Philadelphia Inquirer - September 12, 1980
NOTE: STILL MORE ARTICLES TO DO!
A funny farm for Phils’ fans
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
These are rare times for Philadelphia's long-suffering sports fans. Here it is, the second week of September, and the Phillies – for all their early stumbling – are in good position to win the National League East. The Eagles, for the first time since the term "Super Bowl" was coined, have a reasonable chance to play in one. The 76ers and Flyers, each just two victories away from championships last season, are opening their training camps as top title contenders.
You'd think this city's sports lovers would be in seventh heaven... but judging by the mail it isn't all that easy to ride the emotional wave provided by teams that are on or near the top. The Phillies, in particular, seem to drive their rooters to the brink.
How tough is it to handle the daily highs and lows of a swirling pennant race? How taxing is it to boo Bob Boone for popping up, then give him a standing ovation for laying down a game-winning squeeze bunt?
The fanatical type
If you think there's nothing to it, if you've managed somehow not to get caught up in the sports fever sweeping our town, here – courtesy of R. Kenneth Bussey of Philadelphia, who wrote this tongue-in-cheek account of the delightful malady – is what you're missing:
"My secretary, a rabid Phillies fan of long standing, is deeply affected by the fortunes of that baseball club. When the team returns from a triumphant road trip, I'm greeted with a dazzling smile and a burst of secretarial activity. Letters are knocked out with the same regularity with which Pete Rose knocks out base hits. But let the Phils drop a couple of tough ones and her typing slows to 40 words per minute, and the finished products are full of balks and errors, rather like some of the Phillies games.
"This situation became so bad this year that the company had to send her (at company expense) to a Philadelphia baseball fan withdrawal farm. There, in the healthy atmosphere of central Pennsylvania, inveterate fans are deprogrammed.
"It is an interesting idea. No radios or televisions are allowed at the camp, and the newspapers are carefully screened to see that the sports sections have been removed before the guests read them. In an attempt to wean the addicted to other pursuits there are stimulating lectures on such themes as winning Mah-jongg, cricket and horseshoeing and pony care.
"The evening hours are given over to aversion therapy. The fans are ushered into a large amphitheater decked out to look like the Phillies home field. Then the films are shown.
"My secretary told me that night after night she watched Mike Schmidt strike out with the bases loaded. There were movies of Lonnie Smith misplaying pop-ups into doubles, and singles into triples.
"One evening the film was a double header. For 60 minutes she watched Larry Bowa going 0 for 39. The second film showed the catcher, Boone, throwing the ball into center field. In one perfectly sickening sequence she watched one of the Phillies pitchers intentionally walk the catcher to get to the pitcher – and then walk the pitcher to force in the winning run. One whole night was devoted to a film entitled, 'Randy Lerch's performance in the first inning.' While forced to watch these disgusting films she was stuffed with greasy hot dogs and warm beer while a record continued to play, 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' at 120 decibels.
"When she returned from therapy, she was completely cured. She could cure less about the Phillies. She's an avid fan of the Chicago Cubs."
Better than losing
Surely, anyone wrapped up in the Phillies' current struggle can understand what reader Bussy's secretary was going through, and appreciate the solution.
As any Phillies fan who remembers the dear, dark days of the late '60s and early 70s knows, the advantage of rooting for a second-division team is that the losses, although more frequent, don't hurt nearly as much.
Cubs fans – or Mets fans, or Padres fans, or Blue Jays fans, or Mariners fans – can coast through this September, enjoying the occasional, accidental victories, shrugging off the defeats. For Phillies fans, though, it's a month-long ride on an emotional roller coaster. Ah, just think how relaxed, how carefree all those folks are on the North Side of Chicago, in Queens, in San Diego, in Toronto and in Seattle.
But frankly, all things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.
Cards, Phils play 2 tonight
The St. Louis Cardinals, apparently destined to finish in the second division of the National League East despite the big bats in their lineup, meet the Phillies for two games at the Vet tonight.
The Phillies, on the other hand. have their sights sets on the top of the East, a place many of the experts predicted the Cardinals would be occupying by season's end. But the Cardinals may relish the chance to play spoilers and salvage something from a disappointing season.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon at the Vet and then conclude their season series Sept. 22 and 23 in St. Louis.
