Philadelphia Inquirer - September 1, 1980
Shaky Phils lose duel in the sun to Padres, 10-3
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO – It started out as a duel of rookie wildmen Bob Walk and Juan Tyrone Eichelberger. So it wasn't as if you went into it expecting a sane, peaceful afternoon in the sun.
But the bizarre moments in the Phillies' very weird 10-3 loss to the Padres yesterday had nothing to do with a couple of flaky rookie pitchers.
They revolved around a Gold Glove centerfielder named Garry Maddox, who forgot to slip on a pair of sunglasses on a day when the nearest cloud was probably in Lake Tahoe.
Maddox lost not one, but two fly balls in the pale blue sky and the golden California sunshine. And so a game the Phillies once led, 3-0, dissolved into a horror show. And another chance to take over the increasingly ridiculous National League East race faded away, too.
"I ve watched these guys for a long time now," said a puzzled, frustrated Dallas Green, after the Phils had stayed a half-game behind the Pirates. "I've tried to be very patient. I've tried to be very understanding. I know it was only one game out of the year.
"But I mean, we say we're a strong enough club to win it. Well, it's getting down to the nut-cutting now. We've got 34 games left. I know the other clubs are playing bad. But it's time for us to come to the fore if we want that pot of gold."
Wherever it was the Phillies came yesterday, it wasn't to the fore. They knocked out Eichelberger with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. They had Walk seemingly going well, taking a one-hitter, one-walker into the fifth. They seemed to have things well in hand.
But the Padres got a run off Walk in the fifth. And then they just took over in a five-run sixth that featured one strange play after another. "Geez, what a damned awful inning," muttered Green later. "That whole inning, you can say was certainly less-than-championship defensive baseball."
It began routinely enough, with a chopper to deep short by the fleet Gene Richards, who haunts the Phillies the way the Morenos and LeFlores and Rodney Scotts do. Richards just flat beat Larry Bowa's throw, and it was a single.
That preceded the inevitable stolen base – Richards' 52d and one of eight the Padres stole in the last two games of the series alone. Then rookie Luis (.449) Salazar hit a bouncer to deep short.
Richards tried to make it to third in front of Bowa. Salazar, who can run, pumped up the line toward first. Bowa took a shot at Richards, didn't get him, and you could see the explosion coming.
"Certainly, it's a second-guess situation regardless of which way you go," Green said. "You don't know whether you're going to get the guy at first. The ball's a little in the hole. Larry might have felt he's not going to get the guy at first. And if he felt that, he made the right play. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out for us."
It didn't exactly mean that the game was over. But to Green, it looked as if the Phillies reacted that way.
"After that, we just turned the faucet off," he said. "It was all over.
"You know, if you fail in this game – and you're going to fail an awful-lot – you've just got to say, The hell with it.' You try and get the next guy, try and catch the next ball. You just don't turn the faucet off."
Suddenly, the Padres were scoring at will. Jerry Mumphrey looped a single to center off the end of his bat, and it was 3-2. Mumphrey stole second. Willie Montanez lofted a sacrifice fly into foul territory in right, and it was 3-3. Walk, who had been fine until then, walked pinch-hitter Gene Tenace on five pitches. And that was it for him.
"I was satisfied with his pitching, generally," Green said. "Some of the problems he got into weren't totally his fault. But I would hope our pitchers would be able to pitch over that."
On came Ron Reed, whose ERA against the Padres this year is 9.00 and whose last scoreless outing was two weeks ago.
He got Craig Stimac to float a high fly to right center. Maddox loped over, then suddenly looked at Bake McBride frantically. The ball dropped. (It was scored sacrifice fly-error Maddox.) And Mumphrey scored with the eventual winning run, although he would have scored on the fly ball, anyway.
Ozzie Smith, whose brilliant diving stop in the hole had saved at least one Phillies run earlier, then wrapped it up with a double down the line in right. It made it 5-3, and meant that the Phillies had to bring the infield in. Tim Flannery's roller to Manny Trillo brought home the sixth run.
The Padres marched in Rollie Fingers to pitch the seventh. So coming back wasn't going to be any easy matter, anyhow. But any possibility of that was about wiped out when the still shade-less Maddox let another one fall in the bottom of the seventh.
This time he trotted in after Tenace's pop to short center with two on and two out. And again he lost it, again it dropped for an error and again a run scored. It was 7-3, Reed gave up three more in the eighth and that was that.
