BASEBALL / ROSS NEWHAN : Blue-Collar Fans Simply Love Blue-Collar Crew

It is part of the lore of this city of sometimes un-brotherly love that even Santa Claus and the Easter bunny have taken hits from the fans.

"A Darryl Strawberry and even a Barry Bonds wouldn't go over in this town," Philadelphia Phillie owner Bill Giles was saying the other night.

"You can't get by here giving less than 100%. It's not whether (Strawberry and Bonds) do or don't (give 100%), it's in the perception of what the fans see."

The hardened and hard-hearted fans like what they have seen of what Giles calls the mishmash of characters on the '93 Phillies.

On the verge of wrapping up the National League East title, the "Animal House" rejects have also attracted official attendance of more than 3 million for the first time in club history.

The Phillies actually sold 3,007,000 tickets in 1979, the first year Pete Rose was with the club, but the league was counting only gate admissions then and the Phillies were credited with 2.7 million in official attendance. This year, the National League has begun to do what the American has always done, count tickets sold.

The Phillies went over 3 million Friday night and will wind up their home schedule today at about 3.1 million.

Giles said he never thought the club could draw that well because of the erratic early and late-season weather and the televising of almost every home game.

He added, however, that the potential would rise to more than 3.5 million if the Phillies had a baseball-only stadium with the charm of Baltimore's Camden Yards.

The state, he said, is talking about riverboat gambling as a tax and revenue source for financing stadiums in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but Giles fears that gambling on the nearby Schuylkill River could cut into attendance.

In the meantime, he said, "The most rewarding years were the last three, when we had bad teams and still drew 2 million. We don't have the tourists and transients that Southern California does, but there's a kind of grass-roots attachment that goes back generations. Even when the team is bad, they may come out only to boo, but at least they care enough to do that."

The caring this year has been mixed with apprehension, the excitement, Giles said, tempered by the fear that the ghosts of 1964 will reappear. That was the year the Phillies blew a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play.

"We won three straight division titles in the late '70s and a World Series in '80, but it doesn't matter," Giles said. "All they seem to remember is '64. It's a peculiar mentality."

The Phillies, however, have laughed at each other and laughed at the ghosts while holding off the Montreal Expos' challenge. Giles said General Manager Lee Thomas did a great job assembling the team, almost a five-year project.

"I told Lee to get guys who gave 100%, guys with a little charisma and a tough skin," Giles said.

"I mean, I've seen players buried (by the fans) here. They buried Von Hayes. They buried Lance Parrish. They buried Juan Bell, our young shortstop at the start of the year. Here's a kid with a lot of ability, but he just couldn't handle it.

"They particularly don't like pretty guys like Von Hayes. They even booed Darren Daulton for a long time because he's something of a pretty guy.

"At least, the men did. The women always loved him."

Daulton is now the Phillies' leader--"He's our godfather and we're the thugs," pitcher Larry Andersen said--and the blue-collar Phillies have set attendance and ratings records in a blue-collar town.

"They loved Pete Rose and they love Pete Incaviglia and John Kruk," Giles said. "They love guys with beer bellies who look like they should be playing Sunday afternoon softball. Fortunately, we have a lot of 'em."

ADD BOOING

No one gets it harder or louder than Mitch Williams, "the Wild Thing." Maybe it's his eight blown saves or 41 walks in 59 innings or, as Manager Jim Fregosi says, "Mitch is a carrier. He doesn't have ulcers, he just gives them."

Williams blew a save in Montreal last weekend and wore teammate Anderson's uniform and number as he strolled to the bullpen in Philadelphia last Monday night, hoping the fans wouldn't recognize him. It didn't work, but Williams shrugs it off.

"I should be booed when I stink," he said. "No one comes down harder on me than I do, but I don't take it home with me. I guess it's maturity and a recognition of the long season. I understand the hero-goat mentality of baseball."

Amid the boos, Williams has broken Steve Bedrosian's club record for saves with 41. He shrugged that off, too.

