Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - September 10, 1980
Phils squeeze Pirates hopes in 14 innings
By Charley Feeney, Post-Gazette Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – The Pirates today are a suicide victim. They may never recover from last night's shocker.
Veterans Stadium became Horror Theater for the Pirates. The Phillies beat the Bucs, 5-4, on a suicide-squeeze bunt in the 14th inning.
The Phillies are pressing the Montreal Expos for the lead in the National League East. The Pirates are beginning to slip out of the picture. A three-team race could become a two-team race in a matter of days.
The Pirates have become losers. It is embarrassing to them, because they were world champions in 1979. They were supposed to be the team who knew how to gut it out when the going got rough.
It doesn't happen that way anymore. The Pirates have lost five in a row, 13 of their last 15, and 17 of their last 22. The Pirates once had a proud bullpen. Today, the relievers, who performed so brilliantly last September and in the post-season games, are shattered.
Kent Tekulve, the ace of the pen, failed again last night. If he had succeeded in the eighth inning, the Pirates probably would have won.
Three times in the last five games Tekulve hasn't done his job. He holds his head high, with class. He is hurting inside. The Pirates are hurting, and they're beginning to think that their season is about to end.
Nobody is waving the white flags. Chuck Tanner has barred any talks of surrender. Tanner talks about the 23 games remaining.
Last night's loss might come close to shattering the confidence of many Buccos.
It was a game they could have won if...
• If Lee Lacy had handled a catchable line drive in the second inning.
• If Tekulve hadn't given up a triple to Mike Schmidt in the eighth and a game-tying single to Greg Luzinski.
The end came with Mark Lee on the mound. Lee is a new Pirate, via the San Diego organization.
Before Lee arrived in the 13th, John Candelaria had given his best for seven innings. After Grant Jackson and Tekulve failed to protect a two-run edge, Enrique Romo and Eddie Solomon did a good job. When Solomon got in trouble in the 13th, Rod Scurry came on to face pinch-hitter Bake McBride. It was the first time in 19 appearances in 1980 that the rookie lefty has pitched with the game on the line.
Scurry got two strikes on McBride, then hit him in the leg with the 0-2 pitch. Bases loaded. Two out. The 43,333 fans at Veterans Stadium were screaming for the kill.
Tanner called for Lee to face Manny Trillo, who flied out to Omar Moreno.
The Pirates were still gasping.
Their death scene in the 14th started when Gary Maddox opened with a double off Lee. Larry Bowa, trying to bunt twice, failed. Bowa bounced to Bill Robinson at first base. One out. Maddox reached third.
Bob Boone was the hitter. He became a bunter on the first pitch thrown by Lee.
Maddox broke from third. Boone bunted toward the mound. Lee fielded the ball as Maddox was sliding into Ed Ott. No chance. Lee made throw. It was six feet to the left of Ott. Game over.
Pirate pennant hopes shattered. Dimmed. Fading fast.
And in the Pirates' clubhouse, they thought they bad a chance to nab Maddox at the plate.
"Eddie (Ott) said he thought he had a chance to get him with a perfect throw," Tanner said. "But I don't know. Maddox had a heckuva jump."
In the Buc 12th, they almost scored. Matt Alexander was thrown out at the plate, trying to score after second baseman Manny Trillo was upended by Mike Easler's slide. Trillo dropped the ball and appeared to lose sight of it momentarily. Alexander, who had raced from second to third, tried to take advantage. He broke for the plate and Trillo's throw to Boone nailed him.
"I knew he was not going to score," Green said of Alexander. "Boone was not going to open the gates."
NOTES – Blake Cullen, assistant to National League President Chub Feeney, arrived in town yesterday and spoke with Umpire Gerry Crawford about his run-in with Ed Ott after Monday night's game. Cullen said Feeney won't make a ruling on the incident until the end of the week.
Ott has a clipping from a Philadelphia newspaper that reports a member of the ground crew at Veterans Stadium heard Crawford curse Ott. "I'm keeping it if we have an hearing," Ott said last night. Cullen said he didn't expect Feeney to suspend Ott. Ott says he will appeal any fine levied on him by Feeney.
Jim Rooker, who hasn't pitched since May, underwent surgery on his left shoulder yesterday at Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh. Rooker, who has another year to go on a three-year contract will attempt a comeback next spring. He will be 38 years old late this month... The Pirates open a two-game series in St. Louis tonight.
Stargell may be facing the end of his career
By Charley Feeney, Post-Gazette Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – If you could have read Willie Stargell's face, he might have been saying that his baseball career is over.
Perspiration was dripping from that face. He had just finished taking some swings in a special batting cage underneath the stands at Veterans Stadium.
He walked slowly into the visitors' clubhouse about 5 p.m. yesterday, sat on a small stool in front of his locker, and glanced down at his swollen left knee. He was wearing a black jacket with the No. 8 on the right sleeve. He wore gold shorts, and his face looked very, very tired.
Stargell shook his head as he removed the sponge-type brace that bad wrapped his knee. His face indicated he was in pain.
He looked down at bis left knee, moved his left hand around the sore areas of the knee. Once again, he shook his head.
"I'll know more after I see the doctor," he said.
The doctor is a knee specialist named Lanny Johnson, and his office is in Lansing, Mich. Stargell will go there from St. Louis tomorrow, and he hopes to rejoin the Pirates in Montreal by Friday.
Stargell does not want to just rejoin the club. He wants to play. He wants to help the Pirates in the Eastern Division race. In other Septembers, it was always Stargell, the Pirate leader. Last September, he led the club to a division championship. He did not stop leading until the Pirates had won the playoffs over Cincinnati and the World Series over Baltimore.
Stargell has had knee injuries before. He has had other injuries and has always come back. He wants to come back from this injury, but there are doubts. He has some, too.
He says he will not play again if it means embarrassing himself on the field. He says he would prefer to be a minor-league instructor for the Pirates next year rather than trying to play when he is not physically able.
Retirement. Sure, it has crossed his mind, but he says that age is only in the mind.
In the record books, Stargell will be 40 years old next March. Since he joined the Pirates in 1962, he has hit 472 home runs, a club record. He has hit 11 homers in 67 games this season, but he lost most of his agility on Aug. 12, when he injured his left knee diving for a line drive hit over the first-base bag by Steve Henderson of the New York Mets.
He has played a few games since. He was put on the disabled list in late August and he is eligible to return. His left knee is not eligible for everyday play.
"I'll know more after I see the doctor," he repeated.
He knows what the doctor in Lansing might tell him tomorrow. He might tell him that he should not play baseball again this season. He may tell him to wait a month, maybe three, before deciding on bis baseball future.
In May, be signed an extension on his contract through the 1982 season. In May, he felt he could play another two years. Now, he does not know if he can play another game.
Maybe, he is thinking this is no time to retire. Maybe, he is thinking that he can still pump it up, pinch-hit, and help the Bucs win a big game.
Maybe, he is having negative thoughts. Only he can read them. They are private because Stargell is private about his injury. He will talk about it briefly if asked. He would prefer the attention of the writers following the club be on the other players.
His teammates will not allow it. They continually talk about how much they miss his bat in the lineup.
Willie Stargell cannot last forever. Some Pirates forgot that.