Maddox wasn't around afterward to discuss his disdain for the Blues Brothers' favorite eyewear. And all Green would say was that he "had them on his person" but chose not to put them on.
Meanwhile, in the other locker room, Padres centerfielder Mumphrey said he never goes out there without sunglasses after the first couple of innings. And San Diego manager Jerry Coleman speculated that Maddox must have been "sick or something. I never saw him play like that."
But what this loss made you wonder about was not really Maddox. It was how much the Phillies really want to win this thing. They took the first two games with the Padres, played well and then just let the last two slip peacefully away.
"Everybody says we want to win it," Green said. "But you've got to overcome your mistakes. You can't be afraid of failure. You just go get the next guy.
"Why do we turn that faucet off? That's a question I just can't answer."
NOTES: The Phillies are 13-8 since their doubleheader wipeout in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10. The Pirates are 7-13, the Expos, 6-14. Nice race, huh?... Rookie Marty Bystrom gets his first big-league start in San Francisco tomorrow night against none other than Vida Blue. Bystrom was 5-5, 3.86 at Oklahoma City. If Bystrom does well, he just might join the rotation in place of Nino Espinosa, who was hammered again in the second game Saturday. "I don't think the way Nino's pitched, in comparison with the other guys we've got, that he can expect to go back out there," Green said. "I think I've given him every opportunity to get his arm strength back and show he can help us. But the last three times out he has just not performed."... Phillies starting pitchers' records against teams that are .500 or better: Carlton, 10-5; Ruthven, 7-5; Christenson, 3-1; Lerch, 2-8; Walk, 3-2; Espinosa, 2-3. ... Ed Whitson (9-9) stands in the way of Steve Carlton winning No. 21 in San Francisco this afternoon.
Tim in Fantasyland
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Tim McCarver has written the script for this thing over and over in his head.
In the script he will come to bat in all the big situations. He will get about 78 big hits. He will win six or 12 games down the stretch. He will hit about .800. And by the time September is over, the Phillies will be begging him to please come back and try to play in five decades.
That is the way the script will look "from the fantasy point of view," says McCarver, who will be activated by the Phillies today so he can become the 11th player in baseball history to play in four decades.
But the realistic side of McCarver knows it won't actually work out that way. McCarver is too bright, too sensible, to believe that fantasies come true.
He knows that when he makes his grand return from retirement this afternoon in San Francisco, he will not be the only lefthanded pinch-hitter in the Phillies dugout. What he will be is the only one who hasn't swung at a pitch in 11 months.
"So realistically," says McCarver, "I can't write as glowing a script as my imagination could come up with."
On the other hand, there is still fun to be had out of this. Realism or no realism, McCarver can still portray himself as some great secret weapon, waiting to be unleashed.
It is Friday in San Diego. He sees the Padres' Dave Winfield strolling around the batting cage.
"You guys are sure lucky I can't come on the list until Monday," he threatens Winfield, eyes twinkling.
Winfield never says a word. He just wipes his brow in mock relief. And winks back.
You think of what McCarver is accomplishing, and it is hard to grasp.
Think about 105 seasons of major league baseball. Think about how many thousands of catchers must have snapped on a pair of shin guards.
But none of them has ever done what McCarver will do. None of them ever played in parts of four different decades. Not Dickey or Berra or Clay Dalrymple, not any of them.
It may not be DiMaggio's hitting streak. It may not be Aaron's 7SS homers. But it is still no ordinary accomplishment. It is enough of an accomplishment that McCarver admits frankly, "Were it not for that, I wouldn't be coming back."
One thing you have to understand about McCarver is that he is a guy much more interested in the human side of the game than in statistics or numbers or records.
"Of course," he says, "I don't hold that many records, so how could I be record-oriented? If I was like Pete (Rose), I think I'd probably be just as record-oriented as he is. But most of the records I do have are either ignominious or with asterisks or something."
The Tim McCarver page in the baseball record book is not exactly like the Ty Cobb page or the Nap Lajoie page. "Only catcher ever to lead the league in triples (13, in 1966, with St. Louis)," recites McCarver, not very impressed with this one. "That's kind of a half-asterisk.
"And I don't really know this for sure, but I think I'm the only guy who ever passed a runner on a grand slam.
"And who else," he laughs, "could catch one pitcher for 4½ years and still be in the major leagues? That's kind of a record."
