Wilmington News Journal - December 1980

December 7, 1980

Owens set for marathon meetings


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


DALLAS – Paul Owens can pick up the phone this morning, dial the Chicago Cubs' suite, and in a matter of minutes have outfielder Jerry Martin back in Phillies' pinstripes.


And all it would cost the Phils' player personnel director would be left-handed pitcher Randy Lerch.


Then, with Martin aboard, Owens could trade outfielder Greg Luzinski to Baltimore for a starting pitcher.


Baseball's annual winter meetings open here tomorrow and Owens, who arrived yesterday, is the first to admit the Phils probably won't be too active. Owens would neither confirm nor deny a pending deal for Martin, but did say he has some concrete offers involving various combinations of players that can be quickly finalized.


In a sense, Owens' hands are somewhat tied as the week-long convention opens. Free-agents Tug McGraw and Del Unser are not signed and whether or not they remain in Philadelphia has a lot to do with the direction Owens pursues during the bartering sessions.


Aside from that, the men who run the world champions are still not convinced they should move Greg Luzinski even if the player or players they receive in return are of equal quality.


Luzinski, who turned 30 on Nov. 22, missed 45 games last season because of a knee injury and resulting surgery. He hit only .228 with 19 homers and 56 runs batted in. Near the end of the year, When he was benched in some of the team's important games, he became disenchanted and openly criticized Manager Dallas Green.


"One of the most important decisions we have to make is whether or not to move him," said Owens. "We face this with mixed emotions for obvious reasons. If I move him, I have to get a bat back, right? I have had several clubs inquire about him and I have told them I am not shopping him. But, because of his potential, if I could make a deal for say a starting pitcher and another player, I might end up with an even better club."


During the Mike Schmidt Golf Classic at Hilton Head, S. C, Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver told Luzinski he would like to see him in an Orioles' uniform.


"I know about that," said Owens, "and there have been other reports we might deal him to Baltimore. To tell the truth, I have not seriously talked to their general manager, Hank Peters, since the World Series.


"When you look back on my trading record, you know I seldom deal away an everyday player for a pitcher. Too much can happen to pitchers."


Owens has heard some of Luzinski's grousing about Green and thinks the Bull's attack is unfair.


"I am not concerned about what he says about me, but I don't like him talking about Dallas," said Owens. "I think he owes Dallas Green something. He has been with this organization since he was 17l2 years old and Dallas was his first manager. Dallas has never gone out and badmouthed him.


"I told the Bull for five years he should lose weight and I said it publicly. When he took off all that  weight and had the two good months at the start of this season, I was tickled. Then, he put weight back on and I think that is what hurt the knee.


"We were trying to win a pennant and he was not able to play. I really don't think Dallas has done anything to him at all. If you look back, Greg Luzinski's contribution to the Philadelphia organization the past two years has been almost nil."


Lerch, 26, had a 4-14 record and 5.16 ERA with the Phils in 1980 and was involved in a controversy when he was dropped from the roster for the playoffs and World Series in favor of left-hander Kevin Saucier. At that point, he left the team and undoubtedly will not be with the Phils when spring training opens.


The Cubs, it was learned, would quickly trade the 31-year-old Martin back to Philadelphia for Lerch. Martin, who originally went to Chicago in the 1979 deal for second baseman Manny Trillo, hit only .227 for the Cubs last year but blasted 23 homers. During his first season in Chicago, he played center field on a regular basis, batting .272 with 19 homers and 73 RBI.


If Owens were to make a deal for Martin, then swap Luzinski for a 20-game winner, the Phils would be stronger in two departments.


Owens said the Cubs are definitely trying to move relief ace Bruce Sutter "but he does not fit into our plans. That's nothing to do with what our field-level people think of him. We all know his abilities and potential. It's just that he earned $700,000 last year and will demand even more from a new club. We would be wrecking our whole salary structure and I'm not about to do that."


Owens added that he intends to' keep shortstop Larry Bowa and catcher Keith Moreland.


"Bowa proved to himself, to me and to everyone else the last month of the season he is still one of the best," said Owens. "I like him and want to keep him. We have talked about letting Moreland play some outfield. He is a great offensive player. If he can play 110-120 games, do some catching to give Bob Boone a breather, I think we can keep him happy."


As for the unsigned McGraw, Owens had a session with him and his agent before coming here.


