Montreal Gazette - September 27, 1980
Phillies’ win lands Expos in deep hole
By Ian MacDonald of The Gazette
PHILADELPHIA – With electrifying suddenness, the Expos and their title dreams are in severe jeopardy.
Moments after the Expos lost 2-1 to the Phillies and fell 1½ games behind the latter in the National League East race, the players talked about the necessity of winning the remaining two games here.
Now, it is the Phillies talking magic number. Any combination of eight Philadelphia wins and Expos' losses will give the title to the former.
It will be difficult to win two here because, for starters, the Expos face one of baseball's premier pitchers in Steve Carlton this afternoon.
"We must win the two next games," said Expos' centrefielder Andre Dawson, who missed a home run by less than a foot in the seventh inning, a stroke that would have given the Expos the lead.
"We really thought we would win today. The players were not tight at all. That was a good game but we have to win."
Nothing has changed
Asked if it was a must for the Expos to win here today and tomorrow, first baseman Warren Cromartie said: "That's an understatement. We knew we had to win two here for sure and nothing has changed that."
There was an eeriness in the Expos' clubhouse because doctors and visitors kept going to the manager's office where chairman of the board Charles Bronfman was stretched out.
The only official word was that Bronfman was suffering from back spasms. Officials were trying to arrange for his flight back to Montreal.
Sore-armed David Palmer pitched a magnificent game for the Expos but home runs by Garry Maddox, in the second, and by Bake McBride to lead off the ninth did the damage.
"That's the biggest hit of my career," said a smiling McBride after he hit the first pitch with the huge scoreboard still flashing a "Let's get psyched" message.
Expos' manager Dick Williams and pitching coach Galen Cisco both said that Palmer was high with the two pitches that killed him and put the Expos into a severe bind.
"That was an outstanding game for both sides," Williams said. "It was well pitched and well played.
"David only threw 91 pitches and he had retired eight in a row. We were watching him carefully and that was the last inning that he was going to pitch."
Palmer, 7-6, was asked if the screaming and urging of the 50,887 in the ninth inning bothered him.
"Not at all," said the young righthander. "McBride hit the home run, not the crowd.
"Maddox hit a hanging curve. I made the mistake there because Maddox is a good curveball hitter.
"McBride hit a curveball in the strike zone. I wanted tie pitch to be further inside. I didn't want to walk him because Schmidt (Mike) and Luzinski (Greg) were coming up next."
The two homers, the 11th for Maddox on a first pitch with two out in the second, and the ninth for McBride, who is enjoying an excellent season, were enough because the Expos scored only once against Dick Ruthven and Tug McGraw.
Jerry White doubled with two away in the sixth and scored when Rodney Scott's grounder went under Larry Bowa's glove for a single.
It was in the next inning that Dawson just missed with a solid linedrive to centre.
"I knew I had hit the ball hard but I didn't know if it had the distance," Dawson said.
After Gary Carter, whose consecutive game hitting streak on this road trip was stopped at 10, popped, the Phillies walked Cromartie intentionally.
Larry Parrish was called out on strikes by Dutch Rennert.
"The ball was five inches outside," sighed Parrish who popped twice in the infield before that.
"The guys were watching the replays and said the ball was way outside. That's a bad time for him to miss one – the worst (expletive) time in the ball game."
In a surprise move, Phillies' manager Dick Green replaced Ruthven with Tug McGraw after the seventh and that was the end for the Expos.
McGraw faced just six men. Luzinski had to make an excellent catch to rob Rowland Office of extra bases but McGraw then whiffed Dawson.
Not much hitting
Both Green and catcher Bob Boone agreed that Ruthven was losing his velocity and the change was decided on to avoid further trouble.
The sizzling Phillies are making their September surge without much hitting. They are 10-2 in one-run games this month and they have won their last three games while scoring the grand total of five runs.
Fear is the key in pennant races
By Michael Farber of The Gazette
Hours after he had handled a ground ball for the final out of the 1955 World Series, Pee Wee Reese sat in a Brooklyn bar alone with his thoughts and his beer – until a drunk sidled over.
"Hey, Pee Wee," slobbered the fellow to the Dodger shortstop, "what wuz ya thinking wit two outs in da ninth?"
"I was thinking," Reese said, " 'Please don't let him hit the ball to me.'"
