The Philadelphia Phillies franchise has won exactly two World Series championships over the course of 137 seasons of play. Those two world titles came in 1980 and 2008.
As part of our season-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of that 1980 team championship, I have been comparing those two great Phillies teams to see whether either can legitimately be considered as having been better than the other.
I got to enjoy each of those seasons, the first as an 18-year-old in October of 1980 and the next as a 46-year-old in October 2008. As a huge Phillies and baseball fan who has followed the club all the way back to 1971, I feel extremely qualified to hold an educated opinion on the subject.
To date the series has examined the second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, catchers, pitching rotations, bullpens, and bench groups. Those pieces can be found linked below. Once this evaluation series ends there will be one final piece in which I will give my opinion as to which – if either – of these two Phillies championship teams was the better all-around squad.
Today this comparison series starts to wind down as we begin moving across the outfield. The two primary left fielders were each known by a catchy nickname. One of them was a star player at both Veteran’s Stadium and Citizens Bank Park. The other starred as a player at one and has become a fixture at the other. Each has been honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
1980: GREG LUZINSKI
Greg ‘the Bull’ Luzinski was a Chicago native who became the Phillies first round pick at 11th overall in the 1968 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in Illinois. His power was obvious from the start. Luzinski banged out 13 homers at Huron in the Low-A Northwest League after signing that summer.
The following year at High-A Raleigh-Durham, Luzinski crushed 31 homers with 92 RBIs while slashing .289/.371/.550 over 129 games. He began the 1970’s at Double-A Reading and upped his production even further, slashing .325/.439/.609 with 33 home runs, 63 extra-base hits, 120 RBIs, and 94 runs scored.
That earned Luzinski a promotion when the big-league roster was expanded in September. He got into eight games and made three starts, all at first base. On September 11, 1970 at Jarry Park in Montreal, Luzinski singled with one out in the top of the 7th inning off Expos’ pitcher Carl Morton for his first hit in Major League Baseball.
When Luzinski continued to crush minor league pitching at Triple-A Eugene in 1971 he again earned a late-season big-league promotion, and in 1972 he made the Opening Day roster with the Phillies, never to return again to the minors.
Over the balance of the 1970’s, Luzinski became one of the most feared hitters in the National League. He was an NL All-Star each season from 1975-78 and hit in the heart of the Phillies batting order as the club developed into a consistent contender. In both 1975 and 1977 he was the NL MVP runner-up and finished in the top 10 of the voting in each of his four All-Star campaigns.
During the 1980 season, Luzinski slashed just .228/.342/.440 at age 29. His 19 homers represented a second straight season of decreased power from his prime, and his 56 RBIs were a career low. He played in just 106 games that season, losing time to exciting 24-year-old speedster Lonnie Smith.
The bigger problem that year, however, was a bad knee injury. He had begun the season hot, blasting 15 home runs by mid-June, second in the league only to fellow teammate Mike Schmidt. But in early July he hurt the knee on a slide into second base. He underwent surgery at the end of the month and would be out until late August.
Hitting just .193 after his return with only four home runs across 35 games, Luzinski nevertheless produced big at the most important time. In Game 161 of the season with the club trying to clinch the division crown in Montreal he delivered a huge two-run single off Expos’ ace Steve Rogers in the top of the 7th inning to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. They would win the game and the NL East crown on a home by Schmidt in the top of the 11th inning.
In the incredible five-game victory over the Houston Astros in the National League Championship Series, Luzinski played in all five games and made four starts, delivering two of that series’ biggest blows.
The Phillies trailed Houston by two games to one and found their backs to the wall at the Astrodome in Game 4 of the NLCS. Luzinski was sent to the plate by manager Dallas Green as a pinch-hitter for Bake McBride with Pete Rose on first base and two outs in the top of the 10th inning.
Luzinski ripped the second pitch from Astros’ reliever Joe Sambito for a double to left field. Rose never stopped running, scoring on the play by barreling into catcher Bruce Bochy. Luzinski then scored an insurance run on a double by NLCS MVP Manny Trillo as the Phillies won 5-3 to even the series. They would win it the following day.
In the Fall Classic against Kansas City, Luzinski appeared in three of the six games, making starts in Games 1, 5, and the clinching Game 6 of the World Series. He went 0-9 but got to enjoy being out in left field at his regular position when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson to end it.
That would be the final game that Luzinski would play in a Phillies uniform during a season. At the end of spring training the following year he was dealt to his hometown Chicago White Sox where he would play out the final four seasons of a 15-year career in Major League Baseball.
2008: PAT BURRELL
Pat ‘the Bat’ Burrell was an Arizona native who played his high school ball in Cailfornia and went to college at the University of Miami, Florida. From there he became the first overall pick in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies.
