Wilmington Morning News - February 15, 1980

Guest speaker Gross, funny


By Matt Zabitka


Scheduled to be the principal speaker at last night's 32nd annual Salesianum Alumni sports banquet at Padua Cafetorium, Phillies' Manager Dallas Green was a no-show.


Toastmaster Wayne Rizzo, a Mork (of TV's Mork & Mindy) look-alike and act-alike, explained to the crowd of 580 that Green had taken ill. Rizzo read a telegram Green reportedly sent: "There are two things a manager must do – yell and talk. At this time I can do neither."


Green sent a "pinch-hitter".


"I was wondering what my role with the Phillies will be in 1980," quipped free agent outfielder Greg Gross, "and now I found out. Dallas let me know even before we get to spring training."


On a scale of 1-to-10 as an entertaining speaker, left-handed hitter Gross was an 11 at the affair which saluted 81 Sallies' athletes (and coaches) who participated in 11 sports over the past year.


"1979 was lousy," said Gross. "I already had my World Series money spent."


Going down the Phillies' roster, position by position, Gross commented:


"Bob Boone will be back as our catcher. Mike Schmidt will be our third baseman. Schmidt is the only guy I ever saw who can slide and never get his uniform dirty.


"Larry Bowa, our shortstop... well, he's a legend in his own mind. And Manny Trillo, we've been feeding him proteins over the winter so we could see him at second base.


"As for Pete Rose, there isn't much to say, except he's ugly.


Greg Luzinski has been on a diet all winter. Bull took a lot of abuse last year but the fault wasn't all his. He had 83 RBI. He's not a good outfielder, and I don't mean that to be facetious. He keeps me in the big leagues because I get to play some defense. I saw him at a tennis tournament last week and he looks in great shape. He has trimmed down considerably.


"I have no lines for Garry Maddox. He's the best center fielder. And Bake McBride in right field, I started rumors all winter to get him traded."


Of course, Gross, who is continuously referred to as the Phillies' "fourth outfielder," wanted it made clear his comments were in jest, even though he spoke with a "straight face."


Gross, wearing light-brown slacks, an eye-boggling sports jacket and a white shirt open at the collar, added: "We need some righthanders on the bench. If our pitching is healthy we'll do all right. If not, we'll finish a strong fourth again."


Philadelphia Eagles' linebacker John Bunting also impressed as a speaker.


The Eagles' 10th-round draft choice in 1972 noted that he had been with a football winner for so many years that he didn't know what it felt like to be a loser until he joined the Eagles.


"I was with the Eagles 6½ years and never on a winning team. Then when the Eagles became winners I busted a knee. That 1978 season, when I ruined my knee, was a blessing in disguise. It made me work harder to get back. I know the Eagles will go again and I want to be there."


Pointing his remarks directly at the 81 Sallie senior athletes seated in front of the dais, all wearing white coats, white shirts, bkek bow ties and black pants, Bunting said: "I became so caught up in coming back to football I ignored everything around me for about a year. There are things you should constantly re-evaluate. Doing things too much a time. Open those eyes, ears and minds in coming years."


Former Sallies' football captain Kevin Reilly, Class of '69, who went on to added stardom at Villanova and had pro stints with the Dolphins, Eagles and Patriots, gave a very moving oration. Talking about the loss of his left arm, which was amputated last fall, Reilly said: "I am not handicapped. I would like to look at this as a challenge. A lot of people are more handicapped than I am; the people hooked on drugs and alcohol.


"The underlying spirit was very much appreciated in my last operation. The support and prayers of the Salesianum people was very uplifting.


"Salesianumm is many things to many people. Where the common bond begins and ends is a mystery."


Reilly, who conducts a sports show over Radio Station WDEL every Saturday, was accorded a rousing standing ovation.


Others who spoke included William T. McLaughlin, mayor of Wilmington; Rev. James O'Neill, principal of Salesianum School; Dick Anderson, assistant football coach at Penn State; Steve "Sid" Cassidy, Sal grad who went on to set multi swimming records at North Carolina State; Loren Kline, Delaware soccer coach; Scott Thompson, Delaware's MVP last fall in soccer, Kevin Conlin, former Sal football player who recently completed his collegiate football career at Rutgers; Sidney Maree, Villanova's long distance runner from South Africa; and Justin Gause, representative for the senior athletes.


Francis Twardus was banquet chairman.