Philadelphia Inquirer - September 11, 1980
After dreadful road trip, the real Maddox is back
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
NEW YORK – Tuesday's dramatic win over the Pirates meant many things to the Phillies. But certainly not least among them was that it marked the return of Garry Maddox to the realm of the living, breathing and contributing.
Maddox's double started the winning rally in the 14th inning Tuesday. He also had a big double in the two-run second inning. And, of course, he gobbled up about a half-dozen rockets, clunkers and other assorted missiles in spots ranging from the track in center to shallow left.
These are things Maddox is supposed to do. But the Maddox of a week ago wasn't doing them. The way he played in California, it was enough to make you suspect that there had to be some impostor in Maddox's uniform.
He made three errors in two games. He hit a thunderous .050 (1-for-20). He never managed to take his sunglasses out of his pocket in San Diego, proving firmly that he never would have made it as a Blues Brother.
And perhaps even more out of character, he didn't even start for four days in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Guys getting paid 700 grand a year aren't supposed to be that expendable.
"That part of it was hard to handle," Maddox said. "I've never been benched before, so that was a really hard thing for me from that standpoint."
Maddox obviously has not been the hitter this year that his.293 lifetime average would indicate. He came into last night's game with the Mets hitting.256.
But in the past, his glove always gave him the opportunity to work his way through his offensive troubles. Suddenly in California, it apparently wasn't doing that anymore. And that was what Maddox found difficult to accept.
"I've been battling all year to try and get myself together at the plate," he said. "That wasn't anything new. But when I heard I was benched on top of that, it made it that much harder.
"If you're benched, you can't do anything to get better. As long as they're sending you out there you can feel, you're going to work your way out of it. You always feel your next at-bat is going to do it for you. So sitting on the bench, that was tough."
Maddox is a guy who takes his troubles hard. He is a lot more valuable when he is gobbling up fly balls in center than when he is sitting on the bench worrying.
If Tuesday night did nothing else, it at least will make him forget California. And that might mean more to this team than people realize.
NOTES: Bake McBride had a nasty bruise on his right thigh after using it to intercept a Rod Scurry fastball in the 13th Tuesday. But McBride limped out there again last night. What's another pain when you're already leading the league in them?... Lonnie Smith hasn't stolen a base since Aug. 19.... That guy named Poff who started in right field for Milwaukee the other day was none other than former Phillies prospect John Poff. The Brewers claimed him on waivers 10 days ago. Somehow, it didn't get quite as much ink as the Gaylord Perry deal.... Kevin Saucier is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday. Saucier is ready to pitch. But then he was probably ready when he went on the DL, too.... Dick Ruthven (14-9) vs. Ray Burris (7-10 this year, but 9-5 lifetime against the Phillies) tonight.
Bystrom blanks Mets on 5 hits
Phils get 3 in first, win, 5-0
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
NEW YORK – The name was Dave Downs. Nobody much remembers him now.
On Sept. 2, 1972, this Dave Downs walked out to the mound in Atlanta Stadium for the second game of a Phillies-Braves doubleheader. It was the first start of his big-league career.
He shut out the Braves that day. No Phillies rookie had dope that since. Until last night.
The name this time was Marty Bystrom. We have been hearing about him ever since Danny Ozark, Dallas Green and Paul Owens stopped by the Instructional League to watch him back in 1978.
Last night, Bystrom made his first big-league start against the Mets at Shea Stadium. When it was over, he had a five-hit shutout, a 5-0 win, his first big-league hit and had kept the Phillies within a half-game of the Expos, who defeated the Cubs.
"This was my goal, ever since I was a kid," said Bystrom, who is an old-timer of 22 now. "I never dreamed I'd pitch a shutout, though. I just wanted to get here and take it from there."
He took it from there, all right. He took it and rolled through an evening that you read about in those kid baseball novels but hardly ever see in real life.
Of the five hits, one was a bunt, two more never left the infield, another was a ground ball between third and short. He threw strikes with four pitches, walked only two, ran just four three-ball counts. He struck out five. He never let a single Met reach third.
