Philadelphia Inquirer - December 23, 1980

Del Unser signs pact with Phils


Outfielder returns to fold for 2 years


By George Shirk, Inquirer Staff Writer


Del Unser, the Phillies' 36-year-old pinch-hitting outfielder whose last 11 at-bats in 1980 catapulted him to playoff and World Series stardom, yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Phils, making him the second Phillie-turned-free-agent to sign back with the club in the last month.


With the signing of Unser and the earlier signing of relief pitcher Tug McGraw, the Phillies today stand with the same personnel that won them the World Championship.


Unser agreed to the two-year pact after his agent, Dick Moss, and director of player personnel Paul Owens reached agreement on contract terms.


The financial end of the deal was not disclosed by the Phillies, and Unser, in a telephone interview from his home in Moraga, Calif., declined to comment on the terms of the contract.


"The thing that pleases me most," he said, "is that the contract is with Philadelphia. First of all, we are the champs, and I know I helped a little bit in that. Secondly, I enjoy the people of Philadelphia – the fans, and the people with the club."


Unser said he had made no progress in hatching a deal with four other clubs. He said he and his agent "had a couple of conversations" with both the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and said he talked briefly with the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Francisco Giants.


It was the second time in his career that Unser had opted for free agency. After the 1978 season, in which he was with the Montreal Expos, he declared himself a free agent but was signed by no one.


In the spring of 1979, he turned up at the Phillies' spring training camp as, in his words, "an insurance policy against injuries," was signed and became a Phillie for the second time. He had been a Phillie in 1973, but was traded to the Mets in 1974 in the deal that brought McGraw to Philadelphia.


In the National League playoffs last October, after a so-so season (.264), Unser came off the bench to collect a game-tying single and a 10th-inning double in the crucial fifth game against Houston, scoring the run that won the pennant.


They were big hits, but they were the only two that he got in five trips to the plate in the playoffs.


In the World Series, Unser hit an eighth-inning double to spark a four-run outburst against Kansas City that won Game 2 for Philadelphia, 6-4, and he finished the Series by going 3-for-6.


With Unser going the free-agent route, the Phillies sought to protect themselves by drafting outfielder Jim Dwyer of the Boston Red Sox in the 1980 free-agent draft, but the Phillies were notified Sunday that Dwyer was to sign a three-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Shortly after that, the Phils announced the signing of Unser.


The timing of the Unser signing was, to Unser, "no big deal."


"I'm sure Paul was looking for some kind of deal during the winter meetings," he said, noting that the Phillies did not make a single deal during the meetings earlier this month.


As a pinch hitter the past two years, Unser has collected 26 hits, 20 RBIs and has hit.310.


Unser said he had one meeting with Owens immediately after the World Series, but had not talked with the Phillies until last weekend.


"This was put together just a couple of days ago," he said.



"The bottom line," Unser said, "is that I'm very well pleased with being back in Philadelphia, where I can be with a team that I can help."