Philadelphia Inquirer - November 18, 1980

Character abounded in this year’s classic

 

By Wilfrid Sheed, Op-ed

 

The 1980 World Series was supposed to feature the spoiled millionaires of Philadelphia vs. the enlightened millionaires of New York. I don't know what sort of millionaires they have in Kansas City signals from the Midwest come in dimly on the Eastern Seaboard. But money and the modern ballplayer have been the talk all season, even when the lads fall to fighting over beanballs. (Nobody that rich wants to be hit in the head, goes the reasoning.)

 

Thus, the Yankees put up with the bully-boy ravings of George Steinbrenner because they can't afford not to. New York is such a lucrative playground, in TV commercials alone, that Steinbrenner can chew-out the help with impunity. Philadelphia apparently does not cast quite the same spell, so there the players chew out the manager instead. The question the World Series was supposed to answer was, which is better for you, to chew or be chewed.

 

The Series we got did suggest that perhaps these are not baseball questions at all, but messy fallout from the gossip culture. The Phillies were supposed to hate their manager so much that they might well lose four straight, or whatever it took, just to spite him.

 

The Kansas City Royals, who, it seems, only mildly dislike their manager, should have cashed in on this quirk of brotherly love handsomely – everybody else has, who's had the good luck to encounter the Phillies in October, by which time they must be a ball of seething hate.

 

Yet when the blather had cleared, one team had made 60 hits and the other 59; one team (a different one) had outscored the other 4.5 to 3.9 per game which 1 believe comes close to the average score of all ball games played anywhere since the beginning of time. In short, the verities triumphed over the froth of the press box.

 

Baseball is so finely calibrated that the super teams win three out of five, and the dogs two out of five. It is not the least surprising to find two teams with exactly the same records after 160 games. So a series between any two big league teams could be close.

 

Yet in a World Series, these percentages fly out the window and everything is supposed to come down to character, as if ballplayers were prisoners of their nerves, like the rest of us. Arnold Palmer once remarked that laymen who talk about "choking" under pressure have no idea how many things can go wrong with your golf game besides fear. However jumpy he may feel, a professional athlete can call on a reserve of sheer skill, as a musician can: e.g., you don't praise an Isaac Stern performance because the house was bigger than usual that night.

 

The salient factor about this year's Series was that neither cast had been in one before. That took care of the stage-fright margin, or old Yankee edge. Maidenhood is everything in these matters. Yet while everyone else talked about money, the players themselves talked, about character, as millionaires are wont to do.

 

The word must have a special meaning for them. Because as soon as a team begins to win, it believes it has character. Just let a couple of lucky hits fall in and the guys will say, "Yeah, we're that kind of team."

 

The rhythm of streak and slump is so wild and unfathomable that the men riding it feel compelled to assert some kind of control over it. Contrariwise, in defeat the players "get down on themselves," search for scapegoats, question their own character. "We proved we had character," said the Phillies. Obviously. To win is to have character.

 

Morale also is more a function of winning than a cause of it: But it's a necessary function. It prolongs the streak from six wins to seven, and picks up the junk game that could go either way, that magical third game in five.

 

There are some teams that sin against the Holy Ghost and reject the energy that victory brings. The Phillies were felt to be one of these, like the Red Sox. Pampered by country-club ownership, went the talk, they could not rise to the myth of team spirit, the sense, that the Collective can somehow coordinate its private streaks and slumps to squeeze the extra game.

 

Too rich, not hungry enough, injury-prone (injuries strangely are no excuse: character is supposed to thrive on them); teams like the Phillies are the pouting villains we need for our annual play-in-the-round.

 

Yet give one of them a hot hand – the Red Sox in 75, the Phillies last month – and you'll see who's pouty. Philadelphia did all the' things rich brats are expressly supposed not to do. They came from behind four times in a row, counting the playoffs.

 

Outfielder Bake McBride, the brat of brats, turned his orneriness into pure menace, treating the enemy as if they were his manager. Shortstop Larry Bowa, the team cynic, started seven double plays (a record) and cried with joy when it was all over. Pitcher Steve Carlton, who won't even talk to his friends, popped his fast ball so hard that the catcher's mitt sounded like a bat. (I've never heard this effect before.)

 

Perhaps the best symbol was third baseman Mike Schmidt, because he seemed to personify defeat, almost to anticipate it, without being obnoxious, a more evolved mutant. Some dismal playoffs in the past had made him a loser in the Sartrean sense: i.e., first you lose, then you are a loser; you have defined yourself.

 

Yet suddenly he had his touch, and he seemed like a different man. And one realized how much one's concept of a team is a problem in perception, or propaganda. Because all the Phillies looked better in victory. For instance, the surliness in the clubhouse – was that really because they were counting their money, or was it because they just don't like reporters, the old-fashioned way? Being civilized to the press is often the only clue we have to these guys' personalities, and it isn't a bad one.

 

But ballplayers from the outback can be unduly disturbed the first time they see themselves misquoted or laughed at in a big newspaper. And what kind of a man would do that for a living, anyway? A team, like an administration, is as lovable as the press corps makes it.

 

Baseball is pre-eminently the country game, because it takes up so much space, artificially transposed to the city where strangers boo you; the suspicious, uncommunicative rube has graced every clubhouse since Ring Lardner. In fact, you probably can find Steve Carlton himself somewhere in Lardner, right down to the hideous grimaces.

