Allentown Morning Call - March 15, 1980
It was a big day for Phillies’ Lonnie Smith – almost
Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Lonnie Smith knew one thing whenever he came to spring training the last four years – he would play a little right field and a little left field but center was locked up.
That was all right with Smith, of course. He always did favor left field and, besides, one of his favorite ballplayers, Garry Maddox, was in center.
But when the Philadelphia Phillies opened their Grapefruit League season yesterday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers at Jack Russell Stadium, Lonnie Smith was in center and Maddox was on the sidelines in street clothes.
And Smith made the most of it. He had four singles in as many at-bats and stole three bases to qualify as the Phils' hero-of-the-day in a 2-1 defeat. The only thing he did wrong all day, in fact, was to lose a flyball in the sun in the third inning.
"I was more than pleased with the way Lonnie played today," said Phils' manager Dallas Green, planting his tongue in his cheek, "and I'll be doubly pleased when he puts his sunglasses on."
Smith's performance was all the more credible because at least half his concentration was directed toward his wife, Pearl, who was back in their Compton, home about to deliver their first child.
"I guess when she hears how I did today she won't believe that I was thinking about her," said Smith, "but I was. She's already had one false alarm. As far as I know, she may have already had it."
The Phillies' brass, of course, hopes that everything goes right for Pearl Smith, but their thoughts right now are with the father.
Can he be their starting centerfielder? Has the unthinkable become thinkable? Has Maddox, Golden Glove gazelle that he is. made himself expendable by contract demands that everyone in the Phillie organization considers outrageous?
"I've always been a Lonnie Smith man," said Green, "and he knows it. He's always known it. Look what he did today. He went out and tried to win the damn game himself It just goes back to what I said about the makeup of a team. I want guys like that on my team."
The issue is, of course, how far the Phillies will go in their positive feelings about Smith. According to the trade rumors blowing about in the cool Gulf breeze, Maddox is not on the block, at least not now. The interleague trade deadline is midnight tonight and the only deal Paul Owens, the Phils' VP is working on, involves reserve infielder Billy Smith of Baltimore and, presumably, a comparable utility player on the Phillies. Lonnie Smith was originally mentioned as a possibility in that Baltimore deal but Green pulled him out.
Smith will undoubtedly play some right and left field during the spring, but don't expect him to move in there, either. Greg Gross and Bake McBride are having their own duel in right (Gross started yesterday and Greg Luzinski, the winner of the Phillies' first Offseason Slimnastics Award, is going to be in left unless his production this season parallels that of last season. And that won't be determined for a while.
So, would the Phillies dare keep a highly-regarded player like Maddox on the bench? Well, the way Smith played yesterday he might make the decision a tougher one than it appeared at the beginning of spring training.
A more likely possibility is that either Maddox or Smith will go to a National League team before the June 15 intra-league deadline. The Phils are out of options with Smith because he is a five-year player – that means they cannot send him down to Oklahoma City again (he's spent the last four seasons there except for late-season stints with the parent club the last two years) without offering him to other clubs in the league for $25,000.
Smith admitted that he and Maddox have discussed the subject of trades.
"Garry told me if he gets traded he wants to see me work harder and try my best because I would probably be the one to get his job," said Smith. "He's helped me a lot. Like when I lost that ball in the sun, Garry came rushing right over to me and told me what I could've done and how I could've come at the ball at an angle and not lost it. He's been a great help to me."
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One strong-possibility in any deal for Billy Smith would be Luis Aguayo, a reserve second baseman who started yesterday at second. Besides being one of baseball's more uninteresting trades, Green doesn't seem 100 percent behind it as evidenced by his reply when asked what Smith can do that Aguayo can't.
"I'm beginning to wonder myself," said Green. "We've always known Luis can do the job in the field and he's been getting better every day with the bat."
Green was also mildly peeved at the revelation that Owens had been given a "list" by Baltimore of players it considered trade material for Billy Smith.
"I didn't even know about any list," said Green.
Owens confirmed that there was a list but said Baltimore was a "little heavy on their end.
"But it's not insurmountable either," he added.
Phillies lost, 2-1, on ball lost in sun
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) – John Wockenfuss's bloop single drove in the winning run as the Detroit Tigers edged Philadelphia 2-1 yesterday in the Phillies' first exhibition baseball game.
In the third inning with Detroit leading 1-0 and Alan Trammell on second base, Wockenfuss hit a short fly ball which centerfielder Lonnie Smith lost in the sun. The ball dropped in and Trammell scored easily.
Detroit's first run came in the second inning on three hits against loser Steve Carlton. Richie Hebner singled and moved to third as Dave Stegman doubled. One out later, Mark Wagner singled to right scoring Hebner.
The Phillies' run came on a two-out double by Mike Schmidt and a single to right by Greg Luzinski. Smith stole three bases for the losers.