Category Archives: PHILLIES

The forgotten Philly World Series

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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.

Uncle Frank and I go to the World Series

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Mike Schmidt delivers key RBI double during the 8th inning of Game 2 in the 1980 World Series

 

The 1980 World Series holds a special place in the hearts of all Philadelphia Phillies fans, and none more so than myself.

First of all, it is the only world championship the Phillies have won thus far in their 125-year history. It is also special to me because I got to see it in person, having attended Game #2 at Veteran’s Stadium with my Uncle Frank LoBiondo.

How it was that my Uncle Frank and I attended a World Series game together is a part of the story.

It’s not that we were ever particularly close, though he is a great guy and someone who I have always liked and enjoyed being in the company of at family events and such. He is my father’s sister’s husband, so my uncle through marriage.

At the age of 18, I had plenty of friends and family who would normally have been ahead of Uncle Frank in the pecking order for my extra ticket. In fact, that I even had an extra ticket is it’s own story.

Back in those days which may seem somewhat ancient now, there was no internet, and few of the types of ticket brokers that you find today. Most tickets to events were purchased either by standing in line at the box office or by procuring them at the venue on the day of the event from a scalper.

When the Phillies won the 1980 National League pennant by defeating the Houston Astros in one of the most dramatic pennant battles ever, I knew that I just had to attend what would be the first Philadelphia Phillies appearance in the World Series in my lifetime.

I was a huge baseball and Phillies fan, as I remain today, and I went out to Veteran’s Stadium in order to stand on line waiting for tickets. I got up to the box office and there was a maximum limit of eight (8) tickets which each individual could purchase at $20 per seat. So, I bought my allotted maximum, shelling out $160 in the process.

Believe me, that sounds like chump change to most of you here in 2008, and the fact is that it would cost you ten times that amount to get into Citizen’s Bank Park for this years Fall Classic. Well back then it was a lot of money to me and my young family.

As I mentioned already, I was only 18-years-old at the time. But I already was married with an eight-month old baby. I worked for First Pennsylvania Bank as a messenger clerk, a job that I had just begun a year earlier right out of high school. Needless to say, it barely paid the rent and other necessities.

But I had a plan in buying those eight tickets, and it worked wonderfully. At the bank, I put out word that I had extra seats. As anticipated, I was quickly besieged with offers for my tickets. I sold two for $100 apiece, and another two for $50 each.

Happy at having done so well, I sold the next pair on the cheap on the day of the game for $25 each just to get rid of them. I had sold six of the tickets, with a face value of $120, for a total of $360, putting a couple of hundred needed dollars into my family pocketebook. And I still had two remaining seats to enjoy the game for myself.

My ex-wife, with whom I was supposed to attend the game, couldn’t get off from work. So, I was left to scramble at the last minute for someone to go with me.

You wouldn’t think it would be a problem, but remember, it was 1980. No cell phones, texting, or personal computers. The only way to get in touch with anyone was in person or by land-line phones.

With little time before I should be leaving for the game, I began to make some phone calls. No luck. No one was answering their phones, or those friends whose homes that I reached were still not home from work or school.

Unbelievably, my brother, father, grandfather, and my closest friends were all out-of-pocket in that short time that I had to find a game partner.

After trying about a dozen or so people, I thought of my cousins, and I started out by calling the house of my cousin Donna LoBiondo (now Mooney), who lived just a few blocks away. Donna and I were the same age, and I had always gotten along well with her.

When I phoned, my Uncle Frank, her father, answered the call. Much as everyone else that I tried, Donna was not yet home from work. Sensing an opportunity, Uncle Frank volunteered that he would go with me if I wanted. Well, there you have it.

I walked over to their home, and Uncle Frank and I then walked to the route 79 bus on Snyder Avenue, took it westbound to the Broad Street Subway, and took the subway down to The Vet.

What excitement there was in what was then still a showplace venue of a stadium. The Phillies had held off George Brett and the Kansas City Royals the previous day for a thrilling 7-6 win, and so took a 1-0 series lead into our game.

For this Game 2 of the 1980 World Series, the Phillies manager Dallas Green would send their future Hall of Fame ace, Steve Carlton, to the mound.