"I think we are closer," said Owens. "I am not worried about the four-year contract as much as I am the money he is asking (originally $500,000 a year for four years). Everything in the negotiations is compatible and friendly. We love Tug McGraw and want him to stay here. He wants to stay here, too. We have a salary structure that we have to follow. I think Tug appreciates that as much as we appreciate what he's trying to do.


"From a selfish standpoint, I hope to get this thing resolved early in the week so I will have more clarity when I talk to other clubs. Once we get that out of the way, I can proceed the way I want to. But, if we are not going to have McGraw, we might have to take a different approach."


Owens admits Unser is no real concern.


"I'm not trying to downgrade him in any way," said Owens, "but I can fill his position a helluva lot easier than I can fill the bullpen spot. We have made him a fair offer and are waiting."


Meanwhile, Owens is not planning to get much sleep this week as the marathon sessions get under way. The man they call the Pope, though, is convinced he can leave here with a stronger team than he ended the greatest season in the history of the franchise with. And that says a lot.

December 13, 1980

Wheel ‘n deal game has Phils empty-handed


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


DALLAS – By the time you read this the Phillies will have either made a deal or be preparing to close up shop and leave the winter baseball meetings empty-handed.


As the midnight inter-league trading deadline approached, a tired Paul Owens was closeted first with representatives of the Mets and finally with Toronto executives.


Owens, admittedly disappointed the Phils were unsuccessful in their attempts to land Milwaukee outfielder Sixto Lezcano, turned his efforts elsewhere.


Lezcano, along with pitcher Larry Sorensen and two young prospects, was dealt to St. Louis for reliever Rollie Fingers, pitcher Pete Vuckovich and catcher Ted Simmons. Simmons had held up the deal for over 24 hours as he sought a reported $1 million settlement for accepting it.


As late as early yesterday morning Owens, the Phils' player personnel director, was of the opinion Lezcano would not be included in the St. Louis trade.


"That is what we were told," said Owens. "I offered Milwaukee four pitchers – Randy Lerch, Ron Reed, Dickie Noles and Scott Munninghoff – for Lezcano. I thought that was a pretty good deal for them."


With Lezcano out of the picture, Owens quickly turned his attentions to other teams that might have the power hitter he is looking for.


As reported here earlier in the week, he had offered catcher Bob Boone to the California Angels for Don Baylor, but that deal was turned down when the Angels refused to take over the personal loans the Phils have provided Boone. The catcher owns several racquet-ball establishments in New Jersey and received loans at very agreeable – for Boone – interest rates. California was not so agreeable.


The Tigers showed some interest in Lerch but seemingly had very little to offer the Phils. Atlanta was shopping outfielder Gary Matthews and it was learned the Phils offered the Braves pitcher Bob Walk, but it was turned down. The Cubs, who were trying to peddle outfielder Jerry Martin all week, finally pulled it off, sending him to San Francisco.


"The way I look at it tonight," said Owens, "is that 1 am going to concentrate on American League clubs. We can deal with teams in our league any time. I have had some serious conversations today with the Mets. They are interested in Bake McBride and Greg Luzinski. I told them there was no way I would trade Bake McBride."


The Mets, who have had the pompous approach of a world champion in their trade discussions here, cooled Owens when they told him they would not trade pitchers Jeff Reardon or Neil Allen.


"And you know as well as I do that those are the ones we were most interested in," said Owens.


A report earlier in the week had shortstop Larry Bowa going to the Texas Rangers, but Owens said that was totally inaccurate. "Larry Bowa's name has not even come up," he said.


If Owens was able to pull off a deal before the deadline, it probably would be with Toronto.


"We have interest in two or three of their pitchers," he said. "I've been telling you all week I like Dave Stieb and Jim Clancy, but they want some of our best players and I am not about to give up a Marty Bystrom or a Mark Davis."


Owens' plan when he came here last weekend was to obtain an outfielder with some power. He figured he could land one by dangling the likes of Lerch, Noles, Reed, etc. Once he had a player who would give the team more offense, he then planned to see if he could obtain a front-line starting pitcher for Luzinski.


"If I can make two deals, I will be satisfied," he said at the time. "We might make two deals and go home early."


That, of course, did not happen. The Phils, who have never fallen into the trap of making foolish deals at the last instant, continued their methodical approach.


"I'll tell you one thing," said Owens. "We are a lot better team right now than we were 12 months ago. I had hoped to be able to move Randy Lerch because I think he will be better off with a new club. There is no question about his physical ability. A change of scenery should prove what I am saying."


