Philadelphia Inquirer - October 6, 1980
1980 season is history, and so are some of the stats
By Larry Gordon, Inquirer Staff Writer
It was the best of times (for the Toronto Blue Jays); it was the worst of times (for the Pittsburgh Pirates).
It's numbers we're talking about. The stuff that baseball is made of.
And, even though the Pirates finished third in the National League East with 83 wins and 79 losses for a .512 percentage, it was their worst season since 1973, when they also placed third.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, had their best season since joining the American League East in 1977, even though they finished last again. Toronto wound up with 67 wins.
Numbers, of course, are the measure by which players are judged when it comes time to pass out all the individual awards at the end of the season.
Which brings us to the sad case of Cecil Cooper of the Milwaukee Brewers. He led the American League in RBIs (122), was second in hits (219) and second in batting average (.352). A lock for MVP, you say. Wrong. He is a longshot at best. This is the year of George Brett, the Kansas City third baseman who had all the newspapers and wire services dredging up old Ted Williams stories all summer.
Brett, despite nagging injuries throughout the season, chased one of baseball's most glamorous numbers this season – a .400 batting average. But, alas, he failed. Brett, whose team, it seems, clinched the American League West title last March, did not play on the season's final day yesterday and wound up hitting a paltry .390 (the best in baseball since Williams' .406 in 1941). He also had 118 RBIs (second to Cooper).
We really can't leave Kansas City without checking out some of the numbers compiled by Brett's teammate, leftfielder Willie Wilson.
On Saturday night alone, Wilson set three records. He set a major league record with his 700th at-bat (he finished with 705); he singled three times, giving him 183 singles, an American League record (he finished with 184), and he scored three times, giving him 133 runs, a league record for switch-hitters (he finished with 134).
Yesterday his 230th hit tied him with the Phils' Pete Rose for the most hits ever by a switch-hitter in one season. He also is only the second switch-hitter ever to get 100 hits righthanded and 100 hits lefthanded (St. Louis' Garry Templeton became the first to do so last season).
Wilson's 15 triples tied him for the league lead with Alfredo Griffin, and his 79 stolen bases were second only to Oakland's Rickey Henderson. Henderson, incidentally, stole 100 bases, breaking the American League record held by Ty Cobb. Only two other players, National Leaguers Maury Wills and Lou Brock, have ever stolen 100 or more bases in a season.
Before you start considering base-stealing an easy thing, however, consider Dave Collins of the Reds. Trying for his 80th steal against Atlanta yesterday, he was thrown out twice and picked off first once. He never did get that other steal.
And, before you start pitying the poor pitchers, let's check out some of their stats.
Phillies ace Steve Carlton was 24-9 (most wins in the NL), struck out 286 (most in the majors) and had an ERA of 2.34. Over in the American League, Baltimore's Steve Stone, who, prior to this season, was best known for owning restaurants with cutesy names – Lawrence of Oregano, Jonathan Livingston Seafood – was 25-7 (most wins in the majors) with a somewhat more down-to-earth ERA of 3.23.
And, speaking of Earl Weaver's Birds, Scott McGregor notched his 20th victory yesterday, becoming the 22d Baltimore pitcher to reach that plateau in 13 years. That win was the Orioles 100th, giving them the second-best record in baseball in 1980, but their AL East rivals, the hated Bronx Bombers, had 103 wins.
In fact, try these numbers: The poor Orioles posted a 26-12 record after Aug. 27 but lost 2½ games in the standings.
The Yankees, in addition to winning their division, set an American League season attendance record of 2,627,417. The 1948 Cleveland Indians held the old mark of 2,620,627.
The St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff this season was almost nonexistent, but at least the Cards had a third baseman who could handle all the hot smashes off opposition bats. Ken Reitz finished the season with a grand total of eight errors – a National League record for fewest errors by a third baseman appearing in 150 or more games. By comparison, the Phillies' Mike Schmidt, no slouch at playing third himself, had 27 errors.
