Reading Eagle - September 19, 1980
Pirates Must Win, Root for Others
PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Pirates, five games back with their backs to the wall in the National League East, meet the New York Mets here tonight.
“We’ve just got to hope for the best,” said Pirate reliever Kent Tekulve, who is 0-5 the past month.
“At this point, we are not in control of our own destiny anymore,” Tekulve added. “There’s no guarantee that if we win them all we’re going to win the division… but knowing the people on this club, we’ll just keep battling until the numbers say we are out of it.”
The Mets-Pirates matchup is among three series this weekend in the NL East that will match the three contenders against the rest of the division.
The first-place Montreal Expos play in St. Louis tonight. “I don’t want to watch the World Series on television this year,” says Warren Cromartie of the Expos.
The Philadelphia Phillies, 1½ games back, meet the Cub in Chicago this afternoon. “We’ll be rootin’ for whoever is playing Montreal,” says Philadelphia reliever Tug McGraw. “But we have six games with the Expos and that’s going to do a lot in deciding who wins.”
All six teams in the division were idle Thursday, and that was especially tough for manager Chuck Tanner of the Pirates.
“I hate to have an off-day when we lose. I really do,” said Tanner.
But he remains the eternal optimist, just as he was in last year’s World Series when the Pirates fell behind three games to one against Baltimore.
“You don’t win the pennant until the numbers say you do. And you don’t lose it until the numbers say you do,” said Tanner.
However, there’s a difference between last year and the current Pirate situation. In the Series, the Pirates were eyeball to eyeball with the team they had to beat.
But in the last two weeks of this season, the Pirates have no more games left with Philadelphia and only two more against Montreal.
“We’re rooting for the other teams now,” said Tanner. “It’s a tough position to be in, but we’re asking for someone to give us some help.”
On Wednesday night, the Pirates battled back froma 4-1 deficit against Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. But the Phils won 5-4 in 11 innings.
It was the 19th defeat in 28 games for the Pirates. Willie Stargell, at age 39, may be out for the season with a knee problem that has sidelined him since mid-August, and the Pirate bullpen has faltered.
The Phillies left here with their fate in their hands. They have three games at home against the Expos and then finish the season with three in Montreal.
A year ago at this stage, the Phillies were 13½ games out of first place.
“I’m very proud of this team. We could have quit but we didn’t,” said Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green.
In addition to McGraw, the Phils now have Sparky Lyle in the bullpen. He picked up his first NL save in Wednesday night’s win over the Pirates.
“Coming here will make me pitch as well as I possibly can,” said Lyle, who welcomed his departure from the Texas Rangers.
And then there are the Expos.
“Hey, I’d rather have a 100-game lead with 99 to play, but this is what we have. It’s interesting,” Manager Dick Williams of the Expos said after his team lost 5-2 Wednesday night to the Mets in New York.
“Personally, I think we’re not going to let it get away this year,” says Expo outfielder Jerry White. “We control our own destiny. We just have to do our jobs and keep winning.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies and the Expos say they aren’t counting the Pirates out of the race.
“The Pirates know that we’ve got six games with Montreal,” said Green. “We’re going to be banging each other, and if they play good baseball, they’ve got a chance to stay right there. They’re not dead by any stretch of the imagination.”
“There are three clubs fighting it out, and there are three clubs out of it trying to beat them,” said Williams. “I’m not counting Pittsburgh out either.”
Sportopics: Did Bystrom Beat Jinx?
By John W. Smith
If you believe in jinxes, that phantom foot injury sustained Sunday by the Phillies’ rookie sensation, Marty Bystrom, may turn out to be a good thing.
Bystrom missed his chance of becoming the seventh pitcher since 1900 to throw shutouts in his first two big league starts when Dallas Green lifted him after seven innings against the Cardinals Sunday.
The Associated Press story in Monday’s Eagle reported that Green removed him “because of a bruise on the bottom of the right foot,” but the bruise wouldn’t have prevented him from continuing if Green hadn’t wanted to give Sparky Lyle some work. It ranked right up there with some of the injuries Eastern League players suffer when a 22nd man arrives to take a roster spot.
Had Bystrom continued and thrown two more scoreless innings, he would have joined household names Joe Doyle, John Marcum, Dave Ferriss, Al Worthington, Karl Spooner and Tom Phoebus. None of them will ever make it to Cooperstown except as a tourist. The biggest career winner of the six won 71 games.
Doyle, the first to do it in this century, possessed the nickname of “Slow Joe,” which not exactly strikes terror into the hearts of batters. He broke in with the Yankees in August 1906. He lost his two other starts that year and would up a five-year ceer with a 24-22 record.
Spooner, the last to do it in the National League, caused a sensation by winning his two last-week starts for the Dodgers in September 1954, allowing seven hits and striking out 27 in the 18 innings. He came down with arm trouble the next year and retired with a 10-6 career record.
Marcum, who broke in with the A’s in 1933, won 14 games in ’34 and 17 in ’35, but in his six full seasons never had an ERA under 4. He ended with a 65-63 record.
Ferriss won 21 games his rookie year with the Red Sox in 1945 and 25 his second. He was 12-11 his third and 7-3 his fourth and then arm trouble finished him.
Worthington (Giants, 1953) lasted 13 years in the majors before retiring for religious convictions, but never won more than 11 games in any season. Lifetime he was 71-81.
Phoebus was the last to do it, in September 1966 for the Orioles. He won 15-15-14 games the next three years, but totaled only 11 wins in the next three years and left the scene.
Two in Hall of Fame
Of the three who made it before 1900, two are in the Hall of Fame – Al Spalding (1876) and John Montgomery Ward (1878). But Spalding made it on his managerial work. He was 46-12 in ’76, then 1-0 in ’77 and that was it.
Jim Hughes (1898) was 82-41 in four years, but lasted only those four.
Bystrom, with his 17 scoreless innings (he worked one relief inning before his first start), still has a shot at the record for most consecutive scoreless innings at the start of a career. That’s 25, set by George McQuillen of the Phillies in four games in 1907.
McQuillen was 4-0 that year, and 23-17 the next year. He played 10 years in the majors with an 84-89 career record.
Worked Out in Reading
Reading Phillies fans who showed up early for games this spring saw Bystrom, probably without realizing who he was. He worked out with Reading for several weeks, while technically on the Oklahoma City disabled list because of a hamstring pull.
Had he not slipped on the clubhouse floor in Clearwater on picture day because he forgot to take off his spikes, he would most probably have made the big club in April, as the No. 5 starter (with Nino Espinosa disabled).
Bystrom was hopped past Reading in 1979 after his 15-8, 2.83 year at Peninsula in 1978, is second pro year. It looked like a mistake when he struggled at the start, especially having trouble holding runners on. He finished only 9-5, 4.08 in 26 starts at O.C., but won praise for his late-season effectiveness.
The big thing is his ability to throw each of his four pitches for strikes. Anybody who can do that has a future. That’s assuming that old devil, arm trouble, doesn’t pop up.