Owens insisted he did not come here intent on moving Luzinski, but his name was mentioned frequently. But before those offers could be seriously considered, it was necessary to get a player to replace him and that is where the hang-up developed.

December 14, 1980

Phils’ Owens hopeful trade door isn’t shut


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


DALLAS – By late yesterday afternoon Paul Owens could hardly utter a word. The Phillies' player personnel director was suffering from a case of laryngitis.


"Too much talking," Owens said, his voice raspy and lacking its usual volume. "You spend a week here doing nothing but talking and what do you expect?"


My answer could have been a trade or two, but that would have been unkind. Nobody ever works harder than Paul Owens and his staff at the winter baseball meetings. And he has said many, many times before, the trade you don't make is sometimes more important than one you might swing in a moment of haste.


This time last year the Phils were being criticized by the media for not making a deal with Texas that would have landed reliever Sparky Lyle. To get Lyle, and the Phils did anyway in September, they would have sent the Rangers reliever Tug McGraw, right-hander Larry Christenson and outfielder Bake McBride.


If memory serves, the Phils were also supposed to get outfielder John Grubb, but if the deal had been made where would they have been in 1980 without McGraw, McBride and even injury-riddled Christenson?


So, the fact the world champions were unsuccessful in getting an outfielder with power, and a starting pitcher, during the week of bartaring is of little importance.


Had they been able to get outfielder Sixto Lezcano from Milwaukee for the package they offered, the Phils would have been stronger than they were last Oct. 21 when they defeated Kansas City 4-1 to win their first world championship. But Lezcano went in that whopper of a deal to St. Louis and the Phils' offer of pitchers Ron Reed, Randy Lerch, Dickie Noles and Scott Munninghoff was just not strong enough.


"And we were not about to give Milwaukee some of our top youngsters," said Owens. "When it looked like they might not swing the thing with St. Louis, they kept asking me about Marty Bystrom and Mark Davis and Bob Walk. No way I am going to give up those kids."


An impressive list of names was flashed past Owens' watchful eyes during the week, including Cincinnati's Johnny Bench, the Chicago Cubs' Rick Reuschel, Jerry Martin and Bill Buckner, Atlanta's Gary Mathews, the New York Mets' Neil Allen and Joel Youngblood, the Angels' Don Baylor, the Rangers' Jim Kern and Al Oliver, and Toronto's Alfredo Griffin.


The would-be deal that intrigued me most would have sent Bob Boone to Cincinnati for Johnny Bench.


While this was in the early talking stages, Manager Dallas Green cornered Pete Rose, here for an award, and asked him if he would mind moving to left field. Green's thinking was that with Boone gone, Keith Moreland could catch and Bench play first. Rose assured Green he would play left if given enough time in the spring to re-learn the position.


Soon after that. Rose called Cincinnati attorney Reuven Katz, who is his agent as well as Bench's.


"We found out Bench did not want to be traded away from the Reds," said Owens, "and the deal was killed."


Late Thursday night, Owens hinted he could land outfielder Baylor from California for Boone.


An hour or so later, it was learned, the Angels were scared off when they learned the Phils had loaned Boone large sums of money so the catcher could build his racquetball courts in New Jersey. They would have had to assume those loans and were not interested.


When Owens found out Toronto would be willing to part with the likes of starting pitchers Dave Stieg or Jim Clancy and let him know the team was planning a youth program, he was excited.


"Then they started asking about Marty Bystrom and Mark Davis and everything cooled down," said Owens. "I think they know more about our minor-league organization than we do. There was no way Dallas Green would part with the best young pitchers we have."


About Wednesday, it looked like the Mets would be willing to offer a pitcher, Jeff Reardon or Allen, and outfielder Youngblood to the Phils for Luzinski.


"We talked about that, but they finally admitted they did not want to part with either Allen or Reardon," said Owens.


One story, also at mid-week, blared that shortstop Larry Bowa was about to be traded. This turned out to be the biggest joke of all the rumors.


"To be honest, his name never came up. Not once," said Owens.


Owens said he would be back behind his desk at Veterans Stadium and that hopefully his voice would be improved.


"I am going to continue to talk to National League teams," he said. "I also can speak with some of the clubs we negotiated with in the American League. You know, there is another inter-league trading period beginning Feb. 15."


Owens also revealed he has been given permission by the Atlanta Braves to talk to Gary Mathews.


"He earns a base salary of $265,000 a year," said Owens, "and I know they are interested in moving him for pitcher. Before we can get too serious in our discussions, I have to know what his contract demands will be. He has told people he would like to play in Philadelphia and I think he can help us."


