Wilmington Evening Journal - September 9, 1980
McGraw finds good omen in first victory
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Tug McGraw didn't want to face the winter banquet circuit without a victory. A 12-year-old can ask a lot of embarrassing questions.
"You go to a Little League banquet and the first thing they always ask you is How many games did you win last year?' " McGraw said. "And all you can say is 'Next question."'
The Phillies' left-handed relief ace took care of that matter last night, registering his first victory of the season as the Phils beat the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 on the strength of a four-run eighth inning.
Beating the Pirates is always a high for the Phillies, no matter how much Manager Dallas Green tries to downplay the importance of any one game. But the impish McGraw dug for an omen in the haystack of a tight National League East race that finds the Phils a half-game behind Montreal and two games in front of the Pirates.
"I got my first win in August in 1973 and we (Mets) lost in the seventh game of the World Series that year," McGraw said, Irish grin widening as he spoke. "I didn't get the first win until September this year, so we'll probably win the World Series.
"There HAS to be an omen in there somewhere, even if I have to make it up."
McGraw is now 1-4. But he also has 17 saves and a 1.90 earned-run average, which is more of the yardstick by which relief pitchers are measured, Little League interrogators notwithstanding.
"It's always nice to win a game," said McGraw, "but the main thing is that you're doing your job. Wins are hard to come by for a reliever. You usually come in with men on base and, if you give up a run, it could cost you the game. It's usually a save-or-lose situation.
Last night it was also a situation where McGraw had to face a pair of past tormenters while the game was still tied 2-2 In the seventh, to say nothing of the fact that McGraw left the bases loaded in the ninth when he struck out Phil Garner to end the game.
Business as usual.
The game was scoreless until the fifth when John Milner homered to right off rookie Bob Walk, celebrating his 15th (week) anniversary of his first big-league start against the Bucs here on Memorial Day. He lasted just 2.2 innings that night, allowing five runs.
But Milner's homer was only the second hit Walk allowed (of four) and gave Pittsburgh, which now has lost 13 of 15 games, a brief 1-0 lead.
The Phils got two against Don Robinson in the sixth. Mike Schmidt's 37th homer (and 22nd at the Vet, tying Deron Johnson's single-season club record) tied the. game. Then Garry Maddox singled home Manny Trillo, who got to second when tumbling left fielder Mike Easier couldn't hold his blooper that went for a double.
But Walk couldn't hold the lead and the Bucs tied the score on back-to-back doubles by Dave Parker and Easier in the seventh.
"Bob's a little tired," said Green, "and it shows up in the sixth or seventh innings, like it did tonight. But he gives you all he's got when he's in there."
Green waved in McGraw with Easier on second, Milner at bat and Ed Ott on deck. Tug McGraw knew all about Milner and Ott, two of the four left-handed swingers who hit grand slams off the Tugger last season. That tied a major-league record, which also raises hands at Little League banquets.
"Don't think I didn't know it," said McGraw. "And there were 40,000 (and 576) people in the stands tonight to remind me."
He walked Milner but got Ott on a routine fly to center for the second out. Phil Garner's grounder to Larry Bowa ended the Pirate rally.
"I wasn't worried about those guys tonight because the bases weren't loaded," said McGraw.
But they were, through a strange series of misadventures, in the ninth after the Phils had scored four runs in the eighth off relievers Enrique Romo and Kent Tekulve to put McGraw in position for that elusive first victory.
McGraw had two out with Easier at first, facing Milner again.
Tug thought he had Milner struck out but was caught in midair by umpire Gerry Crawford's "ball three" call on a checked-swing appeal. That's when McGraw temporarily lost his concentration.
"When I think the game's over, I let it all hang out," said McGraw, who usually vaults off the mound, slapping his thigh with his glove as he goes.
“When I saw Milner's bat go around, I thought the game was over. But I had to get it back together out there and it was pretty tough."
So tough, in fact, that he almost walked Ott, not once but twice. Ott twice started to trot to first base with what he thought was ball four, only to have Crawford ring up two strikes. Ott finally singled off McGraw's glove to load the bases.
"I could've had that ball," said McGraw, "but he didn't hit it hard enough to stick in my glove."
No matter. McGraw struck out Garner to end the game and did an extra-special midair jackknife to celebrate the victory.
Ott, meanwhile, made a beeline for Crawford, who'd started up the tunnel. Crawford obliged the irate Pirate by coming back down the tunnel and engaging in an obscenity-filled shouting match with Ott.
Umpire Andy Olsen and several security guards had to restrain Ott, who had bodily harm in mind for Shag Crawford's son.
"He called me a bleeping crybaby." said Ott. "Not just a crybaby, a bleeping crybaby! If he thinks I'm going to forget it, he's crazy. He's a joke. He's just living off his father's reputation."
McGraw didn't want to get into the argument. Well, not much.
"The umpires giveth and the umpires taketh away," he said philosophically. "You have to learn to accept what they give you today to make up for what you think they took away from you another time."
McGraw didn't mind discussing his sacrifice bunt with the bases loaded in the eighth that got home the game's final run. Did he consider hitting a grand slam, just to make up for the ones he'd allowed?
"I figure my odds were better squeezing," said McGraw, smiling, after letting the thought rattle around in his head for a moment, savoring the mental image of circling the bases to a standing ovation. "If he (Green) had put on the grand-slam sign, who knows what would happen.''
Disaster, no doubt. Anyway, McGraw got the run home but the play finally turned into an inning-ending double play. But four runs had scored, courtesy of Greg Luzinski's game-winning single off Romo. Larry Bowa's bases-loaded double over first against Tekulve and that beauty of a bunt by McGraw.
"It was a nice bunt, wasn't it?" he said, again smiling. "I liked it myself. I don't think I've ever squeezed a run home before, but I've always been a good bunter."