That year saw tremendous talent come out. Joining him in that first round were players such as Mark Mulder (2), J.D. Drew (5), Carlos Pena (10), Jeff Weaver (14), C.C. Sabathia (20). Future teammates Brad Lidge (17) and Aaron Rowand (35) also came out of that first round.
Going straight to High-A Clearwater that summer, Burrell tore up the Florida State League with a .303/.416/.530 slash line, producing seven homers and 30 RBIs over just 37 games.
Over the next two years Burrell rolled through Reading and Scranton-Wilkes Barre and in late May of 2000 he was called to the big-leagues for good. In just 111 games he produced 18 home runs, 46 extra-base hits, and 79 RBIs to finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
For the next eight seasons he was one of the most consistently productive power hitters in Major League Baseball. Burrell averaged 29 home runs and 94 RBIs from 2001-08, receiving NL MVP support in both 2002 and 2005.
In the 2008 season, Burrell slashed .250/.367/.507 with 33 homers, 67 extra-base hits, and 86 RBIs at age 31. He then started all 14 of the Phillies postseason games and was particularly effective in the five-game victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .333 in the NLCS.
Game 1 of the 2008 NLCS at Citizens Bank Park saw the Phillies being shutout by Derek Lowe into the bottom of the 6th inning. Trailing 2-0, Chase Utley tied it up with a two-run homer. Two batters later Burrell untied it, lining a 3-1 offering from Lowe out deep over the left field fence to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead that would end up as the final score.
As the Phillies built a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic vs Tampa Bay, Burrell’s bat was quiet. He went 0-3 in each of those first four games. Then in the clinching Game 5 of the World Series he woke up during a ball game that would be split across two days by a torrential rain system.
During the first half of that game, Burrell walked in the bottom of the 1st inning to load the bases. Shane Victorino followed with a two-run single to score Utley and Jayson Werth, giving the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.
The Rays would fight back to tie the game in the top of the 6th inning as the rains got exponentially worse. The result was the first suspended game in World Series history and action would not resume for two days as steady rains continued to fall in Philadelphia.
When the game resumed on Wednesday, October 29 the two teams traded runs over the first at-bats. Headed to the bottom of the 7th inning the game was tied at 3-3. Burrell would lead off that inning for the Phillies.
On a 1-1 pitch from Rays’ reliever J.P. Howell, Burrell blasted a ball to the deepest part of center field at Citizens Bank Park. What appeared at first to be a sure home run instead slammed off the very top of that center field wall. Burrell rolled into second base with a double, putting the go-ahead run into scoring position.
Manager Charlie Manuel made the decision to pinch-run for Burrell at that point, sending in Eric Bruntlett. As Burrell trotted off the field the Philly crowd roared, realizing that as a pending free agent this could very well be the final time he took the field as a Phillies player. That would indeed prove the case.
Victorino followed by grounding out, moving Bruntlett to third base. Pedro Feliz then drilled a single to center, bringing Bruntlett home with what would turn out to be the winning run. Two innings later, Brad Lidge fired a third strike past Eric Hinske and the Phillies were world champions for just the second time in their history.
The senior member of that team by years played with the club, Burrell got to lead the parade down Broad Street, riding atop a Clydesdale-drawn Budweiser wagon with his faithful bulldog Elvis by his side.
Becoming a free agent, Burrell ironically signed with Tampa Bay. He played in parts of two seasons with the Rays and was traded to the San Francisco Giants early in the 2010 season. That fall he helped the Giants to win the franchise first World Series title in 56 years, playing in all six of the NLCS games against the Phillies along the way. Burrell retired after playing the 2011 season back in San Francisco.
These two players are eerily similar. Both were first round draft picks who reached Major League Baseball with the Phillies just two years later. Both were power hitters who were questionable at best defenders. Both had their final official moments in a Phillies uniform while winning the World Series.
This positional comparison is not about their careers, however. It is about their impact on their respective World Series teams. During the regular season, Burrell had a far greater overall impact than did Luzinski, though the latter lost much of his season and then his effectiveness to injury after a strong first two months.
Over 14 postseason games in 2008, Burrell slashed .227/.346/.455 with three homers, four extra-base hits, three runs scored, and eight RBIs. Over his eight postseason games in 1980, Luzinski slashed just .192/.250/.385 with one homer, three extra-base hits, three runs, and four RBIs.
Another position at which the two teams are close. But I have to give this one to Pat the Bat. It’s possible the The Bull could have had more impact had he not injured his knee that summer. But he did, and he simply wasn’t the same hitter after his return.
1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE
4.18.20 – FIRST BASE
4.16.20 – SECOND BASE
4.10.20 – SHORTSTOP
4.02.20 – THIRD BASE
3.30.20 – CATCHERS
3.24.20 – BENCH GROUPS
3.20.20 – RELIEF PITCHING
3.18.20 – STARTING PITCHING