Montreal Gazette - October 9, 1980

Crossed signals cost Phils as Astros even NL playoff


By Michael Farber of The Gazette


PHILADELPHIA – The throw was up the line and Terry Puhl scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning for the Houston Astros, but Bake McBride never should have had to make the play.


No, this game should have been over in the bottom of the ninth when Lonnie Smith singled to right with one out, McBride on second, Mike Schmidt on first.


McBride charged towards third as the ball sliced towards right-fielder Puhl, Bake looking all the world like the winning run and a two-game Philadelphia Phillie lead in the National League playoff.


But a not-so-funny thing happened on the Phillies way to the World Series.


McBride stopped.


Minutes after the Astros had completed their 7-4, 10-inning win last night, Phillies' third base coach Lee Elia was taking full responsibility as the Bake stopped here.


Too late to regroup


"When the ball went up," said Elia, "I put my arms up in the air, almost as if I were talking to myself, like: 'Wait and see.’ When Bake saw me put my arms up, he stopped. When I saw the ball land, I tried to regroup and wave Bake around, but it was too late.


"The way Bake had broken when the ball was hit, he would have been doubled up anyway if it had been caught. I should have kept waving him. That is nobody's fault but mine."


Indeed, McBride had to look back towards right field when he was just 10 feet from third base. He stopped, restarted when Puhl smother the quick hop, slowed rounding the base, and finally held as Elia gave him a tentative well-don't-blame-me-if-you're-thrown-out windmill.


The Phillies, of course, had other chances with one out and the bases loaded – especially with Manny Trillo (17 of 27 in driving in runners from third base with fewer than two outs) up. But Trillo struck out on a nostril-high fastball and Garry Maddox fouled out on the first pitch, forcing the game into an inning that never should have been played.


Puhl, a Saskatchewan native and the closest thing you've got to a rooting interest in this series, opened the 10th with his third hit – a single to, you guessed it, McBride. Enos Cabell sacrificed and Joe Morgan received an intentional walk from Ron Reed, the second Phillie reliever.


Jose Cruz followed with the single to right, forcing McBride into the throw that never should have been. McBride threw the ball slightly up the first base line, and Puhl, who had driven in the first two Astros' runs with singles, scored their fourth as the ball short-hopped Boone and rolled to the screen. Both Morgan and Cruz advanced.


Cesar Cedeno then rapped a grounder to shortstop Larry Bowa, who went to the plate, but pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy beat the throw which was high and slightly to the right of home.


Philadelphia manager Dallas Green lifted Reed for Kevin Saucier. Dave Bergman, who had gone in the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth when Houston had taken a short-lived 3-2 lead, promptly tripled to drive in two more runs for a 7-3 lead.


The Phillies scored one run in the 10th when the Astros committed their first error of the series, and had a chance for more. Joaquin Andujar, the fifth Astro pitcher, had walked McBride on five pitches, sending up the tying run – the dangerous Schmidt – to the plate.


Fell behind Schmidt


Andujar fell behind 3-0 on the count, but Green refused to shackle the major league home run hitter. Schmidt, swinging for the fences, flew to right to end the three-hour, 34-min-ute game, longest in playoff history, before 65,476, the largest playoff crowd.


The Phillies deserved no better, not after stranding 14 runners. In the final four innings, they had eight hits, an error and four walks to play with, but they scored just two runs, leaving 10 runners on.


Even more importantly, the Astros exposed the soft-underbelly of the Phillie pitching staff. Make Green dig deeper than McGraw and the Phillies are in trouble.


McGraw finally gave up an earned run, his first in 28 inning since Sept. 1, when Morgan doubled and Cruz singled to start the eighth.

Phils’ daggers pointed at one man


Green target of players’ squabbles


By Michael Farber of The Gazette


HOUSTON – Welcome to the Phillie Psychodrama, Episode 19:


To recap, when we last left our intrepid heroes, Greg Luzinski was saying rumors of his benching for the playoff were pure bull; stoic Bob Boone was saying nothing; Garry Maddox and his left pinky were involved in a scandal; and warden Dallas Green said he wouldn't get into a hissing contest with inmate Larry Bowa.


Now for today's story.


Bake McBride – the one who sits near the entrance of the Phillie clubhouse, the one who plays right field, the one who smiles a lot and usually says nothing – decides to speak. He says on national television, during the Phillies' 3-1 playoff victory over Houston, if Green returns as warden, he's not sure if he wants to come back to the joint.


McBride later says he SAID it but didn't MEAN it. He could be traded or something, you know.


So to sum up, the Phillies are trying to reach their first World Series since 1950 and the quiet guy is calling the manager a yo-yo.


Pretty good twist, huh?


"Not really," said John Vukovich, the eloquent Phillie, before Game 2 of the National League playoffs last night. "I'm not even sure what's going on. All I know is that it hasn't affected us."


Indeed. As soon as Green questioned the desire of 10 per cent of his players, said they were rooting against the team, the Phillies went into such a pout they won their next six games, clinching the division title, McBride then says he wants out, and the Phillies swoon to a Game 1 victory over the Astros.


A lot of pennant teams have that kind of harmony, you say? Remember Dick Williams and his Oakland A's when it was Jackson vs. North, everyone vs. Finley? Remember Billy Martin and the New York Yankees when it was Jackson vs. Martin, Jackson vs. Munson, Martin vs. Steinbrenner, Martin vs. Martin?


Well, these Phillies are different. Although they have their squabbles, they rarely are inner-directed. They prefer to point fingers in concert, and in this case, they point at Green.


