Allentown Morning Call - March 22, 1980
Anderson struggling in his final chance
By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. – At a time when somebody named Greg Luzinski was starting out in the Phillies' farm system, there was still no more Grade A, certified phenom than Mike Anderson.
Tall and graceful, Anderson could hit with power to all fields and he could play all three outfield positions superbly. In June of 1969, just before his 18th birthday, Anderson was Philadelphia's number one selection in the free agent draft and he justified that confidence by hitting .313 and .334 in his first two years in the Phillies' farm system at Peninsula, then Eugene.
In Michael Allen Anderson, the then-hapless Phils had a future.
Well, it didn't happen that way. Anderson, who will be 29 on June 22, never lived up to. that promise. He has played only 488 major league games with the Phillies and has never hit more than .259. The same phenom who hit 58 homers in two years in the minors has never hit more than nine in any one season in the majors.
And now he finds himself struggling to even make the club in what might be his final chance.
"Well, they've got eight outfielders in camp and they're probably taking six," mused Anderson in a recent interview. "The only thing I've thought about since camp began is that I want to be one of the six."
He probably will be. The eight outfielders in camp include Orlando Isales and George Vukovich, a non-roster player, and both will probably be sent back to Oklahoma City for another year of seasoning. But beyond that, the future is not very bright for Mike Anderson, not with Lonnie Smith showing he can be an every-day player and not with the highly-regarded 20-year-old Isales ready to come up next season. And not with many members of the Phillie organization tired of waiting for the potential of that 18-year-old to resurface again.
Well, what happened to Mike Anderson? Nobody can say for sure but everyone's answer – even those who are no longer in Anderson's corner – includes a certain March day at Jack Russell Stadium in 1972, the spring training of what was supposed to be Anderson's first full season in the majors.
"Clay Carroll was pitching for the Reds,” remembers Anderson, "and he was very quick. He threw one up and in to me and I just couldn't get out of the way. I didn’t have an ear flap helmet on and it hit me right in the ear. It probably wouldn't have hurt at all with the flap, but it got me good."
Anderson paused, obviously rethinking the memory he has rethought so many times before. He was in the hospital for a week with nausea, dizziness and an ear infection.
"Well, that was the year of the strike and they brought me up. I struggled a lot (he hit only .194 in 36 games before being sent back to Eugene) and they tried to change me around. Who? Well, just all the batting instructors and everybody.
"I used to have a real closed stance and I had a lot of power to right.
They opened it up and, well, I went along with it, and I haven't been able to find it since. Now, I pull the ball almost exclusively. I don't really think I'm that kind of hitter but that's what I'm into now.
"The beaning? Well, yes, it has affected me. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. It had an effect on Paul Blair (of the Orioles). It ruined his career as a hitter. But I still think that not playing every day has had a bigger effect.”
Phillies' shortstop Larry Bowa, for one, is convinced that the beaning did Anderson in.
"It's easy to say you're not going to let it bother you," says Bowa, "but you never know how it's going to affect you. I think it's the big thing with him. He doesn't put his foot in the bucket or anything obvious like that, but he kind of gives up when a righthander's in there. I'll tell you, though, he was one super prospect 10 years ago.”
Whatever the reason, Mike Anderson now has the tag of not being an 'every-day player.’
"When you get into that situation it sticks with you." said Anderson. "You see it with a lot of things, not just offense. A guy gets tagged with being a poor defensive player and no matter how hard he works on it he'll always have that tag.
"Or take Greg Gross (a most democratic example considering Gross is one of his outfield rivals). He played every day for Houston and hit well. He goes to Chicago and he's only playing against righthanders and he gets that tag when he comes over here. And he's even SHOWN what he can do against lefthanders.
"I know my label. I haven't played regularly since 1974 when he hit .251 and had only five homers in 145 games so now I'm platoon material only. And the biggest tag is that I bail out against righthanders. Well, I've been back to the minors since and I have hit righties down there, a lot of times better than I've hit left-handers. But that's what baseball is. Labels."
Before Anderson's label was secured tightly, the Phillies traded him to St. Louis for Ron Reed. That was in 1975. He played two years as a reserve for the Cards but they released him following a .221 year in 1977. Baltimore picked him up in 1978 but he got only 32 at-bats and was released again after the 1978 season. He arrived back on the Phillies' roster when the club purchased his contract from Oklahoma city early last season.
"I was never really told who in the organization was responsible forgetting me back here," said Anderson, "but I think Paul Owens (general manager) and Ruly Carpenter (club president) had a lot to do with it. They know I don't gripe a lot and that I'm a team player and that I can come in and play all three outfield positions."
Because the Phillies gave him another chance, Anderson is by no means disgruntled; quite the opposite, in fact.
"I know there are places I could be playing a lot more than here," said Anderson. "I don't expect with what I've shown to push anybody out of here. This is a good club to be on, even if you're in my position, because you know it's going to win a lot of games. I don't have any qualms about sitting on this club because it does have the personnel.
"The only regret I have is how hard it is to show anything once you get the label. You don't have too good a shot to prove yourself when you are given the chance. It's almost like you've got to get in there and go 6-for-3 and nobody's ever been able to do that."
Phils get poor pitching in gaining a split
By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Philadelphia Phillies got their worst pitching efforts of the spring yesterday afternoon as they divided split squad games, beating the Chicago White Sox 11-7 at Sarasota and losing to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 at Dunedin.
Over at Sarasota, starter Dick Ruthven gave up seven hits and four runs in (our innings of work. And relievers Dickie Noles (two runs, two hits in two innings) and Kevin Saucier (six hits, one run in three inning's didn't fare much better.
The Phils won the game on a five-run rally in the eighth with two outs and nobody on. Consecutive hits by John Vukovich, Jay Loviglio, Bake McBride, Ramon Aviles and Garry Maddox produced the runs.
Catcher Keith Moreland continued to be one of the hottest players in camp with a line drive three-run homer to left in the fourth.
Over at Dunedin, the stars were out. Joseph Jerome (J.J. Cannon hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning off Jesus Hernaiz to give the Jays the victory.
Jesus Hernaiz? Yes, though he is now only a minor league pitching instructor, the Phils had to go to Jesus when they ran out of pitchers in the extra-inning game. Hernaiz played only one season, 1974, with the Phillies.
Rawly Eastwick was the lone Phillies' pitcher who had success, allowing only one hit and striking out four in his three innings. Doug Bird and Jim Wright each gave up two runs, the latter surrendering a two-run homer to John Mayberry.
George Vukovich and Lonnie Smith both had two RBIs for the Phillies.
NOTES: The Phillies meet one of their old friends, Joe Niekro, this afternoon when they play Houston at Jack Russell Stadium. Niekro was 2-0 against them last, year. Steve Carlton will go for the Phils.
Dallas Green has still not said officially when he'll make his first cut but it could be today.