He puts himself down in a gentle, playful way. But he lets you know, too, that there is a side of him that takes this comeback, this record, quite seriously.
"I'm kidding about it here," he says. "But that's only because I'm really proud of it. I'm proud of the career I've had. I've worked hard. I've been able to stay healthy.
"I'm not that record-conscious. But the fact that nobody else has done it and there have been a lot of catchers before me, well, it means something to me to be the first. Of course, if no catcher had ever driven a Mack truck off a cliff, I don't think I'd necessarily be so anxious to be the first to do that"
When the subject of this record comes up, the word you often hear is "gimmick." There are people who believe McCarver's achievement is not really a legitimate record. There are people who, recalling Bill Veeck's stunt with 54-year-old Minnie Minoso a couple of years back, believe it is only a gimmick and nothing more.
McCarver disagrees with that. But he also is the first to admit it has taken a couple strokes of luck here, a few fluky breaks there to get him to this point.
First, he had to somehow make it to the big leagues in his first year of pro baseball in 1959. That wasn't so easy.
He started out as an innocent 17-year-old kid from Memphis, catching for a Class A team in Keokuk, Iowa.
"Ah, yes, Keokuk," sighs McCarver. "About 50 miles from Hannibal, Mo. I think it's closed now."
Pounded the ball
McCarver hit .360 in 65 games in Keokuk. So the Cardinals jumped him to their Triple A club in Rochester, N.Y. He hit .357 in 17 games there.' Then suddenly, it was Sept. 1, and he was in St. Louis, in the big leagues. It did not at the time seem to be a very historic moment.
"I remember showing up for my first road trip," McCarver says. "I had on a pair of brown shoes, yellow socks, gray-and-brown pants, a red Ban-lon (shirt) and a madras sport coat. Bob Nieman tagged me with the name 'Bush.' And for the next two years I was upset if people didn't call me 'Bush.'"
It wasn't until 1963 that McCarver was back in the big leagues to stay. But he stuck around long enough and did well enough to play in two All-Star games (batting average: 1.000, 3-for-3) and three World Series (batting average: .311).
He was once traded for Dick Allen. He was also once traded for Jorgue Roque. He was dumped by the Cardinals in 1974 and came back to hit .381 in Boston. He was released by the Red Sox in 1975 and came back to hit .320 for the Phillies in 1977. So it's not as if coming back Were anything new to McCarver.
Getting released by Boston was "the low point of my career," McCarver says. "And that's an understatement. "You know, I was the kind of guy who always tried to admit it when things were my fault. I always tried to be realistic. But somehow I just knew I could still play.
"I came back to Philly to do some auditions for (Channels) 3 and 6. And I told Bill (Giles), 'It's not a matter of whether I think I can still play. It's that the powers-that-be are trying to tell me that I can't.'"
He had been sold by one team and released by another in less than a year. A lot of players never come back from that. For all the Jay Johnstones and Luis Tiants who make it back after they're given up on, there are 10,000 other guys you never hear about who wind up teaching school in Illinois.
But the Phillies gave McCarver a chance. They signed him in July 1975. He showed them he could still play. He became Steve Carlton's personal catcher soon thereafter. And while it would be easy to credit Carlton for keeping McCarver around, McCarver had some role in helping Carlton, too.
When McCarver arrived, Carlton was coming off years of 13-20 and 16-13. He was letting a lot of criticism get to him. His life, says McCarver, "was filled with anguish."
McCarver was a guy who could reach Carlton, be his friend, help him get things out in the open. That was where he helped. Certainly, he didn't teach Carlton how to pitch.
"The proof is this year," McCarver says. "Obviously, he doesn't need me to be successful. But he needed somebody then. And I just happened to be there."
They won a lot of games together. They had a lot of good times together. There was nothing magical to it. It was just a great friendship that worked for both of them.
"It was certainly a two-way street," McCarver says. "There were the years he added to my career that permitted me the opportunity to come back in September. But just the fact that things jelled, it added incentive for both of us, to prove that it worked."
McCarver did not want to stop catching Carlton last year. He did not want to retire when the Phillies asked him to do that last September. And it was his first instinct then not to come back this September, just for the sake of a record.
But the Phillies never wanted to deny him the four-decade opportunity. They just felt it was time to give Keith Moreland a chance, time to begin looking toward the future. Paul Owens promised he could come back this month. He even encouraged him to do so.