Probably one of the happiest guys about coming out on top in the numbers game this season was Bill Buckner of the Chicago Cubs.
His .324 batting average was the best in the National League, deposing last year's champ, Keith Hernandez of St. Louis (.321 and second this year). Buckner went 0-for-4 yesterday and Hernandez was 1-for-4.
"This is something I've looked forward to all my life," the Cubs first baseman said.
The numbers, however, did not smile on Buckner's hapless ball club and their loyal, long-suffering fans. The Cubbies won 64 and lost 98, worst in the National League and the second-worst in baseball behind Seattle's 59-103. They also lost $1.7 million. The $.7 million was Bruce Sutter's salary.
The Phillies, of course, fared much better in that category, winning 91, losing 71 and winning the National League East title. But they also did quite well in the individual numbers game.
In addition to Carlton, there was Mike Schmidt, who led the majors with 48 home runs and led the NL (second in the majors) with 121 RBIs. He also was second in the NL with 104 runs scored and his homer total was a major-league record for third basemen, surpassing Eddie Mathews' 47.
Rose, while not getting his usual 200 hits, did get 185 (not bad for mortal men), which was fifth best in the league. He also was fifth with 96 runs and led the league with 42 doubles.
Bake McBride hit .309 and logged 10 triples, fourth in the league in both categories. Several numbers in baseball – 20 wins for a pitcher, 200 hits for a batter – take on special significance. Another is a .300 batting average.
Yesterday, a man who has played in the majors 15 years went to the plate, tripled and left the game. That hit gave him a season's average of .2996, which rounds off to .300. After 15 years, he had wound up with that average for the first time.
But that so-called milestone impressed the player not at all.
"The ball I hit, the guy could have caught it. Does that mean I'm not a .300 hitter?" he said. "To me, .300 is not where it's at unless you hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs."
The player? Reggie Jackson of the Yankees, who finished with 41 homers and 111 RBIs. Ben Oglivie of the Brewers homered yesterday to tie him for best in the AL in that category.
Jackson, in fact, informed reporters that whether Oglivie hit a home run was his "main concern."
Informed that Oglivie had indeed homered, Jackson offered an unprintable reply.
Numbers, you see, are very important to ballplayers, even Reggie Jackson. You can look it up.
And now, here come the… Dodgers?
Astros stumble again, forcing a playoff
By Lewis Freedman, Inquirer Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES – An hour after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros, Ron Cey sat on the trainer's table, half of his uniform still on, his left leg encased in a bag of ice as big as a suitcase.
The leg hurt, it was probably swelling, but Cey was smiling because the season had gone into overtime.
Cey and his bat put it there with a two-run, last-of-the-eighth homer.
After 162 games, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros each are 92-70. They are tied for first place in the National League's West Division. And today, at 4 p.m. Philadelphia time, they will meet again to determine who gets to play the Phillies starting tomorrow in Philadelphia for the league championship. The pitchers will be Joe Niekro (19-12) for Houston and Dave Goltz (7-10) for Los Angeles.
The special playoff will be the fifth in National League history, and the Dodgers have been in all the others – 1946, 1951, 1959 and 1962 – winning only in 1959.
But the incredible thing is that the Dodgers are still playing. It was supposed to be the weekend the Astros ended 18 years of frustration and claimed their first championship of any kind. They had a three-game lead and the Dodgers needed a sweep for a tie.
Yesterday, after wins of 3-2 Friday and 2-1 Saturday, they got the sweep with a triumph in their last at-bat for the 24th time this season.
When Cey came to the plate in the eighth, the Dodgers were down by 3-2. Steve Garvey was on first because Enos Cabell had booted his grounder to third. There were no outs.
Cey first tried to bunt off Frank LaCorte, but then swung away. With the count 3-2, he fouled a pitch off his leg. Cey looked like "Gunsmoke's" Chester hobbling in circles near the plate, but went back into the batter's box. Two more balls were fouled into the seats and then came an attractive fastball.