And a top-notch relief pitcher, even if victories sometimes take a long time coming. But Tug McGraw's first victory of 1980 is history now and God help the Little Leaguer who forgets it this winter.
EXTRA INNINGS - Bake McBride led the Phils' hit parade with a 4-for-4 outing... Phils had scored in just one of their last 34 innings before getting two runs in the sixth... The Pirates had won six straight over the Phillies... "They have sort of dominated us this year," said Green, "so it's nice to beat them."... Bucs have lost 16 of 21... Steve Carlton faces John Candelaria in tonight's 8:15 game that NBC will beam nationally (though there's a local blackout)... Marty Bystrom makes his first major-league start tomorrow night against the Mets in Shea Stadium.
Bowa’s fine play finally notices
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – LARRY BOWA sat on the backseat of the car, thumbing through Phillies boxscores. He counted out loud, running a game-by-game total as the auto made its way along crowded Sunset Boulevard late last Saturday night.
"Not too bad," Bowa mused. "With guys on base, I've been doing pretty well on this trip."
"And you've hit into a lot of tough outs," Pete Rose, sitting on the front seat, offered. "A lot of tough outs."
"Yeah, yeah," said Bowa, "but I guess those things even out."
Larry Bowa didn't have to study the boxscores and he didn't have to tell Pete Rose about tough outs. Larry Bowa can wake up in the middle of the night and tell you anything you want to know about his hitting, his fielding and everything else you might want to know about the Phillies.
When the Phils made their way out of Los Angeles last Sunday night, Bowa's brilliant performance on the grueling road trip had almost gone unnoticed. He had collected 11 hits in 38 at-bats, scored four runs and driven in four.
Last night, however, with 40,567 customers giving Veterans Stadium a World Series atmosphere, Larry Bowa's performance certainly did not go unnoticed.
Only in October will the Phillies know how important was their come-from-behind 6-2 victory over the dazed Pirates. If it does serve as a springboard for the stretch drive to another National League Eastern Division title, teammates will be quick to point out how Larry Bowa hit a high-bouncing two-run double in the eighth inning when the Phils broke the game open, scoring four times.
"A lot of people wondered why I let Bowa swing away in that situation," Manager Dallas Green said, referring to the bases-loaded, one-out situation. "Why didn't I have him squeezing? Well, the way he has been swinging the bat lately, I just had a gut feeling he was going to get a lot of wood on the ball. And he did."
Bowa, who is hitting .259, showed the aggressive kind of baseball he is capable of playing moments later when he tried to score from second base on Tug McGraw's suicide squeeze that produced the Phils' sixth run. Bowa was out on a close play to complete a doubleplay, but the customers loved the bang-bang excitement.
"The element of surprise," said Bowa. "It was a routine play for them to get Tug, then the pitcher had to cover homeplate, I figured it was worth a chance. These are the kinds of plays the Pirates pull against us – and make work. Yeah, it was worth a try."
"Pete Rose probably didn't think so," Mike Schmidt kidded. "He would have had a chance to drive in a run with you on third base. But, Bowa made things happen in that inning. Last year the Pirates came here and beat us after we had an eight-run lead. It was almost as if we lit a fire under them. They went on to become world champions and I think that game had a lot to do with it. Maybe the same thing can happen to us after tonight's win."
"I don't care what you say, or what they have been doing lately, the Pirates are still the world champions," said Bowa. "We just could not afford to lose to them tonight. It was a very important game, but tomorrow night's is important and so is the one after that and the one after that."
BOWA, WHOSE sub-par fielding as recently as 10 days ago was a topic of conversation, has gotten his act together. He is looking and acting more and more like the real Larry Bowa.
"He's been down," said close-friend Greg Luzinski, who drove in an important run in the eighth with a two-strike single. "He's a tough guy to figure. He was the leading hitter on our trip, but nobody noticed it. You have to give him credit for the way he has battled back."
"I've worked my butt off taking extra hitting," said Bowa. "I've had a good stroke now for over two weeks. I just go up there feeling like I can help the team with my bat."
Manager Dallas Green has a tremendous amount of respect for Bowa, but he's not sure the shortstop feels the same way about him. Six or seven years ago Green made a remark about a shortstop in the minors, Craig Robinson, and Bowa has never forgotten. Green, at the time, felt Robinson could play the position as well as Bowa. Then, when Green announced during the off-season that Bowa would hit seventh or eighth in the batting order, the shortstop burned.
"I don't think he really trusts me," said Green last night. "It probably all goes back to the Robinson incident. I don't think he feels I am a Larry Bowa man.
"But he has settled down considerably in terms of mood and nervousness. He seemed to really be up-tight and worried a few weeks ago. We have tried all year to keep him away from that. Paul Owens has talked to him and he respects Paul a great deal. Paul didn't tell him anything different than any of us told him, but coming from Paul it always hits home more."
Green thinks Bowa's problems started in spring training, when as the team player representative, he was involved in strike negotiations. All of that off-the-field activity bothered him, then the drug stories broke in July and he had more problems.
"Those drug stories hurt him deeply," said Green. "It has taken him time to get over that."
"I have busted my butt for this team and city and then to have those stories printed, 1 couldn't believe it," said Bowa. "They hurt me, my wife, my mother and father. And nobody bothered to get my side of the story. That's what hurt the most."
As for his 14 errors compared to only six last year, Bowa says; "I am not going to have a year like 1979 again. Everything went right for me. But look at the averages. I've got fewer errors than any of the National League shortstops."
And just about any shortstop in the business would gladly accept Larry Bowa's season and be happy.
But to Bowa, it's not up to par and he's working hard to get it where he thinks it should be.
And the Phillies are benefiting.