Owens paused a moment, his voice now almost a whisper. "Just because we didn't make a deal doesn't mean we're dead. We still have plenty of time."

Schmidt tip slugger


NEW YORK (AP) – Philadelphia third baseman Mike Schmidt, the National League's Most Valuable Player, led the league's hitters with a .624 slugging percentage, according to the official NL statistics.


Schmidt, who led the major leagues with 48 homers, far outdistanced second-place finisher Jack Clark of San Francisco, whose slugging percentage was .517.


Dale Murphy led the league in strikeouts with 133.


Dan Driesen of Cincinnati and Joe Morgan of Houston tied for the most walks with 93, while Warren Cromartie of Montreal led the league with 24 intentional walks.


Terry Puhl of Houston grounded into only three double plays, the fewest of any NL batter going to the plate at least 502 times.

December 28, 1980

1980:  Champion Phils the story of the year


By Rod Beaton, Staff Writer


Nowhere in the U.S. of A., from the amber waves of grain to the shadow of the purple mountains' majesty, did any fans enjoy a season like the fans in the valley of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. The light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia sports fan became a spotlight, and the dizzying glare of national attention focused on, yes, a world champion.


The calendar year 1980 was troublesome for the consumer, the Iranian hostages, the Democratic party, for, it seems, nearly everyone. Philadelphia fans had a pleasant diversion. The Phillies became World Champions.


It had never happened. Many thought it never would. Yet at 11:29 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21, the Philadelphia 25, carrying a torch that was almost extinguished by years of futility, defeated the American League champions, the Kansas City Royals, in the World Series.


The four-games-to-two triumph captivated the long-suffering fans and provided a profound exclamation point to a year of lofty success for the other three major sports franchises in Philly – the Eagles, Flyers and 76ers.


The Flyers and Sixers each reached the championship round of their playoffs, hockey and basketball, respectively. Both teams fell in six games of best-of-seven sets, acquitting themselves in style against superior opposition.


The Eagles advanced past the National Football League wild-card round before fading against Tampa Bay. It was an improvement on 1979's effort, however, and raised hopes that 1981 would be a Super (Bowl) year.


It was vintage time for the Phils. In winning the crown no one expected, they earned a number of individual honors for jobs superbly done.


•  Mike Schmidt hit a major league-high 48 home runs, had 121 runs batted in, and a .286 average. He was a nearly unanimous selection as National League Most Valuable Player.


When the Phillies reached their third World Series, Schmidt delivered again, hitting .384 with two homers and seven RBI. Although a teammate, Bake McBride, subsequently complained about the selection, Schmidt was named Series MVP.


•  There was little argument with Steve Carlton's selection as the NL Cy Young Award-winner. "Lefty" wag also known as "Super Steve" and The Big Guy," both nicknames much-deserved in light of a 24-9 season. He had a 2.34 earned run average and 286 strikeouts in 304 innings of work. He pitched 80 innings more than the second-busiest Phillie arm, that of Dick Ruthven, and more than twice the output on anyone else. A "stopper" indeed.


•  Lonnie Smith had glimpses of the bigs before 1980, but Dallas Green invested heavily in the rookie outfielder and was rewarded with a .339 season. Smith was a treat on the basepaths, with 33 stolen bases when he wasn't stumbling. In the outfield he was high comedy, making even Greg Luzinski look steady.


But he was a tremendous offensive player, the kind of leadoff hitter a team finds once in a decade. His NL contemporaries thought so, giving him the nod as Sporting News rookie of the year.


•  Manny Trillo was nosed out for the Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence. Two Phillies, Schmidt, and Garry Maddox, won Gold Gloves at third base and outfield, respectively, but Doug Flynn edged Trillo at second.


No one edged Trillo for playoff MVP. He hit .381 and was dazzling afield to outshine Terry Puhl of Houston for the award.


The biggest award, though, was on the field. The Phillies' path to the title was anything but downhill.


Manager Dallas Green was the at the helm from spring training for the first time. He preached his “We, not I" gospel with the passion of a backwoods minister, but the congregation wasn't always listening.


On Aug. 10, the Phillies lost twice, ineptly, to Pittsburgh and fell six games behind the Pirates and Montreal with only 55 to play. Green berated the players between games in one tirade that set the stage for another by Paul Owens, the director of player personnel, on Aug. 31.