Cey deposited it a half-dozen rows deep in the center-field bleachers over the 385-foot sign.
"I was simply trying to get a pitch to hit," said Cey.
The leg may hurt plenty, but Cey said he never would have come out of the game. Well, almost never. "If (Dodgers manager Tommy) Lasorda would have shot me at home plate," Cey conceded.
But it didn't bother his home-run trot before 54,017 screeching fans. "It was a great moment for me. You don't have many of those things happen to you."
Most teams don't have things hap pen to them like happened to the Dodgers this weekend. They figured to be on their way to winter homes already, especially when the Astros, who have played well themselves in this exceptional series, built a 3-0 lead through 4½ innings.
Houston went up by 2-0 in the second. Cesar Cedeno reached on a bunt single, stole second, moved to third on an error on Art Howe's bunt by Dodger pitcher Burt Hooton (lifted in that inning) and scored on Alan Ashby's single to left. Craig Reynolds singled to right, scoring Howe.
It went to 3-0 in the fourth when Ashby singled to right, Reynolds sacrificed him to second and Terry Puhl doubled to deep left.
But while this was going on, Houston starter Vern Ruhle had to come out. Ruhle had cut his pitching (right) index finger on a hook when he picked up a towel the other day and needed two stiches. The stitches ripped open, and he left in the third inning.
Lasorda and Houston manager Bill Virdon played every percentage in the game, juggling players like chessmen, pulling pitchers about every other inning.
The Dodgers had made it 3-1 in the fifth on singles by Derrel Thomas, Gary Thomasson . and Davey Lopes, but when the important stuff started happening in the seventh, LaCorte (the loser) was on the mound.
Singles by Pedro Guerrero and Joe ' Ferguson and a sacrifice by Thomas put men on second and third, and Manny Mota, baseball's all-time lead ing pinch-hitter, moved from the coaching box to the batter's box.
Mota, 42, who was activated Sept. 1, stroked his 150th career pinch-hit to drive in Guerrero and make it 3-2.
Mota wears a gold necklace of the number "145," the figure that broke Smokey Burgess' major league record.
"I've got to change the number now," he said, laughing.
There was a lot of laughter in the Dodgers' locker room. And just about everybody played a part in the win. Garvey got a second-inning single that gave him 200 hits in a season for the sixth time, the 14th player to do so. Rookie Steve Howe, pitched the eighth and ninth (except for the last out) to get the win, and Don Sutton, who started Friday, came on in relief to get a save when Joe Morgan grounded to second.
"I was sitting there watching the game with my feet up in the dugout," said Sutton.
The Astros, who seemed like a lock the other day, had every right to be distraught, but while their postgame mood was somber, it was not funereal.
"It was a great series," Virdon said. "We just haven't won one."
Morgan, who is a veteran of five division winners with Cincinnati and is playing with a strained knee, said the Astros shouldn't be depressed.
"It would be different if we came in here and they beat up on us. They just got more breaks than us."
It’s a sellout
The Phillies' National League playoff games tomorrow and Wednesday nights at Veterans Stadium became sellouts yesterday, the final tickets being sold at 7:05 p.m.
Eugene Ormandy, conductor laureate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the opener of the Phils' best-of-five championship series against either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Houston Astros. Country-western star Ronnie Milsap will sing the national anthem.
Gates for the 8:15 p.m. game will open at 5:45 p.m. No standing-room tickets will be sold. The game will be televised on Channels 6 and 17 and broadcast on radio stations KYW (1060).
On Wednesday, author James Michener will throw out the first ball.
Phils lose, but for the Expos, there’s no tomorrow
By Al Morganti, Inquirer Staff Writer
MONTREAL – It was preposterous, but after the events of this entire year – and this weekend in particular – it was a perfectly fitting end to this whole, bizarre National League East season.
