Camden Courier-Post - September 17, 1980
Phils’ strategy backfires
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PITTSBURGH – In the late innings of close ballgames, the conventional baseball wisdom is to play for the win if you're on the road, a tie if you're home.
By that thinking, Phillies Manager Dallas Green was absolutely correct in letting Larry Bowa hit away with runners on second and third and one out in the top of the ninth.
"All he's got to do is pull the ball and we get a run," said Green.
INSTEAD, BOWA lifted a Kent Tekulve sinker into center field, too shallow to score pinch runner Jay Loviglio in what ended up a 3-2 loss to the Pirates before 22,239 fans in Three Rivers Stadium.
"He (Bowa) beat Tekulve before with a base hit while he was concentrating on chopping the ball over," Green continued. "I thought he could do it again."
Just about everybody else – including the Pirates – thought Green might have Bowa attempt a suicide squeeze bunt. But Green is a manager who rarely gambles when the odds are against him and, with the Pirate infield up, Green held out the hope that Bowa would bounce something through.
"We're after two runs there, not one," said Green. "All that stuff goes through your mind when you're managing, but there comes a time when the personnel you put out there are supposed to win for you.
"WE JUST DIDN’T play much offense tonight it's just that simple."
And, it really was. The Phils went into the ninth having mustered exactly two hits – neither very impressive – off Pirate righthander Jim Bibby. There was a looping line drive that fell into center by Bowa to open the third. And there was a broken bat blooper by Garry Maddox that produced the Phils first run in the fourth.
But Mike Schmidt, who had walked and twice struck out, opened the ninth with his 39th home run of the year, a blast on a 1-2 slider that cleared the wall in left-center field. That made it 3-2. Greg Luzinski followed with a walk, then Bibby walked pinch-hitter Del Unser and in came Tekulve. Green, meanwhile, had replaced runners with speedsters Loviglio and Bob Dernier.
MADDOX WAS the first to face Tekulve, who lost one game and helped blow another a week ago in Philadelphia. Maddox bunted perfectly and Tekulve slipped as he fielded it. But the righthander was able to throw Maddox out anyway, setting up the second and third, one-out situation. "It was," Green said later, "almost a super bunt."
"We talked about the possibility of a squeeze because they squeezed on us in Philadelphia," said Tekulve. "Yes, we ! thought about it, but it wasn't our main concern."
So Bowa, after having third base coach Lee Elia run through the signals twice, popped Tekulve's first pitch to Omar Moreno in center and Bob Boone popped up to Phil Garner behind the second base bag, giving Tekulve his 20th save of the season, and first since Aug. 22.
"A little more patience would have helped," said Green of Bowa swinging at Tekulve's first pitch. "He knows Tekulve is going to throw a sinker and he knows Tekulve is going to keep it away from him.
"BUT, IF HE (Bowa) hits one in the gap, you guys wouldn't even be asking these questions."
There could be no question that Pirate right fielder Dave Parker, who singled twice and scored a run, took a run away from the Phillies in the third, when Bowa singled and, an out later, was sacrificed to second by pitcher Dick Ruthven.
Pete Rose followed with a line drive to the gap that Parker picked off the turf during a desperation slide. Bibby would struggle through the fourth, when he walked Schmidt, hit Luzinski and permitted Maddox his RBI single.
But Bibby, now 17-5, would retire 14 in a row before Schmidt's home run and before Dallas Green played for the win – and came away with a loss.
PHIL UPS – Phils are 30-68 in Three Rivers since 1970 and have lost five straight, six of seven, here this year... The good news is tonight is their last game here... The Pirates have the best record of any East Division team within the division, 44-29... Phils are 37-35 against the other East teams... Steve Carlton opposes Bert Blyleven tonight.
Owens aims to call in some old I.O.U.s
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
Although the Phillies seem bound and determined to take their 1980 dash toward a division title down to the wire and the final weekend of the season, there is little doubt that the club didn't get into high gear until The Pope gave them his blessing.
Well, it wasn't exactly a blessing that club General Manager Paul Owens bestowed upon the team of his creation when September rolled around on the, West Coast. It was more like Gettysburg – both the Address and the Battle.
Not every baseball executive would have the nerve to challenge any and all members of his team to settle their differences with fists. But, when Owens walked into the locker room at Candlestick Park and told the players, "Come up and see me sometime," he wasn't doing a Mae West imitation.
"I told them that if any one of them didn't like what I had to say, they could come up to my room later and settle it," recalled Owens. "I meant it. I told them my room number.
"And, I also told them that if they did come to my room and knock the crap out of me... well, as soon as I got some ice and got myself together, they could expect to hear me knocking on their door.
