Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey was the MVP of an often overlooked 1983 World Series
No one of a certain age will ever forget the events of October 1980 as the Phillies won their first and only World Series title behind future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, the legendary Pete Rose, and beloved icons such as Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski, and of course, Tug McGraw.
The magical, fun, worst-to-first 1993 team that went to the World Series before losing on a home run by Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays off Mitch Williams is unforgettable as well to even more fans. That cast of characters led by Darren Daulton, Lenny Dysktra, Curt Schilling, and John Kruk will be spotlighted later this week.
There are even some old enough to remember with fondness all the way back to Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts, who led the 1950 ‘Whiz Kids’ as that Phillies team went toe-to-toe with the Yankees dynasty before falling short, losing three of the four games by just one run.
But somewhere along the way, the Phillies appearance in the 1983 World Series seems to get lost in the memory banks of many fans. It remains to this day, sandwiched between that 1980 magical title and 1993 near-miss, the forgotten series to many Phillies fans.
The 1983 World Series matched the Phillies against the American League champion Baltimore Orioles. Back in those days, the O’s were regular contenders in the American League East Division.
From 1966 through that 1983 season, a span of 18 seasons, the Orioles enjoyed their ‘Glory Days’, winning three World Series during this span, as well as six A.L. pennants and five of the first six A.L. east titles.
Three players from the Orioles won American League MVP awards in this span. Their pitchers won six A.L. Cy Young Awards.
Theirs was a great organization, and the 1983 team was typical. Led by future Hall of Famers Jim Palmer (in his final full season), Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr (a rookie that year), the Orioles won 98 games during the regular season.
The Phillies that year had the oldest average player age in the big leagues at 32-years-old, and had thus been nicknamed the ‘Wheeze Kids’ by the media, a pun hearkening back to that 1950 team whose youth earned it the legendary moniker of ‘Whiz Kids’.
Schmidt, Carlton, Rose, Maddox, reliever Ron Reed, and pinch-hitter Greg Gross were still around from the 1980 world champions of three years prior. They were joined by former all-stars and Rose’ former fellow ‘Big Red Machine’ teammates Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.
Also starring on that club were outfielders Gary Matthews and Von Hayes. and pitchers John Denny (who won the NL Cy Young Award that year), Al Holland, and Larry Andersen (the only Phillies player to appear in both the 1983 and 1993 Fall Classic.) A young Juan Samuel came off the bench that year to provide speed and spark.
The Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1983 World Series thanks to an 8th inning leadoff home run by Maddox, which came after Morgan had tied the game with a two-out home run in the 6th. Denny tossed 7.2 strong innings, allowing just five hits, and Holland finished up for the save in the 2-1 victory.
In Game 2, the Orioles received another pitching gem from Mike Boddicker, who had won the ALCS MVP, and took the contest by a 4-1 score to knot the series at 1-1. But the Phils felt good. They had split in Baltimore, and would now return to Philly for the next three games in Veteran’s Stadium.
Game 3 was a gem tossed by Steve Carlton. ‘Lefty’ took a 2-1 lead into the 7th inning thanks to solo homers by Morgan and Matthews, and appeared to be cruising as he got the first two outs.
But the longtime team-leading catcher Rick Dempsey, who would end up taking the World Series MVP award, smacked a double, and a pinch-hitter brought him home as the tying run with a single. Holland came in to relieve, gave up another hit, and an error by shortstop Ivan DeJesus brought home the go-ahead run.
The sequence would prove to be a series turning point, as the Orioles nailed down the 3-2 win despite mustering just six hits, taking a 2-1 World Series lead.
In Game 4, the bats broke out as each team clubbed ten hits. The Phillies again took the lead, this time by 3-2 heading into the 6th inning. But reliever Willie Hernandez suffered a two-out meltdown that resulted in the go-ahead runs.
An insurance run by Baltimore in the 7th proved pivotal, and a Phillies 9th-inning rally fell just short in a 5-4 loss that put the Orioles within one win of a title.
For the vital Game 5, Phillies manager Paul Owens sent young right-hander Charles Hudson to the mound. But it wasn’t the kid pitcher that did the club in, it was the non-existent bats.
The Phillies managed just five hits, and Eddie Murray snapped out of a series-long slump with a pair of home runs to seal the Phillies fates. Baltimore won the game in a 5-0 shutout in front of a dispirited crowd at The Vet, taking the Series by four games to one.
Then a rookie player, but soon to be a record-breaking legend, Cal Ripken Jr recorded the final out, and the Orioles celebrated on the turf at The Vet. The Phillies would not return to the World Series for a decade.
Worse days were ahead though for the Orioles who have not returned to the World Series since that day. Meanwhile, the ‘Wheeze Kids’ appearance in the 1983 World Series remains often overlooked in Philadelphia.