New York Daily News - September 25, 1980
Yet another race hasn’t taken blush from Rose
By Mike Lupica
ST. LOUIS – The world had tipped just slightly for the Phillies, and it had been a night to move briefly back into the dark side of the pennant race. A local kid from West St Louis had become a sudden September hero. His name is Al Olmsted and he is a Cardinal. Del Unser's attempt at a pinch-hit grand slam in the ninth, one that would have tied the game, had died ingloriously on the warning track. Unser is a Phillie. The Expos had won big in Pittsburgh; those numbers had been up on the scoreboard at Busch Stadium for a longtime.
The numbers said that the Phillies would go from a half-game ahead to a half-game behind on this night. Now there were 12 games left instead of 13. A bus was waiting, and so was a plane. For the Phillies, the pennant race was moving back home, to a game with the Mets Wednesday night.
Mike Schmidt, who had hit his 43d home run (and fourth in four games), sat alone at a table in the middle of the clubhouse, drinking a soft drink. Tim McCarver said something about the 43d home run. Schmidt looked up wordlessly.
Someone yelled that the bus would be leaving at 10:40. Unser spoke softly in front of his locker about the dramatic home run that wasn't, a home run that would have made him the hero instead of Olmsted, who pitched one-hit ball for six innings and walked away with his first major league victory.
And, of course, there was one person in the room cutting through the pall, looking toward the next game, the next city, the next night. Sitting in front of his own locker, surrounded by writers, still in full uniform, a clearcut winner over a plate of fried chicken, was an honorable old gentleman named Peter Edward Rose, who was talking, talking, talking about the pennant race.
HE HAS FINISHED his 18th major league summer, has Pete Rose, at the age of 39. Now it is another September for him, and he remains as unchanging as all the fine ceremonies of September, all the winning and losing and going from first to second and back to first. He graces another race with his spirit and grin and love of it all. So the Phillies had lost So there would be another game the next night. Rose sat there and his manner said let's get on with it.
The legs are a little slower, and he does not get as many leg hits. The bat is not quite as quick as it was in the 17 summers before this. The batting average, .331 a year ago, is down to .280. But he chips in his big hits. He makes big plays at first base day after day. It is impossible to believe there have been September battles without him.
"Sure it's fun to be in the middle of things again," said Rose. "It's always been fun. But winning is what it's all about. You should only have two goals in this game: to win your division, then to win the last game you play. Five times I've won the division. Twice I win the last game. Three times I don't. I want to even things off this year."
THIS IS THE KIND of race Rose wanted in his first year in Philadelphia before injuries took the Phillies apart and they finished fourth. Even with the .331 average, last season was not a happy one for Rose. The Reds won their division without him.
This year he is not hitting as well and is not happy with his hitting, but the Phillies are healthy and in the hunt. Through Tuesday night's game, Rose was caught in another of the 1-for-14 valleys that have plagued him this season. Still, he was directly responsible for the Phillies' one victory in the two-game series with the Cardinals. Twice Monday night he saved runs with his glove; if he makes only one of those plays, the Phillies lose. In the seventh, with Keith Smith racing home with two outs, Rose speared a bad-hop shot from Ken Oberkfell, one headed for his eyeballs, and beat Oberkfell to the bag to end the inning.
Then in the eighth, with the bases loaded, he somehow came up with a short-hop throw from Schmidt and saved the Phillies again. Rose went 0 for 5 Monday night and won the game.
"The man doesn't get a hit and he's the star of the game," said Schmidt "Now ain't the man outstanding?"
"When I’m not hitting, I just got to pick up the other parts of my game," said Rose.
Before another pennant race is over, Pete Rose will hit. He will steal a big base and bowl someone over. Maybe he will get that chance to win the last game of the season after winning a division. One thing is certain: he will have one hell of a time trying. There is no September without him.
MVP vote: something really worth debating
By Bill Madden
VALUABLE, SAYS Webster, is "having qualities worthy of respect, admiration or esteem."
The Most Valuable Player Award ballots that have recently gone out to some 52 voting members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America offer an even broader definition of the word. 'When you are voting." reads the wording on the ballots, "take into consideration the actual value of a player to HIS team, that is the strength of offense and defense, number of games played, general character, disposition, loyalty and effort."
With that in mind then, who is the American League's Most Valuable Player? George Brett? Certainly a reasonable and safe choice what with his 103 RBI in 107 games (as of Tuesday) plus top-ranking marks in on-base percentage (.463), slugging percentage (.663) and, of course, average – even if it does not reach the mystical .400 by season's end. Aha, argue the Brett naysayers, how can you say Brett – who missed all those games for a team that was never challenged in its division – was more valuable to his ballclub than Goose Gossage has been to the Yankees? And what of Rick Cerone? Could that Yankees have won without HIM? Similarly, how can you forget the contributions of Reggie Jackson, who, despite his September slump, still leads the league in homers?
