Chicago Tribune - October 5, 1980

Schmidt homer finishes Expos, starts the party


By Bob Verdi, Chicago Tribune Press Service


MONTREAL – The Philadelphia Phillies, whose prevailing mood is not always happiness, were in good cheer now. Strange how grown men, who have quibbled with each other all summer, can wind up hugging each other on a cold October night after a job well done.


"We have been through so much, so much adversity," Mike-Schmidt was saying. "After the playoffs, the World Series is anti-climactic. And after this, the playoffs will be anti-climactic. But at least we'll be there. For a while, we didn't know."


Mike Schmidt, surely the most valuable player in the National League, put his moody team into the playoffs Saturday night. His 48th homer, a lethal two-run shot into a frigid, Canadian breeze, gave the Philadelphia Phillies an 11-inning, 6-4 victory over the Montreal Expos and produced their fourth East Division title in the last five years.


The rocket, which was destined for faraway places as soon as it left the bat, punctured a dream not only for 50,794 spectators in Olympic Stadium, but for all of Canada. Lea Expos had captured the country's imagination, and even as they left the field this night, they left to wild, appreciative applause.


Saturday's closing act was particularly bitter for the Expos, as it was exhiliarating for the Phillies. The game was delayed 3 hours, 10 minutes by rain. Between the time it started – at 5:25 p.m. local time – and ended at 9:15, it was either the greatest bad game ever played or the worst great game.


THE PHILLIES committed five emirs and countless other blunders; the Expos two errors and numerous other acts of spring training. Baseball in the National League stretch run, lans, has been tawdry.


"It was like a three-ring circus out there," said Pete Rose. "I've never seen anything like it."


The redoubtable Rose singled to begin the 11th inning against Stan Bahnsen. After Bake McBride popped up, Schmidt worked Bahnsen to a 2-0 count. Bahnsen figured Schmidt would be thinking slider. Schmidt was thinking fastball, which is what he got. The silence was deafening as the Phillies won their seventh straight game, and the Expos, for a second straight season, were eliminated at the stroke of midnight.


“Last year, the last day of the season," said Ex-Cub Jerry White, who batted in three of Montreal's runs, two with a third-inning home run. "Now this. It's a little hard to take."


The Expos, speaking of hard to take, had led 4-3 in the ninth when Rose walked. McBride was safe at first on a fielder's choice, and Rose out at second, though second baseman Rodney Scott might have had both had he thrown to the bag rather than chase Rose for the tag. Woodie Fryman, all 40 years of him, retired Schmidt on an infield tap, though, clear as day, umpire Dick Stello miscalled the close play at first.


THAT LEFT IT up to Bob Boone, benched with only 2 hits In his last 25 at bats. He lined a two-out single to center, scoring McBride from second, to make it 4-4.


Tug McGraw, who left a runner stranded at third in the 10th, mystified the Expos through the final three innings – one hit, four strikeouts. The colorful southpaw has been the league's finest reliever since the All-Star break.


"Without him," said Manager Dallas Green, "we're home in bed."


The craziness of this Saturday, as Rose mentioned, will not -soon be forgotten. To wit:


•  In the Montreal first, Scott singled and advanced to third on two errors, but then he made one of his own. When he attempted to score from third on the second out, he missed the plate and became the third out.


•  IN THE PHILADELPHIA third, McBride singled and Schmidt boomed a 375-foot double off the wall. A long way, but not long enough to score McBride, who was out at the plate.


•   In the Montreal third, pitcher Steve Rogers walked, went to third on another terrible pickoff throw by counterpart Larry Christenson, then trotted in on White's homer.


•  In the Philadelphia fifth, after Rose singled in the first Phillies' run, they loaded the bases with none out. But Schmidt took a third strike, and Greg Luzinski lined into a double play.


•  In the Philadelphia sixth, two Montreal errors and a single by Manny Trillo still couldn't produce a run.


•  In the Philadelphia seventh, Rose, McBride, and Schmidt all singled with one out. On the latter single, McBride was faked into a rundown, but third baseman Larry Parrish missed him. On a subsequent single by Luzinski, off a 3-0 pitch, Schmidt and Luzinski were both tagged out in rundowns after two runs scored.


"IT WAS DOUBLE giveaway out there," said Montreal Manager Dick Williams.


The Expos turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead in their half of the. seventh after Trillo dropped an easy pop fly by Chris Speier. Ron LeFlore, pinch running, stole second, and took third on catcher Keith Moreland's error, Philadelphia's fifth.


White's sacrifice fly tied the game 3-3, and then Scott doubled off Schmidt's glove inside third for a 4-3 Montreal lead. The Phillies threatened in the eighth with two on and two out, but Fryman trudged on to strike out Garry Maddox, who is earning $675,000 to sit next to Green on the Philadelphia bench.


Watching Saturday's display of barracks baseball, one must extend heartfelt sympathies not to the Expos for finishing second in the division, but to the Cubs for finishing last. It would be unthinkable for the National League representative in the World Series – whether it be Philadelphia, Houston, or Los Angeles – to be anything but an underdog.


"It's been ragged at times, yeah," says Rose. "But we still won 21 of our last 27 games. We had a strong September. And that other team in the other room is building a great ballclub. The Expos will be back."