While Carlton and I drove the roughly 350 miles to Philadelphia for the two Pirates games there before the All-Star rest, I had a sudden urge to stop in the hills of McKeesport, just south of Pittsburgh. It was one of my many childhood homes, and the old man who lived there in 1977 didn’t remember meeting me or anyone in the Grossinger family, but he did save a shoebox full of old, unmailed letters he found in the cellar once.
They were written by mother Sophie, an obsessed Pirates fan, and they were love letters to Bill Mazeroski, Dale Long, Ralph Kiner and other team luminaries of the 50s and 60s. I was ashamed to even show them to Carlton, but he was fascinated and read some aloud while I drove for an hour or two. I suddenly realized why I had this buried affection for the Pirates, and why I felt compelled to see them play in Philadelphia after their horrific visit to Cincinnati. I actually cared about them.
The game we saw today was deeply satisfying, and if my mother were alive she might have dashed off the following letter while sitting in the baking stands…
How do you do what you do? Even with Candelaria on our hill we were in a queasy state throughout this game. A double by Robinson and two-run triple from Parker staked us to an early 3-0 lead, but John wasn’t fooling the Phils one bit and it was a blessed miracle we weren’t behind by the middle innings.
Mike Schmidt and that dastardly mustache of his was the culprit, alright. After Candy hit him in the 1st, he singled in their first run and homered in their second to cut our lead to 4-2 in the 7th. Two singles and a walk followed, but Tim McCarver bounced into that double play to let us escape with our lives. I saw you warming up out there right before Sizemore doubled to begin the Phillie 8th, and when you emerged from the bullpen cart, as formidable as you’ve ever looked, I have to say my heart soared.
And then you went to work, fanning Johnstone. Hebner walked, before you poured untouchable gas past the evil Schmidt for the second out. Luzinski managed to dribble a single but McBride lined out to Stennett and all was well. The 9th was simple by comparison. I adored the way you whiffed Downtown Ollie Brown after Hutton hit a pitch two-out single.
I do pray you are able to pitch more often, because our pennant hopes may depend on you. And if you ever pass through McKeesport, I am hoping you will ring me up so I can show you the local sights.
PIT 012 001 000 – 4 10 0
PHL 000 100 100 – 2 10 0
W-Candelaria L-Kaat SV-Dearest Goose HR: Schmidt GWRBI-Gonzalez
at EXPOS 4-9-2, REDS 1-8-0
No mystery here. Cincy throws a lefty at Montreal, which is a lot like tossing pork chops into a lion’s den. Carter and Perez both go long against Norman, Valentine singles twice, and Jackie Brown cools the white-hot Reds for a day.
DODGERS 5-12-1, at CARDS 3-7-1
Allowing L.A. to move back into first place for the first time since April. Sutton runs into much late trouble but Sosa and Hough bail him out with great relief work. TEN straight wins for the blue-hot Dodgers.
at CUBS 3-9-1, ASTROS 2-7-0
Greg Gross starts the Cub side of the game with a leadoff homer vs. Niekro, and the lead actually holds up for Rick Reuschel. Chicago hits into their usual four double plays, but the non-clutch Astro bats make all the difference.
ROYALS 9-13-1, at TWINS 2-5-0
Marty Pattin with the CG, and Brett’s in the middle of everything. Hits a two-run homer in the 1st, gets plunked his next time up by Schueler and nearly starts a brawl, then inspires a McRae double and Porter single right after that to put the game away. Carew gets a hit but does anyone care?
RED SOX 4-3-1, at ORIOLES 3-9-1
After flying back into the pennant race, the Birds have clearly had a wing sheared off. Today Rudy May throws an 8-inning no-hitter, but loses by giving Boston four walks, two singles and a double in the 2nd inning. A vicious rally in the bottom of the 9th off Tiant nearly ties it up, but on a Mora pinch single, Dauer is gunned down at the plate by Fred Lynn to end the game.
YANKEES 9-10-1, at INDIANS 6-12-0
The Yanks get some revenge from the recent two-game Tribe sweep in the Bronx, and they do it despite another ugly Mike Torrez start because Cliff Johnson, recently of Houston and parked in the cleanup spot against lefty Hood, bombs three homers out of the yard.
RANGERS 4-11-1, at WHITE SOX 3-11-2
Two old farts Gaylord Perry and Wilbur Wood face off, and I don’t need to tell you which gas smells better. Chicago, back in the doldrums they’ve been in most of the year, collect six extra base hits and still can’t win.
ALL-STAR SERIES IS THIS WEEKEND, so there’s still a few days to enter our contest and win a pair of Funky CDs. All the details are here.
American League through Saturday, July 5
National League through Saturday, July 5