Carlton was cruising along, and the Phillies took a narrow 2-1 lead into the 7th inning when suddenly there was some type of ruckus down on the field. It seems that the Royals manager believed that Carlton had a foreign substance on his hands. The umpires went out and checked, and whatever they found, they made Carlton stop and wash his hands. That may have rattled Lefty, as he proceeded to walk three batters.

The Royals’ star outfielder Amos Otis then ripped a two-run double. Kansas City added another run, and thus took a 4-2 lead in the game into the bottom of the 8th inning.

The Phils started to put their own rally together, and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Del Unser eventually tied it at 4-4. Then up came outfielder Bake McBride

The man known as ‘Shake-n-Bake’ rapped a go-ahead single through a drawn-in infield to put the Phillies back on top. The crowd of more than 60,000 roared, including Uncle Frank and I from our seats way up in the 700 level, the highest point in The Vet, directly behind home plate.

Then up to the plate stepped the Phillies MVP, superstar third baseman Mike Schmidt. The future Hall of Famer drove a double off the wall to score McBride with an insurance run, and The Vet was literally rocking from all of the fans jumping up and down and the roar of the crowd.

With normal closer Tug McGraw unavailable, tall veteran right-hander Ron Reed came in for the save situation in the top of the 9th inning. He set down the Royals, and the Phillies along with we fans celebrated a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

That lead would evaporate quickly. Kansas City won the next two games back at their home park to tie the Series at two games apiece. But the Phillies won a dramatic Game 5, and came back to The Vet exactly 28 years ago tonight.

On October 21st, 1980, the hopes and dreams of all Phillies fans were finally realized when the Tugger slipped a fastball past Willie Wilson with the tying run at the plate, and the Phils took the 6th game by a 4-1 final score.

No one who was around this town back then will ever forget that season, team, victory, and the ensuing parade. And in particular, I will never forget my first and only visit to the World Series, with my lucky long-shot ticket winner Uncle Frank right there beside me.

Black Friday

For the first time in 15 years our Philadelphia Phillies are preparing to play in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

The Fightin’ Phils have been here six times previously, all of them in my own lifetime as a fan. In their glory run from 1976 through 1980, the period covering most of my teenage years, the Phils played in the NLCS four times out of five seasons.

In the 1977 season the club won 101 games, their 2nd straight NL East crown, and there were many in baseball who felt the Phillies had the best team in baseball. Standing in the way of a trip to the World Series were the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two teams each had tremendous players. The Phillies were led by sluggers Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt, pesky shortstop Larry Bowa, and lefty starter Steve Carlton.

The Dodgers had a longtime infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey as well as slugging outfielders Reggie Smith and Dusty Baker. Their rotation was led by future Hall of Famer Don Sutton.

The two clubs split the first two games out in Los Angeles, and so the Phillies returned home needing to win two out of three at Veteran’s Stadium to advance to their first World Series in 28 years. And then baseball catastrophe struck.

It was October 7th, 1977. It was Game Three of the 1977 National League Championship Series. What is perhaps recognized as the single most devastating loss in Phillies history played out that day in what has become known as ‘Black Friday’ in local Philly pro sports legend.

The Dodgers scored first, with Baker and catcher Steve Yeager each driving in runs in the top of the 2nd for an early 2-0 lead off Phillies starter Larry Christenson. Then came the bottom of the 2nd, and a Philly fan sports legend was born.

With two outs and two runners on-base, Dodgers starting pitcher Burt Hooten began disputing ball and strike calls with the umpire, something that can often get a player ejected from a game. His antics became so annoying that the fans began to boo him vociferously.

Over the course of that one inning, the Phillies fans literally booed Hooten off the mound, unnerving the LA hurler into issuing four consecutive walks that helped put the Phillies up by 3-2.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 4th on another RBI hit by Baker. The two teams then stayed knotted into the bottom of the 8th, when the Phils seemingly took control.

Thanks to the hitting and base running hustle of Garry Maddox, who knocked in one run and scored another, the Phillies took a 5-3 lead into the 9th.

Manager Danny Ozark then turned the game over to reliable closer Gene Garber, and Garber quickly recorded the first two outs. As Garber got to an 0-2 count on weak-hitting Vic Davalillo, the Veteran’s Stadium crowd stood and roared in anticipation of their heroes going up by 2 games to 1 in the series.

