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 entire infield, the catchers, the left field position, and each team’s 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.
The two starting center fielders had very different personalities but each was a vital contributor to their championship team. One was a quiet, reserved personality who is acknowledged as being among the greatest defensive center fielders to ever play the game and now has a spot on the Phillies Wall of Fame. The other is an effervescent and exciting dynamo who blended defensive excellence with all-around offensive skills.
1980: GARRY MADDOX
Known as “The Secretary of Defense” for his tremendous defensive ability while loping across the Astroturf at Veterans Stadium, it was said of him that “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third by Garry Maddox.”
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Los Angeles, Maddox became the second round choice of the San Francisco Giants during the regular phase of the 1968 MLB January Draft out of San Pedro High School.
Upon learning that he had been offered a lower bonus and was being paid less than other young Giants prospects, Maddox opted to join the U.S. Army and served from 1968-70, including a year in Vietnam. Exposure to chemicals during the war resulted in a skin condition that left him wearing a beard ever since.
After his father became ill, Maddox received a hardship discharge and returned home to help support his family. He resumed his career in the minor leagues during 1971 and the following year took over the starting center field role in San Francisco from aging legend Willie Mays.
The Phillies had begun to emerge from a long stretch of losing seasons as a young core developed from their minors during the early-1970’s. General manager Paul Owens brought in Dave Cash to play second base in 1974 and the team contended into September. ‘The Pope’ was trying to put together the missing puzzle pieces to true contention when on May 5 he finalized a trade that brought Dick Allen and Johnny Oates from Atlanta.
Knowing he had that deal in place with Allen slated to come in to take over first base, the previous day Owens had moved incumbent 27-year-old first baseman Willie Montanez to the Giants in a straight-up deal for the 25-year-old Maddox to fill a gaping center field hole in the lineup. Those moves worked as the Phillies would go 75-65 from that point onward.
Though they finished in second place, it was just 6.5 back of the perennial division power Pittsburgh Pirates. That season was the second year of what became a heated rivalry between the two Pennsylvania neighbors over the rest of the decade. Between 1974-80 the Pirates won the NL East title three times and the Phillies won four division crowns.
Maddox became integral to the Phillies success, winning seven straight NL Gold Gloves in center field beginning with his first year with the club in 1975. Offensively, Maddox was known more as a high-average doubles hitter with speed. He stole at least 21 bags over each of his first eight years in the big-leagues with a high of 33 in 1978.
For the 1980 season, Maddox had reached age 30 and would enjoy the last double-digit steals total of his career. He slashed just .259/.278/.386 with 11 homers and 59 runs scored, but also contributed 31 doubles, 73 RBIs, and stole 25 bases. A late-season injury forced manager Dallas Green to start Del Unser in center field over the final pivotal week with Maddox able to come off the bench for defensive purposes late in those games as the Phillies clinched a fourth NL East crown in five years.
Back in the starting lineup for the postseason, Maddox hit .300 in the thrilling NLCS against Houston. The decisive Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS went into extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Maddox’ drilled a two-out line drive on the first pitch to him from Astros’ reliever Frank LaCorte, scoring Unser with what turned out to be the game, series, and pennant-winning run.
In the bottom of the frame he raced over to snare a fly ball for the final out. As the Phillies mobbed one another on the field at the Astrodome, Maddox was carried off on the shoulders of his teammates. He would hit just .227 against Kansas City in the World Series, but had two hits in the decisive Game 6 victory.
Maddox would remain with the Phillies for the balance of his career, retiring early in the 1986 campaign. In 2001 he became the seventh member of those 1980 world champions enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame, joining Owens, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, and Tug McGraw. They have since been joined by Bob Boone, John Vukovich, and manager Dallas Green.
2008: SHANE VICTORINO
Born and raised in Wailuku on the island of Maui in Hawaii, “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” was a sixth round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school there in 1999.
Exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December 2002, Victorino was selected by the San Diego Padres. Knowing they had to keep him on their roster all season, Victorino made the Padres out of spring training and made his debut in Major League Baseball with them on April 2, 2003.
The Padres were able to keep him with the big-league team through May. He made one appearance against the Phillies in that stay on May 3. Victorino went 1-3 with a walk and an RBI double in the bottom of the 8th inning of a 5-4 Phillies victory.
