Philadelphia Daily News - September 25, 1980
Luzinski Blames Only Himself
By Ray Didinger
Greg Luzinski spent yesterday afternoon in the Billy DeMars School of Hitting Dynamics. He watched film of his batting stroke while Professor DeMars and guest lecturer Paul Owens dissected each frame, each movement.
Luzinski watched film of himself when he was hitting the ball well, then he watched film of himself when he was hitting the ball poorly. He watched film of himself before his knee injury, he watched film of himself since his injury.
Luzinski sat there while DeMars and Owens picked his swing apart, like lab technicians charting a mouse in a maze. He listened while they talked about his "hand position" and "weight distribution" and he made mental notes until they were oozing from his ears.
Thus enlightened, the Bull went out and took a meek 0-for4 against the New York Mets. He bounced out to third, then struck out twice in three appearances against rookie Ed Lynch. He went down on a check-swing grounder against reliever Neil Allen.
THE PHILLIES WON the game, 1-0, in 10 innings but, afterward, Dallas Green expressed concern for Luzinski. The Bull's average has slipped to .232 and he is 15-for-90 (.166) since coming off the injured list. Aug. 24. This has not gone unnoticed by the Veterans Stadium fans who are booing him at full 1979 volume.
The season has dwindled down to its last 11 games, the Phillies and Montreal Expos are shoulder-to-shoulder coming around the final turn in the National League East, and here are a coach and a general manager, wrenches in hand, working feverishly to put the clean-up hitter back together again.
Dallas Green isn't so sure he approves. Green doesn't think you can splice a batting stroke together on a movie projector. He doesn't think you assemble a hitter piece-by-piece the way you would a jigsaw puzzle. Too often, you only create more problems.
Last night, Luzinski looked like he was so concerned with his hand position and weight distribution that, well, he forgot to swing the bat By the time he made sure his stance was right and his hips were turned and his head was set... oops, the catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
"There are two parts to hitting," Green said. "There's the mechanics part, then there's this part (tapping his head). And this (mental) part will get in the way of the mechanics every time if you let it.
"I GET INTO ARGUMENTS with my staff about this, but I think you can over-coach a hitter. I think part of Bull's problem right now is there are too many people telling him too many things. He's being over-analyzed.
"We have all this technical equipment – we have films, we have video-tapes, we have a batting tee, an indoor cage. We have a hitting instructor (DeMars). I think that's great, in March and April when you're just getting started.
"But, hey, this is not April, this is September, almost October. This is not time for (a lesson in) mechanics, this is time to go up there and rip."
Greg Luzinski admitted feeling "confused and uncomfortable" at the plate but did not blame that on too many people whispering in his ear. Nor did he blame it on too many people booing in his ear. He blamed it on himself.
"Just one of those things," he said, sitting quietly on the fringes of the happy clubhouse. "I'm struggling. I've fallen into some bad habits and I'm having trouble breaking out.
"The Pope (Owens) has been around me for a long while. He knows my swing as well as anybody. He said he saw some things in St. Louis so he came in and worked with me today.
"He said my stance is the same and he said my hands are as quick as they ever were. He said my problem comes when I shift my weight. Instead of taking my weight back, I'm taking it forward.
"WHAT'S HAPPENING," Luzinski explained, "is I'm moving forward with the pitch and I'm taking my hands with me. For me to be effective, I have to keep my head and hands back. I can only do that through better weight distribution.
"It all makes sense. I can see it in the films. But seeing it and doing it are two different things. I can hit the ball fine in batting practice but I have to transfer that batting-practice atmosphere over to a game situation and that's hard.
"Part of my problem," Luzinski said, "is just being over-anxious. We're in a helluva race with Montreal and Pittsburgh, we've got a shot to win the whole thing and I want to contribute in some way.
"I get up there with men on base and I try too hard. I know it, I can feel it. I'll try to drive a ball and I'll forget everything I worked on (before the game)."
The Bull, you might recall, worked furiously over the winter to shed some 30 pounds. He reported to spring training in the best physical condition of his major league career. He agreed to wear eyeglasses, something club management had urged him to do for several years.
