SI Vault
Ron Fimrite
June 14, 1976
Philadelphia's front-runners, the winningest team in baseball, operate in an atmosphere of spectacular calm. A trio of defeats last week failed to shake their new confidence or their National League East lead
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June 14, 1976

Shh, The Phillies Are At Work

Philadelphia's front-runners, the winningest team in baseball, operate in an atmosphere of spectacular calm. A trio of defeats last week failed to shake their new confidence or their National League East lead

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Unlike his fellow TM practitioners, Carlton and Lonborg, Bowa meditates not so much to help him win baseball games as for the inner peace he needs to get along off the diamond. The Phillies more or less pioneered TM in their sport several years ago when, at the suggestion of team president Ruly Carpenter (another meditator), several of them tried it. "I'm a nervous person," Bowa explains. "The kind who takes the game home with him at night. Meditating relaxes you. I don't do it for baseball. I do it to take my mind off the game so that when I go home I don't bring my troubles to my wife."

Even Schmidt has experimented with meditating, although he admits he lacks the "willpower" to pursue it seriously. But TM cannot be credited with the prevailing calm in the Phillies' clubhouse. It is a calm, however, that can be violated, as Manager Danny Ozark established earlier this season when he threatened to maul a reporter who had the temerity to inquire why Allen was not in the lineup on a particular night. The outburst seemed out of character, because Ozark's managerial prowess was scrutinized unsparingly by the Philadelphia press last season, when the Phillies finished 6� games behind the Pirates. One columnist even suggested that if Ozark, no Robert Redford, had been a handsomer man he might have been less vulnerable to his critics. If a man can withstand so blunt an appraisal of his physical appearance without incident, why, it may be asked, should he be miffed by a simple questioning of his tactics?

"Oh, that's all gone and forgotten," Ozark says pleasantly. "I don't keep a chip on my shoulder. Not a ball game has been played that wasn't open to second-guessing, and that sort of thing never really bothered me anyway. I blew my stack because I didn't want controversial stuff written about my players. Allen's reputation is a lot of hogwash. Besides, reputations are made to be forgotten. I've never had any problems at all with Dick. He had a bad shoulder the day I blew up and I just didn't want every Tom, Dick and Harry to know about it."

Ozark is determined to skipper a happy ship, and though he has a regular crew, he contrives to get almost everyone on his roster into the action. He has employed six pitchers as starters; he platoons his rightfielders, left-hand-hitting Jay Johnstone and right-hand-hitting Ollie Brown; he uses Bobby Tolan in both the outfield and at first base; and he keeps defensive specialist Jerry Martin so busy subbing for Luzinski in the late innings that by the end of last week Martin had appeared in 42 of the team's 47 games. Martin is so adjusted to his role as the Bull's "caddie" that he now warms up without waiting for instructions when he feels his time has come. "It's something to look forward to," he says. "Naturally, I want to play all the time, but with the talent we have on this club, this is a way of breaking in. He [Ozark] has kept a lot of us happy."

The Phillies were not happy about their mini-slump last week, despite their aplomb. On Friday night in San Francisco it was cold and windy even by Candlestick Park's arctic standards, and the previously undefeated Lonborg never did seem to warm up, although as a former Stanford man he should be acclimated by now to meteorological conditions on the Bay. Eventually, Lonborg resorted to pitching from the stretch, with and without runners on base, in order to keep his balance in the gusts. Gentleman that he is, he blamed his pitching, not the weather, for his early-inning travail. There was no excusing the Phillies' offense, which managed only one unearned run off Giant Pitcher Jim Barr. Bowa and Cash had but one hit between them.

The Phillies cracked out 12 hits the next day against Ed Halicki and Randy Moffitt, but scored only twice. This, by coincidence, was Transcendental Meditation Day at Candlestick, a promotion that surely should have favored the meditative Phillies. Unfortunately, they played as if in a trance until the seventh inning when pinch-hitter Johnny Oates, Cash and Bowa singled, Oates scoring. With two out and two on and the score 4-2, Allen hit a searing drive to dead center that looked to be at least a game-tying triple, if not a go-ahead homer. But the Giants' sensational rookie centerfielder, Larry Herndon, tracked the ball down at the fence in a catch reminiscent of another, somewhat more celebrated Giant centerfielder of other years. After that development, the Phillies' attack subsided, but it had plenty of sting on Sunday in a 9-3 win over the Giants.

True to form, the Phillies' composure had been intact in the clubhouse after Saturday's defeat. McCarver handled his food without error and the only sounds came from the showers. Bowa sat with his eyes shut. Meditating? No, there was no hint of a mantra. Allen looked no more out of sorts than usual and the others went quietly about the business of arraying themselves for the adventures of the evening. Finally, Ozark emerged from his own cubicle, a concerned look on his face. Following three straight losses, would he threaten mayhem on his interlocutors from the media? Indeed, he made straight for one newsman.

"Who," Ozark asked, "won the Belmont?"

The calm was uninterrupted, although for the front-running Phillies the race was just beginning.

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