They worked. So did the players. The Phillies moved up and into contention, clinching their fourth NL East title in five years on a blustery Saturday in Montreal, Oct. 4. The game started late and ran long, two innings overtime. No Phillie minded when Mike Schmidt blasted a two-run homer in the 11th and Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw nailed it down in relief.


McGraw was in the midst of the sort of pitching groove only a few have experienced. Green recognized it, it was hard to miss, and tapped the screwballing left-hander time and again.


Like in every one of five playoff games, the last four of which stretched into tantalizing, grueling and exquisitely dramatic extra innings. McGraw had plenty to do with the drama. So did everyone else. It was unavoidable.


Even jaded observers were enraptured by the Phillies-Astros series, replete with outstanding, grotesque and sometimes confounding baseball. The Phils had to rally to win the last two games, both in Houston. They became the aptly-named "Cardiac Kids."


They were no easier on anyone's cardiovascular unit in the Series.


In Game One, two Kansas City Royals drives settled into Veterans Stadiums seats before many of the more than 65,000 fans had. The Phillies were down 4-0 in the third inning.


The rally routine had become almost routine for the Phils, and they rebounded to win 7-6. They won again the next night, 6-4, with another (ho-hum) rally.


This time the Phils came up with four tallies in the eighth, sparked by Del Unser's pinch:hit double. Unser was a clutch player from September on, an example of the production Green reaped from the bench that he kept happy, for the most part, and in tune throughout the season.


The Royals did not disappoint their fans in Game Three, winning 4- 3 in 10 innings. They tied the Series in Game Four, routing Larry Christenson early and easing to a 5- 3 decision, closer than the game really was.


The closest thing in the game was a pitch, a Dickie Noles fastball that gave windburn to George Brett's chin. The AL batting champion and the Royals' premier slugger had not been slowed by painful hemorrhoids in Philadelphia. He was slowed by Noles' "purpose pitch."


Brett was 6-for-12 until the knockdown. He was 3-for-12 thereafter. Noles' pitch was a barometer of a tough edge the Phillies had not often displayed, one they developed in the crucible of the NL pennant race. It helped them to the title.


They did not win that game, but were ready for Game Five, winning 4-3. They did it with their customary elan, scoring twice in the ninth and then holding their breath as Tug McGraw loaded the bases before retiring Jose Cardenal on strikes to end the threat.


K.C. was less of a threat in the clincher. Carlton mowed 'em down with help from – who else? – McGraw in a 4-1 victory.


It was a victory that meant much more than one championship banner raised next season at the Vet. The Phillies franchise had labored under storm clouds that appeared almost inescapable. The team had been tediously terrible, then when it became good, it failed in post-season play.


In 1980 the chemistry was different. With Delaware native Dallas Green as master alchemist, the Phillies grumbled, fought and feuded, but won.


They got mad at the press when an investigative journalist with a New Jersey newspaper broke an ill-conceived story that falsely implicated several team members in an amphetamine scandal. They got mad at their manager when he went public with his dissatisfaction at their lapses.


But they took it out on opponents. And they brought home the championship.


The 76ers and Flyers came achingly close during the spring, but they could not accomplish what the Phils did. With excellent starts in their 80-81 seasons, they're poised to try again.


The 76ers were a rolling snowball by the end of the 1979-80 National Basketball Association season. They gained more and more momentum until they were finally melted by a little Magic.


The Sixers were 59-23 and finished second to Boston (61-21) in the Atlantic Division during the regular season last year, but rolled through the playoffs until they fell in the championship final to the Los Angeles Lakers and their sensational rookie, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, four games to two.


The playoff loss was especially bitter, because the Lakers clinched the championship in Game Six with a 123-107 victory at the Spectrum, and without awesome center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the regular-season MVP who was sidelined with a sprained ankle in Game Five.


Johnson, the charismatic rookie guard from NCAA champ Michigan State, was awesome in the deciding game. He scored 42 points and took down 15 rebounds, and even played against 7-1 Caldwell Jones on defense.


But no single defeat could erase the feeling of confidence that the Sixers developed during their play- . off charge. They brushed aside the Bullets 2-0 in a mini-series, dumped nemesis Atlanta 4-1 in the conference semifinal, and completely dominated Boston 4-1 in the Eastern Conference final.


Last year's playoffs established the Sixers as a team in control of itself, and it has continued into this season. By 1980's end, the Sixers will have the best record in the NBA. Last year, and the disappointing end to the 1979-80 season, served as a catapult for the '80-81 Sixers, who have a shot at surpassing the best regular-season record in NBA history, the 69-13 mark set by the 1971-72 Lakers.