HE OPENED THE SEASON by hitting a home run his very first time at-bat. As he rounded third base, he pumped his fist once, then twice, in a rare display of emotion. Talking to him afterward, you could see the expectations of a big season bursting like fireworks in his eyes.
"I said I'd bet my house Greg Luzinski has a great year," Dallas Green said that night "Well, he just made the first payment."
The Bull had 15 homers at the All-Star break and he was on a 100 RBI pace when he went down with his bad knee. He underwent minor surgery for removal of a cyst and some loose cartilage and watched while Lonnie Smith filled in brilliantly in left field.
Now Luzinski hears the fans booing him and calling for Lonnie Smith and it's slowly tearing him apart. Nobody has to shove Greg Luzinski's nose against the calendar to remind him what time of the year this is.
It is late September, the time when pennants are won and lost, a time when Luzinski likes to toss his teammates over his shoulder and carry them across the finish line.
It was Luzinski who hit the game-winning home run in the 1978 pennant clincher in Pittsburgh. The Bull has also hit for a .317 average in the three National League Championship playoffs and accounted for five of the eight Phillies' post-season homers.
"This is eating the Bull up, I know that," Green said. "He's driven in a lot of big runs for this team over the years. He worked so damn hard to get ready for this season. I know he's confused and frustrated right now.
"ITS OBVIOUS, HE'S JUST not hitting the ball. His presence in the lineup is accomplishing one thing – it's getting Mike Schmidt better pitches to swing at. But once word gets around that the Bull's not hitting, they'll start pitching around Mike again."
The obvious solution would be to bench the Bull and put Lonnie Smith, with his .336 average and 30 stolen bases, back in left field. Dallas Green is reluctant to do that, largely because his heart won't let him.
"All along, I've said I want to give these veterans every opportunity to win this thing," Green said. "This is their chance to go all the way. I feel very strongly about Bull getting that chance because, hey, he's been a big part of this franchise.
"Right now, I'm going on a day-by-day, pitcher-by-pitcher basis. I almost didn't start Greg tonight because he had never seen this (Lynch) kid before. But our scouting report said he didn't have much of a breaking ball and he'd come right at us. I thought Greg might be able to handle him.
"I don't know who I'll start (in left) tomorrow or the day after that," Green said. "I really don't."
"I keep looking at the bright side," Greg Luzinski said. "This hasn't been much of a season for me but I can make the whole thing worthwhile if I get hot these last two weeks and help push us over the top."
Now that would be a film worth studying.
Phillies Not Kid Stuff
By Bill Conlin
The kid among them is 35 and he started it with a single to right off ace Mets reliever Neil Allen.
The kid, Del Unser, is 35 and this is the first time in 13 big-league baseball summers he can't tell you what he'll be doing the day after the regular season ends. It is his first pennant race.
Unser singled to right to open the 10th and 24-year-old infielder Jay Loviglio trotted to first to do the rest of the legwork.
Tim McCarver bounced out of the Phillies dugout at a time in a game when he normally is waiting in the clubhouse tunnel wearing a Channel 17 blazer and clutching a hand mike. He will turn 39 in less than a month and has spent September doing TV Star of the Game interviews in uniform, brought down from the broadcasting booth to become major league baseball's first four-decade catcher.
"HARRY KALAS, Rich Ashburn and Andy Musser have taught me a lot about my new profession," McCarver said last night, "but Eddie Stanky taught me how to bunt."
That's what it took to beat the Mets, H), in 10 brutally tough innings: A leadoff hit by Unser, a Spalding Guide first-pitch sacrifice by McCarver and a seeing-eye single into center by a slumping 39-year-old first baseman named Pete Rose. Loviglio streaked home from second with the winning run and the Phillies stayed a half-game behind the Expos.
The Medicare Maulers made Tug McGraw, 36, a three-time winner this month. They also made certain that eight scoreless innings of four-hit baseball by outpatient Larry Christenson weren't wasted. Christenson is only 26, but his medical case history is going on 50.
Neil Allen, the Mets brilliant young bullpen stopper, was the pitcher after a tall rookie righthander named Ed Lynch allowed two singles in seven innings to join a cluttered list of first-timers the Phillies couldn't handle. Allen struck out Mike Schmidt to end the eighth and blew away Larry Bowa with Garry Maddox perched on third in the ninth to send it careening into overtime.
