Philadelphia Daily News - December 1980

December 1, 1980

Tug Promises to Pitch In at Relief Effort


Phillies ace relief pitcher Tug McGraw will be on hand at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media from noon to 2 tomorrow to help load a truck with supplies for victims of Italy's devastating earthquake.


Helen Passaro, co-chairman of ASIST (Aid Southern Italy Survivors Today) said McGraw promised chairman Carl Mau that he would help with the project to collect clothing and canned goods for shipment to Italy.


The round-the-clock collection will run until midnight Wednesday. A truck donated by a local mover will be parked in front of the courthouse on Front Street.


According to Passaro, the supplies will be taken to Dover Air Force Base Thursday morning for shipment.

December 2, 1980

Lonnie Spurned, and Howe!


By Bill Conlin


Lonnie Smith hit 339 and stole 33 bases. Just think of what the kid could have done if he hadn't spent half the season on the bench.


When his National League peers voted him the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, it looked like the fleet Phillies outfielder would run off with all the post-season yearling awards.


But the Phillies' string of honors came to a screeching halt last night. The Baseball Writers Association of America announced its Rookie of the Year and the winner was Steve Howe, the Dodgers' splendid left-handed short reliever. Smith finished third in the balloting behind Expos righthander Bill Gullikson.


The Phillies had previously swept the Cy Young Award (Steve Carlton), MVP (Mike Schmidt), and placed Carlton, Schmidt and Manny Trillo on various all-star teams. In addition, Schmidt and Garry Maddox added to their growing collection of Gold Gloves.


SMITH'S FAILURE to win the BBWAA Rookie prize raised some hackles and eyebrows locally. Channel 6 sportscaster Don Tollefson suggested on the air that it was another attempt by the national media to discredit the Phillies.


That sounds good, but it won't wash. The same 24 writers – two in each National League city – who made Schmidt the second unanimous winner in the history of the MVP award also voted for Rookie of the Year. There is no separate ballot for the rookie award. It is tacked on the bottom of the MVP ballot and writers serving on the MVP committee are instructed to vote for both categories.


It is difficult to indict 24 guys who saw Schmidt as the MVP for failing to vote for Smith. There could have been a backlash effect working against Lonnie, however. Human nature being what it is, some electors may have found it difficult to give first-place votes to two members of the same team on one ballot.


Whatever, Smith certainly didn't have a Schmidt-sized lock on the award. Howe and Gullikson were formidable candidates and lack of playing time could have worked against Lonnie.


Howe was Tommy Lasorda's left-handed short man from opening day after coming to spring training out of a half season in Double A ball as a longshot to even make the 25-man roster. He led the Dodgers with 17 saves and compiled a 2.65 ERA.


GULLIKSON, a diabetic, was in the Expos five-man rotation most of the season and responded with a 10-5 record. He also broke a National League rookie record for strikeouts when he blew away 18 Cubs.


Smith had only 298 official at bats and didn't get a chance to establish his brilliance as an everyday player until Greg Luzinski went on the DL with an August knee injury which required minor surgery. He made the most of the opportunity, though, giving the Phillies their most productive all-around offensive play by a leadoff man since Rich Ashburn, the player whose rookie stolen base record he shattered in just over a half season of full-time playing.


"I was hoping I'd win it," Smith said last night from his home in Spartanburg, S.C. "But I'm not that disappointed. I figured it might be tough when I heard how Bryant Gumbel was promoting Howe and Gullikson on TV during the playoffs."


(BBWAA electors were required to have their Cy Young and MVP ballots postmarked by midnight on the final day of the regular season, so any TV lobbying during the post-season was irrelevant.)


SMITH FIGURES one out of two ain't bad, particularly when the rookie award he won was conferred by his peers.


"Your own teammates aren't allowed to vote for rookies on their own team," Smith said. "So it means a lot more that the rest of the players in the National League thought I was worthy of the award than if the award was given by writers."


The real shocker was that both Smith and Gullikson were excluded from seven ballots.


"That really surprises me," Lonnie said. "I can see not winning, but I can't see not being in the top three on seven ballots."


(Voters must fill in their MVP and Cy Young choices one through 10, but only three spaces are provided for Rookie of the Year. Since Ron Oester, Billy Smith, Jeff Riordan, Al Holland, Leon Durham and the Phillies' Bob Walk all received votes, it's easy to see how Smith and Gullikson were left off seven ballots. Hell, Howe didn't make two ballots.)


"I've got the one prize I really wanted and that's a World Series ring," Smith said.


HE JUST BANKED a World Series check for S34.000 and change, a nice reward in itself.


"I just bought my wife a new Buick Riviera out of it," Lonnie said. "She was after me to buy her a new car."


If Smith had won the award it would have been the second biggest sports story of the day in South Carolina.


"You can't believe how excited everybody down here is about George Rogers winning the Heisman Trophy," Smith said. "That's how I heard about Howe being Rookie of the Year – between George Rogers stories."


SMITH IS ENJOYING the life of a country gentleman, working around the house and enjoying his family. He'll start working out as soon as he and A's catcher Tim Hosely can line up facilities at a college in the area.


"It gets a little too cold and rainy down here in the winter to do much outside," Lonnie said. "Me and my wife have come up with some items – stationary bike, rowing machine, things I can work out on around the house. I've appeared at a couple of high school banquets in the area and I have a few banquet appearances lined up in the Philly area a little later in the winter."


Before we know it, Christmas will be a memory and the Phillies will be in Clearwater preparing to defend their World Series title. The 1981 role of Lonnie Smith, who must play more no matter what Paul Owens does next week at the winter meetings in Dallas, will be one of the big Clearwater stories.


"I'm not thinking much about that now," he said. "I'll just let things take care of themselves, do my best and hope something breaks for me. The big thing is for us to go out and win another world championship. That's been the highlight of my life and I'd like to have that feeling again. There's nothing like it."

December 3, 1980

He’s a Big Boy Now (excerpt)


By Larry Fields


Tug McGraw, who sneered at Frump City during the victory celebration here the day after the Phillies won the World Series, continues to be a master of verbal diplomacy. His latest bon mot was uttered yesterday afternoon in the Media Court House in Delaware County where he was autographing baseballs donated by the Phillies – with the proceeds going to the Italian Survivors Relief Fund. While the crowd was waiting for the autographed baseball auction to begin, a newspaper photographer asked the Tugger to pose with one of the signed souvenirs. McGraw obliged, but cracked: "Photographers are like hookers. They get paid by the roll." He forgot to add that so are some relief pitchers – who are only as good as their last ball.

December 8, 1980

Tug Takes Owens’ Changeup


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – Paul Owens says it is one of the better signings he's made, considering the contract armed robbery rampant in baseball today.


But it wasn't easy to get Tug McGraw's name on the free agent's newly minted four-year contract.


"We were at an impasse," The Pope said last night in his winter meetings suite at the incredible Loew's Anatole Hotel, where the Kilgore Rangerettes were prancing through their precision routines in the atrium lobby.