PHILLIES vs. St. Louis, twi-nighter, at Veterans Stadium (Radio-KYW-1060, 5:35 p.m.)
Little things make big difference
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
NEW YORK – Little things win pennants. And the Phillies have been doing the little things, as well as the big things, right lately.
Last night, playing against a New York Mets team that hasn't done much of anything right in a month, the Phillies turned one of those little things into a big out on their way to a 5-1 victory.
Dick Ruthven was clinging to a 2-1 lead with Steve Henderson on second and two out in the bottom of the sixth when the Phillies' attention to detail paid off. The batter was Wally Backman, a rookie second baseman up from Tidewater in the International League. The lefthanded hitter bounced the ball rather sharply up the middle... and Manny Trillo, shading him that way, made a difficult play to turn a potential game-tying hit into the third out.
"He was playing right there," Mets manager Joe Torre said in a what-else-can-happen-to-us tone of voice. "That ball was right over the mound...."
Sometimes a little scouting goes a long way.
"Wino (coach Bobby Wine) told me to play that guy toward second," Trillo said. "It wasn't that easy to get that ball."
And if he had been playing the kid to pull, or even straightaway, it would have been impossible to get it.
"Since we've had a contending ball club, where these kind of guys (recalled from the minor leagues in September) can hurt you, we've scouted the 'recalls'," Phillies manager Dallas Green said. Since the Phillies don't have a Triple A club in the International League, a special scouting report on the Mets' kids was necessary. And Torre's lineup was certainly loaded with kids.
"(Scout) Brandy Davis handled them," Green said. "He came in the last game against Pittsburgh and gave us a rundown. It's important in this kind of race. If we'd played him (Backman) straightaway – and that's what you do if you don't know anything about the guy – that's a hit. But Manny was able to 'cheat,' and it might have saved the game.”
It saved the slim lead, forced Torre to yank pitcher Ray Burris for a pinch-hitter and the Phillies were able to wrap up Ruthven's 15th victory with a three-run ninth.
"He pitched a helluva game," Green said about the righthander who had bone chips removed from his elbow last year.
A good, rising fast ball that Mets batters kept chasing got Ruthven through some early trouble in this one.
"We had to (forget) the breaking ball," Ruthven said. "That's what they got five hits off early in the game."
Mechanically, something was wrong. Maybe the Shea Stadium mound threw him off.
"I (was lousy) early," Ruthven said. "The mound is a little flatter than it used to be... I had it in my mind there was going to be a steep drop, and I'm notoriously bad in adjusting...."
Not that bad. Ruthven junked the breaking ball until he rediscovered the proper release point late in the game. "You just can't keep burying yourself on one pitch," he said.
So he buried the dead Mets with that rising fast ball for a while.
"I don't usually have that good stuff 'up'," the pitcher said.
And then, with the pressure on in the eighth inning, Ruthven got the breaking ball working again and struck out Lee Mazzilli and Steve Henderson with the tying run on base.
"I had my breaking ball when I needed it," he said. "I faced their best two hitters the last inning."
What a difference from last September to this. A year ago, Ruthven was sidelined, and the Phillies were playing out the string. Now he's a key man in their drive to overtake the Expos.
"It's nice to be here in September," he said. "It beats the hell out of what I was doing last year in September."
Certainly, Torre was impressed with the pitcher – and the team – that sent the Mets crashing to their 12th straight defeat and 17th in 18 games. In the spring, he had picked the Phillies to win the National League East. And he's still picking them.
"Tug (McGraw) is pitching well," Torre said. "(Steve) Carlton's an animal. They seem to be getting healthier and the other clubs (the Expos and the Pirates) are struggling. You get this close to the end, you're talking about the ball club that goes to the park feeling it can win.... The more you do it in this game, the more confidence you get that you can do it. They're loose as hell."
Phils pour more gloom on Mets
Schmidt powers 5-1 win
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
NEW YORK - When you beat the Mets two in a row these days, it does not exactly mean you're the '27 Yankees.
The Phillies pounded out all of six hits last night and still dealt the Mets their 12th loss in a row, 5-1. Once, these Mets talked of winning it all. Now the 100-loss countdown is T-minus 19 and losing.
But even if the Mets ore essentially pulseless, even if they have scored one run in their last 29 innings, you still have to beat them. And last night was a game that told you as much about the way good teams win as how bad teams lose.