Allen was in a powerful groove. And when McCarver feathered the righthander's first hummer up the third-base line it was like John Newcombe going out after a year's layoff between tournaments to hit a drop-volley winner off Bjorn Borg's first attempted passing shot.
"ALLEN WAS throwing 90 MPH and Timmy tracked it off his bat at 12," Unser marveled. "That's doing the job."
It wasn't as practiced, as effortless, as McCarver made it look.
"The ball appeared to be coming 170 MPH," McCarver said. "I knew he threw hard, but not that hard. Eddie Stanky taught me how to bunt early in my career. I guess you never forget fundamental stuff like that. It's like riding a bicycle or hitting the post-game spread. Johnny Keane used to say the secret to laying down a fair bunt was to keep the bat out in fair territory. It stands to reason you can't bunt it fair much of the time with the bat back in foul territory."
Rose came up shouldering a slump which had reached 0-for-15 and 1-for-19 proportions.. In three of his first four at-bats last night he stung savage line drives right at somebody. This was his weakest contact of the game and it drove home the winning run. Baseball sure is a funny game, huh, Pete?
"You want to get up there," Rose said. "It's not the kind of slump where you're hesitant to go up there. I want to get up there and hit. I'm hitting the ball good left-handed. I hit the ball good in BP. You can't get down because you hit the ball hard four out of five times. If you win the game, the hell with it. I'd rather be hitting the ball hard than not hitting the ball hard and getting hits sometimes."
DO YOU GET the impression that Pete Rose would have no trouble at all declining the verb, "to hit"?
Christenson would rather be out there every fifth day giving up a run now and then than convalescing between scoreless stints against the Mets. He went hobbling out of the rotation with the latest in a series of groin pulls on the Phillies' final Coast trip and hadn't pitched since a brief, pain-wracked start Sept. 6 in Los Angeles. Since then he's heard – "I don’t read the papers, so I have to hear things," he said – that he was through for the regular season. He didn’t believe it.
"It was very important for me to go out there and pitch without anything happening to me tonight." Larry said. "I wasn't supposed to pitch any more than 5-6-7 innings, but they said I only threw 88 pitches. After I came out I was having a beer in the lounge. Tug came in and said, 'L.C., you feel all right?' I said, 'Sorry, there's nothing wrong with me. I felt fine.' In fact, my arm feels fantastic. I heard I was out for the season. They can say what they want. I want to go out and prove I can pitch without getting hurt, so we can go to a five-man rotation. I can't believe it's been this tough-luck a year and me still being sane. This was another big test for me. It's been tough on me but it worked out just fine. If it hadn't, I wouldn't be in the gutter someplace right now, but I'd be close."
Christenson wriggled out of his only real trouble thanks to good eye contact with Rose. Shortstop Wally Backman singled with two outs in the sixth and Christenson walked Lee MazzillLThe hitter was Claudell Washington.
"BOB BOONE called for a fastball," Christen-jon said. "Claudell's a dead fastball hitter and I was ready to shake him off. But I peeked over at first. Pete was playing off the bag, but he gave me the pickoff sign. I still had my fastball grip and I really got something on the throw."
Rose slipped in behind Mazzilli and Christenson gunned him a strike. While Backman stood frozen at second. Rose ran Mazzilli all the way to the bag. Just before Lee became an automatic out for touching an occupied base, the rookie shortstop broke for third and Rose rounded second behind him. He finally threw the ball to Mike Schmidt, who ran Backman down.
"Longest damn rundown play I was ever in," Rose said.
Age will be served. Credit this victory to four of baseball's senior citizens and an outpatient. Unfortunately, the game was not on local TV; therefore, broadcaster McCarver was not able to interview player McCarver on the Star of the Game Show.
"I was going to ask myself a question, then slam the mike down and say. 'What kind of dumb question is that? No wonder the players won’t talk to you guys.'"
Phils Win, Avoid Being Lynch-ed
By Jack Kiser
For seven swift innings, young Ed Lynch chilled the Phillies on two mediocre singles. In complete command, he walked three and struck out five and was never threatened.