"You can't wear a save record around your finger, but you can wear a World Series ring," he said.

ADD ATTENDANCE

Down significantly in San Diego, Minnesota and Oakland, attendance is up elsewhere, 11% excluding the 7 million that Colorado and Florida have drawn, and up 5.9%, excluding the expansion teams and the National League's new tabulating method.

"The game on the field and the players are as good as ever, but the perception and the marketing are not as good," Giles said.

"Baseball has never had a great commissioner. We've never had a David Stern or Pete Rozelle, and that can make a difference.

"David Stern has probably done more for (NBA) basketball than any commissioner in any sport ever."

Giles said it is his understanding that the search committee will nominate a commissioner by Thanksgiving, but he also said the mentality of the players has to change on marketing.

"The players just don't understand marketing," he said. "They think they can come at 4 every day, play the game, and that's it. It's critical that we have a new compensation system. Maybe if the players are sharing in revenue, as they do in the NBA, their mentality will change.

"I'm not positive it will, but I hope it will."

MAGRANE BACKLASH

In the chain-reaction business of baseball economics, where one signing affects another, the Angels' generosity with Joe Magrane caused consternation through the industry, as well as on the part of Luis Polonia and some of their other players.

"The interesting thing is that the Angels are one of the clubs that does a lot of wailing (about salary restraint), but doesn't always practice what it preaches," an American League general manager said.

A National League general manager asked if Whitey Herzog had forgotten that Magrane was released by the St. Louis Cardinals only a month ago, that he was 10-17 in 1990, then sat out the 1991 season after reconstructive elbow surgery, pitched little in '92 and was 8-10 before his release?

"Unbelievable," the NL general manager said. "Is Whitey paying Magrane back for what he did for him while he was managing the Cardinals?

"If a released player can get that type of contract, what's that do to the arbitration and free-agent scale. What does Mark Portugal get?"

With a 10-game winning streak and a 16-4 record, Portugal has emerged as the premier pitcher eligible for free agency.

Houston General Manager Bill Wood, stung by the $36.5-million commitment to Doug Drabek and Greg Swindell last winter, had already decided the Astros probably couldn't afford to keep Portugal.

"It's realistic to assume he'll get enough of a long-term big-dollar offer from somebody else that will be very hard for us to match," Wood said.

"We simply won't spend ourselves into oblivion. We can't do a United States government number here. We can't run our ballclub that way in this market."

REFLECTION

It's not over, but Montreal Manager Felipe Alou seems to have come to terms with second place.

"We've come a long way and can be satisfied with that," Alou said. "If we're second, we can still look down on some other people who were supposed to be better than we are."

Alou, however, said the Expos have to find a way to keep their players. He spent most of this season looking for first and third basemen and piecing together a rotation. With eight players eligible for arbitration, two or more are expected to be traded. Only a productive farm system keeps the low-budget Expos competitive, but it's as if they operate training classes during the first half of the season.

"It's fine to develop, develop, develop, but you can't play catch-up every year," he said. "You have to be good at the start (of the season) as well as at the end. This year it was the Phillies, last year the Pirates. We have to keep our players if we're going to be competitive."

REFLECTION II

At the time of Nolan Ryan's fight with Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox this season, Jack McDowell of the White Sox said of Ryan, "Watch his team fall just short again while he shows up on the disabled list."

Ryan started only 13 games this season and won only 10 of 40 starts in his last two seasons with the Texas Rangers. The cruelest twist of his last season was that the physical breakdown probably cost the Rangers their first postseason appearance, but McDowell and other critics should be reminded of this:

Ryan's cumulative won-lost percentage was better than the won-lost percentage of the Angels, with whom he first began to pitch regularly, the Astros and, until '93, the Rangers during the years he was with those teams. He won 324 games and pitched in a World Series only in 1969, with the Mets. But he almost always did his part in trying to get his teams there.

