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In Philadelphia, They're The Wheeze Kids
Steve Wulf
March 14, 1983
Former Reds teammates Pete Rose (left), Joe Morgan and Tony Perez are together in Philly, where they'll play at aptly named Veterans Stadium
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March 14, 1983

In Philadelphia, They're The Wheeze Kids

Former Reds teammates Pete Rose (left), Joe Morgan and Tony Perez are together in Philly, where they'll play at aptly named Veterans Stadium

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Rose on third, Morgan on first and Perez standing in the batter's box. "You've seen this before, Doggie," Rose calls to Perez.

Haven't we all? Of course, nobody has seen this situation for more than six years, not since Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez were mainstays of the world champion Cincinnati Reds. But the scene was played once again last Saturday at the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla.

The three of them were teammates in an intrasquad game in which the managers were coaches Dave Bristol and Bobby Wine—the Bristol Stomps versus the Wine Stewards. In the first inning, Rose, batting second for the Stomps, tripled down the first-base line off Larry Christenson. Morgan, hitting third and flapping his left arm as always, then wangled a base on balls. And, just as in the old days, clean-up man Perez déjà flew out deep to right to score Rose from third with the team's first run.

In the fifth, with the score tied 2-2, Morgan singled off Porfi Altamirano, and Perez followed with a double down the third-base line, driving in the winning run and keying a three-run rally that carried the Stomps to a 5-2 victory and a free dinner, courtesy of the Stewards.

O.K., it was only an intrasquad game. But this was precisely what the Phillies had in mind when they acquired Morgan, 39, and Perez, 40, in the off-season to go with the 41-year-young Rose. "I did not come here for a reunion," says Morgan. "The Phillies got me to help win them a world championship."

Besides the members of the Big Gray Machine, the Phillies also have Ron Reed, 40, Bill Robinson, 39, Steve Carlton, 38, and Tug McGraw, 38. Twenty-two of the players on the 40-man roster are more than 30 years old. No wonder Philadelphia President Bill Giles likes to call his team The Wheeze Kids.

Stop me if you've heard any of these: What else could the Phillies call their home park but Veterans Stadium? When Philadelphia has men on, will announcers say the Phils have the ducks on Golden Pond? Will every game be an Old-timers game? To celebrate this, their 100th season, the Phillies conducted a search for their oldest living former player. No, they didn't discover him on the bench. Actually, they found former Pitcher Johnny Enzmann, 93, of the 1920 Phils living in Fort Lauderdale, where he bowls twice a week and averages 133. Sign 'im up! They could use another good righthander in the bullpen.

The Phillies needed a second baseman to replace Manny Trillo, whom they packaged in a deal for Cleveland Outfielder Von Hayes, so they went out and got Morgan, the National League Comeback Player of 1982, in a five-man deal with San Francisco in December. They needed a righthanded pinch hitter with punch and someone to spell Rose at first, so they signed Perez, whom Boston had released, to a single-season contract in January. "You caddied for Yastrzemski," Rose said to Perez last week. "How does it feel to be caddying for a real ballplayer now?"

That was typical of the former Reds' repartee. "They kept replaying the '75 World Series during infield drills," said Third Baseman Mike Schmidt. "Perez said they wouldn't be wearing world champion rings if he hadn't hit Bill Lee's let-up pitch out of the park. Morgan said they wouldn't have rings if he hadn't had two game-winning hits, and Rose said he hit .370 in the Series." Schmidt got into the spirit of things by rolling his sleeves up to his shoulders and pretending he was Ted Kluszewski, the former Reds slugger and coach.

Phillies Manager Pat Corrales, who didn't make the majors till '64, remembered the first time he became aware of each of the trio. "The Yankees came in to play us [the Phillies] in spring training in '63," Corrales says. "All Mickey Mantle could talk about was this kid for the Reds who ran to first base after a walk.

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