"I don't want to leave the impression that Tug capitulated to me or I capitulated to Tug. What it came down to was he came down a little in money. I agreed to guarantee half the salary in the fourth year of the contract and defer enough salary so his family will have security down the road."


Sounds reasonable so far. Pope.


"He didn't want to leave this team." Owens said. "And we didn't want him to leave. It just proves that in any good negotiation, if people sincerely want to reach an agreement they can do it."


McGRAW DID NOT emerge from his fling with free agency as the highest-paid relief pitcher in the game. But he will more than double his 1979 salary of $175,000 with the four-year, $1.5 million contract he agreed to Saturday.


"It's an almost straight contract and it keeps my philosophy in line." Owens said. "People look at him sometimes like he's a buffoon or something, but he's a much more serious man than you'd suspect, a very heart-rendering kind of guy."


McGraw did not render himself into the auction with the head-first abandon he reserves for bases-loaded jams. Undrafted in the re-entry phase of the emancipation process. Tug lost considerable leverage, although he insists he could have signed for much more money with several other clubs. Fortunately for the Phillies and Tug's adoring fans, he never had to put that theory to a test.


"I didn't negotiate in good faith with other clubs," McGraw said last night after returning home from a promotion at Penn National Race Track in Harrisburg. "I called a few clubs and asked how much interest they had in me. But I told them I couldn't sit down and talk money until I resolved all the avenues in Philly.


"l DIDN'T WANT to get into that kind of negotiating – playing one club against the other. I went straight across the top of the table. I was starting to feel depressed last week because it looked like we weren't making any progress. Right now I feel on top of the world."


Dallas Green was right behind him in top-of-the-world feelings.


"I'm tickled to death," the manager said. "Tug was one of the few guys on the ballclub who knew there was method to my madness. He gave me his heart and his mind.


"But I almost ran him out of gas at the end. Now that we'll have Sparky Lyle for a full year I don't think I'll have to do that again."

Trading Market Looks Bullish to Phils


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – It was the autumn of 1972 and the Phillies were looking for a manager.


Actually, they were at each other's throats in one of the truly Machiavellian struggles in the history of the franchise.


Danny Ozark emerged from the pileup as the compromise candidate, boosted over the top by the persistence of Bill Giles. A couple of angry finalists were left holding a handful of promises, particularly Dave Bristol, whose bags were all but packed.


The lights will burn long into the Texas night the next few days in the Phillies winter meetings War Room. The topic at hand is a touchy one. It involves sharply divided opinions, questions of loyalty being weighed against the more practical consideration of fielding the best possible team in 1981.


The question has been snapping at the Phillies' heels since July. The question is: What do they do with Greg Luzinski?


THE ANSWER might not be forthcoming until the second inter-league trading period begins Feb. 15. It will determine what Paul Owens does here this week. But there might not be enough time to scrutinize all facets of the delicate situation.


More to the point, there might not be enough interest in a tarnished slugger coming off a pair of down, injury-plagued years.


Ruly Carpenter, who has the final say in most top-echelon matters, still loves The Bull, although he did not love him enough to renegotiate Luzinski's contract during the past two seasons. The owner regards his leftfielder as family, a pivotal figure in the Phillies' long, frustrating drive from the outhouse to the penthouse.


At the other end of sentiment is Dallas Green, a realist who feels that for whatever reason, Luzinski is a longshot to return to the outstanding hitting consistency which vanished after the 1978 season.


Owens is somewhere in the middle, probably leaning slightly toward his manager, but closely tuned to Ruly's feelings in the matter.


Others in the organizational chain of command feel the boat has sailed, that Luzinski should have been traded last winter, when there was a more active and attractive market for him.


"Our biggest decision here is what we want to do with Bull," Owens said last night. "I'm not shopping him, not peddling him, but I'm talking him."


That's a diplomatic way of telling other the media and other clubs that he'll entertain offers.


"I'D LIKE TO make two moves by Wednesday and go home," Owens said. The moves would involve Luzinski and Poor Randy Lerch, who might be the best bargain available here. The out-of-favor lefthander is (a) young, (b) healthy and (c) has one hell of an arm, a fact he might be able to exploit now that he is working with an almost religious zeal to prove his detractors are wrong about him.


"Lerch? I've got enough interest in him," Owens said. "There's nothing wrong with Randy Lerch's arm, but I'm not giving anybody away. A couple of people have got to call me. That's the position I'm in. I've got a better ballclub right now than I did a year ago and I've got a chance to make it better than it is now. I'm not bragging. I'm just proud of it.


"Right now I've got four clubs talking to me about the Bull and five clubs talking to me about Lerch."


Owens could deal Lerch for Cubs outfielder Jerry Martin by picking up the phone.


"But where does he play for me?" the Pope shrugs. "I could only think about him if I move Luzinski and that's a decision that has to made here by the organization. We have to ask ourselves how much we want our hearts to rule our heads. The man's only 30 years old. The man could come back and spin me like a top."


On the other hand...


 "GREG LUZINSKI can only help the Phillies ballclub if he swings the bat the way he did about five straight seasons before 1979," Green said. "He can't help us unless he hits, unless he stays with the program for 162 games, which he didn't do last year."


You keep hearing the Orioles would part with lefthander Scott McGregor for Luzinski. But McGregor just signed a fat new five-year contract. The club which deals for Bull will be faced with a contract which expires after next season.


Owens addressed himself to the question of Luzinski's value.


"I always give credit to my opposition," he said. "Greg Luzinski has not been productive for me the past two years. But anybody who's done his homework had to be impressed with how he hit before his knee gave out on him at mid-season.


"People who don't think he has any value are not astute baseball people. And the question of his value is for so-called astute baseball people to decide."


And the hour of that decision appears to be at hand.


PHILUPS: Here are some of the rumors echoing through the vast twin-atrium lobbies of the Loew’s Anatole:... Batting champion Bill Buckner to the Giants, but not for Mike Ivie... The Giants will definitely trade John Montefusco and reliever Gary Lavelle... Texas wants Pirates shortstop Tim Foli. Pirates GM Pete Peterson says he's not so sure now he'll make three major deals but guarantees at least one – Bert BIyleven to the Angels, insiders say... The meetings formally open this morning with the draft of players not protected on major league rosters. The Phils feel they have a chance to lose Oklahoma City righthander Dan Larson. Sore-armed prospect Jim Wright is unprotected, but Paul Owens doesn't feel anybody will offer at a pitcher with Wright's grin medical history. 

December 9, 1980

Phils Brew(er)ing Deal


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – Out of the garbage scrawled on a notebook which reads like the transcript from a New Year's Eve party in a madhouse, out of the meandering gibberish picked up by a shocked tape recorder, one could discern the following:


•  The Phillies victory celebration is still in full swing.


•  Paul Owens has never been in sharper winter meetings form.


•  The Phillies have a trade in the works which will create a genuine outfield logjam and add new streaks of gray to Dallas Green's hair.


What emerged from a surreal session between Owens and a totally overmatched press corps last night was the developing picture of a possible trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.


