Philadelphia Inquirer - March 10, 1980

To the Phils, politics isn’t primary

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – In case anybody was planning on writing him in, Pete Rose says he has no desire to be president of the good old U.S. A. – ever.

 

First of all, he'd have to take a $600,000 pay cut, which would hardly keep him in Mercedes-Benzes. Second of all, you don't see a whole lot of heads of state doing Aqua Velva commercials. And third of all, who needs the aggravation?

 

"I sit at home," said Rose yesterday, "and wonder why anybody would want to be president. I guess it's just a power thing, huh?"

 

If it is, it certainly is a power thing unlike the power thing commonly associated with George Foster or Mike Schmidt. But Mike Schmidt-type power has been a very minor topic of conversation in Florida the last week.

 

Tomorrow the state holds its presidential primary, so spring training's annual spotlight has been replaced this week by the thrills of observing George Bush and the gang running around hitting political fungoes.

 

This is sure a lot more exciting than watching Manny Trillo do stretching exercises. But not if you're a baseball player, apparently. Most of the guys who play for the Phillies are too busy getting ready for another baseball campaign to worry about another presidential campaign.

 

"I've got enough trouble following baseball," said utility infielder Bud Harrelson. "I never really got that interested in politics, to tell you the truth."

 

Harrelson said he probably knows as much about politics "as politicians know about baseball" and said if it were up to him, he would vote for Frank Sinatra. Or maybe Steve Carlton.

 

"He'd do it his way, too," Harrelson said, not very seriously.

 

Infielder John Vukovich also confessed he pays more attention to people who run bases than people who run for office. But Vukovich said he's "still a citizen." And what's any citizen worried about these days? Inflation, right?

 

"I'm a guy who doesn't make too much money," said Vukovich, who hasn't played a full season in the big leagues since 1974. "So I worry about those kinds of things like any guy on the street would."

 

Vukovich thinks the candidate who might solve things is Edward Kennedy, because he's "not afraid to go against the grain." But outside of that, and the fact Kennedy had some famous brothers, Vukovich conceded he really doesn't know much about him.

 

Del Unser announced he was no political expert, either. Then he talked for almost 10 minutes on the economy, the failures of John Connally, the "staying power" of Ronald Reagan and the probable candidacy of Gerald Ford.

 

"Geez, you sound just like a politician," said Greg Gross, listening to Unser from one locker away. "You say 'I don't know anything,' then you talk for a half-hour."

 

Unser also was the only player polled who knew anything about U. S. Rep. John Anderson, the Illinois Republican.

 

"I know he comes from a helluva state," said Unser, who happens to come from that same state.

 

The most knowledgeable of the players polled was catcher Dave Rader, who conversed easily on almost all the candidates and their positions. How did Rader know all this stuff anyway? Well, he said, his wife made him watch a debate on TV.

 

"My wife is smart," said Rader proudly.

 

And finally, back to our noted non-candidate himself, Pete Rose. Rose said he follows the campaign closely but didn't think he should back anybody because it would make somebody mad at him.

 

Rose did say he thinks Ford will get the nomination, he likes listening to Connally talk and he is turned off by Kennedy because "all he does is criticize Carter."

 

"It's a tough business," Rose said. "It's amazing to me how politicians can say all the things they say about each other, and then, as soon as it's convention time, they're all rooting for each other."

 

Rose said politics is so complex he couldn't even say who the greatest president was. He did know, however, it must not have been George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

"If they were so great," Rose wondered, "why'd they put them on the one-dollar bills and the five-dollar bills, while Ben Franklin's on them 50s?"

TV/Radio Talk (Excerpt)

 

By Harry Harris, Inquirer TV Writer

 

KYW-AM's first Phillies broadcast, Friday at 1:30 p. m., will be a Detroit Tigers exhibition game in Clearwater, Fla. The first Channel 17 telecast, on March 29, will be a Phillies-Yankees exhibition game.

 

 

Channel 6 sportscaster Don Tollefson, just back from Clearwater, is doing a "So You Want to Be a Phillie?" series at 11 o'clock all this week. Tollefson donned a Phillies uniform identifying him by name and channel number last week and engaged in various spring-training activities.

