Reading Eagle - August 3, 1980
Oscar the Grouch Would Love The Phillies
By Tony Zonca
Friday night. The Phillies had just Walked past Cincinnati. They were only two games out of first place after a disastrous road trip the week before.
The rookie pitcher, Bob Walk, the loosey-goosey guy the players call Whirleybird, was walking through land mines all night.
The media charged into the clubhouse like the Light Brigade galloping into oblivion at Balaklava. Relations between them and the Philadelphia ball players are just about what they are between Billy and Jimmy Carter.
So they make a sharp right into Dallas Green’s office. Green, as you know, is the manager of this Sesame Street. He’s a 6-5, 230-pound Big Bird. And everybody else is Oscar the Grouch.
“You have these guys so ticked off some of them won’t talk to me,” Green has told the media. “Of course, that’s not all bad.”
Danny Ozark was a “player’s manager.” He made out the lineup card, sat back, and watched. All that was missing was the late Danny Murtaugh’s rocking chair. Casey Stengel used to fall asleep occasionally in the dugout. Some say Ozark sleep-walked through seven seasons.
Green came down from the front office breathing fire. He yells a lot, which shatters the sensibilities of an inordinate number of players with fragile psyches. He resembles James Garner. But nobody beats up on Green. He’s a Marine Corps drill instructor at Camp William Penn.
The players complain they are tired of being verbally spanked in the press.
So Greg Luzinski blasts the manager. Right. In the papers.
You Will Win!
Green was using Gestapo tactics, the players whined. Proving he could take a joke, Green showed up the next day wearing a black armband with a swastika on it.
Tim McCarver, one of the mose quotable Phillies last year and a guy who was a delight to be around, has moved up to the broadcast booth. He says the players needed to be shocked and Green has been a “shock treatment.”
Green isn’t always cooperative.
He threatened one beat writer with bodily harm early in the season.
“I’d like to punch you,” he told the guy, who had written something uncomplimentary about Larry Christenson, “and I’d like Larry to punch you, but the league office says we can’t do that sort of thing.”
But for the most part, he has been the media’s best friend.
Carlton, as you know, doesn’t talk to the media. Neither does Ron Reed. Since the drug story that came out of Trenton, Larry Bowa has taken a vow of silence. Mike Schmidt is a reluctant interview. So is Dickie Noles. Nino Espinosa has been the latest to put a zipper on his lip.
And now, unless your deadline allows you to stick around till midnight, you don’t get to talk to the elusive Bake McBride.
“Talk to me when I go 0-for-4, not only when I go 5-for-5,” McBride scolds. “Stop and say hello sometime.”
If these guys had the same psychiatrist, he would have a nervous breakdown.
Friday night the media in the clubhouse outnumbered the players by 3-to-1. “And it’s crowded tonight,” a guy said, counting a half-dozen players.
Feeling Is Eerie
There is an eerie feeling in the clubhouse outside the manager’s office, almost like the feeling you got when you say “Apocalypse Now.”
None of the principals of the night’s work is around, except for the exciting rookie outfielder, Lonnie Smith, so the media descends upon him like a Dr. Pepper commercial… “Wouldn’t you like to be in the paper, too?”
“Where Bake,” Manny Trillo sing-songs in broken English. “Where he hide all the time?” And the few players at their locker stalls snicker.
One writer, finally fed up with being a butt of this practical joke, storms out. Before he does he fires a parting shot. “Hey, Nino, tell Bake I said hello,” the guy says sarcastically.
Some guys – Garry Maddox, Bob Boone, Trillo and Pete Rose, among the regulars – have avoided controversy.
Rose usually is in such a good mood, he hates to go to sleep at night.
He has a broken toe, so he cuts a hole in his shoe and he plays. He had a hyperextension of his left elbow.
“I thought at first it was broken,” he said, “but when I found out it wasn’t, I could play.”
He is 39. He plays as though he’s 19. But he doesn’t act as though he’s 19.
Last year he got up in a team meeting and made a suggestion to the pitchers. Reed, in effect, told him to mind his own business. And he has.
Before he was released, Lerrin LaGrow pronounced, “This team is under more pressure than any I’ve seen – no one has any fun.”
He’s wrong. David Raymond has fun every night, but he’s the Phillie Phanatic.
Phillies Lose, 2-0
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Mike LaCoss outdueled Steve Carlton Saturday night as Hector Cruz scored the winning run from second base on an infield hit to give the Cincinnati Reds a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
LaCoss, 6-9, who came into the game having given up 141 hits in 109 innings, scattered seven hits, struck out two and walked one in going the distance.
Cruz Starts It
The Reds scored when Cruz led off the seventh with a single to left. LaCoss popped out to Pete Rose while trying to sacrifice, and then Dave Collins walked. Ron Oester struct out, but Ray Knight hit a sharp ground ball behind second base and Phillies shortstop Ramon Aviles dove to stop it.
As Aviles struggled to get up and flip the ball to second baseman Manny Trillo, Cruz rounded third without hesitation. He slid home ahead of Trillo’s throw to catcher Bob Boone.
Dave Concepcion tripled to open the eighth and scored on Dan Dreissen’s single. Carlton gave up another single to Cruz and hit LaCoss to load the bases. He then struck out Collins and got Oester to ground out to retire the Reds.
“Lefty had a darn good fastball and his slider was very quick, maybe too quick. It was breaking a little late,” said Phillies manager Dallas Green.