As matters stood with more meetings ahead on an evening that was already out of control, the Phillies were ready to send Randy Lerch, Dickie Noles and a utility infielder to the Brewers for Sixto Lezcano, a 27-year-old outfielder of great talent who is coming off a bad year.


LEZCANO WAS brilliant in 1979. In just 138 games, the 175-pound Puerto Rican, a right-handed hitter with a howitzer throwing arm, batted 321 with 28 homers and 101 RBI.


Last season, however, he went into a dramatic, unexplained tailspin. Lezcano, hit 18 homers in just 112 games, but his average plunged to a pathetic .229 and he drove in just 55 runs.


Special assignment scout Hugh Alexander, who bird-dogged the American League and recommends Lezcano, has his theories on Sixto's swoon.


"The kid's in a lineup that does nothing but mash the ball out of the park," Hugh said. "Hell, the shortstop, Robin Yount, was leading the league in total bases two-thirds of the season. You got all them home run hitters, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper. When I scouted him he looked like he was trying to jack everything out of the park. He's not that kind of hitter. When he hits for average like he always has before this season, the homers have come."


The $64 question is why? Why add a rightfielder to a team that already has a rightfielder. Bake McBride, who is coming off his finest season?


"When's the last time one of our bleeping outfielders threw somebody out?" Paul Owens offered. "This guy's arm is right there with the best in our league and you know we got some rightfielders in this league who can throw. I came here looking for another bat and his bat can mean 20-25 homers for me."


LONNIE SMITH should play every day. McBride should play almost every day. Garry Maddox is the Gold Glove tenant in center field.


A Lezcano acquisition would put immediate pressure on the Phillies to trade Greg Luzinski.


'That would be the obvious next step," Dallas Green said. "It would also be tough on Lonnie Smith, cut in on his playing time. It could be tough on Bake, although I feel Bake is an every-day player for us if you look at how he hit against most lefthanders."


So who sits? And how often?


"Maybe Lezcano would be my insurance if the guy in center goes south on me," Green said.


Oh boy. The manager didn't sound like a man out to mend his fences. Which is why he swiftly amended the reference to his 1980 differences of opinion with Maddox.


"I honestly believe," he said, "that Garry came out of the World Series with a much better understanding of where I'm coming from."


DALLAS SAYS THE third player the Phillies would give up is the current roadblock to completion of the deal. The Brewers want shortstop Luis Agnayo, a prospect Green considers his hedge against various things that could go wrong with Larry Bowa, including what many feel is an inevitable showdown between two baseball men who do not see eye-to-eye. "I'd go to war with Luis Aguayo for one season any day," Green says when asked if the loss of Bowa for any reason would be a disaster.


"I don’t want to lose Aguayo and Pope doesn't want to give up Jay Loviglio," Green said. "So we still have to make our mind up about some things. But before we go out and start talking Greg Luzinski to clubs, I have to know we can make the Lezcano deal."


Once Green knows that, he says there is a market for the Bull. "Both Chicago clubs are interested," he said. "The Giants are interested. Baltimore's interested."


In that context, the Phillies would have to get pitching back. Their pitching is deep, but not deep enough to lose both Lerch and Noles without filling one spot on the staff.


But Green has great faith in the farm system which bailed him out last season. And yesterday's draft reinforced the Phillies confidence in the quality of that system.


NO LESS THAN four unprotected minor leaguers – outfielder Jorge Bell, left-handed reliever Carlos Arroyo, outfielder-catcher Orlando Sanchez and sore-armed right-hander Jim Wright – were sucked up on the first round of the $25,000 draft.


The Phillies were trying to hide Bell, but the Toronto Blue Jays did their homework, sending a scout to watch Puerto Rican League morning workouts and ascertaining that Jorge has recovered fully from a back injury. They were hoping that nobody would bother with Wright, formerly the organization's premier pitching prospect.


Wright was drafted by Kansas City, where former Phils minor league instructor Billy Connors is the pitching coach and former Phils farm boss Howie Bedell is the new coordinator of minor league talent.


"I can see where Connors and Bedell had a lot of input into their drafting of Wright," said Jim Baumer, the Phils' new farm director. (Baumer is the former Brewers general manager and is pushing for the Lezcano deal.) "We didn't see Bell as a major leaguer this year, but felt he was close to being a well-rounded player in the next year or two. He's one we didn't want to lose."


None of the four figured remotely in the Phillies' 1981 plans. They wen expendables in what is currently a mighty minor league operation, one bursting at the seams with talent.


"WHAT I DID today was make $I00,000," Owens said. "And maybe some of these kids will get the chance to play we couldn't give them at this time."


Meanwhile, the Phillies are not the only club making a play for Lezcano.


"The Astros will be heard from." Green said. "The Brewers need pitching and after getting Bob Knepper today they've certainly got surplus pitching to deal. It's no secret Ken Forsch can be had. It'll come down to whether they like the pitching we can give them better than what they can get from somebody else."


The dice are rolling. The midnight oil is being burned. Room service is in heavy demand.


Don’t ask for the transcript of last night's press briefing, though. It has been turned over to language expert for further scrutiny.

A-Pope-riate Malaprops


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – The general manager who once referred to a movie on the Pearl Harbor attack as "El Toro, El Toro, El Toro," has struck again.


The baseball executive who once referred to the classic Gary Cooper western as "Twelve Noon," is in vintage form.


Paul Owens was riding in from the airport here the other night when he heard a song playing on the radio that he likes.


"Hey, cabbie," The Pope said, "turn that radio up to about 100 disciples."


"Pope," Phillies traveling secretary Eddie Ferenz interrupted gently. "I think the word is 'decibels.'"


A number of Phillies front-office types were having dinner Sunday night at a Mexican restaurant in the Loew's Anatole Hotel, winter meeting headquarters. When the waiter handed menus around, The Pope made a pitch for prompt service.


"Take good care of us," he said. "We're Numero One-0."


And last night, Owens was describing the chemistry necessary to deal successfully at the winter meetings.


"At these," he said, "the way to get things done is input and exput."


The week has just begun. Stay tuned.

December 10, 1980

Phils’ Trade Talk Left in Limbo


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – On the third day of the winter baseball meetings, the Phillies found themselves stacked up in a holding pattern.


Their bid to deal for Brewers outfielder Sixto Lezcano has been stalled while Milwaukee GM Harry Dalton explores other opportunities to pick up pitching from the Astros and Mets.


'"We're waiting to hear back from them," Paul Owens said. "They're obviously talking to some other clubs."


With the Brewers still believed to be asking for shortstop Luis Aguayo, the Phillies may have pulled Dickie Noles out of the deal and substituted veteran reliever Ron Reed. Randy Lerch remains the lead player in the package, but they don't want to give up Noles if they must trade a prospect of Aguayo's worth.


The proposed deal still remains the pivot of anything the Phillies do here this week. It is the only one where they've made a hard offer.