 

He pretended he was a pitching candidate. That, according to producer Eric Schoenfeld, was a wise decision, because "Tollefson can't hit, can't run, can't field."

 

 

Phillies manager Dallas Green reportedly made this assessment of the temporary rookie: "He'd stand a better chance if he learned how to put on stirrup socks."

Will Owens get his wish?

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Forb those who love baseball, this is a beautiful time of the year, a time for new hopes, rekindled enthusiasm, a time to forget last year's disappointments. Spring training begins down here and those long, northern winters seem a million light years away.

 

No wonder baseball people... and baseball fans... have come to love this time of the year. No wonder men who have spent their lives in the game feel rejuvenated when spring arrives.

 

But times have changed. If you are already sick and tired of reading about possible player strikes instead of swinging strikes; if you are saddened that the business aspects of baseball seem to be overwhelming the fun side of the game this spring, you are not alone.

 

Paul Owens is saddened, too. The general manager of the Phillies has spent most of his life in baseball; he worked 30-plus years to become the driving force behind a contending big league ball club, and now that he's made it, something's missing.

 

The fun, mostly.

 

Owens went through a two-day stretch here last week without setting foot on a baseball field, without seeing a ball thrown, without hearing the crack of a bat. He was tied up in meetings with management, with labor, with player agents.

 

Caught in middle

 

"It's taken about 80 percent of the fun out of the game," Owens said. "You find yourself doing everything but what you really want to do. You're caught now between ownership and the players...."

 

For years, Owens prided himself on his rapport with the players – with the Larry Bowas, the Greg Luzinskis, the Mike Schmidts, the Bob Boones, all the Phillies he brought along from their earliest days in pro baseball. It is becoming increasingly clear that never again will such a relationship between a general manager and a group of players be possible. There are too many barriers.

 

That's why, as he begins his eighth spring as general manager of the Phillies, Paul Owens is thinking more and more about making it his last.

 

"I'm not mad at anybody," he said. "I just don't enjoy it as much. Hell, I'd go back (to doing what he did in the old days). I'd scout. I'd work with kids again."

 

Paul Owens is 56 now. After seven years as farm director, he replaced John Quinn as general manager of a last-place club in June of 72 and built it into a three-time National League East winner. But the big prize, a place in the World Series, has eluded him.

 

"I can honestly say that a year ago I thought we had just about as good a club as you can put together," Owens said. "Well, we didn't do it, but I still feel this club can do it, and I'm glad now it's going to be basically the same club."

 

One more chance

 

Deep down, Owens didn't want to make blockbuster trades after last year's flop; he didn't want to break up the team he'd put together without giving it one more chance.

 

"It's just like if you build a house yourself you hate like hell to sell it," he said. "But one thing they have to understand: This is a big year for them."

 

And a big year for him. Paul Owens would love to go out as a winner.

 

"I told Marcelle (his wife of 34 years) how I felt last year," he said, "and she told me: 'Oh, you'll never quit.' I told her: 'I'm not talking about quitting. I'm talking about going back and doing what I like to do.' I think she thought then I was just talking, but now she knows I mean it."

 

Now they all know – Ruly Carpenter, Dallas Green, all of them.

 

"I've told Ruly, 'Hell, I could work for Dallas (the heir apparent to the GM's job). I could work for anybody. I don't have to be the boss,' " Owens said. "At the same time, I think it's a young man's game up here, too, and I don't want to sit here and – now don't get me wrong; I don't mean it the way it probably sounds – but I don't want to end up being a John Quinn at 65, hanging on because they owed me something.

 

"I told Dallas – and this was long before we thought about him as our field manager: 'Win or lose, a couple more years and that's it for me.'"

 

The first of those years was a disaster. "1 was so damn glad when ‘79 was over," Owens said. "I couldn't wait 'til '80."

 

 

Now it's here – a new spring with new hope, new enthusiasm. Much of the fun may be missing, but Paul Owens hasn't given up the idea of finding it again, of seeing the team he built play in a World Series, which surely would be the greatest fun of all.