Wilmington Evening Journal - September 11, 1980

Bystrom masters the Mets


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


NEW YORK - Dallas Green has been wearing the Phillies' managerial armor for a little over a year now, but not one of his previous victories was as rewarding as last night’s.


Marty Bystrom, as cool and poised as any veteran, pitched a brilliant five-hit shutout in his first major-league start as the Phillies whipped the Mets 5-0 at Shea Stadium.


The media mob was still oohing and ahing about Brystrom's debut when Green told how he had to fire a Florida scout to get Bystrom signed in December of 1976 out of Miami Dade South Junior College.


Bystrom, 22, graduated from Miami Killian High in the spring of 76 and was not drafted. He played American League baseball and enrolled at Miami Dade. The junior college has a fall baseball program and that's where Bystrom first attracted the attention of the Phillies.


"This all goes back to what scouting is all about," said Green, who was the Phils' minor league director at the time. "There is a very strong Florida scouting clique and it was never more evident than in the Bystrom case."


Green refused to elaborate, but scout Gust Poulos was apparently a close friend of the Miami Dade coach and had hoped to keep Bystrom from being signed until he pitched a couple of seasons for the college and established a better reputation.


After that, he would have demanded a larger bonus, the scout would have received a larger commission, etc.


"We saw him in the fall program and we decided to work him out at our complex in Clearwater," said Green. "Another scout down there, Catfish Smith, followed that college and helped get him into that school.


"Just before the 1977 January draft we kept looking and looking at Marty. Everytime we saw him pitch, he was better. Hugh Alexander (Phils' super scout) picked up the fact that he had gone through the draft the previous spring and was a free agent. Our scout (Poulos) in charge, however, was sitting on it because in estimation he was a part of the Florida scouting clique.


"I called him up and said, 'Hey, I want this guy signed.' He said, 'No, you can't sign him.' I said, 'The hell we can't. The rule says we can; I want him signed.' He said, 'Well...' and I interrupted. 'You got a good dollar evaluation on him and I want him signed.' He said, 'I don't want to do that, Dallas.' I said, 'I don't care what you want to do, you got X amount of dollars on this kid and you go right to his house right now and offer him it.' He refused to do it so I said, 'You're fired! I'll get somebody who will.'


"I sent Hugh Alexander and Catfish over to the house and they signed him. That caused a big stink down there because everybody screamed and yelled, especially his college coach."


Bystrom won 13 games the following summer at Spartanburg and led the league at Peninsula with a 157 record and 2.83 earned run average.


"Paul Owens and I went to the Florida Instructional League to watch him in 1978 and we knew then he could pitch in the majors," said Green. "He had four pitches he could get over the plate and he wasn't afraid to throw them where he wanted to throw them. He had something like a 0.32 earned run average that fall. When we were there he pitched one of the finest games I have ever seen pitched, he threaded the needle, inside and out, used the change-up, backed guys down and then going away with them."


A few days before spring training opened last March, Bystrom pulled a hamstring in his right leg. Several days later he slipped on the concrete in the Phillies clubhouse and was finished.


"That was disappointing to me," Bystrom said after last night's performance. "I had a good chance to make the team in the spring, but with that injury, I really didn't start pitching until July. It was depressing, but I was determined to work my way back up."


Of the five New York singles last night, only two were hit out of the infield. No runner got past second base.


"Even though we know Marty can pitch well, we did not dream he would throw a shutout his first time out," said Green. "That's asking a helluva lot from a kid. I don't care who you are, the first time you go out there it's a helluva feeling. It's a little hairy. Everybody has to go out there sooner or later and how you handle it helps. He had a lot of poise."


Bystrom is just another example of how Green has remained behind the organization's young prospects, pushing aside complacent veterans to make room for them on the team. Under Danny Ozark, the likes of Lonnie Smith, Bob Walk, Keith Moreland, George Vukovich and Bystrom probably would not have made it this year, and where would the Phillies be without them?


Bystrom got his chance when Larry Christenson pulled a groin muscle against Los Angeles last Saturday night.


"I threw fastballs and sliders mostly tonight," said Bystrom. "Getting a chance to pitch one inning last weekend in Los Angeles helped me."


Somebody asked Bystrom if he ever dreamed he would have such an auspicious beginning.


"As a matter of fact, I thought about it last night. I kept saying to myself that I was going to go out there and throw a shutout. I just felt relaxed. The whole thing has not hit me yet. I'll just have to sit down and think about it."


The Phils, led by doubles by Pete Rose and Greg Luzinski and singles by Bake McBride and Garry Maddox took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against loser Mark Bomback. They added single runs in the eighth and ninth.


EXTRA POINTS The Phils remain a half game behind first-place Montreal in National League East... The Expos defeated Chicago 4-2... The victory was the seventh in a row for the Phils at Shea Stadium... McBride had three singles and a double in the 14-hit attack, while Larry Bowa chipped in with three singles.