The Phillies were just one strike away from needing just one more win to reach the World Series. And they had their ace, future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, slated to take the mound the next day. It was a dream scenario. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.

On that 0-2 pitch, Davallio shocked the entire stadium, including the Phillies, by laying down a perfect bunt for a base hit. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda then went to a pinch-hitter, 39-year old veteran Manny Mota.

Mota sent a fly ball back towards the left field wall. The ball was obviously not going to be a home run, and in fact outfielder Jerry Martin would usually have tracked the ball down easily.

Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, Martin was not in the game. It had become standard strategy for Ozark to put Martin in as a late-game defensive replacement for Luzinski. But again, for some unknown reason, Ozark didn’t make that move.

And so as Mota’s ball sailed towards the left field wall, it was the defensively deficient Luzinski who tried to make the play. He appeared to track the ball down right at the wall, but it somehow popped out of his glove. The Bull trapped it against the wall for a missed catch.

Luzinski turned and fired the ball to 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore, trying to nail Mota, who was hustling all the way. But more adventures then ensued as Sizemore mishandled the throw, allowing the ball to bounce away. Davallilo scored and Mota moved on to 3rd base.

Miraculously, the Dodgers had come back from the dead. The tying run was now just 90 feet away from home. Lopes stepped to the plate next and ripped a smash grounder right at Schmidt.

The Phillies third baseman had no time to react as the ball caromed hard off his knee and into the air, going straight into the bare hand of shortstop Bowa. In that one motion, Bowa fielded the ball and fired a strike to first baseman Richie Hebner for the final out.

Only it still didn’t happen. Lopes was ruled safe by the umpire on the bang-bang play, even though he clearly appeared to have narrowly been thrown out, a result which TV replays supported. Mota scored the tying run on the play, and the enraged Phils protested, but it was to no avail.

Garber tried to pick-off the speedy Lopes, but the Phils nightmare continued when the closer threw the ball away wildly. This allowed Lopes to move into scoring position, and Russell then singled him home, putting the Dodgers up by 6-5.

It was an incredible turnaround, and when the Phillies went down in order in the bottom of the 9th, the stunned Vet crowd didn’t even have the energy to wonder what had just happened.

The Dodgers celebrated their victory, and one night later they won the series by beating Carlton in a game sullied by rain.

The Dodgers moved on to the World Series against the Yankees, and the Phillies and their fans were left with the memory of the most emotionally draining loss in what has been a franchise history full of them.

It is known simply as ‘Black Friday’ now, and we still look back on it in astonishment, with the passing of three decades of time only numbing but never erasing the painful memory.

The Phillies and Dodgers will meet now in the 2008 NLCS. It will be the fourth time that this match-up has decided the National League champion. The Dodgers won previously in both that 1977 season and again in 1978, while the Phillies won in 1983.

And somewhere along the way you can expect the TV networks to dig up the old footage of Luzinski, Davalillo, Mota, Garber, Schmidt, and Bowa and the worst loss in Phillies history.

