Reading Eagle - September 29, 1980
McBride, McGraw McZap Expos
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – The 50,887 fans who showed up at Veterans Stadium Friday night had been urged to do their best to turn on The Force in favor of the Phillies.
Well, the Phils’ offense again sputtered like Han Solo’s ship, but Bake McBride was able to deliver a devastating one-shot blow at the end in the best Luke Skywalker tradition.
And he was rewarded with a more enthusiastic reception than Princess Leia ever tendered.
The Phillies rode McBride’s homer run on the first pitch of the ninth to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Expos in the opener of the National League’s three-game Star War.
That enabled the Phils to open a 1½-game lead on the Expos (two in the loss column), their biggest lead of the season. And they’re now a whopping 5½ games ahead of Pittsburgh, the 1979 empire which definitely won’t stike back.
McBride and Tug McGraw, as dissimilar a pair of Solo and Chewbacca, were the late-game heroes. Tug pitched a perfect eighth and ninth, then led a welcome reception for McBride so wild that even C-3PO would have lost his cool.
They beautifully complemented the earlier heroes – Dick Ruthven, who threw seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball, and Garry Maddox, who drilled a second-inning home run for the other score.
The Phillies totaled just five hits, which breaks their pattern of six hits they had maintained for the last three nights. They’ve scored just 11 runs in the last five games – and won four of them, all by one run.
If The Force isn’t with them, something else is.
McGraw, the extrovert who has something clever to say for any situation, and whose exuberance knows no bounds. McBride, the introvert who seldom has anything to say, and when he does, speaks so softly few can catch what he says.
But they felt the power of The Force Friday. McGraw even talked about it.
“At one time I tried to block out all the energy which would be flowing around the park,” said Tug. “But Gil Hodges showed me it was better to be aware of the energy and absorb it, and use it in a positive way to help me pitch.
“When I flew off the field (after striking out Andre Dawson in the ninth with a super 3-2 screwball), I just said ‘thank you’ for whatever force it was that allowed me to do that. And then I just wanted some runs real bad.”
McGraw, who didn’t win a game this year till Sept. 8, has now won four to go with his 18 saves (three this month). In his last 11 outings, he’s given no runs in 16-2/3 innings. Since coming off the disabled list July 17, he has an 0.63 ERA for 43 innings in 29 games.
“He’s so strong – I don’t know where he’s getting it from,” said Dallas Green.
“I’m pitching as well as I ever have,” said Tug. “I’m physically and mentally strong. This year Dallas has been real efficient and consistent in the way he’s handled the pitching. Also, I worked out real hard last winter to get my strength back.”
McGraw tried to insist that he was “really pretty calm” at the start of the welcome celebration, which is a little like saying things are pretty calm around the Persian Gulf. “But the people were so enthusiastic I just kind of got caught up in it. The next thing I knew, I just became a fan.”
The bare-headed McGraw, after waving his arms wildly, engaged in a hand-slapping duel with Larry Bowa while waiting for McBride to circle the bases. Jay Loviglio found his speed is useful for getting to the head of the line, and Bob Walk kept thrusting his index finger skyward like a high-school cheerleader. Everybody else joined in.
“I’m real happy they’re enjoying this, and that the fans are enjoying this,” said Green. “That shows this group wants to win, and that they care. Sometimes they’re not emotional, but tonight it was sincere, and so deep, and much in evidence.”
McBride had his emotions fully under control by the time he agreed to talk to the press. “It was a breaking pitch that I wasn’t really trying to hit out,” he said quietly.
“I thought it was going out when I hit it, then I realized the wind was blowing in (from right) and I didn’t know if it had a chance. No, I don’t look for no pitches; I just hit what I see.”
The fans had raised the noise level a few hundred decibels as McBride approached the plate against Dave Palmer, the Expo route-goer. It didn’t hex him into throwing a bad pitch – just one McBride was able to propel out with not much to spare.
“Schmitty has the state,” said Green. “But Bake McBride deserves an awful lot of the credit for where we are.”
“He has those bum knees, but he’s done everything we expected and asked of him. He’s worked awfully hard to prove a lot of things to some people who were talking trade.”
McBride, at .308 the only Phil above .290 when the rookies don’t play, now leads Schmidt by one (14-13) for club game-winning RBI honors. With 82 RBIs he trails only Schmidt; his previous RBI high for a season was 61.
Green also had words of praise for Ruthven, whom he lifted after seven because “both Boonie and I thought he might be losing a hair. But I couldn’t have been prouder of him; it was a guts performance.”
Dallas had to feel good, with the first-game jump and Steve Carlton going after No. 24 this afternoon. “I feel better than yesterday,” he said. And every victory will make him feel better.
PHIL-PHILLERS – Expos got only two runners past first. Jerry White doubled with two out in the sixth and scored on Rodney Scott’s single under Bowa’s glove. Dawson doubled with one out in the seventh and was stranded… Greg Luzinski made a very big defensive play by catching up to Rowland Office’s curving shot in the deep corner for the second out in the ninth… Phils are 17-8 for September, 10-2 in one-run games… The team ERA is now 3.46, lowest since the season’s first week… Coach Bobby Wine had announced McBride would homer on the first pitch as the last of the ninth began. Palmer said climactic pitch (his 91st) “didn’t have real good location.”