Camden Courier-Post - March 15, 1980

Bright spots show in Phils’ loss


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Perhaps the least important aspect of the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener yesterday against the Detroit Tigers was the final score. Which was, for those who collect such baseball trivia, 2-1 in favor of Detroit.


Granted, four Detroit pitchers, some of them anonymous folk, held the Phillies to seven hits. But the Phils got some noteworthy individual performances from several players, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Greg Gross among them.


Schmidt went two-for-three with a ground single to center field in the first inning and a double off Jack Russell Stadium's right field wall in the sixth. The double came with two out and preceded an RBI-single by Luzinski that accounted for the Phils' only run.


Gross went hitless in four at-bats, but made a couple of fine throws from right field to cut down baserunners in the second inning.


An equally-positive sign was the play of two rookies, one the Phillies intend to keep, the other destined to play this season in Triple-A. Outfielder Lonnie Smith, who would now be a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization had not Manager Dallas Green vetoed the trade, went four-for-four and stole three bases. His offensive show helped take some of the sting out of a ball he misplayed in center field that gave the Tigers the winning run in the third.


"I was pleased with what Lonnie did, but I'll be doubly pleased when he puts' his (sun) glasses on," said Green. "He's been talked to, explained to. I talked to him in the dugout and Billy (DeMars) will talk to him in the morning."


Smith was not wearing sunglasses when Detroit's John Wockenfuss Haired a popup to shallow left-center. Smith called for the ball, then went to one knee and watched it drop 10 feet in front of him.


"I just got behind it and lost it in the sun,'' Smith said. "Instead of staying with it, I decided to let it go."


Still, Green liked what he saw of Smith.


"That's the kind of offense I expect from Lonnie," Green said. "It goes back to the makeup of the team – that's the kind of guy I like to have on my team. He tried to win the game by himself."


The other rookie to give a good account for himself was pitcher Scott Munninghoff, a righthander who may be a year away from reaching the big leagues. Munninghoff worked the third, fourth and fifth innings behind Steve Carlton, striking out three and retiring the final seven batters he faced in order. Had Smith not misplayed Wockenfuss' popup, Munninghoff 's line would have read: one hit, no runs.


"Scott needs to become more consistent," said" Green. "He's an 0-2 pitcher who doesn't punch out a lot of guys because he only uses the outside part of the plate. He has to learn to come inside. You can't use just one part of the plate unless you have outstanding stuff."


•  The Billy Smith deal was still in limbo yesterday, but Phillies General Manager Paul Owens said he thought it could be completed prior to tonight's midnight inter-league trading deadline. The Baltimore Orioles have given Owens a list of players they would accept in exchange for Smith, a switch-hitting utility infielder. Therein lies the problem.


"We're not far apart, but there's still a holdup," Owens said. "It's a little heavy on their end, but it's not insurmountable."


The Orioles, who originally wanted Lonnie Smith, now want three players in return for Billy Smith. The Phillies would be willing to part with three players. But the matter now is one of identity, not numbers. The most likely to be dealt remain outfielder Orlando bales and pitchers Don Larson and Paul Thormodsgard.


•  The Phillies have had feelers from three National League clubs on Garry Maddox, the Dodgers among them.


PHIL UPS – Phillies play Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin this afternoon, with Randy Lerch, Bob Walk, Thormodsgard and Tug McGraw opposing Jesse Jefferson, Balor Moore, Mike Willis and Steve Grilli... Blue Jays visit Jack Russell Stadium tomorrow... Larry Christenson, Carlos Arroyo, Jose Martinez and Lerrin LaGrow are to pitch for the Phillies.

The law of averages worries sports teams


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


The big chartered plane rumbled down the runway, gaining speed for its takeoff out of Philadelphia's International Airport, when the throaty order, almost a growl, began to come from different members of the Phillies traveling party.


"Get up . . . Come on, GET UP!"


Another flight to another city had begun. Another tradition had been honored by a group of men who knew instinctively that they spent too much time in the air. And that, as the takeoffs and landings began to add up over the course of a season and multiply over the course of a career, the law of averages was surely closing in on them.


Which is why, at the moment of touchdown in the city of their destination, these same men always mark that instant of both relief and thankfulness with a form of gallows humor – a round of applause for the pilot.


So it goes with the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles. The athletes, coaches, managers, owners, general managers, trainers and writers all sharing and hiding the common fear of flying between 35,0000 and 100,000 miles a year.


After a while, the odds begin gnawing away at the back of your mind, waiting there to wash a wave of silent terror over you when the inevitable happens.


An airline with 87 people aboard, including 23 members of the United States amateur boxing team, crashes in Poland. No one survives.


"You tell yourself there's more of a risk driving your car on the expressway," said Phils traveling secretary Eddie Ferenz. "But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit there was that little bit of apprehension. And, it hits home when something happens to a plane with athletes aboard."


This latest tragedy is the 26th airplane crash in the past 49 years to claim the lives of top athletes and sports figures from around the world. The victims total close to 200, many of them immortals like the great Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Knute Rockne, Notre Dame's famed football coach.


More than likely, the statisticians could turn these statistics around to prove that air travel is surprisingly safe. It is of little consolation.


Gene Mauch was still managing the Phillies during the late 1960s when the pilot of the team's charter radioed ahead that he'd lost power in one of the airplane's engines.


A veteran writer, unaware that the scramble for a possible emergency landing was already under way at the Philly airport, came out of a deep sleep and began to chatter merrily to the stern-faced Mauch.


"What are you so happy about?" asked Mauch sarcastically.


"Why?" asked the writer.


The Little General just jerked his head toward the window and studied the look on the writer's face as he peered into the darkness and saw the motionless propeller of the starboard engine.


When he screamed, it awakened a second-string catcher, who took one look out a window and leaped so high in the air, he nearly fractured his skull on the overhead rack.


A half-hour later, the incident became just another story to tell in hotel lobbies. Nothing happened. But, how close is close?


Members of Joe Kuharich's Eagles wondered about that the day the team's plane made a fuel stop in Denver on the way to the West Coast, battling frightening gusts of winds that at one point in the landing almost caused a wingtip to strike the ground. White knuckles and weak knees were the order of the day.


There have been times when Phillies' charters have run afoul of jet streams from other planes. It's a downer. And, you haven't lived until you've seen the ball of fire that somehow leaps off a plane as a result of a buildup of static electricity or having flown through a lightning storm.


There is little choice, however, other than to take the next flight out. Sports schedules must be met. Maybe former Yankee Manager Bob Lemon had the right idea when he was coaching in the early 1960s with the Phillies.


Lemon and a writer were rushing to finish the final hand of a gin rummy game before the team charter touched down to refuel in Denver, when the pilot, realizing he had misjudged the landing, gave the engines full throttle and roared back into the sky.


Playing cards scattered onto the floor. The writer dropped his cards in terror. Lemon never even flinched.


"Meat!" he said sternly. "Pick up your cards and play. There ain't nobody can help you or me now, except the Man Above."