Out or safe? Bowa, Lopes debate on
2008 NLCS coaches stand firm in views on 1977 NLCS play
PHILADELPHIA -- For all that has changed in the past 31 years, Larry Bowa says the replays still show Davey Lopes was out, and Lopes still says he was safe, no matter what the replays show.
They've traded uniforms, Lopes the former Dodger is a Phillies coach, Bowa the former Phillie is a Dodgers coach. Their teams worked out Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night's opener of the National League Championship Series, and the obvious storyline was to have the pair pick up the debate about the controversial play in the 1977 NLCS.
It was Game 3, two outs, top of the ninth, one run in, Gene Garber pitching and Manny Mota on third. Lopes hit a grounder to third that hit a seam in the artificial turf at Veterans Stadium, deflected off third baseman Mike Schmidt's glove and was grabbed barehanded by shortstop Bowa, who threw to first. Umpire Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe, but replays from all angles indicated he was out.
Mota scored the tying run, and Bill Russell ultimately knocked in Lopes with a single for the 6-5 win. The next night, Tommy John defeated Steve Carlton in the pouring rain to win the series, 3-1.
"I know Davey says let it go. But he was out," said Bowa, who also managed the Phillies. "He knows he was out, and he can go look at that all day. One hundred thousand times he was out."
"Why should I admit it?" asked Lopes. "To tell you the truth, I've never seen the play, don't want to see the play, why Larry keeps dwelling on it I have no clue. I'll be honest with you; we've got another game to play, do we not? So what's the problem? Did they give up? Is that what he's telling me, he gave up the next day? Or did Tommy John just throw too many sinkers for him and that's why we won?
"It wasn't the last game. They had plenty of opportunities to turn and reverse that. They didn't do it. So stop crying and get over it and move on. No, because they're trying to say that play cost them going to the World Series. Is that what they're saying? But what about the next day? That's what I'm trying to say. The game did not end that particular inning, that particular day. I mean, they had the chance to regroup and come out and kick our butts the next day, but they didn't do it. They did not do it. It wasn't a one-game elimination type thing.
"And that's what I don't understand. I think that's just poor rationalization on whomever is talking about it. Mainly the players over the years, and just afraid to admit they got beat by a better team that particular time. That's what it was. It wasn't just that one play."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.