PRELIMINARY TALKS with the Toronto Blue Jays resulted in the American League expansion club handing Owens a list which includes most of the Phillies' top minor league prospects, including shortstop Julio Franco, righthander Marty Bystrom, lefthander Mark Davis and outfielder Will Culmer.


Owens said the Phillies have some interest in Blue Jays pitchers Dave Steib (righthander, 12-15, 3.71 ERA) and Jim Clancy (righthander, 13-16, 3.30). But he's not going to rape his farm system to acquire a pitcher from a seventh-place team.


"We feel they're both starting quality pitchers, power pitchers," said farm director Jim Baumer. "But they gave us a list of our top minor league players, a lot of kids we're not interested in trading."


The Phillies are also in the preliminary stages with the Reds, who are interested in catcher Keith Moreland.


"A lot of clubs are interested in Moreland," The Pope said. "We don't know exactly what the Reds have in mind."


IF YOU'VE gathered that the Phillies are not close to a deal, go to the head of the class. On a day when the Cardinals obtained Bruce Sutter from the Cubs and the Pirates traded Bert Blyleven for a gaggle of Cleveland mid-level players, the world champions are still searching for the combination which will enable him to subtract Randy Lerch and Greg Luzinski while adding to his offensive posture and pitching depth.


It is also obvious that the Phillies have abandoned any attempt to re-sign free agent Del Unser.


"He never got back to me, so I take it he's going to play someplace else," Owens shrugged. Meanwhile, Jim Bunning, agent for free agent utility man Jim Dwyer, is said to be pushing his client to sign with the Phillies.


"We're talking about an Unser-type player who is younger and who wouldn't cost me much more money," Owens said. "Dwyer would cost me a longer contract, but that's the only real difference."


Owens also indicated that if he's blocked from making the deals he'd like to make here this week, the Phillies will intensify efforts to sign free agent reliever Stan Bahnsen.

December 11, 1980

The Eyes of Texas Are on Bowa


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – The Texas Rangers want Larry Bowa.


Dallas Green would trade his shortstop faster than it takes Bowa to rip him on his WWDB commentary.


But this is an era of certain inflexible baseball realities. Despite Green's willingness to go through the 1981 season with Luis Aguayo at short while the Phillies wait for the arrival of Dominican phenom Julio Franco, the reality of the Bow situation is that the Phillies can't trade Bowa without his permission.


He's a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the majors, five with one team), and there's a better chance the Soviet Union will let Poland embrace capitalism than there is that Larry will approve a trade to Texas.


Blocked by contractual roadblocks which prevented them from completing a multi-player deal with the Rangers at the 1979 winter meetings, Paul Owens was taking another shot last night at his old horse-trading buddy, Eddie Robinson.


THE RANGERS were their latest and best hope of making a deal here this week. Earlier in the day, their proposed Sixto Lezcano deal with Milwaukee was floundering dead in the water while irrepressible, relentless Cardinal field boss Whitey Herzog closed in on a deal which would send Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to the Brewers for Lezcano, second baseman Jim Gantner and starting righthander Lary Sorenson.


Owens helped kill the time he spent in limbo waiting for Milwaukee to move by turning down a one-for-two deal with the ambitious Toronto Blue Jays. In return for righthander Jim Clancy, righthander Dave Stieb or shortstop Alfredo Griffin, the American League East seventh-placers wanted Marty Bystrom and left-handed phenom Mark Davis.


"We thought they were a little heavy," Owens said with delicious understatement. "We like what they're offering."


The heavy-handed Mets, still dealing like a pennant winner and desperate to come up with the power hitter Dave Winfield says they must add to their spavined lineup before he accepts their incredible money offer, also came knocking.


THE PHILLIES like Joel Youngblood and Neil Allen. Especially Neil Allen, the bright young relief ace. They don't think Youngblood and Allen is too outrageous a price for the Mets to pay for Greg Luzinski. But the Mets have a rich tradition of regarding their flawed gems as perfect diamonds.


Would Winfield approve of the Bull? Hey, aren't we in a terrific era when free agents have a voice in trades?


"A big deal would involve Al Oliver," a Phillies spokesman said, asking to remain unnamed. "A smaller deal would involve Jim Kern. The Rangers are interested in Bowa. They also have interest in Lerch. We really don't know how they feel about Bull. We like Oliver. And we like Kern – if he's sound."


Kern was the American League's premier relief pitcher in 1979, a strikeout star who had 31 saves, a 13-5 record and a 1.57 ERA. But the 31-year-old righthander tailed off badly last season, going 3-11 with a 4 83 ERA and only one save in 38 appearances. Kern had arm problems and the Phillies will proceed cautiously.


Oliver, a player the Rangers always talk about trading but never do, remains one of the game's best pure hitters. The 34-year-old outfielder had another excellent year, hitting .319 with 19 homers and 117 RBI. He would play left field for the Phillies, leaving Bake McBride and Lonnie Smith to share right. Oliver would be the big hitter the Phillies feel they must have in the lineup behind Mike Schmidt. It is such a high priority item, Dallas Green is considering playing Keith Moreland in left it Luzinski is subtracted.


THE RANGERS didn't even give Kevin Saucier, the Phillies player they received for Sparky Lyle, time to unpack his bags. They traded the left-handed reliever to the Tigers last night for shortstop Mark Wagner. Wagner, once considered the club's shortstop of the future, lost his job to brilliant young Alan Trammell. Texas had such a good line on Saucier he was identified as a righthander in the typed announcement. Mavbe they think Randy Lerch is a righthander, too.


The trading pace of the meetings, never a sprint if you eliminate the dramatic Cardinals offensive, slackened while everybody waited for Herzog to unveil phase three of one of the most massive shakeups in recent baseball history.


The Astros signed free agent Dave Roberts, an obvious move once they traded Enos Cabell to San Francisco. Art Howe will play third base tor the Western Division champions, but they will need a solid backup for the brittle infielder. Roberts was drafted as a third baseman.


The Astros gave him a five-year contract and departed from usual baseball practice by announcing the terms – $1.1 million.


"If we didn't give you the figures you guys would find it out anyway." said Astros President Al Rosen. "And when you guys guess, you usually guess high."


The press spent the day poised for the announcement of a major trade between the Angels and Red Sox that came last night. It will send third baseman Butch Hobson and shortstop Rick Burleson to California for third baseman Carney Lansford, right-handed reliever Mark Clear and outfielder Rick Miller.


THE PADRES completed the 11-player deal with St. Louis by giving up catcher Bob Geren, who spent last season in Class A.


"We could make two trades and go home," Owens said. "But we're not here just to make trades we can make. We're looking to improve the ballclub.


"We had two meetings with Dick Wagner of the Reds today, but I really don't know where we are with them. I'd rather just say I've talked to them and not name names at this time. I guess a lot of clubs are waiting for Whitey to make his next move. II it's with Milwaukee that leaves us pretty much dead with them. We like three or four of the White Sox' young pitchers. Other than that I don't have a helluva lot to report. I haven't got back to the Giants (about Luzinski) because of their manager situation."


