Camden Courier-Post - January 30, 1980

Spring comes early for Phils’ Brusstar

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

PHILADELPHIA – The dull thud of a baseball careening off a concrete wall echoed through the chilly underbelly of Veterans Stadium yesterday morning. What could it matter?

 

This wasn't baseball season. Both the hockey and basketball seasons were in full swing. Who needed to think about the Phillies during January?

 

A year ago, righthander Warren Brus-star probably would have agreed with that kind of outlook. He was healthy then, and considered one of the top relief pitchers in the National League.

 

Things change. Now, as he prepared to throw the ball against the wall a second time, Brusstar wrestled with the reality that at any instant he might feel the pain that would tell him bis pitching career was finished.

 

Other challenges will follow, the big one coming during spring training when he takes the mound and faces a hitter under game conditions. But, to reach that point, he has to get over the first in a series of hurdles.

 

"Nice and easy," cautioned Phillies trainer Don Seger. "Just let your shoulder get used to the idea of throwing again."

 

Seger glanced at Pete Cera, the team's ever-smiling assistant clubhouse manager, whose nod was a signal that he was ready to continue filming Brusstar's every move. On this day, nothing was being left to chance.

 

Much of the Phils' 1980 season rode on what was about to take place. The loss of Brusstar during the 1979 season had proven that. His shoulder problems set off a chain reaction that dropped a heavy burden on the other members of the bullpen.

 

Looking back, most of the Phils will admit that the loss of Brusstar was the single most devastating blow the club suffered last year. And, that shocked the lanky righthander.

 

"My first two years in the big leagues had gone so well that I didn't think of myself in terms of being that valuable to the team," he said. "The shoulder problem really woke me up insofar as realizing what I'd accomplished for the Phillies.

 

"I mean, I was still looking at it like a guy who felt fortunate to be on the same team with these guys. I really didn't realize how much I contributed until I was forced to sit around and see this situation and that situation."

 

Brusstar began to pitch with a breezy, fluid motion that was somewhere between playing catch and pitching for real. The trick was to get his arm over the top and to use the full range of his right shoulder without pushing it too far.

 

Time and again the ball came back off the wall. Until Brusstar had worked himself up to what he estimated was "60 percent" of his normal velocity. All the while he listened to the messages his body was sending out.

 

"There's a little pain," he said. "But, it's more like the usual soreness that comes with throwing for the first time in a while."

 

It seemed ironic that almost a year ago to the day, he'd been standing in the same place teaching an aspiring young pitcher named John Heofling (son of physical fitness expert Gus Hoefling) some of the finer points of working the mound.

 

"I threw about 20 pitches at three-quarter speed and my shoulder started to kill me," he recalled. "I began to wonder if I'd strained it lifting weights or throwing long distance during November and December with Larry Bowa. But, I figured it would be okay by thp time I got to spring training."

 

The shoulder was never the same. Oh, there was a brief period in June when the pain vanished. Within a week it was back. Brusstar went to Reading. That's where he was in mid-August when he knew it was useless to try to throw anymore.

 

"More than once since then I've thought about what I'd do if it was all over," he said. "But, what good does it do to worry? What happens will happen.

 

"All I know is, that right now, I'm encouraged. I feel good about how it went. But, it'll take a month of days like this before I really know if I'm going to be okay."

 

Last night, Warren Brusstar eased into a chair at his home. He felt stiff and sore all over. He smiled. For a pitcher, it was a sure sign of spring.

Aaron raps award to Rose

 

ATLANTA (AP) – Although he played only six years of the 1970s, all-time home run king Henry Aaron says he not Pete Rose should have been named "Player of the Decade."

 

"I don't want this to sound like I have anything against Pete Rose or his accomplishments, because I don't," Aaron said yesterday. "I just feel like what J did in the '70s was in no way second best to any accomplishment of anybody, no matter what they did.

 

"I know I only played the first six years of the decade, but I think what I did in those six years should be enough. This would be easier to take if the vote had been by the fans, but it was by sports writers people who know a little about baseball," he said.

 

Sportscasters. writers and baseball executives participated in the' voting. Rose received 109 points, including 24 first-place votes. Rod Carew of the California Angels was second with 103 points and 20 firsts. Aaron was next with 86 points, including 20 firsts.

 

Aaron was to be honored Monday with Baseball Magazine's award commemorating his record 715th homer as "The Greatest Moment of the Decade." Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies also was to be honored.

 

But Aaron refused to show up or accept the award from baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn because, he said, Kuhn failed to appear at Atlanta Stadium on April 8, 1974 when he set the record.

 

"I've been carrying that around for six years. I wasn't bent on revenge, but I did want to wait until the right time to clear my mind, and this was it," Aaron said. "I just would not have been comfortable standing up and accepting an award from him."

 

Aaron singled out New York sportswriters as the reason he was not chosen "Player of the Decade."

 

"I just think there were some people in the press who didn't want to vote me this award. I don't want to get into a racial thing, but I was never the ideal person for the New York press," said Aaron, now 45 and a vice president with the Atlanta Braves.

 

"Rose has a tremendous record, but so has Henry Aaron. Just look at the records and compare the stats. I'm sure Rose being the player of the decade was just a matter of him being more of the sports writers' favorite," he said.