Pee Wee Reese, a non-pareil professional, had said the unsayable: He was scared. He had said this:
New York Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles said the same thing after he caught Carl Yastrzemski's Boston pop to end the 1978 one-game playoff between the Red Sox and Yankees. "I kept thinking 'Pop him up, pop him up, pop him up,'" Nettles said, " 'but not to me, not to me, not to me.'"
Eleven days later, Nettles would give a virtuoso fielding performance in the third game of the World Series. In the same game, the usually steady Los Angeles Dodgers unveiled a new double-play combination: Moe to Larry to Curly. The Dodgers wrestled ground balls into submission, kicked them a few times to make sure they were dead, and left New York screaming about the animals who lived in that dung-hill of a city.
In their boorish way, the Dodgers said it, too:
As the National League East race enters its final week, dealing with pressure becomes as important as handling the inside fastball. If fear strikes out on the Expos, they may win the division. If they can't handle the heat, then they may not win the division. Simple, really.
Fear isn't pretty. Fear doesn't sell 7-Up, doesn't get you long-term contracts.
It comes in all shapes and sizes, but "choking" – a specific, negative response to a situation rather than the act of winning or losing – sums it up, whether athletes like it or not. And they don't like it. Call a guy an SOB, maybe, but don't call him a choke artist.
"There's no pressure in a pennant race," said t Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates last week. "Pressure is not having food on the table."
Answer too cute
Maybe for us that's pressure, but not for Dave Parker. He earns a million dollars a year and eats quite well, thank you. No, the answer is too facile, too cute... like Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, who refuses to use the word "pressure"; he just says the Orioles have to win a lot of games.
"Undoubtedly there's more pressure on the players because every play, every mistake becomes magnified at this time of year," Philadelphia manager Dallas Green said. "Nobody admits it, but there are as many guys on a professional level who don't like pressure as there are people who don't like pressure in any walk of life. It's hard to look in a mirror and say that this isn't my cup of tea."
"Sometimes," Phillie relief pitcher Tug McGraw said, "your nerves take over your body. Not only can't you transmit messages from your brain, the messages aren't even there. Like in a situation where you make a dumb 0-2 pitch because you're too nervous to think.
"I did it in the final game of the playoffs in L.A. (in 1978). There were two outs (in the 10th) and then we made an error. I'm thinking, 'Don't let it bother you, don't let it bother you, DON'T LET IT BOTHER YOU.' Obviously, it's bothering me, the fact that's it's on my mind. I walk somebody and then I'm pitching to (Bill) Russell. Instead of going with a screwball or fastball, I get beat with my fourth best pitch a curve. That's choking.
"Recognition of something like that is the first step towards dealing with it. At least that's what they tell a drunk when he goes to Alcoholics Anonymous."
"Conquering fear through knowledge," Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates calls it, although an equally popular baseball antidote for The Tight Butt is conquering fear through ignorance.
Some players don't know the meaning of the word fear ... and they can't spell it either – making them oblivious to pressure and a lot of other things.
"A Tight Butt is the result of one of two negative things," said Expo pitcher Steve Rogers. "It can be because you have a fear of failure or because you are trying too hard. The causes are different but the results the same. In either case, you might choke off your fastball or you might mot swing as freely, something like that.
"Many people say pressure is all self-induced, but the only time I've ever really felt pressure it came from external sources. It was in Pittsburgh last year (September 26 when the Expos trailed the first place Pirates by a half game). Dick (Williams, the Expo manager) already had told people he would have preferred to have someone else starting.
"I was dwelling on the negative, and the negative took place. I was wary of failure, proba My thinking subconsciously that if they hit one out, I'll be in trouble. I was afraid of messing things up rather than pitching winning baseball."
And the 1980 Expos are aware the same thing could happen en masse.
The Tight Butt has become the Expos' demon – as it is for all contending teams. They have tried to exorcise it with humor.
"First place, fellas," Warren Cromartie yelled in the clubhouse on the Expos' final West Coast trip, swinging an imaginary bat and running imaginary bases like a man with hemmorhoids. Some of the Expos grinned.
Pressure obviously is a tough act to swallow.
"We play better out of first place," Expo centre fielder Andre Dawson said during that trip. "We seem more relaxed.
"I wish they would stop flashing the Phillie and Pirate scores every inning when we're at home We play the game with one eye on the scoreboard. If those teams are winning, we tend to tense up. And if they're losing, we tend to relax. I just hope we realize that we can't depend on anyone else. If we win this thing, we'll do it on our own."
