George (Stud) Myatt, the Phillies' venerable third-base coach, stood in brand-new Philadelphia Veterans Stadium last Saturday, resplendent in his innovative red shoes with white stripes and his bright red-and-white uniform with a mod small "p" on the shirt. He shifted his venerable chaw and spat liberally on the latest-model wall-to-wall AstroTurf. Was there anything, he was asked, to the rumor that Phillies who chew had been urged to avoid getting tobacco juice on the artificial surface?
"If they don't want me to spit on it," Myatt replied, "they're going to have to give me a spittoon. My wife gives me one so I don't spit on the carpet when I'm home."
More generally, how did Myatt feel about plying his trade against the backdrop of the new $50-some-odd million facility—with its usherettes in mini-culottes and hot pants, its $15,000 "super boxes," its gaudy scoreboard and its other extravagant features? For instance, the "dancing waters" behind the centerfield wall, which were just then coming up green. "How would you like to have green spots on you?" he was asked.
"I've had those," he said.
Whatever obscure condition the old coach may have been recollecting, the drift of his remarks was reasonably clear. Baseball has broken out in a rash of new looks this spring—from the red socks currently being affected by the White Sox to the new uniforms and home of the "Thoroughly Modern Phillies" (as they have been called). But that doesn't mean that there is anything profoundly new under the tentative early-season sun.
The point was made more specifically a few minutes later by Gene Mauch, who used to manage the Phillies and now manages the Expos. ( Montreal, incidentally, started the current fad of using all lower-case letters in its logo; the Phillies and the California Angels have taken up such trendy typography this year.) Mauch had brought his Expos into town for the new stadium's inaugural game, and his attention was directed to Philadelphia Phil and Philadelphia Phillis, the mammoth kewpie dolls in Colonial garb whose function has been described by Phillies special-effects executive Bill Giles as follows:
"They are part of my home run spectacular. When a Phillie hits a homer, Philadelphia Phil will appear between the boards in center field and hit a baseball. It will travel toward the message board in right center and strike a Liberty Bell. The bell will glow and its crack will light up. The ball will continue and hit little Philadelphia Phillis in the fanny and she will fall down. As she falls, she will pull a lanyard on a cannon and the cannon will explode. After smoke and sound effects, a Colonial American flag will drop down. Then my dancing waters will come into play to the tune of Stars and Stripes Forever."
As it happened, when Third Baseman Don Money produced a Phillie homer against Mauch's Expos, "the ball" (a light running unobtrusively along a track between Phil and Phillis) was barely visible, the bell failed to glow, Phillis struck a thoroughly warranted blow for Women's Liberation by declining to fall down and the cannon smoke and the cannon noise went off independently of one another. The assumption before the game, however, was that the home run spectacular would captivate the sellout crowd. How did Mauch feel about baseball's greater and greater reliance upon such gimmickery?
"It's here," said Mauch resignedly. He sounded like Ethyl Barrymore at a performance of Oh! Calcutta!
"It's here," he said, "and just like in the Astrodome, the fans will come to see it at first, but after a while they will come to see a ball game."