Syracuse Herald-Journal - October 9, 1980

Houston's "A.A" Popular... Astros Anonymous


By Milton Richman, United Press International


PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — To most people, especially those who have long since given up trying to keep track of all the players since the advent and proliferation of expansion, they are known only as Houston's Anonymous Astros.


Such names as Dave Bergman . . . Dave Smith ... Frank LaCorte... Gordon Pladson ... Luis Pujols ... Danny Heep ... and Gary Woods are not exactly what anyone would call household names.


"We're just a bunch of no-names," conceded Jose Cruz, Houston's left fielder, Wednesday night after slashing a pair of key singles in his last two times up to figure prominently in the Astros' 10-inning, 7-4 victory over the Philadelpfiia Phillies that evened the National League best-of-five playoffs at one game apiece.


"Joe Morgan was talking to us about that before these playoffs began" went on the Astros' clutch-hitting, 33-year-old of Arroyo, Puerto Rico. "He said nobody even knows who we are. We've got a lot of players like me. I've been doing a good job for five years and nobody knows who Jose Cruz is. Maybe some people will start knowing who we are now. Maybe they will begin to see what the players with no names can do."


Ballplayers are like anyone else. They like to be recognized for what they do, and although it took them three hours and 34 minutes to drive home their point, the Astros finally got the Phillies to recognize the fact that they are far from being a shoe-in in these playoffs.


Ex-Chief stars


One of the 'no-name players' who forced the Phils to take notice of him was (former Syracuse Chief) Bergman, a skinny 27-year-old, lefthanded hitting, backup first baseman from Park Ridge, Ill. Houston manager Bill Virdon put Bergman in for starting first baseman Art Howe for defensive purposes in the eighth inning and it was Bergman's two-run triple that highlighted a four-run l0th-inning rally which did in the Phillies for good.


Still another lesser known personality with the Astros, reliever Dave Smith, also came up with a fine piece of pitching before giving way to a third relative unknown, Frank LaCorte, in the ninth. And LaCorte also distinguished himself before he, too, was replaced in the 10th by Joaquin Andujar, who doesn't exactly rival Goose Gossage in the baseball celebrity department.


Cruz hits biggies


But it was Cruz who came up with a single to right off reliever Tug McGraw that put the Astros ahead 3-2 in the eighth and then delivered another single off Ron Reed in the 10th to break a 3-3 tie.


"When they tied the score in the bottom of the eighth/' Cruz said, referring to the Phillies, "I say to myself, 'Oh my God, what's happening here?' When we played Los Angeles it took us four games to win one and I almost got a heart attack. Even though my hit put us ahead in the 10th, I didn't say to myself, 'we got it' until Dave drove in those two more."


Cruz was talking about Bergman, who batted ,256 in 89 games for the Astros this season. Bergman's triple came off Kevin Saucier, the Phillies' fourth pitcher, to cap the winning rally.


After Terry Puhl had singled for his third hit of the contest leading off the 10th, Enos Cabell sacrificed, Morgan drew an intentional pass and Cruz came through with his tie-breaking single. Cesar Cedeno's fielder's choice on a bouncer to shortstop Larry Bowa brought in the Astros' second run of the inning and Bergman then came through with his triple into the gap in right-center after Saucier relieved Reed.


Again, there was that overriding noname theme.


Expected challenge


"I'm Dave Bergman, so I figured he (Saucier) was going to challenge me," explained the Astros' reserve first baseman. "He came in with a fastball and I came through this time. It doesn't really bother me that not too many people know our names. I like to hide in the weeds. They'll find out who we are before this is all through."


One of the Astros' recognizable names, Nolan Ryan, started for them and went until the seventh when the Phillies put runners on second and third with one out. Joe Sambito, Houston's left-handed ace reliever, was brought in from the bullpen at that point and after walking.Pete Rose intentionally to fill the bases, he struck out Bake McBride. But with righthanded Mike Schmidt coming up, Virdon brought in righthander Dave Smith and Smith put the capacity crowd of 65,476 at Veterans Stadium into a silent funk by striking out the Phillies' mighty slugger.


Nicked but not beaten


By the ninth, with the score still tied 3-3, LaCorte came in to pitch and although he was nicked for three hits, he prevented the Phillies from scoring. When he gave up a single to Bowa leading off the 10th and then threw two balls to pinch hitter George Vukovich following a walk to Bob Boone, he also was jerked in favor of Andujar. He showed his anger with himself over his wildness by flinging his glove into the dugout and Morgan told LaCorte, "Relax, you did a good job by bailing out Sambito and now Andujar will help you-out."