Philadelphia Daily News - October 30, 1980

Phillies Add Class A Shortstop


By Bill Conlin


Julio Franco plays shortstop. Here's what Phillies minor league talent evaluator Bill Dancy says about the 22-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic.


"He’s the best all-around player I've ever seen at this level." Dancy underlined in his post-season report on the Phillies' Class A Peninsula club.


Can’t you see Larry Bowa gnashing his teeth, waiting for the first spring-training day he goes glove-to-glove with Julio? "OK, you taco-eatin' bleep, let's see you top this!" (Backhand stop in the hole, grunt and howitzer throw to first.)


Franco was the Carolina League MVP. The kid hit .325 with 99 RBI and 44 stolen bases. He hit 14 homers and scouts say his arm compares favorably with Bobby Wine's when he came up from Buffalo and had the first basemen handling him with sponge rubber in their gloves.


CAN’T YOU HEAR Larry Bowa now? "And how many blee-pin’ division titles has Julio Franco helped win?"


Franco is on the 40-man roster the Phillies released yesterday. John Vukovich, the heart and soul of the Phillies' 1980 bench isn’t. Vukovich was assigned outright to the Oklahoma City roster, but it's almost a cinch that Vuke will wear a more important minor league hat next season. He's being groomed to manage someday.


The roster is crammed with shortstops. Five, count 'em, five.


"The more the bleeping merrier." Bowa will growl. "Whatever happened to Alan Bannister and Craig Robinson?"


Joining Bowa, Luis Aguayo, Ramon Aviles and Franco is Ryne Sandberg, a sleeper who hit .313 with 31 steals at Reading. "He's a helluva player," said catcher Ozzie Virgil when he was up with the world champions in September. "They'll have to make room for him or trade him because he'll be ready for the majors pretty soon."


Another talented newcomer to the roster is Bahamian outfielder Will Culmer, possibly the best sheer athletic talent in the Phillies system. Culmer was signed for his potential after playing just a handful of organized baseball games in the Islands. What turned scouts' heads was the speed with which he carried his 6-4 frame. Before he signed, Culmer set a Bahamas Federation schoolboy 100-meter dash record.


"HE WAS VERY raw," Dallas Green says. "We didnt really know if he was a baseball prospect or not. We knew he was an athlete."


Culmer's talent exploded at Peninsula last summer. Will led the league with a .369 average, hitting an amazing .413 the second half of the 140-game season. He also banged 19 homers and was close to the much more experienced Franco with 93 RBI. Culmer finished the season with a 24-for-36 flourish.


"He's the most improved player in the organization," Dancy said. "He's got a chance to be an outstanding power hitter."


Can't you hear Larry Bowa?


"Why don't they switch the pompano-eatin’ bleep to shortstop? We don't have enough infielders."


PHILUPS: Tim McCarver's career officially ended when he was formally dropped from the roster. Also dropped were outfielder-third baseman Mike Anderson and righthander Dan Larson, both outrighted to Okie City... Paul Owens pointed out that the roster still has some flexibility. Tug McGraw, Larry Christenson and Del Unser are eligible for free agency, so they could add three players if all three test the re-entry waters Nov. 13... Hey, Bake McBride, 15 members of the world champions, including Garry Maddox and Manny Trillo, will be at the Palmetto Dunes Resort on Hilton Head Island this weekend for the annual Mike Schmidt Celebrity Golf Tournament. Biggies from other clubs who have sent back entry forms include Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Jim Rice, Steve Garvey, Don Sutton and Jim Frey.