Insiders seem to think the Giants will hire longtime organization man Jim Davenport. But Gene Mauch's name keeps coming up. If Gene manages in 1981 it will have to be in the National League. Under terms by which Minnesota agreed to release him from his contract, Mauch has agreed not to manage in the American League next season.

December 12, 1980

Phils:  All Bark, No Bite


By Bill Conlin


DALLAS – The old bird dog treed the possum yesterday. Now it's a question of barking him down.


It is also a question of deciphering what in hell is going on at these winter meetings.


OK, here's something to puzzle. A compensation award stands between the ability of Phillies GM Paul Owens, the old bird dog, and a deal he wanted to make with the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Sixto Lezcano, a man who has been transported from the outhouse to the penthouse in four short days. Here's how the scenario breaks down:


As the clock staggered past midnight last night, LaRue Harcourt was meeting with Brewers General Manager Harry Dalton. The wire services reported last night that the Cardinals would trade Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to the Brewers for Lezcano and righthander Lary Sorenson.


THE PHILLIES felt this was strange, since they had been assured by Dalton that: (a) he would get back to the Phillies before he traded Lezcano and (b) that Sixto was not in the Cardinals package. One out of two ain't bad.


"We haven't heard back from them, but we've made them an offer that'll be tough for them to turn down if they're sincere about getting pitching." Owens said. "We've offered them Randy Lerch, Dickie Noles, Ron Reed and Scott Munninghoff and a helluva prospect for Lezcano alone – four pitchers for him."


More than reasonable, but the Brewers sound like a team catching the Cardinals with their brains suddenly down. Especially when Simmons announced yesterday that he will report to Milwaukee only if Gussie Busch awards him a $1 million contract settlement.


And that's why Harcourt was huddling with Dalton until the wee hours – trying to bulldog the percentages.


If you've followed that negotiation successfully, read on. It turns out that the Phillies have been shopping catcher Bob Boone all week, first to the Reds in a deal for Johnny Bench, which would make the Hall of Fame-bound reluctant catcher a first baseman and Pete Rose a leftfielder.


"It's been explored," Owens said, "but it's dead. Bench doesn't want to change teams at this time."


IN ADDITION, they have offered Boone to the California Angels in a major trade which would also send Randy Lerch to Orange County for the 1979 American League MVP, Don Baylor. But before you start dancing jigs over that little bit of daylight robbery, consider that a few racquetball courts and inexperienced catchers stand in the way.


"We've got some things holding us back from the California deal," Owens said. "I can't discuss what they are."


What it is is a loan by the Phillies to Boone at interest rates so low it would make two percent sound like inflation. The loan is significant enough for Boone to be one of the health club kings of South Jersey. The loan figures in the Baylor deal the same way that ransom notes fit into kidnapping novels.


And that's how the old ballgame stood at 3:30 this morning, your time, with The Pope heading for a briefing with his organizational people.


"We'll know more tomorrow after Simmons' agent gets back to everybody," Owens said. "All I know is that they're after pitching and we've made them a helluva offer."


Now they belong to the agents. And if the Phillies did nothing else last night, they were receptive enough to a deal to be on full alert.


They also have significant, but less intense interest in Atlanta outfielder Gary Matthews.


DALLAS GREEN favors the Lezcano deal because the 27-year-old outfielder is the best-rounded player in his price range.


Sixto's stock is so high you'd never know that clubs are talking about a player coming off a dreadful 1980 season.


The Brewers made it obvious that what they want from the Phillies is pitching – plenty of it. (Owens has already said no to the likes of Marty Bystrom and Mark Davis.)


The Angels have told Owens they desperately need catching and, naturally, the name of Keith Moreland has come up. But Boone's name came up more prominently and more often.


Baylor is only 31 and in 1979 he hit .296 with 36 homers and a league-leading 136 RBI and 121 runs scored. When healthy, he is a superb offensive player with a weak throwing arm. He is also one of baseball's class men.


What makes Lezcano and Baylor even more attractive is that both have several years left on their contracts and neither makes an exceesive amount of money.


One of the first free agents, Baylor currently earns $306,000 a year. Lezcano's salary is $303,000 a year. Neither amount reflects performance clauses.


THE PHILLIES had their busiest day yesterday and it was still in progress far into the night. They also had talks on a less intense level with the Mets and Cubs. The Cubs are trying to unload so many players – Jerry Martin, Barry Foote, Bill Buckner and Rick Reuschel at last count – they appear to be caught in their own revolving door.


As one baseball executive put it, "Teams from both leagues are trying to unload Barry Foote."


You won't get anybody in the Phillies front office to say it for the record, but their efforts to move Greg Luzinski are meeting with minimal response. There is not a great deal of interest at the level of player the Phillies have been talking about for the Bull.


Scheduled talks with the Texas Rangers apparently bogged down in the early stages when the Phillies let it be known that Bystrom and Davis are not available.


Meanwhile, there is land office business involving young players the Phillies regard as their future stars, the Bystroms, Davises, Francos and Morelands. You'd be amazed at some of the deals they could have patched together with two from that group as the keys. Toronto was still pushing yesterday after getting no for an answer Wednesday night.


If the Phils are serious about making a deal here this week – and the current inter-league deadline is midnight tonight – they will probably have to make some painful decisions.


Lezcano in right or Baylor in left has a nice ring to it.


The old dog has finally treed the possum.


It won’t be any easier to bark it down. 

December 13, 1980

Phils Trade Bid Is No Big Deal


DALLAS (UPI) – The Phillies will leave this southwestern metropolis as they entered it. The interleague trading deadline is passed, and the World Champions made no deals.


Not that they didn't try.


The Phils wanted Milwaukee outfielder Sixto Lezcano, and were willing to give four pitchers – Randy Lerch, Dickie Noles, Ron Reed and Scott Munninghoff – in return.


But now Lezcano belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals.


The Phils wanted Reds catcher Johnny Bench, and were willing to give Bob Boone in return. They wanted California outfielder Don Baylor, and were willing to send Boone and Lerch to get him.


But part of Boone's deal with the Phillies reportedly includes low-interest loans lor his racquetball courts, and those loans gummed up the trading mechanism sufficiently to squelch both deals.


SO BENCH IS still in Cincinnati. Baylor's in Anaheim, all the Phils are still in Philadelphia, and the Cardinals and Brewers are making runs for their respective division titles.


Executives from the 26 major league franchises headed their various ways today, some happily awaiting spring training and others still looking for help.


The busiest team turned out to be Whitey Herzog's St. Louis Cardinals, who acquired nine players and dealt away 12. Relief pitcher Rollie Fingers was on both lists, having been picked up from San Diego earlier in the week and traded away yesterday.


But the team that may have gone away the happiest was Buck Rodgers' Milwaukee Brewers, who sent Lezcano and 12-game winner Lary Sorenson to St. Louis for Fingers, Philly-killing pitcher Pete Vuckovich and catcher Ted Simmons. The deal wasn't finalized until Simmons agreed to report to Milwaukee, and he was supposedly seeking a $1 million settlement for his trouble.