THE NATIONAL LEAGUE voters are facing a dilemma almost as perplexing although Mike Schmidt has begun to ease their burden in recent days. If Schmidt is able to maintain his present leads in homers, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, he will be hard to beat – unless, of course, the Phillies do not win. While it may not always be fair, "most valuable" is most often determined by the voters by first checking out the division champions. Conceivably, that was what enabled Willie Stargell to gain a share of a last year's award with Keith Hernandez, who was far and away the NL's "player of the year" from a statistical standpoint.
This year the Cardinals have another bonafide MVP candidate in George Hendrick, who has been over .300 all season, ranks second to Schmidt in RBI, third in total bases and fourth in slugging percentage. It is not known if Hendrick feels he deserves the award since he has not spoken to any card-carrying members of the BBWAA – MVP voters or not – in the last few years.
"I think," said Don Sutton of the Dodgers, "sometimes injustices are done in these selections. The most valuable players shouldn't be the most popular in my opinion. The two I would nominate would be Mike Schmidt and Dusty Baker of our club, but have to consider Hendrick, too.”
ADDED THE DODGERS' Steve Garvey, who was probably not suprised to learn he was not included on Sutton's "ballot": I'd select Mike Schmidt and Jose Cruz because their teams might not be contending teams without them."
Both Garvey and Baker have comparable MVP numbers. Dodger-watchers will tell you, however, that Baker, who trails Garvey slightly in RBI and total bases (but is third overall In the NL in game-winning hits) has been the most valuable Dodger this year. Both have slumped in these critical waning weeks of September, though, at a time when the pennant races – and Schmidt – have heated up.
"Right now," said Dodger beat writer Gordon Verrell of the Long Beach Independent, "I'd have to vote for Schmidt over either of our two guys. The Dodgers have to win and one of them – Garvey and Baker – will have to carry the club if they are to beat out Schmidt."
Conceivably, Brett, off his sheer awesome stats over a limited number of games, could walk away with the AL MVP. Yet, there are some bonafide arguments against him. It has been pointed out that in games Brett has missed (44), the Royals have gone 22-22. What is not so well publicized is the fact that in 23 of those 44 games, the Royals were also without Amos Otis and that in 13, they were without Darrell Porter.
THEN THERE ARE the arguments for the Yankee quartet of Gossage, Cerone, Jackson and Willie Randolph. All four have played key roles in the various stages of the Yankees' pennant drive. No greater authority than Dick Howser will tell you that if "indispensable" is the principal criteria – or synonym – for valuable, then Cerone, by his durability, defensive play and consistency at-bat, is as formidable a candidate as you will find.
In the NL East…
Pirates won’t toss in towel but costly loss to Expos darkens pennant hopes
By Mike McAlary
The words spilled out again, but they sounded hollow in a quiet Pittsburgh clubhouse Tuesday night.
"We're still fighting and I still feel we have a chance," said Mike Easier, who knocked in the Pirates' only run in a 7-1 loss to the Montreal Expos that pushed Pittsburgh four games back. "Sure, the odds are against us. but you have to keep believing."
The Pirates are still family, but it appears that they will start their vacation early this season. This was one game they needed to win. They didn't. Now, they have no games left with either the Expos or Philadelphia Phillies.
The victory for the Expos, achieved behind the three-hit pitching of Steve Rogers, gave them first place again after a night's absence. The Phillies, who had climbed into the top spot Monday, fell back into second when they dropped a 6-3 decision to the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I won a big one," said Rogers.
Catcher Gary Carter agreed, saying, "This was our biggest win of the year."
The Pirate defense turned out to be the biggest offensive weapon the Expos could generate in the victory. Errors by Bill Madlock and Phil Garner, plus three walks by losing starter Bert Blyleven, helped the Expos turn three hits into six runs in the sixth inning.
The Phillies can blame rookie AI Olmstead for their loss in St Louis and the forfeiture of their first-place standing. Olmstead, 23, who has made only three starts this season, has baffled the Phillies in both his appearances against the club.
"He's a mystery man to us," said Phil manager Dallas Green. "He throws that low stuff and we have problems with it."
The Cards had no such trouble with Philly starter Bob Walk. He went to the showers in the second inning after allowing three runs. Garry Templeton scored the game winner in the fifth when he singled, stole second and reached home on Ted Simmons' bloop single to center.