Green – a career organization man, the Loud Uncle who replaced the Dutch Uncle Danny Ozark late last season – admitted he would rather have the players all pointing in one direction rather than at each other, which happened last season when the Phillies dropped out in May.


Still, you figure that with a World Series looming, the Phillies would have better things to do than play sophomoric word-games.


But, in many ways, the Phillies are like children with a loose tooth. They know they shouldn't touch it, shouldn't fiddle with it, but they can't resist. They twist and tug and pull, and finally, they draw a little blood.


A loose tooth isn't terminal, of course, which explains why this psychodrama can't be read between the white lines.


"The dominant feeling here is that this club has a chance to go a lot further," Vukovich said. "Any of our little battles that are going on, I couldn't care less.


"None of this other stuff has been major enough to affect our play, and nobody's been really wrapped up in it. Maybe Dallas has used all of it as motivational tool, I don't know.


"What has become apparent through all these little controversies is that we've added the extra dimension to the Phillies: we can win the big games. Right in the middle of it (10 days ago), we fall two runs behind in the 15th nd still win, 6-5. We win 3-1, 2-1, 1-0, whatever we have to. Except for the second and third games at Veterans Stadium against the Expos, we have responded just great."


But the Phillies are still not as comfortable a unit as, say, the gang on Little House on the Prairie.


They remain both tense and intense, mostly because they know if they don't beat a faceless Astro team, they will forever be known as the Philadelphia Phizzles.


That ambience lends itself to popoffs – major and minor – as a swamp lends itself to mosquitos. And almost every day, somebody has found something to be unhappy about.


Bowa has been in the centre of most of it, although Boone, Maddox and Luzinski all have suffered the verbal slings and arrows from the Phillie fans (and considering they are Phillie fans, the players are lucky they're just verbal). When the starting lineup was introduced for the first game, four of the nine were booed, a strange situation when the wish for the common good is subverted by the wish for the individual bad.


But in psychodramas, that's the way the world works.



Why do you think they call them psycho?

Ruhle rested as Astros start Niekro


National Notes


PHILADELPHIA (Gazette) – Joe Niekro, winner of the National League West playoff game in Los Angeles, will start Game Three of the championship series tomorrow afternoon, Houston Astros' manager Bill Virdon said yesterday.


Virdon elected to give Vern Ruhle an extra day's rest. Ruhle, who needed two stitches on his right index finger after tearing it open on a nail, will start Game Four Saturday.


Ruhle's injury gave the somber Virdon a chance for his lone bit of playoff levity, however.


"Well," Virdon said earlier in the week, "I guess Vern now throws a split-fingered fastball."


Larry Christenson starts Game Three for Philadelphia.


•     •     •


Although Nolan Ryan, the Astros' starter last night, is a prominent figure, it remains the most faceless team ever to win a division title.


Which prompted someone t0 say: "The Astros are made up of 25 players to be named later."


•     •     •


The primary victim of the Phillie Phenagel (which allowed Marty Bystrom on the 25-man roster) was Randy Lerch, who joined Nino Espinosa on the Most Unwanted List.


"They kicked me off the team, I guess," said Lerch, who was replaced by another left-handed pitcher, Kevin Saucier. "I always wondered why veterans were so hardline (in dealing with management). Now I see. We're just pieces of meat."


Another hard-luck story belongs to Julio Gonzalez, who didn't make the Astros' 25-man roster. Gonzalez, you may recall, was booted off a flight last month with Jose Cruz and Joaquin Andujar when Andujar refused to stow his tape-player.


But what's worse was "Puerto Rico" night earlier this season in the Astrodome. Gonzalez was honored before the game... and shipped to the minors after it.


•     •     •


Astros' reliever Joe Sambito had a rough final week of the season. He had a one-hit, one-batter performance, was cut on the lip with a bad hop bouncer while trying to field a foul ball, and had his Datsun 280 ZX stolen.


Texas police caught the thief a day later, however, when she tried to steal some gas for the car.


•     •     •


The Astros have had their troubles with the Phillies ever since they entered the National League in 1962 as Houston Colt .45s.


On Sept. 3, 1962, the Phillies moved into town with a chance of making Houston the first major league baseball team ever to lose every game against a common opponent in one season.


The Phillies had swept the first 15 games and needed only three more.


Houston proclaimed a Break the Phillies Jinx Night for a double-header.


Ladders were placed in front of the entrance to the Philadelphia clubhouse.


Many in the crowd of 19,000 brought Arabian prayer rugs, rabbits feet, four-leaf clovers, black cats, skunks, and horseshoes.


A former boxer with a devastating stare was hired to put a hex on the Phillies.


And, it was reported that Indian hex dust was scattered about the Phillies' dugout.


But the jinx prevailed. Philadelphia swept the twinbill, 3-2 and 5-5.

Phillies nearly wound up in red


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Philadelphia Phillies would have ended the season in the red had they not made the National League playoffs, a team spokesman says.


Bill Giles, a Phillies executive vice president, the team lost money in 1979 when its home attendance of 2,770,000 was second highest in its history – 120,000 above this year's total.


And if the Phillies hadn't beaten the Expos 6-4 in Montreal Saturday night to reach the playoffs, they would have again wound up in the loss column, Giles said yesterday.


Now that the Phillies are in the playoffs, the team should make close to $1 million or more, Giles predicted.


Giles said the Phillies should come away with $850,000 if the series goes only three games, regardless of who wins.


The Phillies beat the Astros 3-1 in the first of their five game NL championship series Tuesday night.


The major sources of the Phillies revenue from the three games would be an estimated $385,000 from gate receipts, $300,000 from national television rights, $100,000 from local TV and radio rights and about $60,000 from concessions and souvenir program sales.