"I knew I had the shutout going all along," Bystrom said. "The main thing I kept thinking about was just getting the first hitter every inning (which he did in all but the eighth). And they just kept coming, all those zeroes."
All those zeroes might have come as a shock to a lot of people. But Bystrom went at his business with an unusual calm. He was not worried. He was not surprised.
"I felt good," he shrugged. "I didn't have any worries at all. I just pitched the same way that got me here. Surprised? Nah, not really. I just had it in my head I could do it."
Bystrom alone made it more than an ordinary, deadly September night in Shea Stadium. So you know he was good, because that takes some doing.
The Phillies blitzed former nemesis Mark Bomback (9-7) with three runs in the first. Pete Rose doubled. Bake McBride started his second four-hit night in three games with an RBI single. Greg Luzinski doubled. Garry Maddox (3-for-4) singled.
And that was all it took to hand Bomback his fourth straight loss. That was all it took because the Mets are about as interested in playing hard these days as Jimmy Carter is in debating.
It is difficult to believe that the Phillies came to Shea four weeks ago trying to hang on to third place, for what that was worth. The five-game sweep that followed turned both teams' seasons around.
The Phillies, as we know, are contenders again, playing like they think they can win it again. The Mets are 3-23 since the Phils hit town that day. And that includes 11 losses in a row, their worst streak since Casey Stengel and the lovable '65 Mets lost 11 straight on the way to going 50-112.
They might have to put an asterisk next to this shutout, since the Mets haven't scored in 20 innings and would be hearing grind-it-out lectures every night if Green managed them.
But they don't have to put any asterisks next to Bystrom's stuff. It is first-rate. And he has a little streak of his own going. He didn't allow an earned run in his last two Triple A starts, nor in his first big-league inning in Los Angeles on Sunday.
"We never questioned his stuff," said Green. "We knew he had winning stuff. It's just a shame we couldn't have had him all year."
Had Bystrom not pulled a hamstring the week before spring training, it's very possible that nobody would know Bob Walk from Neal Walk right now. Green had him pegged to make the club. But a week into spring training, he slipped again in the clubhouse, tore the hamstring and was never really right until a month ago.
"When I first started pitching again, I wasn't completely healed," Bystrom said. "I was 1-4. Then I won my last five starts. That's what really started me going.
"I expected to be here in spring training. And when I got hurt, I thought maybe I was blowing a big chance. But I didn't really let it worry me. I knew if I worked hard and got my leg back in shape, I could get back up here."
Like so many young pitchers that come through the Phillies system, he is tall (6 feet, 5 inches), solid as the Empire State Building and generally not likely to be mistaken for the bat boy.
But once he was just a skinny high school kid in Miami who passed through the entire amateur draft without being picked. Then he grew three inches, put on 25 pounds, "and that's when I started throwing the ball good," he said.
The Phillies discovered him in American Legion ball. And the more they saw of him, the more he knocked their eyeballs out. They wanted him so badly, Dallas Green personally fired a scout for not signing him.
What happened, said Green, is that the Phillies realized Bystrom had passed through the draft unchosen. And that meant he could be signed as a free agent immediately.
So Green, then the farm director, picked up the phone and barked at his regular southern Florida scout: "I want the guy signed." But the scout was in tight with Bystrom's coach at Miami Dade South Junior College and refused.
"He said: 'I don't want to do that,' " Green said. "I said: 'I don't care what you want to do. Sign him.' He said no. So I said: 'You're fired. I'll just get somebody who will.'"
He did. And three years and nine months later, Bystrom was pitching against the Mets in Shea Stadium. And the zeroes just kept coming.
Let us hope there is more in store for Marty Bystrom than there was for poor Dave Downs. Downs hurt his arm, spent only that one September in the big leagues and is merely a line in trivia history now.
Marty Bystrom isn't much more than a line in the box score himself. But as long as Larry Christenson can't pitch, Green says Bystrom will. If last night is any indication, he will be pitching a long while after that, too.