MORRIS COMEBACK?

A partially torn elbow ligament has ended Jack Morris' season short of another possible appearance in the playoffs and World Series, but Morris, 37, doesn't want to close the door on returning next season.

"If not with the Blue Jays, then with some other team," he said in Toronto on Thursday. "I just don't like the idea of ending this way."

Morris has a 16-year record of 244-178, but he was 7-12 with a 6.19 earned-run average this season and thinks he might have paid, mentally and physically, for the 240-plus innings each of the last two seasons.

"I might not have worked as hard in the off-season," he said. "Maybe this is the kind of thing that can get me fired up again. Mental strength tends to overcome a lot."

The ligament, he said, can be repaired through rehabilitation. The Blue Jays must either pick up his $5.15-million option or buy him out for $1 million.

Morris talked with General Manager Pat Gillick the other day about readjusting those numbers in the light of his injury, but Gillick said he wouldn't decide until after the World Series. Meanwhile, Morris said, he is disheartened to be sidelined as the Blue Jays approach postseason play.

"I'll do my part, but it's going to be hard," he said.

"I don't look very good in skirt and pompons."

NAMES AND NUMBERS

* MOVING ON: Eddie Murray has had another good season--25 doubles, 26 homers and 90 runs batted in--but the New York Mets, determined to clean house and believing knee problems have made Murray a defensive liability, will not pick up his 1994 option, making him a free agent.

"I think an American League team will give him a shot," Manager Dallas Green said. "I'd be surprised if they didn't. The guy can still hit."

Green has not knocked Murray's attitude and clubhouse demeanor publicly, but he said:

"I'm not wild about his preparation for games, but he's done that for years and there's no sense trying to change it if he's not going to be here again."

* ERIC'S GOAL: Eric Davis, batting .315 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in his first 15 games since leaving L.A., hopes to re-sign with the Detroit Tigers, waiving his free-agent repeater rights.

"It won't be a situation like, 'If they can afford to pay this guy, he'll be back,' " Davis said. "I don't need to be the highest-paid player playing the game or at my position or whatever. I'm not like that. It's not totally based on money. It's a respect thing with me. Since I've come here, I've been rejuvenated. I'm treated like somebody, and that's more important than money to me."

* KNUCKLING ON: Nolan Ryan's arm has given out at 46. Jack Morris might be through at 37. Charlie Hough, however, wants another contract from the Florida Marlins at 45.

"If my arm hurt, I'd say the hell with it," Hough said. "But my arm feels better than it has in three years. There were a couple periods where I just pitched lousy, but I've had as much fun (experiencing the expansion growing pains in his hometown) as if we had won a pennant."

That might be stretching it. Hough is 9-16 for a staff ranking a respectable seventh in the National League in pitching, but that has been victimized by the only offense in either league that has failed to score 600 runs.

* NO BONUS: A groin pull suffered Wednesday in Philadelphia ended Bryan Harvey's season and his bid to catch Randy Myers in the race for Rolaids relief pitcher of the year, which would have represented a $150,000 contract bonus for Harvey. The former Angel had 45 saves and one victory, which meant, as of Friday, he'd had an official hand in 74.2% of Florida's 62 victories.

The major league record--yes, there is one--of 64.9% was set by Bobby Thigpen with the Chicago White Sox in 1990. Through Friday, Thigpen, who ultimately lost his closer role to Roberto Hernandez, had a 7.31 ERA in 13 appearances with the Phillies since his Aug. 10 acquisition.

* ROGER AND OUT: Roger Clemens, on the disabled list earlier in the season because of a groin pull, will skip today's start against Minnesota and his last of the season against Milwaukee because of recurring elbow soreness. The 11-14 record and 4.46 earned-run average--he was 0-4 against the Toronto Blue Jays--represent his poorest season, and there has been more to it than the physical setbacks. Clemens' mother has a serious respiratory problem.

"I've had a lot on my mind," Clemens said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°