Not bad for a rookie making his third start in the biggies and dragging a 6.75 earned run average behind him. His Mets finally lost to the Phillies in 10 innings, 1-0, at the Vet last night but Lynch was blameless. He was taking a shower when Pete Rose hit the game-winning single, having been lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
"It feels good, very good," the 24-year-old Lynch said later. "Holding a team that everybody respects for seven innings might show them that I can play up here. Two things would have made it better, though. I would have liked to have won, and I would have loved for it to come against Marty Bystrom. I was really charged up to pitch against him."
BYSTROM IS the Phillies' sizzling rookie who was scheduled to pitch last night, but was moved up to tonight's starting spot when Larry Christenson returned to the starting rotation. He is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.23 and Lynch has been rooting for fiim in every start.
"Even in his first start against the Mets, but don't tell anybody," Lynch said. "Marty and I are neighbors in Miami. We work out all winter long together. We talk and we kid and we are good friends. I've certainly been friends with him longer than I had with any of the New York players, so I guess it was OK to pull for him. Especially since his team is going for first place and my team is going nowhere."
Bystrom threw some friendly needles toward Lynch erly in the game, especially during his warm-up pitches. "I could pick up his voice without looking over there," Lynch said. "He was saying the usual things, talking about a tight hold because they were coming at me. I paid it no mind. I did the same thing to him. Just having fun with your friend."
But once the pitches came for real, Lynch was all business. He stands 6-5 and and weighs 210 but looks much thinner. "I felt good, very good," he said. "I've got a slider I'm rather proud of, and it was breaking good for me. I was spotting my fastball well. I wanted to challenge them as much as I could, take the game to them. Nobody wins by pitching off his heels.
"THEY WENT OVER the lineup with me several times, telling me who hit what and where and stuff like that. But I mainly went on the theory of making every man hit as good a pitch as I could throw. I did that well all night, except for one time when I was thinking ahead to Pete Rose and didn't put much on a pitch that Christenson hit for a single.
"The one man I treated with extra respect was Mike Schmidt. Alex (catcher Trevino) told me it was OK to challenge everybody but Mike. He said to pitch to him as if a man were in scoring position every time he came to the plate, because there was.
"I pitched Schmidt too careful and walked him twice. That's not good. I want to make thern hit the ball I’d rather have three strikeouts and no walks than 15 strikeouis and 10 walks."
Lynch gave up but 48 walks in 163 innings at Tidewater, Va., before being called up. He was 13-6 at the time. "I was 13-6 but 1 should have been 15-4," Lynch said. "Losing my concentration cost me two wins.
"This is the best game I've pitched, I guess, when you consider the opposition. I was good against the Cubs (a 4-2 win) and just fair against Pittsburgh (a 4-3 loss). But I really bombed in my first appearance. Really smelled out the place.
"IT WAS IN San Francisco. The wind was blowing hard and the ground was like concrete. I had just come up and Joe Torre (Mets manager) wanted me to get my feet wet in relief. Well, I'm no relief man It takes me some time to get warmed up. I gave up four runs in one inning I didn't just get my feet wet. I got drowned. That's why my ERA looks so bad."
The Phillies have a habit of making' new pitchers look good. They made Lynch look great. It wasn't until hotshot reliever Neil Allen came on in the eighth that they started to connect with anything resembling authority.
Allen has 22 saves, which ties him for third place in the National League in that department. He had allowed just four earned runs in his last 33⅓ innings when Rose came through with his seeing-eye single over second.
"I didn't see how they scored,'' Lynch said. "I was taking a shower. They tell me it was a single, a bunt and another single. Rose, huh? Well, he's had so many of those I don't guess it's any surprise."
Last night's big surprise, however, was furnished by Lynch's strong showing. "I wish I had been able to pitch against him," said Bystrom, a laugh in his eyes. "I would have loved to hit against him. I would have had something to brag about all winter long."
There were four winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the sixth inning of the Phillies-Mets game, winners of four tickets each to a Phillies game next season were Anne Bach, Henry Greenaway, Thos. P. English and Roberta Gardner, all Philadelphia.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $19,145.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 72.