The Expos almost did last year, winning 23 of 34 games in September, but they fell short of the Pirates, who won 40 of their final 58 games. "I think that experience will help the Expos," said Green, the Philadelphia manager. "They've been through the war once."
As the Expos were losing the final battle to Steve Carlton and the Phillies, 2-0, on the last day of the 1979 season, the Pirates beat the Cubs. The final out came on a pop fly to the left side of the infield. Shortstop Tim Foli had played every ball in the air to that side all season, but he made no movement towards this one. Third baseman Bill Madlock caught it.
The Pirates, who have won 63.8 per cent of all September and October home games in the past 10 years, went on to sweep the playoffs and then win the World Series after trailing Baltimore three games to one.
A great pressure team, right?
"I tell you, for the first four games of the Series, we couldn't catch a ball," Madlock said. "As loose as we usually are, we were tight then. But because we came back, all that seems to have been forgotten.
"I know I was nervous during the pennant race last year. I was irritable around the house. I had trouble sleeping. It was all new to me so when we got to the playoffs, I asked Pops (Stargell) about it.
"He told me, 'The playoffs are like a fine dinner. You sit down and order some nice wine, a big steak, dessert, an after-dinner drink. You enjoy yourself.'"
Before their two games with the Phillies, last week, the gourmet Pirates seemed to be having trouble getting dinner down.
Pittsburgh won the first game of the series, but Philadelphia rallied in extra innings to win the second – its first must-win victory of the season.
"I'm not sure if this team has a fear of failure," said Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia third baseman and possible National League Most Valuable Player. "Looking back at the nucleus of our team the past six or seven years, I think, yes, at times we were afraid of failing. I don't know if that's still true, but in any case, there is a great deal of pressure because we're the Philadelphia Phillies. People look at our talent and say there's no way we should lose.
"Each one of us handles pressure in his own way. I've been able to minimize it in my own mind. Pressure at this time actually is fun."
So somebody will exit laughing from this race next Sunday and continue, first to the National League playoffs and then the World Series.
There – and only there – a reputation as a clutch player can be won because there – and only there – is the attention of the entire continent focused.
Roberto Clemente, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson and Reggie Jackson within the past decade have molded the moment to their whims, making the World Series private forums. Jackson, especially, is capable of prime-time athletic miracles his three home runs for the Yankees in the final game of the 1978 Series being his grandest self-tribute.
"He responds," said Dick Williams, who managed Jackson in Oakland. "Reggie loves the spotlight I told John (McHale, Expo president) when we were trying to sign him that we ought to just follow him around with a spotlight and shine it on him everywhere he went."
For every Reggie Jackson, there is a Burt Hooton.
Hooton, the fine Dodger pitcher, lost control of the ball and himself in the third game of the 1977 playoffs in Philadelphia. Hooton was squeezed on a few calls by the umpire, and then, succumbed to the catcalls of the 63,719 Veterans Stadium fans. Phillie fans are tough – some upper deck types once tried to set the team mascot, Phillie Phanatic, on fire – but ultimately it was only Hooton who walked in three runs.
"You can feel pennant pressure," Tug McGraw said. "My knees shake on the mound, and when I walk it off, I feel like a cripple. That's when I regroup and regain control of myself. That's what I didn't do in the playoff against the Dodgers. I was worried about the situation, and I hurried up to get it over with.
"You have to examine the question: 'What is making me nervous?' It's a problem-solution situation. The problem is you've got the tying and winning runs on base. Well, the hitter is the solution, not part of the problem. You have to think you're going to get him out and end all your troubles rather than worry about what he can do to hurt you.
"Pressure gets to everybody, whether they admit it or not The team or the person who can deal with it 90 or 95 per cent of the time, they're going to do okay."
McGraw a screwball – like his best pitch
By Michael Farber of The Gazette
PHILADELPHIA – Tug McGraw did what came naturally last night, acting like his out pitch:
Yes, there was Tugger looking like the Flying Nun, dancing like Travolta and giving the index finger to a crowd of 50,887 at Veterans Stadium celebrating the Philadelphia Phillies' 2-1 victory over the Expos last night.
Truly, like McGraw, it was amazing. They are the toughest fans in sports folks who once tried to light the Phillie Phanatic on fire, fans who go to the airport during rainouts to boo had landings – but now, the Vet was jiving.