So now that he is climbing out of the TV booth to give it a try, does that make it a gimmick?
"'Gimmick,' I think, is too harsh a word," McCarver says. "I think 'accommodation' is the proper word.
"But while it is an accommodation, I don't want it to be an accommodation built on lack of performance. And I don't think it will. This club is in a pennant race, and I'd like to think I have something to add."
No matter what happens this month, Tim McCarver knows this is the last time around. His future is in the broadcast booth now, not in the locker room.
This radio-TV work is not just some frivolous, hang-around-the-game-as-long-as-you-can maneuver for McCarver. He regards it as his profession now. And it is one he works at very seriously.
He never underestimated the difficulty of this business. You don't just show up at a game and talk, not if you want to do it right. So over the winter, he spent many hours in an empty studio at Channel 17, watching games on videotape, pretending to be announcing them live. No crowd. No stats. No scoreboard to watch. Just him and colleague Chris Wheeler and the videotape machine whirring.
He has picked up an instinct for the TV business with remarkable quickness.
"He's a lot better than I was my first year," says Richie Ashburn, who went through the same field-to-mike transition 17 years ago. "It wasn't that easy for me.
"The thing that saved me was that I knew baseball, so at least I knew what the hell I was talking about. But I didn't have any style or any technique. Timmy's a little more aware of those things than I was."
One thing McCarver has always been able to do, of course, is talk. The NBC people noticed him when he introduced the starting lineups on a Game of the Week a couple of years ago and never forgot him.
He has done several games for the network this year, around his Phillies duties. And he also has done some features for the pregame show that have been well-received. David Stern, producer of the pregame show, says McCarver has come to him with ideas for the show, and they have all been good ones.
"His honesty and his news sense are incredible for a ballplayer," Stern says. "Very few players can come right off the field and have any kind of news sense. Tim is one. (Tony) Kubek would be the other one."
Stern says NBC is "very, very pleased" with McCarver. And while it is too early to say how much color analysis he will do for it next season, Stern says he "can guarantee he'll be doing more stuff for the pregame show next year."
The heavy broadcast duties he has undertaken this year have made the transition from player to ex-player easier for McCarver than he'd expected.
"I've been so involved in that end," he says, "that I never really had a chance to think about not being in uniform. I've never really had a chance to miss it."
But then came the chance to get back on the field one last time. And as he sat in the Phillies' dugout before a game in San Diego the other day, Tim McCarver obviously did so appreciatively.
He took his nonstop jabs from other players. He gave a few back. But he says he "hasn't been able to fully rip guys in good conscience like I want to because I'm not on the list yet. I told them I'm starting Sept. 1. It's the professional school of ripping."
He sat on the bench, holding a bat, his hands taped just below the fingers where the callouses always form.
"I don't really have any blisters," McCarver said. "I'm just doing that to make people think I have blisters."
He is coming back at age 38 for a line in the record books. But what McCarver really wants out of these final 35 days is two things – fun, and a return with dignity.
"As much as anything else, it's fun," says McCarver. He glances over at Rose playing pepper with rookies.
"There's a guy right there who has fun playing," McCarver says of him. "If you enjoy it, that's the main thing. That's been the thing about the radio business for me. If it's fun to you, you can't help but do a better job. And it is fun."
The second word, "dignity," is one McCarver first used at his retirement press conference last September. He said he would not come back this year if he couldn't do it with dignity. And after all the months of inactivity, he had some doubts.
Not a burden
"Naturally, I was apprehensive about coming back and not being a burden to the players and to Dallas (Green)," he says. "But I don't think I will. And from the way I feel, I can honestly say that now."
He doesn't expect to catch Carlton. He doesn't expect to be thrown into the first key situation that comes along. He expects only to pinch hit some day when the score is 7-1 or in some other low-pressure situation.
But he has worked hard in the last month. He has hit. He has run. He has gotten himself in shape.
"I feel good," he says. "I feel I've had enough time. And I don't think I'm going to embarrass myself with the bat.
"Hitting was always my forte (.272 lifetime average). And outside of the unfamiliar part of laying out of it for 11 months, I think I still have the strength, the quickness to handle the ball inside. I'm really not worried about that at all."
Yes, he has scripted this thing in his head many times. But no matter how it goes, McCarver will be luckier than the rest of us. He gets to live out baseball's special version of life after life. And you know he will do it with a smile.