The race was over, but the bodies were still twitching.
It looked as if the Phillies had this final game wrapped up for a three-game sweep with a pair of runs at the top of the 10th inning for a 7-5 lead.
But, with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the inning, the Expos put on one more show for their fans. After Chris Speier and Willie Montanez singled, Jerry White crashed a three-run home run to right field, giving the Expos an 8-7 win and a most deserved honorable ending to a most disappointing season.
If it weren't for a Mike Schmidt home run the previous afternoon, they'd still be dancing in the streets about White's home run.
But, as it turned out, there was nothing on the line here yesterday. Everything was behind for the Expos and everything ahead for the Phillies. But they carried on with their appointed rounds anyway and the Expos won the last game of the regular season in dramatic fashion.
The win meant that they finished the season 90-72, one game behind the Phillies, but it might has well have been 100 games.
Mostly, it was a day of rest. Olympic Stadium was sold out for the game, in expectance of a season-deciding battle, but after the Phils knocked the Expos out of contention Saturday with Schmidt's 11th-inning home run, many thought better. There were more than 20,000 no-shows as only 30,104 showed up at the stadium for the last time this season.
There were also a number of no-shows on the field. With the exception of Pete Rose, the Phils didn't start a regular, and the Expos fielded only three, not even using pitcher Bill Gullickson.
"I'm giving most of the guys a rest," said Phillies manager Dallas Green, "with the exception of Pete, for obvious reasons."
The obvious reason is that Pete Rose is Pete Rose.
"Why shouldn't I play?" said Rose. "Who needs a day off?
"I'm swinging the bat real good now. If I didn't play today I might be all screwed up again. Besides, I haven't missed a game in a Phillies uniform.
"Now people are gonna say, 'Oh, there he goes again, talking about records,' but what kind of record is that?"
It isn't any kind of record, just something Rose would like to continue.
He did well enough yesterday, singling his first time up and then stretching a single into a double his second and last time up with head-first slide into second base.
And when he looked up, coming in as a pinch-runner was none other than Tim McCarver, the player-turned broadcster-returned player.
It was certainly McCarver's last game as a player in a career that has spanned four decades.
He wasn't quite through, however. McCarver stayed in the game at first base and, in the next inning, he doubled and drove in two runs, giving the Phils a 4-2 lead.
The next batter, shortstop Luis Aguayo, singled home McCarver for a 5-2 lead.
The Expos scored two runs in the sixth and then tied the game in the eighth.
The tie was set up when – who else? – Ron LeFlore came in to pinch-run at first base amid a tumultuous standing ovation and proceeded to steal second base, his 96th, to tie the Pirates' Omar Moreno for the National League stolen base title, and then stole third base to win the title outright. He also became the first player to win the title in both leagues. He won it with 68 stolen bases while playing with the Detroit Tigers in 1978.
Also, LeFlore put himself in a position from where he scored, tying the game, 5-5, on a sacrifice fly to right field by Larry Parrish.
The Phils scored what might have been the winning run at the top of the tenth when catcher Ozzie Virgil doubled to left and Bob Dernier reached second, scoring Virgil, when Expos shortstop Jerry Manuel fielded a ground ball by Dernier and threw it past first base.
They scored what should have been an insurance run when John Vukovich followed with a single, scoring Dernier for a 7-5 lead.
It looked like a Phils win as late as two out in the bottom of the 10th, but Speier reached first on an infield hit, Montanez followed with a pinch-hit single and then White hit his three-run, season-ending homer.
Phils ready, but some maladies linger on
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
MONTREAL – The Phillies' regular season might be over. But their nonstop soap opera lives on.
As the Phils prepare for their playoff opener against somebody or other at the Vet tomorrow night, the controversies keep swirling, the big questions remain unanswered.
The issues, on Playoff Eve, are these:
• How will the Phillies find a way to get the late Nino Espinosa onto the disabled list so Marty (5-0) Bystrom can find his way onto the playoff roster?