"We have one of the most awesome lineups anyone has had in years," said Rodgers, who took over the Milwaukee manager's job from George Bamberger last season. "I don't want to say we should be favorite to win the division because there were two clubs ahead of us last year. But I feel we are now a contender, which we were not at the end of last season.


"IF THERE IS a better lineup in the major leagues I want to see it." Milwaukee's current lineup has Simmons at catcher, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount and Don Money around the infield and Gorman Thomas, Paul Molitor and Ben Oglivie in the outfield. Larry Hisle, who missed almost all of 1979 with a shoulder injury, is expected to return as a designated hitter.


Those nine men, even with Hisle playing only 17 games, averaged 20 home runs and 71 RBI last season.


The St. Louis-Milwaukee trade was one of nine made on the last day of the meetings, which also ended the current period of inter-league trading.


The week-long gathering of baseball people generated 17 trades involving 58 major league players.


Outside the Cardinals-Brewers swap, the biggest names figuring in yesterday's dealings were John Montefusco and Doyle Alexander.


Montefusco was sent from San Francisco to Atlanta in exchange for Alexander and outfielder Craig Landis. IN


OTHER DEALS yesterday, Minnesota acquired pitcher Byron McLaughlin from Seattle for outfielder Willie Norwood; outfielder Hector Cruz went to the Chicago Cubs from Cincinnati for outfielder Mike Vail; the New York Mets acquired outfielder Bob Bailor from Toronto for pitcher Roy Lee Jackson; and Montreal signed free agent infielder Willie Montanez.


Herzog spent his first meetings as general manager swinging a deal every chance he could. But after his final one he seemed particularly delighted. In addition to Lezcano and Sorensen, St. Louis acquired minor league pitcher David LaPointe and minor league outfielder David Green.


"This is the deal I wanted," Herzog said. "This is the deal I pushed for. Ted Simmons said he didn't want to play first base. He said he wanted to catch 100 games and DH 50 games and the only club I could find that could accommodate him was Milwaukee.


"I would not have made the trade if Simmons had wanted to play first base. And I would not have made the trade if we could not have gotten Green. We think a lot of him."

December 15, 1980

Phillies Still Seeking Gary Matthews


By Bill Conlin


This time we almost made the pieces fit, didn't we, Pope?


This time we almost made a go of it, didn't we, Pope?


OK, already, close only counts in hand grenades and mud wrestling.


There were years when the Phillies went to the winter meetings and spent the week with their noses pressed against a frosty window like street urchins in front of a department store toy window. This year was a little different. The Phillies were the rich guys on the block, thumbing disdainfully through a Neiman-Marcus catalog. They priced the oriental rugs, the his and hers Lear jets, the six-month safari for two and yawned.


Paul Owens learned early in his career as the proprieter of the junk shop the Phillies used to be that you're probably in big trouble if you go to a winter meeting with a shopping list that's too long. All he feels he really needs right now is a high performance hitter and a mid-sized pitcher.


THE POPE COULDN’T land Sixto Lezcano and that might turn out to be a blessing. Whitey Herzog gave up one helluva package to get a guy who can't carry Ted Simmons' bat the best day he ever lived. Owens didn't land Angels slugger Don Baylor, but the veteran outfielder can't throw out Bill Veeck.


Third on his hitters list was Atlanta rightfielder Gary Matthews. He's still alive in that endeavor.


It turns out Ted Turner has given the Phillies permission to negotiate with Matthews, who has a 1981 no-trade clause in a very complicated contract. Matthews told Turner over the weekend that he would approve a trade to the Phillies. But there are some complicated things to iron out in the area of performance clauses down the road and the other clutter one finds in modern contracts. Matthews' base pay is a very reasonable $275.000, but he has a chance to earn much more. Which is why Gary howled long and loud when Turner ordered him benched most of the first month of the season last year. Each game he was on the bench represented money down the drain.


The Braves just gave free agent Claudell Washington a $3.75 million contract, but that's Turner's problem. Maybe Ted's going into the turkey-breeding business to help offset the losses being sustained by his cable TV news network.


ANYWAY, MATTHEWS is expendable. The Braves are after pitching and two names that have come up in Dallas talks at the GM level are Randy Lerch and Bob Walk. The Phillies would probably part with either, plus a lesser pitcher – right-handed prospect Scott Munninghoff is a possibility – to land Matthews.


Owens refuses to part with Greg Luzinski without first insuring he has an offensive replacement.


The Phillies think Matthews, hit .278 with 19 homers and 78 RBI, is a gamer.

December 16, 1980

Baker:  Return Trip


By Phil Jasner


Dan Baker and his wife have been corresponding with a Japanese couple they met in this country in 1972. “And we spent time with them when I broadcast the Temple-Boston College Mirage Bowl football game from Tokyo in 78," Baker was saying as he prepared for another international journey. "We thought, despite our friendship, we'd probably never see each other again."


As you are reading this, the Bakers are enroute to Japan, where Dan will join Randy Rosenbloom to telecast the Temple-UCLA basketball game. It starts at 1 p.m. Sunday in Tokyo, but back across the international date line it'll be 11 p.m. Saturday on Channel 17, via Metro Sports Productions.


As a guy who has been there before, Baker had this suggestion for Don Casey, the Owls' coach. "The body's chemistry, its biological clock, is really thrown off passing through all those time zones," Dan said. "They probably should stay up when they get there, so they don't go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night. The other thing is, the Century Hyatt, where we're staying, has about 12 restaurants, but not everybody can handle the cuisine."


Baker is 34, has a master's degree, spent 12 years working as a teacher, and now is the voice of the Big 5, through WHAT (1340) and WWDB-FM (96.5), plus the public address announcer for the Phillies. But this is his most sweeping effort, with the game going into roughly 1,000 cable markets and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.


"ONE OF MY best memories of Japan is a visit we made to Mount Fuji," Dan said. "It took us a few hours to get there, and I began to wonder if it'd be worth the time. It turned out to be breathtaking, majestic."


In the meantime, he passed up a feeler from the Mizlou Network about helping with Eastern 8 telecasts. "I thought about it," he said, "but my loyalty is with Philadelphia and the Big 5. Not that anyone has ever hit me over the head with a terrific offer, but right now I don't feel I can turn my back on the people who gave me my opportunity in the first place."

December 17, 1980

Winfield:  Migraine Headache No. 12 Million


By Bill Conlin


The fences behind the power alleys in Yankee Stadium are a $10 cab ride from home plate. Left-center is so deep that Ma Bell has assigned the Yankee bullpen phone a different area code. 


Mickey Mantle casually underlined the problems a right-. handed power hitter faces when he plays 81 games a season, in the lopsided Bronx monolith. Mantle was presenting an award to Joe DiMaggio last week at the National Association banquet in Dallas which identified the Yankee Clipper as baseball's greatest living player. During a rambling but charming introductory speech, Mantle mentioned that the year he broke in as a rookie he saw DiMaggio hit 40 balls that were caught more than 450 feet from home plate in Yankee Stadium. 