Deciding that they were unable to keep him all year and unable to reach a trade agreement, the Padres returned Victorino to Los Angeles on May 28. He would spend the balance of the season and all of 2004 back in the Dodgers’ farm system. Victorino was once again exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December 2004 where the Phillies selected him.
With Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Victorino enjoyed a strong 2005 campaign. The Phillies called him up that September and he made his debut on September 3. During the 2006 season, Victorino was with the Phillies all year. He split most of his time between left and right fields, but handled center for three weeks while Aaron Rowand was out with an injury after crashing into the wall at Citizens Bank Park in May.
Rowand would be lost again to injury in late August, this time for the rest of the year, with Victorino taking over once again. After playing right field with the 2007 NL East Division champs, Victorino moved permanently to center for the 2008 season after Rowand was dealt away. He won the NL Gold Glove Award that year, the first of three straight for Victorino at the position.
In that 2008 season he contributed not only with sensational defensive play but also with a dynamic offensive campaign. Victorino slashed .293/.352/.447 with 14 homers, 52 extra-base hits, 102 runs scored, and 36 stolen bases.
His play was especially key down the stretch in the regular season as the Phillies stormed from behind to win a second straight NL East crown. Victorino slashed .462/.481/.769 with three homers, nine extra-base hits, six RBIs, eight runs, and four steals and helped spark the Phillies to a 10-3 record over the final two weeks.
During the postseason he hit .269 with two homers, six extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, and three stolen bases. In Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS it was Victorino’s 2nd inning grand slam off Milwaukee Brewers’ ace C.C. Sabathia that gave the Phillies a 5-1 lead they would never relinquish en route to a 3-1 series victory.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning of Game 2 of the 2008 NLCS, Victorino’s two-out, two-strike, two-run single off Chad Billingsley gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead. In the bottom of the 3rd his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple off Chan Ho Park scored two more runs, giving the Phillies an 8-2 lead in a game they would win by 8-5.
Three days later in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS the Dodgers led the Phillies by 5-3 into the top of the 8th inning at Dodger Stadium looking to even the series at two games apiece. With one out and Ryan Howard at first base, Victorino lashed the first pitch from reliever Cory Wade out on a line to tie the game at 5-5. Three batters later, Matt Stairs blasted another two-run homer into the night and the Phillies had rallied to a 7-5 victory. They would clinch the pennant two days later.
Victorino contributed five hits and two RBIs to the World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, which included two-hit efforts in each of the first two games of that Fall Classic. In the clinching Game 5 of the 2008 World Series his two-run single scored Chase Utley and Jayson Werth to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. It would take them three days to win that infamously rain-suspended affair, but win it they would.
He would remain with the Phillies into the 2012 season when at age 31 he was dealt away to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline on the same day that the club swapped Hunter Pence to Houston, ostensibly surrendering their season and signaling the beginning of the end of their decade-long period of contention. Far from finished, he would go on to win a fourth career Gold Glove and a second World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox the following year.
There is a clear winner here, and it’s not who my fellow fans of the 1980 Phillies would hope. Yes, Maddox won eight straight Gold Glove awards and came up clutch in the 10th inning of that NLCS clincher vs Houston. But the facts show that Victorino was simply better in his championship-winning campaign, and that is what this series is about.
In 1980, Maddox won the NL Gold Glove Award in center field. But so did Victorino in 2008. Meanwhile, virtually every offensive category tilts in the Hawaiian’s direction: HR (14-11), runs (102-59), extra-base hits (52-45), steals (36-25), batting average (.293-.259), and on-base percentage (.352-.278) all go to Victorino. Only in RBIs (73-58) was Maddox more productive.
In the postseason it was more of the same. Over 11 games, Maddox slashed .262/.319/.357 with no homers, four XBH, three runs, four RBIs, two steals. In 14 games, Victorino slashed .269/.345/.481 with two homers, six extra-base hits, five runs, 13 RBIs, and three stolen bags. Chalk this position comparison up to the Flyin’ Hawaiian, who will surely one day join Maddox with a plaque on the wall.
1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE
4.27.20 – Left field
4.18.20 – First base
4.16.20 – Second base
4.10.20 – Shortstop
4.02.20 – Third base
3.30.20 – Catcher
3.24.20 – Bench reserves
3.20.20 – Relief pitching
3.18.20 – Starting pitching