• What will become of Bob Boone, benched for all but two games of the season's final week, but the author of the game-tying RBI single with two outs in the ninth Saturday?
• Will Greg Luzinski's big two-run single Saturday keep him in the playoff lineup, come strikeouts or an 0-for-12?
• Will Garry Maddox resume his inimitable jaunts around centerfield, sore pinkie and all? And will Dallas Green let him come back, even if he tells all six coaches, Bowie Kuhn and Henry Kissinger he is ready to play?
Yes, the melodramas just refuse to go away. But maybe that isn't all bad. After all, the Phillies managed to win six straight games in the season's final week amid this turmoil. They are a highly unprecedented 4-0 in meaningful games in October with all this madness in the background. So why let it stop now?
The Bystrom Caper is, of course, the first priority. Without Bystrom going 5-0, 1.50 in September, the Phillies might not have won this thing. So Green is determined to find a way to get him onto the postseason roster.
That way is to put some other pitcher on the disabled list. But since nobody has fallen off a bike or had a doctor discover bone chips in his elbow recently, that gets complicated.
Green would say only that the Phils had submitted a proposed postseason roster to the National League office yesterday. And "when it's approved, I'll give it to you," he said.
But he also said there had been "a medical report" included in the roster proposal. And that report concerns the little-used right arm of Espinosa, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 12.
The Phils could have told the National League that Espinosa had just developed a sudden case of South Broad Street Spotted Shoulder Disease or something. But they decided not to invent anything. They just laid the situation on league president Chub Feeney, straight out.
"We've tried to be honest with them," said Paul Owens. "He's not really hurt. He's just been ineffective. It's nothing we're making up. He's had bursitis in his shoulder since last September. We've explained the whole thing to them. We've given them the medical reports. I guess they just want to check out the situation on their own."
Owens expects to hear from the league today. He said he thought the league understood the situation. But it is possible it never had to gel this complicated.
Though one Phillies official denies it, Espinosa reportedly was asked to say he was hurt and refused. His cooperation isn't needed to disable him. But it might have made the process a little easier.
Someone else would have to be taken off the roster if the Phillies decide to add Kevin Saucier to the postseason list. Saucier was on the disabled list Sept. 1, so he can replace any player who was active then. A strong possibility is Randy Lerch, who pitched yesterday for the second time in three weeks.
The Boone and Luzinski situations are not quite as complex. Boone will be the catcher tomorrow night because Steve Carlton is pitching. Green will determine what happens to him after that one day at a time.
Luzinski, meanwhile, was benched for only two games last week (not counting yesterday). So Green figures to play him for the duration unless the Phillies score three runs in four games or something. But he wasn't saying yesterday.
"I never reveal my lineup until the night of the game, and I never have," he said. "And I'm not going to change now."
Green also wasn't revealing what his plans are for Maddox. The centerfielder didn't start any of the last seven games, the last five after complaining of a sore little finger on his left hand.
Presumably, the reason he didn't start was because his hand hurt too much for him to bat. But Saturday, Green used him as a pinch-hitter.
"That," Green said, "was because he checked with the doctor, finally. Everything's OK."
But the fact that Green now knows Maddox is physically ready to play doesn't necessarily mean he will start Maddox tomorrow, either. When asked further about Maddox' status, the manager said, shortly, "I don't want to make a big deal of that."
Green did, at least, notice the irony in the fact that Boone, Luzinski and Maddox each got important hits for the Phillies last week.
"You talk about guys getting big hits – Booney, Bull, Maddox back in the 15th inning of that game Tuesday," he said. "I had faith in them. But I just also knew these kids aren't bad baseball players. And I just felt I did what I had to do. I think they understand that."
When you get beyond those little dramas, the Phillies head into the postseason in excellent shape.
Because they didn't need him yesterday, Steve Carlton can pitch the playoff opener and come back in either game four or game five. Green said yesterday he would take that decision game-by-game.