"And, I'd come again and again... until I won."
The Pope is not a man to take defeat lightly, even though he has handled the good years in the same gracious manner as he weathered the hard times when he first began a franchise reconstruction program that has seen him make over 75 major decisions involving hundreds of players.
Yet, these are special and critical times for Owens, who at 56 is on the threshold of calling an end to his wheeler-dealer era.
The players are aware of this. Which is why his 'Frisco speech was not accepted as just another tail chewing. More than a few jocks owe him – and owe him big.
Owens believed in athletes that other clubs wouldn't touch. When several of the players were young and still unestablished, it was Owens who gave them big money (at that time) in multi-year contracts and then told them, "Okay, now prove you're worth it.” And, when they did, he called them in before they could start griping and renegotiated their contracts.
With the blessing of club owner Ruly Carpenter, it was Owens who converted Philly from a National League hell hole that players around the league refused to join and made it into the most desirable, first class operation any of the jocks could imagine.
Owens called in some I.O.U.s during a sermon in which he railed the highly paid players for not considering how desperately the less affluent members of the club needed the playoff money.
He told them that they owed their teammates, the owner, the fans and him. And, if they weren't prepared to honor that debt, all they had to do was contact him. He would find another place for them to play – somewhere they'd hate.
Blasting the players had an effect, to be sure. But it is the realization by the team that it cannot, in good conscience, give anything but it's best for the Pope as he reaches the twilight of his career.
"Oh, I won't be calling it quits. I love baseball too much for that," he explained later. "Still, next year or the one after that, I think I'd like to get back to basics, go out and scout some kids, work with the minor league people. Anymore, that's the only place in baseball where you'll find the fun.
"Today's general managers can't do much of anything because of the complexities of the contracts and all the other rules and regulations. Your hands are tied most of the time. Yon can't really deal like you used to be able to do."
Modernization has overtaken the front offices of baseball. Times have changed so much that a man of Owens' talent, imagination and baseball judgement is almost obsolete.
He will bow out soon, one of the last of a special breed, a man who used those old-time methods to turn a laughingstock organization into a winner.
How much of a winner? That's up to the Phillies. Owens gave them his best. Now it's time to return the favor.
Don’t count Pirates out yet
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PITTSBURGH – Contrary to recent obituaries, the Pirates are alive and well and living in Three Rivers Stadium, where two-thirds of the National League East Division pennant race is taking place.
Those who had written off the Pirates – and there were many – were somewhat premature for a couple of reasons. Sure, the Pirates had fallen into a tailspin inappropriate to a team calling itself the defending World Champion. Certainly, many of the Pirates were not having the kind of super season they produced in 1979. And, it's true that Kent Tekulve wasn't throwing well enough to get his grandmother out.
But the people who buried the Pirates, who went into last night's 3-2 win over the Phillies 4½ games behind the division-leading Expos, neglected to consider two crucial factors.
ONE IS a schedule that couldn't be more favorable had Chuck Tanner himself made it out. The other is the Phillies, who simply do not win in Three Rivers (1-7 this season).
Of the Pirates' 17 remaining games, 11 are at Three Rivers where they are an impressive 41-29. Indeed, over the years the Pirates have accumulated a stunning 104-50 home record during the month of September.
Add that to the fact that the Pirates have dominated their East Division opponents this season (24-10 here, 44-29 overall), and there's every reason to believe the East remains a three-team race.
"The pennant race was getting closer to Montreal,' said righthander Jim Bibby, who permitted the Phils just three hits. "I know all I want to do is go out and pitch a good ballgame so this club can win."
BIBBY, who has been in the words of Phillies Manager Dallas Green, the Pirates' "Steve Carlton” this season, broke a personal pitching slump to win his 17th game – the most by a Pirate starter since John Candalaria was 20-5 in 1977. Incidentally, by beating the Phillies, Bibby ran his record against Eastern opponents to 11-0 this season. It was his 13th straight win against an East team, dating back to last Sept.9.
Bibby had failed to pitch more than six innings in five previous starts prior to last night. But he was overpowering through eight innings and did not leave until he had given up a home run to Mike Schmidt and walked two batters to open the ninth.
"During our losing streak, I wasn't making good pitches," said Bibby. "I was walking a lot of guys, falling behind in the count. Tonight, I made them hit my pitch.
"We haven't changed our thinking. It's a plus to win this game, but this ballclub has always been loose. We can take losing. A lot of teams lose close ballgames or lose to a contender and they get down on themselves. We lost a couple in Montreal, but we're the same group of guys."
That same group of guys plays the Phillies one last time tonight, then seven more here against the Mets, Expos and Cardinals. Indeed, by this time next week the East could again be a three-team race.