"Me, too," said the 36-year-old McGraw. "For a moment, I forgot I was a player and turned into a fan. I wanted to be part of it all.
"When I first came up with the Mets in 1965, they told me to calm down, block everything out of my mind and concentrate on the hitters. I used up so much energy trying to block out what was going on around me. I had nothing left to throw the ball. I became aware of it and started absorbing the energy of my environment rather than shutting it out."
So all he shut out last night were the Expos, retiring six of them on 17 pitches of perfect relief as the Phillies increased their National League East lead to 1½ games. And when Bake McBride hit a home run on David Palmer's first pitch of the ninth, McGraw was the winner.
Since he came off the disabled list July 17, McGraw has appeared in 29 games, allowing just 25 hits and three runs in 43 innings pitched. He now has four saves and three victories this month, having beaten the Pirates and Expos – the only teams to defeat him – as the pennant push has come to shove.
"This part of baseball is the best," . said McGraw, a left-hander by anatomy and philosophy. Next to his locker is a Pet Nail. Really. "The two teams, going nose-to-nose, battling for something. That's what you play for."
But McGraw really plays for the sheer joy. He is as much a celebrant as an actor in this passion play of September, this special time of year.
And the Expos and Phillies played a delicious game, certainly worthy of the season. If there were any tightness – Philadelphia shortstop Larry Bowa looked awful allowing Rodney Scott's single under his glove for the lone Expo run, for example – the positive energy far out-stripped it.
Perhaps it was no more evident than in the ninth inning when the Vet Scoreboard flashed: "Let's Get Psyched." And did they ever, proving that a computer can arouse a crowd at least as much as the Dallas Cowgirls. The crowd stood and cheered and roared.
Palmer threw a curveball. It hung, and McBride hung it out to dry. End of game.
McBride circled the bases with an upraised fist, and a horde of Phillies .an to home plate for the ensuing hero's welcome. McGraw and catcher Bob Boone were giving each other high fives, low fives and side-armed fives – really bringing it... as McGraw always does.
He first brought it last night in the eighth inning replacing starter Dick Ruthven. Six pitches – two each to Chris Speier, Palmer and Jerry White – and he was out of the inning. Scott popped up to start the ninth, and then Rowland Office sliced a fly deep into the left field comer. For a normal left fielder, it's a good catch. For the ponderous Greg Luzinksi, it's a fine one.
Then came Andre Dawson.
"He was the key," McGraw said of Dawson, whose seventh inning double had hit two feet below the top of the fence in left-centre. "If he gets on, with his speed, he's going to be on second base and maybe the winning run."
But the sequence of pitches McGraw threw was outstanding.
Valentine shelved for series with Phils
PHILADELPHIA (Gazette) – Ellis Valentine will not play in this crucial weekend series with the Phillies.
Valentine is in Montreal taking ultrasound treatment for the left wrist he spiained while attempting a diving catch in St Louis last Sunday.
"I spoke to him this morning (yesterday)," Expos' president John McHale said. "He told me the wrist is giving him considerable pain and that he cannot play.
"He said he can evaluate the situation again on Monday."
Valentine, leading the Expos in hitting at .319, has started only three games since Aug. 20 when he was sidelined with a hip injury. He missed 40 days between May 30 and July 10 with multiple fractures to his cheekbone after being beaned.
Valentine's status and the fact that Ron LeFlore still has his broken left wrist in a cast finds the Expos working overtime in efforts to have Willie Montanez ruled eligible for possible playoff and World Series action.
Montanez is ineligible according to the rules because the Expos officially acquired him from the Padres and added him to their roster on Sept. 1. Organization rosters are frozen for this purpose at midnight, Aug. 31.
However, the Expos claim that they had completed the deal for Montanez before the deadline but that the League asked them to hold off for a few days because of an outstanding loan the player has with the Mets.
EXPOSES – More than 3,000 general admission tickets for the National League playoffs are on sale today at Olympic Stadium between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. The cost is $5. Also a limited number of reserved seats, at $12 and $18, will be on sale...
Righthander Bill Gullickson, who was found to be a diabetic during a routine spring physical and must take insulin shots daily for life, had a talk with Flyers' star Bobby Clark yesterday. Clarke has been a diabetic since long before his great NHL career began...
Advertising it as a 'Canadian Double', the Flyers have offered a $2.50 cut in ticket price for tonight's hockey game with the Canadiens for anyone showing up with a stub from today's Expos-Phillies game...