Which brings us to Dave Winfield, a player who does hot deserve to be mentioned in the same breath, the same sentence or even the same paragraph with DiMaggio or Mantle. Comparing VVinfield's modest accomplishments with DiMaggio's lifetime .325 average or Mantle's 536 career home runs is like comparing a bottle of Boone's Strawberry Hill with two magnums of Laffite Rothschild Bordeaux. 


BUT THESE ARE the times in which we live and it should come as no surprise that a man of our times, Qeorge Steinbrenner, has seen fit once again to urinate on the Yankee Stadium monuments. 


That Steinbrenner has bestowed the most awesome contract in athletic history on Winfield, an athlete who proved in San Diego that a myth is even better than a mile, personifies the arrogance of the man.


If money buys happiness, then Winfield just bought 12 million excellent reasons why he should sleep the sleep of the just. It says here, however, that what Dave Winfield just bought is 12 million migraine headaches. 


He is 6-6 and looks strong enough to tear Manhattan telephone directories in half. The fans will see this enormous brute of a man, an athlete who makes Reggie Jackson look like a 90-pound weakling, and they will expect him to start orbiting home runs to the ballpark's distant reaches. They will expect him to provide $1.5 million a season worth of thrills. But it won't happen. It won't happen because if you hired a team of architects to design a stadium aimed at keeping Winfield from becoming a home run hitter, what they would come up with is a configuration like Yankee Stadium's. 


Didn't Steinbrenner send out scouts, for crying out loud? Didn't anybody tell him that all Winfield's over-rated power is in the left- and right-center alleys? Did anybody bother to tell George that although Winfield averaged a less-than-spectacular 18 homers a year in eight San Diego seasons, his lifetime average is just .285 and he has averaged just 78 RBI? 


THE HARD EVIDENCE at hand did nothing to stop Winfield from summing up his hitting style like this: "I'm not a home run hitter. I try to hit the ball hard for average." 


Can't you hear Mike Schmidt, the home run hitter, and George Brett, the average hitter, throwing up? 


What Steinbrenner has done, of course, is to escalate the salary madness one more frightening step, push his game closer to rampant fiscal irresponsibility. He's taken a good ballplayer with the financial leverage provided by free agency and propelled his salary hundreds of thousands of dollars past that of much better players.


Do you think Mike Schmidt and Dave Landfield, his agent, will sit there for two more years making at least $800,000 a year less than what Winfield will be making? Ruly Carpenter is in the position of the guy in the oil filter ad on TV, where the car owner's choice is between a $15 filter chanee or a $500 overhaul.


If you were Mike Schmidt, that's exactly what you'd be telling the Phillies: "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later." And what will the going rate be in 1982, $2 million? Or more? 


UNDERSTAND, THIS IS not a personal rap at Winfield, a high-type young man. He's broken no laws, twisted no arms. Here he was, a pretty good 29-year-old ballplayer emancipated by the hand the owners dealt themselves when they were playing poker with Marvin Miller and could have come out of the 1976 basic agreement negotiations with a modified reserve clause. 


And even Steinbrenner, a real-life personification of J.R. Ewing, is playing the game the way the rules have been written. Hey, he's got the money and he's willing to spend it to win pennants. What the hell has Calvin Griffith spent lately? And if he helps pull the whole spit-and-tissue-paper structure down, there are 25 other owners to share the blame. And three of Steinbrenner's lodge brothers were panting at Winfield's door, eager as George to send the Bjinks truck around. 


Just as disquieting as the salary one-upsmanship involved are the competitive innuendoes.


"1 enjoyed the time I spent in San Diego, but now I am anxious to see how I perform with the motivation of playing a championship contender," Winfield said at his New York coronation.


What the hell's that supposed to mean, that Winfield doggeed with the Padres? That he gave it less than his best because played with a team that was usually out of the race by Mother's Day? If the Yankees, playing in a very tough division, should somehow drop out of the race one of these seasons, will Dave fold up his skillsand announce that he's not motivated any more?E


RNIE BANKS WAS the National League's MVP in 1958 and '59. The Cubs finished fifth both seasons. Steve Carlton, pitching lor a team that lost 97 games in 1972, was 27-10 and won the Cy Young award. Winfield own teammate. Randy Jones, was the 1976 Cy Young Award winner for a Padres team thai lost 87 games. Just imagine what those guys would hae done wnh a little motivation.


The Mets, the biggest short-term losers in all this, have spent the time since Winfield's signing sifting through the litter, like down-and-outers shuffling through a deserted race track grandstand looking for a discarded winning ticket. The team that a few days ago was talking Winfield and trying to back him up with Fred Lynn, wound up slipping a truckload of damaged goods through the back door of Shea Stadium. 


Yesterday, they gave free agent Rusty Staub, an old, established bat without a position to play, $I million tor three years. Monday, they acquired Randy Jones, a man with a rebuilt left arm who is coming off a 5-13 season. 


The knee-jerk moves had all the impact on Mets funs that a guy completing a 500-mile flight would have had on America the day that Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris. 


I hope Dave Winfield enjoys the money, spends it in good health and happiness. He could have gone to Ted Turner's bandbox, surrounded himself with an offensive cast superior to that of the Yankees, hit 45 homers and become a legitimate star. 


But no, he went to a town where Reggie, Reggie, Reggie is king and the fans mug their young before they devour them. 


George Steinbrenner has given us a new definition of pressure. Pressure will be playing in Yankee Stadium, in the same outfield as Reggie Jackson, and trying to live up to the statistical demands created in the public's mind by a $1.5 million-a-year salary.

December 19, 1980

Judge Doesn’t Take Phillies ‘Flasher’ Series-ly


UPPER DARBY (UPI) – "Phillies Fever," the infectious disease that swept the Philadelphia area when the Phillies won their first World Series in more than 75 years, has been invoked as a defense under law.


UPPER DARBY District Justice Michael Cullen was called upon recently to decide whether John Thorn, who painted his 1967 Buick in the Phillies' red and white team colors, broke the law by going one step further and adorning its roof with a red flashing Phillies cap. Not guilty, ruled Cullen, by reason of Phillies fanaticism.


In a lengthy opinion that began, "In October 1980, the miracle happened," Cullen ruled the heart-stopping, come-from-behind Phillies victories were reason enough for Thorn, 18, to transform his car.


"Our Commonwealth has but two baseball teams," wrote Cullen. "Most of the members of our General Assembly come from the East. In my wildest imagination, I cannot believe any of them would wish me to punish John Thorn."


THORN HIMSELF was baffled by the charge, which said Thorn's car, with its flashing red light, was too similar to a police car and violated the Motor Vehicle Code. Thorn said, however, he merely parked the car outside his Delaware County home in Drexel Hill and took another car to work.


Blessed by judicial sanction but none too reliable, the car was consigned to the scrap heap.  But Thorn’s sports loyalty lives on.


He said he is thinking of painting his new wheels green in honor of the Philadelphia Eagles – “but no light bulbs this time.”