Any discussion of the Sixers begins, of course, with the incomparable Julius Erving. Dr. J had his finest NBA season in 79-80, and has been playing above even those lofty standards so far this season. Last year, Erving averaged 26.9 points per game, was first-team All-Pro, and was selected by a computer as the best all-around player in the NBA.


But even the wizardry of Erving ' couldnt do it alone. Coach Billy Cunningham has pieced together an impressive lineup, easily the deepest team in the league.


Darryl Dawkins showed continued improvement at cente' although the not-so-young-anymore giant still hasn't shown the consistency needed. But his raw talent is enough to master most big men in the NBA.


Caldwell Jones, called by Cunningham the most valuable 76er, was fourth in the league in rebounding, with 11.9 per game, and seventh in blocked shots (2.03 per). Point-guard Maurice Cheeks was eighth in assists, with seven per game, and sixth in steals.


Role players such as Bobby Jones, Lionel Hollins and Steve Mix were important ingredients in last year's success, and have been even more of a key during this possible record-breaking year.


The Flyers won the National Hockey League regular-season title with 116 points (48-12-20), six more than their nearest rival, Buffalo. At the end of the first week of the year, Minnesota ended the Flyers' record 35-game unbeaten streak.


Minnesota could not end the Flyers' hopes for a third Stanley Cup. Coach Pat Quinn's team swept Edmonton to open the playoffs. It routed the New York Rangers four games-to-one in the quarter-finals and the North Stars by the same margin in the semis. Then came the Islanders.


The Flyers did not go without a fight. They lost their home-ice advantage for the series by splitting two games at the Spectrum. They Isles won two at Nassau Coliseum, but the Flyers prevailed back home, 6-3, to force a sixth game.


In the Isles' Cup-clincher, the Flyers yielded two questionable goals. The first was batted in by an Islander's raised stick, possibly above shoulder level. The second came on an offside play, a call linesman Leon Stickle later admitted that he "blew."


It counted, and the game rolled into sudden death overtime at 4-all. It ended with Bob Nystrom whip. ftng a pass from John Tonelli over Flyer goalie Pete Peeters.


It was not a lost season. Peeters and left wing Brian Propp were among the NHL's premier rookies. Reg Leach scored 50 goals. Paul Holmgren scored 30, proving to be far more than a tough guy. Ken Linseman led the team in scoring in the regular season and playoffs, becoming the awesome threat his speed had promised.


There were unfortunate aspects to their season: Ed Snider, the team's majority owner said in his post-playoff anger that the NHL's supervisor of officials "should be shot." The Flyers led the NHL in penalty minutes for. the seventh straight year.


Yet the team persevered, and this season it has remained among the very elite, again in the race for the best record.


The Eagles are hoping their 1980 season spills over into '81 – and the Super Bowl. The ingredients might be there, although recent performances have spawned doubts.


The Eagles went 11-1 with an awesome defense and a high-powered passing game strong enough to survive the in-and-out status of ace ballcarrier Wilbert Montgomery. Then their feathers were ruffled.


The Eagles' defense has not looked impregnable since it short-circuited Oakland. The offense has fizzled like a glass of seltzer. From 11-1, the Eagles went 3-3, winning their division by a complex tiebreaker procedure.


Next Saturday they begin their Super Bowl drive. Certainly the team's talent is nearly that of NFC rivals Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles.


Ron Jaworski made the Pro Bowl as a backup, ranking second in the NFC quarterback ratings. Harold Carmichael saw his consecutive game, pass-receiving streak snapped at 127 last Sunday against Dallas, but he, too, made the Pro Bowl.


The defense highlighted ferocious line play from Carl Hairston, the emergence of sophomore Jerry Robinson as a brilliant outside linebacker and the phenomenal maturity of rookie cornerback Roynell Young.


Punter Max Runager and placement kicker Tony Franklin were hit-and-miss propositions during the year, but in all, fiery Coach Dick Vermeil had little to kick about.


Every year Vermeil's Eagles have improved, taken an extra step. He is demanding the same again, a deeper plunge into the postseason to complement the improvement from 11-5 in '79 to 12-4 in '80.


A Super Bowl appearance by the Eagles would be a complement to Phils' World Series triumph, too. It would mean that in less than a year, all four of Philadelphia's major sports pro franchises had reached the championship round. It would be a feat accomplished in no other city.



Philadelphia truly would be "The City of Winners." It is already.