He also said Dick Ruthven would start game two Wednesday. He hasn't set the rotation beyond that. "I want to see who we're playing first," he said.
Green also felt the Phillies had an advantage in not having to go down to the last day to clinch, whereas Houston and Los Angeles will have to hold a playoff today to decide the NL West champ.
"It's got to hurt their pitching a little," he said. "We've got our pitching pretty well set now. But they've got to win. So they have to go with their best right now."
Green said he doesn't have a preference on which team to play.
"I know we took the season series from Houston, 9-3, but that doesn't mean anything in a five-game series like this," he said. "If I had a preference, Houston might be better only because we're going to play night games in Philly. Then you'd get the Dome, and there's not going to be any shadow problems there like there would be in L.A."
If there is one thing the Phillies will take into the playoffs this time that they didn't have in other years, it is momentum.
"Winning two out of three here this weekend lets you build a little momentum going into the playoffs,", said John Vukovich. "All the other times we've won it's been a situation where we've been trying to hang on. This thing really hasn't been ours all year. We had to keep going and get it."
A little momentum may not necessarily be the answer. But considering the way the last three Phillies playoff series turned out, it can't hurt.
You have got to believe…
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
MONTREAL – None of this really happened. It couldn't have. It's too implausible. Too absurd. Any minute now the alarm clock will go off and it'll be Monday morning – last Monday morning – and the Phillies will be licking their wounds after losing two games at home to the Montreal Expos and all over Philadelphia people will be saying, "Those bums, they're just spoiled rotten. They can't win the big ones. They don't care enough to win the big ones."
But it did happen. The team that was being accused of folding under pressure last weekend won two gut-wrenching baseball games under even greater pressure this weekend.
Suddenly, they're in the playoffs. Suddenly, they've got the look of a ball club that's going to bring the World Series to Philadelphia for the first time in three decades.
It was a week when it all came together for the Phillies, as if by magic; a week that began when a center-fielder who wasn't supposed to be able to swing a bat got a game-tying, two-out hit in the bottom of the 15th against the Cubs, a week that ended six title-clinching victories later with the help of a bases-loaded single by a leftfielder who was battling a 4-for-34 slump and a two-out, game-tying, ninth-inning single by a catcher who was 2-for-25.
"If you want to write a story," said Greg Luzinski, the author of that bases-loaded single, "it's all there."
But it's the kind of story that's hard to believe, even for those who lived through that incredible week when the 1980 Phillies were transformed from a team that couldn't do it to a team that did it. And expects to do more.
It was a week when Mike Schmidt, a man who had never been considered a great pressure player despite all his homers, all his runs batted in, became a National League version of Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski rolled into one.
Coming of age
When the Phillies needed a long ball, Schmidt gave it to them. Four games in a row he smashed baseballs into the stands, and in the first two games here – before what owner Ruly Carpenter described as "intimidating" crowds – he hit the homers that made the difference.
Clearly, Mike Schmidt had come of age. At 31, he had learned how to concentrate on that most difficult of sports challenges – hitting a baseball – under pressure-cooker conditions.
"Pressure and how you handle it can detract from where you want your concentration to be," Schmidt said, taking a clinical look at his performance at the end of the most satisfying week of his baseball career. "In succeeding, I can look back at when I used to fail and realize why."
If Schmidt was awesome at the plate – "He's MVP of the world right now," gushed rookie Keith Moreland – Tug McGraw was just as good on the mound in this week of weeks. So churned up emotionally at the end of Saturday's clincher that he got physically sick in the clubhouse, McGraw was all he had been with the 73 Mets... and maybe a touch more.
So here they are, heading for their fourth National League championship series in five years and fully aware, as Schmidt put it, that "there's so much more of a hill to climb." For more than five months this had been a ball club seemingly ready to self-destruct, a ball club pulling in all directions. And suddenly, in one wondrous week, they were pulling together as one – cheering for each other, embracing one another, enjoying to the utmost their dramatic, season-ending run to the title.