December 22, 1980

SportsPeople (excerpt)


By Mike Kaine


Bahnsen Stays 


The Phillies didn't come away with any major deals at tins month's baseball meetings and they won't come away with Stan Bahnsen, a free-agent reliever they had been eyeing.


Bahnsen, 7-6 last year with an ERA of 307, re-signed with the Montreal Expos yesterday. Bahnsen's contract, a two-year deal, includes performance bonuses as well as an option for future years.


Bahnsen, 36, was chosen by five teams in the draft but had announced his intention to sign only with the Phillies or return to Montreal.

December 23, 1980

Phils’ Unser Is Yes


By Bill Conlin


The Phillies have said goodbye to the free agent market for another year, proving that Paul Owens and his front office helpers are men of discerning taste. For the second straight season, the free agent they signed was one of their own.


The Pope, down to overpriced underachiever Jim Dwyer and realistically priced Del Unser, a known quality, bailed out of the most inflated market since Germany in 1922. Owens signed Unser, the playoff and World Series hero he verbally savaged at the winter meetings, to a two-year, guaranteed contract. No terms were announced – Del figures that's between him and the Phillies – but it would be safe to guess that Ruly Carpenter will have enough money left to buy Christmas gifts for Stephanie and the kids.


"It's not one of the biggies," Del said last night from his home in Moraga, a San Francisco suburb. "But it’s very big to me in the sense that I'll be around for two more years to savor what the Phillies achieved last season.”


Owens made some cavalier statements on Lost Monday in Dallas about Unser bleeping in his hat if he didn't like what the Phillies had offered him. Nobody took the remark seriously, except the guys who thought it was sincere enough to use in their stories.


"I HEARD THAT Paul said something like that," Unser laughed, "but I didn't take it to heart. I have some idea of what goes on at the winter meetings, and I doubt if that was an accurate summary of how Paul feels about me."


The stalled negotiations slid off dead center when Del got an offer from the Pirates, one of four teams which drafted him in the re-entry process. "Pittsburgh made me kind of a good offer," he said. "I got back in touch with the Phillies and it all happened in two days. There were some very nice little things included in the contract, little things that will make the season more pleasant."


Unser was an unclaimed free agent in the spring of 1979 when Owens invited him to work out in Clearwater with the Phillies and, perhaps, make the ballclub. There were no guarantees. All the Phillies offered him was a chance, which was all Unser had going for his career at the time. He made the club, played a key role off the bench and atoned for a mediocre 1980 offensive season with his superb play in October.


"In 1979 I was about to get out of the game," Unser said, "and I was given the opportunity to become a meaningful member of this current ballclub. I can't forget that and it was foremost in my thinking throughout. Philadelphia is our professional home."


IT WOULD HAVE been convenient and comfortable for Unser to sign on with the Giants. Candlestick Park is just a 20-minute commute. But Unser has always hated the Giants' stark wind tunnel of a ballpark. He doesn't feel comfortable playing there and why penalize himself during what are probably the final two years of his career?


"There would have been many advantages to playing close to home, but none of them would have applied to me as a ballplayer," he said. "I think I blend well with the Philadelphia ballclub. I know my role and I play for people who use me well."


So Unser, who plays Frack to Greg Gross' Frick, will be back with his closest baseball friend in 1981. Gross was re-signed by the Phillies last winter under similar free agent circumstances. Owens later signed free agent Lerrin LaGrow, a righthander who was not selected by the minimum two teams in the reentry draft and was therefore free to do business with any team.


LaGrow turned out to be a shot pitcher and Dallas Green released him before the All-Star break.


Dwyer, who is looking for a Dave Roberts-type score, is the only unsigned player the Phillies drafted in November. They will make no effort to sign the former Red Sox utility man.

December 24, 1980

Orioles Sign Dwyer


The Baltimore Orioles obviously feel that the way to overtake the New York Yankees is through the bench.


The Orioles signed Jim Dwyer to a three-year contract the second free agent the club has signed within the past two weeks.


Dwyer, a 30-year-old first baseman-outfielder whom the Phillies picked in the free agent draft, batted .285 with 38 RBI in 93 games with the Boston Red Sox last year.

December 27, 1980

Surprise!  Philly’s Boo Birds Not the Worst


By Mike Kern


It's no secret that Philadelphia sports fans have a national reputation for being hard customers to please. They've been known to boo anything from Kiteman to the Easter Bunny. They've burned players in effigy. They've filled Franklin Field with chants of "Joe Must Go" until he went. Their behavior so infuriated Larry Bowa one night during the Phillies' pennant drive that he questioned their loyalty with a string of four-letter words you won't hear during the family hour. And that was after a win!


The city's sports fans have done little to enhance the national view of Philadelphia, which probably lies somewhere between such pleasure spots as Buffalo and Cleveland. But with unmemorables like Pancho Herrera, Los Atomes, the Blazers, Pete Liske and Roy Rubin in their past, they are entitled to more than an occasional Bronx Cheer.


Possibly due to the recent winning ways of the city's pro franchises, Philly's sporting faithful are no longer held in their accustomed low esteem. According to a poll of 97 sports writers throughout North America, they don't rake the bottom of the barrel anymore.


NEW YORK, THE city that Tug McGraw proclaimed could "stick it." is apparently one Big Apple that's rotten to the core.


The writers, in a poll released yesterday in the Boston Globe, rate New York's fans the worst behaved in the pro sports world. The New York fans collected 203 first-place points for the most unruly lot, followed by Philadelphia with 164, Boston-New England with 138, Chicago with 120 and San Antonio, which has only one major sports franchise, with 76.


Each of the 97 writers was asked to list the five cities where fans are the worst. New York fans came out the worst in baseball, football and hockey. A sampling of some remarks by the sports writers:


"Friday night crowds at New York baseball games put on better fights than those at Madison Square Garden – and without commercials," said Jack Lang of the New York Daily News.


"New York people are simply obnoxious. They heap abuse on opposing players," added Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


"(New York) Rangers fans are brutal," said Bob Keisser of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. "I recall (goalie) John Davidson coming back from a bad leg and a fan shouting, 'Why don't you break the other one?"


Geez, Dave Winfield is probably one bases-loaded whiff away from becoming target practice for the wolf packs in the left-field bleachers.


IN BASKETBALL, San Antonio's Baseline Bums – which Cathie Burnes of the Kansas City Star-Times said "... are paddling with both oars not in the water" – were named the worst in a landslide.


But Philly fans can take heart. They did retain some of their soiled reputation when they took the runner-up spot as the worst in basketball, along with third-place finishes in football, hockey and baseball.


They also gained some measure of disrespect when they were judged the most critical in football, basketball and baseball. And just to prove that they're cerebral, Philadelphia fans rated high on the "most knowledgeable" list in all four sports.


So the next time you're in Section 724, and the guy next to you with mustard stains on his Philadelphia Firebirds jacket screams at Dallas Green for staying too long with Ron Reed, pay attention. He's gaining new respect with each passing boo.