Wilmington Evening Journal - September 23, 1980

First-place Phils aren’t kidding around


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


ST. LOUIS – They burst into the clubhouse after victories like silly high-school sophomores. There's laughing and horseplay and celebration.


In the beginning, the crusty old veterans didn't know what to think of these young whippersnappers. Didn't they know that when you put on Phillies' pinstripes you're supposed to be cool, unemotional? Don't get high after victories, low after defeats. Face the world the same everyday.


The Class of '80 refused to accept that. These rookies, who are referred to as kids, let their emotions – and talents – flow.


And today, the Phillies are back in first place In National League East. The kids are telling the veterans that they're going to win it.


Keith Moreland – he's one of the kids – ripped a pinch-hit double in the 10th inning last night to score Larry Bowa from second base, pushing the Phils past St. Louis 3-2. The victory enabled the Phils to move into first place by a half-game over Montreal, a 4-2 loser at Pittsburgh.


Steve Carlton, with outstanding relief help from Tug McGraw, won his 23rd game. He is 6-0 against his old teammates this year and 29-8 lifetime. The last Phillies' pitcher to beat a team six times in one season was Robin Roberts, who did it against Brooklyn in 1952.


When Manager Dallas Green put together his 25-player roster just before the Phils broke spring-training camp, he sent shock waves through the clubhouse. Veterans such as Dave Rader, Buddy Harrel-son, Doug Bird and Rawly Eastwick were sent packing. Their spots, for the most part, were filled by rookies.


Skeptics said there was no way the Phillies could win a pennant with the bench consisting mostly of rookies. Green, the minor-league director for all those years, had an obligation to give some of the youngsters a chance. But he would soon find out, his critics said, that the kids would not be able to do the job.


But they have.


And the Phillies would not be where they are today without the youngsters.


There's Moreland, who's hitting .323, with seven hits in 17 pinch-hitting appearances. There's Lonnie Smith, leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, who's batting .336. And there's George Vukovich, who's hitting only .235, but who has delivered 11 hits in 41 pinch-hitting appearances.


And there's Bob Walk, who has a 10-5 record, and Marty Bystrom, a late-arrival who was not with the team in the beginning only because an injury deprived him of that. Bystrom is 3-0 with a 1.23 earned run average. He shut out the opposition the first 20 innings he pitched.


Aside from the contributions listed above, the youngsters have given the team a new spirit. In the beginning, this bothered the veterans and split the team down the middle early in the season – the experienced players and the kids. But the kids didn't hide in a corner and let the veterans look down their noses at them.


They continued to yell and shout and their enthusiasm for winning began to rub off. Now there is a marvelous blend of youth and experience and it is the reason the Phillies have an excellent shot at winning their fourth division title in five years.


"I am very proud of myself and of this group," Moreland said last night. "Look., I'm not bold enough to say I should take Bob Boone's place. If we're going to win this thing, he's the catcher. And you've got to have Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox and all the others out there. But when we are asked to do a job, we want to produce.


"I think we have done the job. We have a lot of spirit and want to win. From the time I was a little boy, I've always wanted to play on a championship team and I think it is going to happen this year. When the Expos lost to St. Louis on Sunday, I told everybody we were going to win. I think we're there."


Moreland, who hit an outside sinkerball off reliever Kim Seaman, said he was looking for that kind of pitch and had to reach over the plate after it.


"It may have been a ball," said Moreland. "It was a sinker that really didn't drop that much. He usually pitches me out and that's what he did tonight."


The last couple of years the bench, not to mention lack of spirit, has been one of the Phillies' weakest parts. This year it is one of the strongest.


"The kids have done an outstanding job," said Green, who was enjoying first place for the first time since Sept. 5. "It has been a lot of fun watching the clubhouse. At first, the veterans did not get involved. The kids want to win so badly, and what they are doing and saying has rubbed off on the others."


The Cards pulled even with a run in the eighth, and only a brilliant fielding play by Mike Schmidt on Keith Smith's grounder with the bases loaded in that inning kept St. Louis from taking the lead.


Schmidt's 42nd homer, a mammoth blast off starter Pete Vuckovich that traveled over 450 feet to dead center field, pulled the Phils even in the fifth after the Cards had gone up 1-0 in the first.


Back-to-back singles by Bowa and Boone and an infield out made it 2-1 in the fifth. In the 10th, Bowa lashed out his third single of the night, was sacrificed to second by Boone and scored on what Moreland called the most important hit of his career.


EXTRA POINTS - The Phils have a 10-4 record since returning to Eastern Division play on Sept. 8. Montreal is 8-5 and Pittsburgh 7-5... Bob Forsch was supposed to start tonight's game against Walk, but his mother died yesterday following surgery. Al Olmsted will take his place... The Phils have a 27-26 record in one-run decisions. On July 28 they were 16-20 in that category and since Sept. 1, they are 7-3... Montreal, which still has six games remaining on its road trip, must play the Cards three times at Olympic Stadium... The Phils return home after tonight's game for 10 at the Vet followed by the final weekend of the season at Montreal.