 

As to those miserable objects, "today's kids," who allegedly can't stand discipline from an old-school manager – what about yesterday's kids, the Cleveland crybabies of 1940, or the Dodgers of '43, one of whom (Arky Vaughan) flung his uniform at Leo Durocher's feet? Ballplayers, rich or poor, always have been hard to handle – it is one of the few real tests of great managing – and a flinty-eyed brute like Roger Hornsby had as little luck with it way back then as he would today.

 

On second thought, has anything changed as little as a major league ballplayer, unless it be the game he plays? Babe Ruth holds a mirror to the 1920s, and the Gashouse Gang might be said to reflect the Okie spirit of the 1930s. But it's a weak reflection. You might have guessed from the hairdos in the 1960s that something was happening in America, but what?

 

You can't deduce much about an era from its ballplayers. Solitary men in a solitary game, they make their way one by one into the big leagues and out again, always slightly to the side of normal society. The team spirit they invoke so fervently is always ad hoc, always this gang this year. Their teammates while they last are closer than family, but they always are being ripped apart and replaced. No wonder some players are withdrawn, and others full of empty good cheer.

 

Team spirit has little to do with the hard numbers of baseball, though it can quasi-mystically keep batting rallies going (or is it the rally, itself, that creates the spirit?). This Series came down to Willie Wilson's strikeouts and Willie Aiken's stone glove, and all the character in the world couldn't have done a thing about that. If Wilson never plays another series, he will become another Mike Schmidt, a loser; if the wheel spins right, he will become Mr. October II. He still will be the same player, but he will look different. Which may be why athletes don't think much of fans.

 

Otherwise, chalk a small one up for the brat who chews, and file this away under "arrestingly average." 1980 was the year the percentages came back in the guise of melodrama: in other words, it was baseball at its finest.

 

 

(Wilfrid Sheed, author and reviewer, made the above comments in the Nov. 15 issue of the Nation.)

Fat City:  Phillies’ Series haul a record

 

By the Associated Press

 

NEW YORK  The world champion Phillies and American League champion Kansas City Royals each earned record World Series shares, according to figures released by commissioner Bowie Kuhn yesterday.

 

Each full share for a member of the Phillies was worth $34,693.18, breaking the record of $31,236.99 earned by the New York Yankees in 1978.

 

The Royals, who lost the Series in six games to Philadelphia, came away with $32,211.95.

 

The 1980 shares compare to the $28,236.87 that went to each member of the winning Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1979 World Series, and $22,113.94 that went to each member of the losing Baltimore Orioles. 

 

The Phillies voted 33 full shares three half shares, a one-quarter share of $8,673.29 to rookie Marty Bystrom, who won five games in September, and a one-eighth share of $4,336.65 to reliever Sparky Lyle.

 

Other Phillies personnel receiving full shares were trainer Don Seger, assistant trainer Jeff Cooper, clubhouse and equipment manager Kenny Bush Sr., his assistant, Pete Cera; and stretch and flexibility instructor Gus Hoefling. Hank King, batting practice pitcher, received $8,673.29; Gary Watts, Pete Murphy and Mark Andersen, bat boys, $4,000 each; Kenny Bush Jr., bat boy, $2,000, and Kevin Kaufman, clubhouse assistant, $2,000.

 

The Royals voted 26 full shares and a three-quarter share of $24,158.96 to infielder Jerry Terrell. Pitchers Steve Busby, Gary Christenson and Jeff Twitty and outfielder Rusty Torres received half cuts worth $16,105.97 each. Outfielder Steve Braun got a one-third share of $10,7371.31. Outfielder Jose Cardenal received a one-sixth share of $5,368 66.

 

Houston's National League West winners earned $13,465.29 for a full share, a sum no World Series champion received until 1969. The New York Yankees, winners of the American League East, divided 30 full shares of $12,570.59 apiece.

 

 

All 12 first-division teams shared in the players' pool. The Baltimore Orioles received $2,668.71, the Los Angeles Dodgers got $2,275.21, the Montreal Expos $2,405.23 and the Oakland A's $2,746.99 for their second-place division finishes.  A full third-place share was worth $628.38 for each Cincinnati Red, $619.60 for each Milwaukee Brewer $759.52 for each Minnesota Twin and $663.02 for each Pittsburgh Pirate.

Series II

 

 

The Phillies and Royals are back at it again, but this time there will be no hits, catches, throws or errors. That's because the Royals and Phils are taking each other on in video-land – the "Family Feud" television game show, to be exact. Phillies Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Del Unser and Dick Ruthven are taping the syndicated game show today in Los Angeles. Opposing them will be Kansas City's "family" of Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Paul Splittorff, Dennis Leonard and Dan Quisenberry. Watch for the play-byplay sometime after Jan. 1 on CBS, Channel 10 

Smith on Topps’ Rookie All-Stars

 

Compiled by The Inquirer Staff

 

NEW YORK – Phillies outfielder Lonnie Smith was one of only three National League players to be named yesterday to the 22d Topps Rookie All-Star squad.

 

Seven American League rookies were selected by major league players, managers and coaches.

 

Smith joined first baseman Rich Murray of the San Francisco Giants and shortstop Ron Oester of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL group.

 

The rest of the team is composed of second baseman Damaso Garcia of the Toronto Blue Jays, third baseman Glenn Hoffman of the Boston Red Sox, outfielders Joe Charboneau of the Cleveland Indians and Rick Peters of the Detroit Tigers, catcher Don Graham of the Baltimore Orioles and pitchers Britt Burns of the Chicago White Sox and Doug Corbett of the Minnesota Twins.

 

 

Charboneau led in the balloting with 673 votes. He was followed by Oester with 542 and Hoffman with 490.