offered to catch because I figured in my situation, the more things I could do, the more valuable I would be."
John Vukovich appeared in only 49 games this season, he batted.161, but he gave the Phillies something they sorely needed, a sparkplug, a guy who could keep the team stirred up with his needling and chattering in the dugout
"The great thing about Vuke is he doesn’t take any guff from our superstars," Dallas Green said. "They all came up through the system together. He can say (critical) stuff to them and get away with it. He does, too."
"I guess I've just got a big mouth," John Vukovich said, shrugging. "I didn't talk anymore in October than I did in April. It's just that we won all those games with late-inning comebacks and Dallas talked about how our bench (players) helped by keeping the team up, emotionally.
"I'd rather not be remembered as the team cheerleader," Vukovich said. "I'm prouder of the fact that I started 11 games for the best player in the game (Schmidt) and we won seven of them. I must be able to do something besides make noise."
George Vukovich was sitting in a quiet corner of the clubhouse, holding a bottle of Great Western champagne in his lap. Every so often, he would raise the bottle to his lips and take a small, almost reluctant, sip.
Vukovich was in no hurry to finish this celebration off. He wanted to savor it, curl up with it as if it were a pillow. He was a world champion. For a kid who was playing in Reading, Pa., last summer, it's been a helluva climb.
"I don't know if I've ever won a championship before," the 24-year-old outfielder said. "American Legion ball, maybe when I was at Southern Illinois, we went to the College World Series and we finished third.
"But this," he said, gazing in awe at his surroundings. "This is the world we're talking about. The world... that's scary.
"I only had a small part in this thing," said Vukovich, who had 58 at-bats during the regular season, fewest of any non-pitcher. "I didn’t do much but pinch-hit and play some (late-inning) defense now and then."
Here he took another quick sip of champagne. "But right now," he continued, "I don't give a damn. I'm happy.
"I'm happy for myself but I'm even happier for what Dallas calls 'the core' of the team. I'm talking about the veterans like Larry (Bowa), Schmitty and Bull. They went through hell, they deserve this."
SOMEONE ASKED George Vukovich what he was planning to do with his World Series check. He paused and scratched his head.
"I haven’t really thought about it," Vukovich said. "I mean, I was so caught up in just winning, I never stopped to think about the money. Yeah, that's right. World Series shares...
"I guess I'll pay off my van. And 111 look around for a house. I'm sick and tired of paying rent. If there's anything left, my wife will take care of it.
"This whole year has been unreal for me," Vukovich said. "First just making the team, now this.
"When I think of all the great players who have never had the opportunity to play in a World Series, much less win one, I consider myself very lucky."
"My plans?" Greg Gross said. "Well, after the parade, I'm gonna head down to San Juan, Puerto Rico."
Ah ha. Catch a little sun? Maybe do a little water skiing? No, actually Greg Gross is going there to play baseball.
"I'm gonna play for a (winter league) team managed by Art Howe," Gross said, referring to the Houston Astros first baseman.
"Art talked to me about it during the (National League) Championship Series. He said he needed a left-handed hitting utility man to take Denny Walling's place. Denny can't go. His wife's expecting a baby.
"I'm looking forward to it. This is the second year in a row when I haven't played that much (with the Phillies). I got 170 at-bats last season, 150 this year and I need more than that to keep my batting eye.
"I never did get my stroke this year," said Gross, who finished the regular season with a career-low .240 average. "I'd have it for a few days but I didn't play enough to sustain it. If I play winter ball, it will take some of the rust off and get me ready for spring training.
"BESIDES, ART PROMISED if 1 went to Puerto Rico, he would let me play first base and that's something 1 ' want to do. I figure if I can learn to play first base, it will get me into a few more games here next season."
Greg Gross, 28, may have only picked up 37 hits and driven in 12 runs this season, but he was a valuable member of this championship team. He was a reliable defensive outfielder and a thoroughly accomplished professional at the plate.
Gross could sit on the bench for a week and still make contact in a clutch situation. He could advance the runner and deliver the fly ball when necessary. Of course, he will long be remembered for the classic bunt he dropped in that five-run rally in Houston.
Greg Gross only batted twice in the World Series against Kansas City. He went hitless but it was the feeling, not the numbers, that mattered in the end.
"This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream," Gross said in that soft, gentlemanly voice. "Every ballplayer sets the World Series as his ultimate goal. I was no different. I watched it on TV, I thought about being there.
"I've learned there is no substitute for winning. I played five years as a regular, first with Houston, then with Chicago. I had a few good years but I got more recognition for hitting .240 this year than I got for hitting .320 for the Cubs (1977).
"When you play for a losing team, you wind up playing for yourself, for your own statistics. There's not much satisfaction in that. There's nothing worse than being 20 games out (of first) in September.
"Here... OK, I have to sit on the bench but, at least, I feel like I'm part of something important. And Dallas uses his bench so much, I know there's a good chance I'll be called on. I never get the feeling I'm on the outside looking in.
