Camden Courier-Post - February 28, 1980

Rawly Eastwick the invisible Phillie

 

By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Rawly Eastwick inspected the bicycle he had been riding back and forth everyday between his place nearby and Carpenter Complex. Sure enough, the front tire was flat, making it the first casualty of the Phillies' spring training camp.

 

"I don't know," he said, perplexed. "I must've picked up a piece of glass somewhere. There's a bicycle repair shop up the road, but I got to get it there.

 

"Maybe some glue... No, that would never hold."

 

Repair problems are nothing new to Rawly Eastwick, the Haddonfield native who burst upon the major league baseball scene with the Cincinnati Reds in 1976. He was the best righthanded relief pitcher in the National League then, and seemed destined to remain at the top of his profession for some time to come.

 

Instead, his career took one turn after another for the worse. Unhappy with the Cincinnati management, Eastwick asked to be traded soon after he'd gone 11-5 with 22 saves and a 2.08 earned run average in Cincy's pennant winning '76 season. He was obliged early in 1977, the Reds banishing him to the St. Louis bullpen.

 

It was then that Eastwick began fading from the scene. Now, after a brief stay with the New York Yankees and a year and a half of relative idleness with the Phillies, Eastwick is all but invisible.

 

Yesterday, Eastwick was one of several Phils pitchers to throw from a mound. Hardly anyone noticed. Most eyes were watching the injured players – Dick Ruthven, Warren Brusstar and Jim Wright – throw. It was the first time on a mound for both Ruthven and Wright since their injuries, the second for Brusstar. Naturally, pitching Coach Herm Starrette devoted more than a passing interest in their progress.

 

All the while, Rawly Eastwick was off in another section of the complex working on a spiit-finger fastball – the pitch he began developing last April and the one that's made Chicago's Bruce Sutter worth $700,000 this season.

 

"Last year I was still learning the pitch while I was using it (in games)," Eastwick said. "I didn't have any choice. I had to use it because I had to get another pitch."

 

If nothing else, Eastwick has shown an admirable determination over the past three years. Someone with less forebearance might have given up, packing away his dreams for the day when he could parade them before his grandchildren. If nothing else, Eastwick has shown remarkable self-confidence, refusing to second-guess himself on the moves he made.

 

"I wanted to leave Cincinnati for a long time," Eastwick said. "Although there was some success there, I didn't like the way they treated the players.

 

"They made things uncomfortable for you and I didn't like that kind of atmosphere. I wanted to get out, away from the arrogance of (Reds President Bob) Howsam and (Reds Executive Vice President Dick) Wagner."

 

Eastwick's career began to deflate during the second half of the 1977 season, after the Reds dealt him to St. Louis. "I was a mental case there," he says now.

 

He managed a league-leading 26 saves that year, but his ERA ballooned to 3.90 and his unhappiness did not change with the Cardinals. At the end of the season, Eastwick perhaps made a mistake when he signed as a free agent with the Yankees, a team already wealthy in relief pitchers. He fell into disuse under Billy Martin, who was in one of his several incarnations as the Yank manager.

 

The pattern of idleness continued under Danny Ozark after the Phillies acquired Eastwick in June of 1978. Ozark's unvarying policy of going with the "hot arm" kept Ron Reed and Tug McGra w busy, everyone else in the bullpen bored.

 

"If you don't pitch enough you won't be consistent and that was my problem – consistency," Eastwick was saying. "You begin to think too much and you fall into a depression."

 

The Phillies pitching situation being as unstable as it is, it would be premature to hazard a guess at their plans for Eastwick. Manager Dallas Greek's announced intention of converting starter Dickie Noles to relief seems to make Eastwick the odd man out.

 

But it's safe to say the Phillies will use Eastwick as a hedge against the Noles experiment failing, or injury to one of the other relievers. There is, too, an outside chance they'll part with Reed to bolster their bench.

 

"I don't know if they're going to trade me, use me in long relief or short," said Eastwick. "I probably won't ask because I don't think they know either. They have all those other guys to look at."

Baseball beginning in the hands of owners

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

The skinny man with an appetite that can only be described as the "black hole in outer space," stopped shoveling fried rice, shrimp, chicken and steak just long enough to explain the revelation that had come to him during the preceding night.

 

"I'm asleep," he entoned to both friends and strangers seated around the table at the Benihana of Tokyo Restaurant. "And, I'm dreaming about when I was in the army. A nightmare, that's what it was... Pass the sake.

 

"Anyway, it dawns on me. Uncle Sam got me good once. He's not going to draft me again. But, what if the army drafts my girl! It's the same thing. Only worse."

 

Everyone laughed, including National League umpire Eric Gregg, who was already wondering how he could use the guy's story in one of his banquet speeches. Gregg, you see, has been a hot item this winter on the roast beef circuit.

 

It began when he told a sports dinner in Delaware about the call he made at Veterans Stadium last summer when Keith Moreland of the Phillies ripped a line drive down the left field line against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

To hear the likable native of Philadelphia recount how he lost sight of the ball and then was inspired to rule home run when he saw the lovely ball girl jumping up and down for joy is a classic story.

 

Word got around and, before long, Gregg was getting invitations from all over the country.

 

"I love it," he said with a smile. "I told the story in one town and they asked me to stay over and tell it again at another luncheon. Who knows? Maybe I'll become another Nick Colosi (fellow-umpire) and make the Johnny Carson Show."

 

Gregg may need the night's work if baseball's pessimists are correct in their predictions that the season opener will take place on the picket line rather than the playing field.

 

"Nah, ho way," said Gregg. "I've talked to a lot of players and all of them tell me there probably won't be a strike. There can’t be. You're talking about big business. Too much money is at stake."

 

True enough. But, ever since the winter meetings in Toronto, baseball has been filled with rumors that the owners had put together a financial war chest to soften' the impact of an anticipated strike.

 

With a new agreement with the Players Association on the horizon and the owners being pushed to make even more concessions, many of baseball's lords were of the opinion that it was time to make a stand. Players making big money would be far from staunch in their demands. Who knows? Maybe their association might even crack under the pressure.

 

For the first time all evening, the smile left Gregg's face.

 

"If that happens, we're dead," he said. "The umpires have a contract. But, if there aren't any games, we can't work. And, if we don't work, we don't get paid."

 

There would be work for the umpires during spring training. Which was due in part to the players' negotiating whiz, Marvin Miller, who spent much of the past two months trying to convince the radical athletes that staying away from spring training would be a colossal blunder.

 

It was the owners who had to be portrayed as the unreasonable villains, not the players waiting eagerly to get into shape for the season. Miller even went so far as to call together a meeting of all the top agents and give them the same message.

 

So, the die was cast. The players would report. Umpires with crossed fingers would work the games. And the owners?

 

Funny how things happen. Executives in San Diego are furious with both the Montreal Expos and Yankee organizations for making overtures at Padres' star outfielder Dave Winfield. Charges of tampering have been leveled with the office of the commissioner.

 

The hiring of Billy Martin by the rebel owner of the Oakland Athletics, Charlee O. Finley, has gone over like a lead balloon in some high circles. Finley is sticking it to the other owners, and anyone doubting that should have tried to purchase a season ticket in Oakland this past winter. It was as if Finley wanted an empty ballpark in 1980.

 

With each passing day, a solid stand by the owners on any subject seemed less and less probable. And, the only thing they ever seem to agree upon is to disagree. Normality reigns.