The Mets got nine hits, two walks, a hit batsman and a stolen base. And all that still added up to one run because Dick Ruthven (15-9) and Tug McGraw were there making the big pitches, because Bob Boone threw two guys out stealing, because Manny Trillo and Bake McBride made pennant-race defensive plays.
The Phillies got six hits and still scored five times, all but one of them with two-out hits. Even a seven-inning three-hitter by their perpetual nemesis, Ray Burris, wasn't enough to derail them.
The Phillies have won eight of their last 11. They have won four in a row. But they are going to look at the standings this morning, and the Expos are still going to be a half-game in front of them.
The way the Phils have conducted their stretch drive so far, they seem to be a lot better at chasing than they used to be at being chased.
"I've got a good feeling, a real good feeling," said Mike Schmidt. "You know, this team has never been in a pennant race. Maybe some individual guys have. But as a club we never have.
"We've been leading by 10, ind then by eight, and then by seven, and then by five, and then we won by three. We've also won by eight. We've won by one. But it's always been a hang-on type situation.
"It's never been out here in front of us, where we've had to play super and go get it, where we had to take it away from somebody else. We're not in first place right now, but this time I think we're ready to take advantage if the other contenders do any losing."
Schmidt got the Phillies going offensively last night. He had just missed hitting one out to dead center off Burris in the first. Mookie Wilson backed against the wall and caught it at the 410 sign.
"It would have been out of Vet Stadium," Schmidt said. "I know that."
When Schmidt came up there again in the fourth, Burris had set down the first 11 Phillies hitters. But then he twirled a high, inside fastball toward Schmidt.
He smoked it over the Phillies bullpen in left for home run No. 38, not to mention his first hit off Burris in more than two years. Schmidt's last four homers have either tied games or put the Phillies ahead.
But even the Mets can't go forever without scoring. They had begun the night with a streak of 20 straight scoreless innings. Their manager had arranged the first eight hitters on his lineup card in reverse alphabetical order. Their bullpen coach had gotten punched in the face by benched shortstop Frank Taveras, just because he posted the lineup and Taveras wasn't in it.
But finally, they overcame all that and got somebody across with two outs in the fifth, breaking their great scoreless-innings streak at 24. It had begun in the seventh inning Sunday.
Even this run was not what you'd call effortless. It took two singles, a walk, a bunt and a Joel Youngblood sacrifice fly. There, that wasn't so tough, was it?
The tie lasted a third of an inning. Ruthven got the second hit of the night off Burris, dumping a double down the rightfield line with one out in the sixth. He barely avoided getting picked off before Pete Rose (2-for-5) sent him to third with a single. McBride made it 2-1 with a sacrifice fiy.
It was still 2-1 with two outs in the ninth, but the Phils had two men on and Ruthven due to hit. Ruthven had allowed a lot of hits, but he also had fanned eight, tying his season high.
Dallas Green admitted Ruthven had "pitched a helluva game." He admitted his pitcher "felt fine" and could have kept going. But Green also admitted he "just felt more comfortable with another run or two on the board."
So he sent up Del Unser to get it for him. And Unser, whose last previous RBI came July 27, drilled a Juan Berenguer fastball to deep right-center for a ground-rule double.
"That's what I put the guy up there for," Green said, laughing. "I knew he was gonna get a hit."
Green may be riding a strategic hot streak lately (14th-inning squeeze bunt Tuesday, starting Marty Bystrom on Wednesday, etc.). But he denies he is clairvoyant.
"Nah, if I was clairvoyant," he said, "we'd have a 12 or 14-game lead."
Unser isn't clairvoyant, either. But he was ready. He has batted only 82 times this year, but it is still, he says, "the most fun I've ever had not playing."
Berenguer, a 100-m.p.h. fastball heaver, was the right man for Unser's situation. The pitch Unser had to look for was the pitch he hits best.
"All year long I've hit predominantly against fastball pitchers," he said. "I pinch-hit a home run off (Jim) Bibby off a curveball last year. But when you're in a good groove you hit everything. Still, regardles of what kind of groove I'm in, if a guy throws me fastballs I'll probably hit them."
He hit this one. Rose followed with a two-run single. And the pennant race rumbled onward, with the Phillies in full stride.