"I had a chance to go elsewhere. I was a free agent at the end of the last season. I had some offers but I decided to stay here. Why? Because I felt something like this (a championship) was possible and I wanted to share in it."
TV Weekend: Domine Doesn’t Deserve Cheers
By Gene Quinn
I remember standing along with several thousand others as Jim Craig wrapped an American flag around his shoulders and modeled the outfit for a politically fashion-conscious world. The time was last February. The place: Olympic Arena in Lake Placid. N Y. The background events: American hostages in Iran and Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The moment: the United States' victory over Finland for the ice hocey gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
As thousands cheered and screamed, waved flags, threw frisbees on the ice, I remember it being an emotional moment for me. There was a lump the size of a hockey puck in my throat. I cant recall my exact thoughts, but they were something like, "Damn, can you believe this? First, beating the Soviets, then the gold medal."
It was suddenly cold. A chill ran up my back, a combination of awe at the events unfolding and fear that everything would be over before I noticed. I remember writing notes almost as fast as my mind was racing.
There was much of the same feeling a few nights before when the Americans beat the Soviet Union. I remember looking around at other reporters, on their feet, craning their necks, scribbling in notepads, soaking up every detail.
I also remember – very vividly – that not one reporter I saw applauded. The lump in my throat must have been lodged in every one of theirs, but they celebrated privately, within themselves, personally, professionally.
Men and women in the business of reporting the events of the day – and in the American hockey team's case, the events of the century – are cursed. They work close enough to the participants to touch them, close enough to be criticized first hand when reporting unfavorably. But. at the same time, journalists are as distant as the masses. Therein lies the curse: journalists are gadflies in defeat, outsiders in victory.
Tuesday night. I stood in the Veterans Stadium press box and experienced Lake Placid again – minus the snow and legendary bus service. Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson to end Game 6 of the World Series, thereby saving what was left of the Delaware Valley's fingernails. Over 65,000 people in the stands erupted, the Phillies mobbed one another, retreated to the clubhouse to quench their thirst and returned to the field for a bow.
THE REPORTERS in the press box marveled. It must have been a full minute before the first wisecrack pierced the roar – an eternity among such cynics. And no one applauded. The curse.
This is a roundabout way to arrive at the message of this column, which simply is that Channel 3's Bob Domine is to journalism what hemorrhoids are to George Brett – painful. Anyone who's followed Domine's antics on camera the past weeks should agree.
Remember when Dallas Green told three newspaper reporters that "10 percent" of the Phillies weren't trying? The papers jumped on the story. Channel 10 sent Jim Kelly to the Vet for live comment before the next night's game. Channel 6 dispatched Steve Levy for the same purpose. And Domine? Nothing more than, hey, the Phils are playing tonight. I'm surprised he didn't add. "Let's go get 'em. guys!"
During the Phils' stretch run and the National League playoffs, Domine sounded more and more like the author of Dallas Green's slogan, "We Not I." The "Phils" became "we" on Channel 3 sportscasts. (It must be pointed out that this newspaper was caught up in the same emotion with its "We Win" front-page headline after the Phils' Series victory.)
But the kicker came during the Series, when Channel 3 – an affiliate of NBC, network of the Series – annointed itself "World Series Station" with a special set complete with red and white crepe paper and Domine prancing around in a Phillies cap and red jacket labeled with "Philadelphia Phillies."
I MISSED THE TV coverage of Wednesday's parade down Broad Street, so I did some dial hopping during the three 5:30 newcasts. I stopped at Channel 3, awestruck by the red and white crepe paper. As the show wound down, Domine relayed a personal experience in the Phillies' clubhouse.
He told his audience how a New York writer approached him and asked how Domine could be an unbiased reporter while wearing a Phillies cap. Domine explained to the audience that he wasn't worried about being unbiased. Then he put two fingers to his mouth, stuck his tongue between them, and – in a dedication to the New York writer – spit a Bronx cheer at the camera.
It was among Domine's more intelligent and witty utterances since he replaced KYW's previous sportscasting hero. Bill Currie.
It was also disgusting. Maybe Channel 3 doesnt think so. Maybe the station isn’t aware that many members of the news media from outside this city consider Philadelphia's sports journalists without peer. Maybe Channel 3 thinks it's funny for a red-suited clown to spit at a television camera.
Then again, maybe the management of KYW-TV feels insulted, too. And maybe the station will have Domine apologize for the indiscretion.
If not, then there's more than one bush-leaguer at Channel 3.
Game 6 No. 1
NEW YORK (UPI) – The telecast of World Series Game 6 between the Phillies and the Kansas City Royals drew the largest television audience in World Series history, NBC announced yesterday.
The network said that Game 6 had a rating of 40.0, meaning that 40 percent of American TV sets were tuned to some part of the game Tuesday night. NBC estimated that 81 million viewers saw some portion of the game.
The game eclipsed the record of 39.6 set by Game 7 of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds.
The network also announced that Game 2 of the 1980 Series, with a 34.4 rating, is ranked No. 8 of all time, and that a record 140 million viewers saw some portion of the six-game Series.