In Philadelphia, the city of fraternal love and athletic disaster, there is a renaissance going on. Those lovable, laughable, incompetent Phillies are being reborn. With Director of Player Personnel Paul Owens wheeling and dealing and with Danny Ozark, a graduate of the Walter Alston school of baseball, playing the strong, silent manager, a combination of other teams' rejects and farm-system stars has been molded into a club with a future.
If you were a Phillie in recent years you had no hope; there was no sunshine. You put on a uniform, went out and got beat, then went home to a quiet evening away from the boos and the catcalls.
But today, with an unlikely trio of outfielders stepping to the front, the Phils are a team to be reckoned with. They believe in themselves and have others believing in them. Sparky Anderson, a man familiar with the makings of a pennant winner, having shaped two of them in his three years as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, found himself joining the ranks of new Phil fans just last week.
Two of the three Phillie outfield heroes—Greg Luzinski and Del Unser—hit doubles in a game against the Reds, contributing to two runs, and Jim Lonborg, the former Cy Young Award winner from Boston who is being rescued from baseball's scrap heap, stranded 13 Reds—four of them at third base—for a 2-1 win.
"They're not faraway from being able to win the Eastern Division," said Anderson. "By next year they could challenge."
The Phils have pulled themselves up on some fine young pitching by All-Star Wayne Twitchell and Ken Brett, a slugging lefthander who set a major league record by hitting four home runs in four consecutive starts. The pair has outshone the one true Philadelphia celebrity, Steve Carlton, who is struggling along at 9-10. In addition, the team has good speed and perhaps the best defense in the National League. And finally there is that outfield of Luzinski in left, Unser in center and Bill Robinson in right.
What these three have accomplished is extraordinary. It all began—or at least a third of it began—two years ago when Robinson, coming off a minor league year at Tucson and knowing that he was ticketed to play next at Eugene, Ore., thought he might retire. But Margaret entered his life and he gave her his hand. No, this is not a love story. Margaret reads palms.
"She told me I should stay in baseball," says Robinson. "She said she saw me and another person being the stars of the club. Joe Lis and I had spectacular years at Eugene and were the stars."
Margaret saw more. "A man with a lot of money will come into your life and take care of you," she predicted.
Surely she meant Bob Carpenter, then the owner of the Phils.