Wilmington Evening Journal - March 14, 1980

Ruly helped Bull see right ‘weigh’

 

By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor

 

CLEARWATER, FLA. – Ruly Carpenter picked up the phone several times, but on each occasion put it back before dialing the number. Finally, in November, he called Greg Luzinski.

 

"He invited himself over to the house," Luzinski said, vividly remembering the day. "Said it wasn't urgent, but had some things he wanted to discuss. I told him to come over whenever he wanted to."

 

Ruly Carpenter drove to Greg Luzinski's New Jersey house a few days before the winter baseball meetings opened in Toronto last December. The Phillies' owner felt the time had come to put everything on the table, to clear the air.

 

"A good meeting," Luzinski said. "He told me some things and I told him some things."

 

When Ruly Carpenter gets in moods like this, he can be extremely effective. He thought the problems with Luzinski had gone too far and he was determined to do something about them.

 

What Carpenter basically did was tell Luzinski to get the weight off, to work out during the off-season at Veterans Stadium and try regular eyeglasses instead of contacts.

 

Luzinski and Ruly have always had a great relationship – ever since the left fielder was a kid of 19 fresh out of high school. It's not your typical owner-player relationship; they hunt together and have always had great respect for each other.

 

But when Carpenter watched Luzinski swell to nearly 240 pounds and have a dreadful season in 1979, it nearly tore his heart out. When the fans, who had always loved Luzinski, turned on him, it made matters even worse.

 

"Ruly was concerned," Luzinski said. "In addition to the weight and the glasses, he told me that if a deal came up where they could help the team in three or four spots, it would be hard to turn it down. I told him I wouldn't expect him to turn it down."

 

Carpenter also told the Bull that despite what was being reported he was not on the trading block and that Player Personnel Director Paul Owens was not going to Toronto to put him on the block.

 

"I thought that was great," said Luzinski. "It gave me piece of mind to a degree. Sure, I have a certain attachment to Philadelphia, but in this business you have to accept the fact that if you are traded, you are traded. There's nothing you can do about it."

 

Luzinski decided to go on a strict diet, to begin workouts at the Vet in January and try some regular glasses.

 

And as they say on Broadway, you should see him now. From 238 pounds, he has melted down to 215. He is trying clear glasses and is seeing the ball better than he has for years. And above all, Greg Luzinski has gotten back that short, devastating stroke that made him the best two-strike batter in baseball.

 

"I got a lot of static about the weight but I never felt it bothered me," said the 29-year-old Luzinski. "I got tired of hearing everybody talk about it, so I decided to take the weight off. Now that I have done it, I feel better than I have felt in a long, long time. I can work out hard here during spring training, then go home and go out on the beach with my kids. I never did that before."

 

LAST YEAR LUZINSKI'S batting average slipped to a career-low .252, 33 points below his lifetime average of .285. His power production also fell off, from 35 homers and 101 runs batted in in 1978 to 18 and 81 last year.

 

He had a thigh injury most of the year and got into some bad habits at the plate. If he had it to do over again, he says he probably would have gone on the disabled list until healthy.

 

"I kept wanting to contribute, so I played as much as I could," he said. "Then, I heard people saying during the off-season I might be through. That really got me thinking about hitting the comeback trail and what I would have to do to regain my old form.

 

"I have never wanted to get involved with a weight-lifting program because I thought it would build up my chest too much, explained my reasons about that and they accepted them, but wanted to me work at the Vet with Billy DeMars on my swing and do some running. It really helped."

 

Now, Luzinski is working as hard as ever for the season and there is no guarantee that he will return to his old form. The fact center fielder Garry Maddox might be traded will make his life in left field even more difficult.

 

But the fact the Bull has worked so hard should win most of the fans back.

 

 

"I'm hoping all those boos will turn to cheers again," he said. "Philadelphia has some great fans and before last year they always treated me fine. You can talk about the injuries and all that, but we let the fans down. I have received a lot of letters of encouragement. That is fine, but I have to produce. That is the bottom line."