Who'd have thought a week ago that, come the final Saturday night of the regular season, Larry Bowa and Dallas Green would be clasping their arms around each other in the Phillies clubhouse?
Who'd have thought that Garry Maddox would be walking through the clubhouse, asking people, "Where's Dallas?" and, upon locating him, embrace the manager?
Who'd have thought, as recently as one week ago, that members of this team would be sipping champagne and laughing and hollering... and crying for joy... in the visiting clubhouse of Montreal's Olympic Stadium?
But it happened, and the way it happened was something special.
It wasn't only that the Schmidts, the McGraws, the Pete Roses, the Steve Carltons came through when the division title was on the line. Or that Luzinski and Bob Boone, two men who had been fighting terrible slumps, contributed when it mattered most. There were also the kids, so much a part of this team all season because of Green's faith in them.
The manager's faith didn't waver Saturday. With the game – and the title – riding on each pitch as a 4-4 game moved into the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies' catcher was a young man named Don McCormack, whose major league experience consisted of one inning – and that in a 14-2 game.
What an incredible spot for a rookie just up from Triple A to find himself in. And what a job he did, catching McGraw for three innings, handling him with a steadiness, a confidence you wouldn't expect to find in somebody under those circumstances.
"That kid – lemme tell you," said Tim McCarver, who's seen a lot of catchers come and go in his time, "he's got something you can't buy, you can't acquire, something that's necessary for every position but vital for a catcher. He's got that determination where nothing awes him, nothing, and he showed it yesterday.
"Tug said he looked in and saw him smiling – really, genuinely smiling. When a young man can go in a situation like that and perform under those conditions as he did, it's an incredible tribute."
But, McCarver was quick to add, not a great surprise.
There were signs
"l knew this spring when he finished those 18 holes of golf in Lefty's (Carlton's) foursome after a bucketful of pina coladas that he could catch in a situation like that," McCarver joked.
In retrospect, Green's greatest single contribution to this Phillies team may have been his belief in the young players and his determination to play them often, and in tough situations, in the face of criticism.
"He knew what he was doing," McCarver said. "He believed in these young kids, and he deserves a lot of credit...."
So do they, for justifying his faith. The Lonnie Smiths, the Keith Morelands, the Bob Walks, the Marty Bystroms and, finally, the Don McCormacks made vital contributions along the way.
If one aspect of Saturday night's emotional victory stood out above all others, it was the enthusiasm, the jubilation, the sheer joy on the faces of the kids.
It's doubtful that anybody showed more excitement, more emotion than Moreland, unless it was Dickie Noles, who lifted Moreland bodily and hauled him into the center of the wild, postgame mob scene on the field. Or McGraw, whose cup of emotions so frequently spilleth over.
"I've never been through anything that exciting," bubbled Moreland, a one-time University of Texas football player. "I've been waiting 26 years to play in the big leagues. To get there, and to win, it's the biggest thrill of my life. I was like a little kid. Man, it's a bigger feeling even than making a great tackle and beating Oklahoma."
The buddy system
And having his buddy, McCormack, be a part of it added to Moreland's joy. Not to mention what it did for McCormack, who left Montreal last night with newspapers, pictures, any souvenirs he could find of the day the Phillies tossed him into the pressure cooker and he escaped without the slightest burn.
"That's just it," McCormack said. "I didn't mess up for them. I did everything I was supposed to do. Everything went the way it was supposed to go. You just don't know what that did for me. I still can't believe I was in there the day they won the National League Eastern Division. They did it, and I was part of it. I'll never forget it."
That's the kind of week it was for the team that wasn't supposed to be good enough, together enough, determined enough to win.
For the better part of six months they toyed with our emotions. They disappointed us. They misled us. And then, when it mattered most, they rose to the challenge like the world champions they now appear capable of becoming.