Philadelphia Inquirer - February 3, 1980
For Phillies, whole new bag
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
Hey, quit shivering. Stop thinking about how it's going to feel this morning when you stick your head put the door and the first blast of cold air hits you. Think warm. Think spring.
Here, I'll help you. Even now, with the temperatures plummeting into the teens, it should be comforting to know that baseball is in the air, that boxes of equipment are already stacked up in the Phillies clubhouse for shipment to Clearwater, Fla., that the players are working out at the Vet, that the manager – believe it or not – is working out, too, that even now, as we sit here in this quick-frozen winter wonderland, everything is being put in readiness for the April 11 opener against the Montreal Expos. The bats are being ordered. The gloves are being oiled. The punching bag is being installed. The....
Whoops. Run that through again. Yeah, the last part... about the bats and the gloves and did you say punching bag?
You heard me. Punching bag.
Last year's model
Now I know there are folks who will insist that the Phillies have had a punching bag in their dugout since 1973. Fellow named Ozark, who spent most of his waking hours ducking lefts and rights from the press. But this is a real punching bag, the kind you'd find in Joe Frazier's place up on North Broad Street. Only a couple of days ago, Dallas Green ordered it installed in the Phillies dugout, where it will be opening night, ready to take the hardest shot the angriest Phillie can give if after, say, popping up with the bases loaded.
Don't laugh. A lot of thought went into that. It's all part of the new look, the new approach, the changing of the guard, so to speak. The old punching bag, is gone, exiled to the third-base coaching box in Los Angeles, so his successor has brought in a summer replacement.
"I told Gus (Hoefling, the Phillies' physical-fitness expert), 'Put one of those suckers right m the dugout,' " Green was saying the other day. "Maybe then we won't beat the hell out of the bat rack or whatever we beat the hell out of. It'll be fun to see what happens. I just hope somebody doesn't miss the damn thing and hit the top of it (where it's attached) or something and bust their hand.... Anyway, I'll probably use it just as much as the guys."
Will they need it?
If the 1980 Phillies have the same kind of season under Dallas Green that the 1979 Phillies had under Danny Ozark, the new manager may work out hard enough on that bag to qualify for a shot at the heavyweight championship, or at least a six-rounder at the Spectrum. But these are optimistic times at the Vet. Last year's injured are walking again. Even running. And throwing. Management remains convinced that the talent is first-place caliber, even if it contrived to wind up a dismal fourth in 79.
It's up to the new man in the dugout to squeeze the most out of that talent when the team gathers in Clearwater a month from now. The Phillies tried it Ozark's way... the low-key, they're-big-boys, let-'em-play way. They got three division titles out of it, but always staggered into – and very quickly out of – the playoffs. Now they're about to try it Green's way.
His is a no-nonsense approach. A visit to the Vet these days underlines that fact. In the past, Phillies players have always worked out on their own, and worked hard. But this is the first winter that the manager has been working out, too, running up the stadium steps, getting in shape for the long grind ahead. Already, Green is down to a slim, trim 24S. The man means business.
"I think it's kind of good to lead by example,” he said. "I just want to show them it's not all that tough to work hard."
Last year's fourth-place finish should help Green put his message across. "I'm counting on that," he said. "They got their tails beat. They got kicked around pretty good by the press and by the fans, as well they should. And I kicked them pretty good for the 30 days. I kept reminding them that they were the ones that got Danny fired. Not me. I didn't fire Danny. They did. And they didn't like to hear that because it's true."
Under Ozark, the Phillies seemed to get lazy, seemed to think that the sheer weight of their talent would put them on top. At least, that's the feeling general manager Paul Owens and Green seem to share.
"Danny started out pretty good," Green said. "He ran a pretty good camp (in his early years). But I think Danny accepted the fact that the guys were pros, and that they were winners. We won three years on talent and Danny just kept saying, 'Oh, we got good talent. They know what to do.' Well..."
Well, they didn't know what to do last year. At least, they didn't do it.
"I'm not that strict a disciplinarian," Green said. "I'm not a cop. But the only thing I say is that, if I say something, I expect it to be done, and I'm not going to let it slide if it's not done. If that’s discipline, yeah, I expect that because that's why Paul Owens has put me down there, to give direction. And if I give direction and nobody follows, what the hell good is it? There's got to be a meeting of the minds."
The meeting is not far off because, despite the plummeting temperatures outside the Vet these days, baseball's spring is about to start. So get those bats, those gloves and, oh yeah, that punching bag, in readiness.
Maybe the new approach will do the trick. Maybe it won't. The only safe prediction seems to be that the punching bag won't make it through the season. "Somebody'll take a bat to it and that'll be that," Green forecast.
"It'll be lucky to see May," predicted pitcher Warren Brusstar, laughing. "Heck, it'll be lucky to see April 12."
Gee, the Phillies' last punching bag lasted almost seven years. They just don't make punching bags the way they used to.