JRollin’ into the playoffs

The 2007 National League Most Valuable Player had certainly not played up to that standard during the 2008 campaign. Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies multi-talented shortstop and that ’07 MVP struggled with the bat through the majority of the first five months of the season. His numbers were nowhere near those of that magical season which he fashioned just a year ago. In 2007, Rollins led the Phils to their first division championship in 14 years with his .296 batting average, 30 homeruns, 94 rbi, 139 runs, 41 steals. This came on the heels of a 2006 year in which he had 25 homers, 83 rbi, 127 runs and 36 steals, and seemed to signal a progression that placed the player known as ‘JRoll’ among the elite at his position. At age 29, he seemed a regular strength that the Phils would be able to count on for at least the next few years. Instead, he pretty much crashed and burned statistically and production-wise in 2008, in which he would finish with just 11 homers, 59 rbi, and 76 runs scored, numbers that are completely unacceptable as the leadoff man in one of the most offensively solid lineups in baseball, playing his home games in a hitters paradise, and coming off an MVP year. But one thing that Jimmy Rollins never, ever let happen was that he did not take those offensive struggles out to the field with him. When JRoll took up his position at shortstop for the Phillies, he was again that Gold Glove Award winner. His range into the hole and up the middle, his mastery at turning the doubleplay with keystone partner Chase Utley, that rocket arm, his athleticism in going back on balls into the outfield or over by the 3rd base line, all of this remained. Jimmy Rollins bat might not have been much this season, but his defense at shortstop was a key reason that the Phillies went into this weekend in control of their own destiny, trying to clinch a 2nd straight division title. On Saturday afternoon it would all come together with a highlight reel play that will stand forever in the minds of the fans who witnessed it, either in person or on television. The Phils had a 4-2 lead and handed the ball to closer Brad Lidge for the 9th inning. Lidge was a perfect 40 for 40 in Save opportunities, and the Phils’ NL East title seemed all but assured as he struck out the leadoff batter. But then things got hairy as a walk and a couple of dink hits allowed the Washington Nationals to creep within 4-3, with the bases loaded and just one out. An inning earlier the Nats had challenged again, cutting a 3-1 Phils lead down to 3-2, but Rollins had helped put out the fire with a sensational ranging play into No-Man’s Land in centerfield. But he saved his best for this 9th inning drama. The Nats talented young leader, 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman, stepped in with those bases loaded, the tying run just 90 feet away with just one out. That close to Lidge losing his season-long perfection. Zimmerman got a pitch he liked and drilled a ground ball back up the middle that appeared for a second that it would roll into centerfield for a 2-run hit and a Nationals lead. But suddenly there was the speedy JRoll, slide-diving to snare the seeing-eye grounder. In the same motion that he speared the ball, he fed it to Utley at 2nd. Chase took the perfect feed for one out, turned, and fired a laser to 1st baseman Ryan Howard that beat the hustling Zimmerman by a couple steps for the game-winning double play. The Phils exploded onto the field to mob one another as the Citizen’s Bank Park crowd, and fans watching everywhere, erupted for joy. The Phillies are National League East Division champions for the 2nd straight season, and will open the playoffs at home against the wildcard Milwaukee Brewers. And although he had a down season, they simply would not be there again without the efforts of Jimmy Rollins, both in that clinching game, and in the field all season. Thanks to the gifts of his glove, arm, range, and speed, the Phils are once again JRollin’ into the playoffs.

Phillies on a pennant push

For a baseball fan like myself, it’s always a great summer when your home team is involved in a pennant race. My hometown Philadelphia Phillies have found themselves in the race for most of the past half dozen summers, finally reaching the playoffs a year ago when they won the National League East Division pennant on the final afternoon of the season. The Phils chased down the New York Mets last season, edging them by a single game after trailing by 7 1/2 games with just 17 left to play. This year the Phils are not in such desperate shape heading into the final week of the season. In fact, the club is firmly in control of it’s own playoff destiny. By winning their last 7 straight games, they have taken a lead over the Mets by a half game in the NL East, and the New Yorkers have lost their closer, Billy Wagner, for the remainder. Better still, the Phils are two games up on the Milwaukee Brewers, the nearest pursuers to the Mets for the NL Wildcard berth, and the Brewers may have just lost their 2nd best starting pitcher, Ben Sheets, for the remainder. So the Phils enter the next-to-last weekend in first place, and with a firm grasp on a playoff spot. They probably need finish only 5-4 to get the playoff berth, though will perhaps have to do better than that to nail down the divisional title. The Phils offense began the season being led by a red-hot Chase Utley, who bolted out of the gate on fire for the first two months, and Pat Burrell, who was picking up where he left off last season with big hits. Utley and Burrell’s fire was needed, as both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino spent significant time on the Disabled List early on, and Ryan Howard was ice cold the first two months. Just when Utley and Burrell began to cool, Howard heated up significantly, and was joined by outfielder Jayson Werth in leading the offense. Victorino returned and also got hot, and as September began even J-Roll began to get his game together and started producing. Howard has remained hot since June, and is a leading NL MVP contender heading into the final week, needing perhaps just one more hot week leading the Phils to that division title to clinch it. But the real reason that the Phils are in this solid position right now is an unexpectedly strong performance from the pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Cole Hamels has been as good as advertised most nights, and Jamie Moyer has once again defied Father Time to post one of his most consistently strong seasons in years. Brett Myers was downright awful for the first three months, got sent down to the minor leagues, and since returning two months ago has simply been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Joe Blanton was added in trade to provide stability, and he has done just that. He will never be a lights-out stopper, but he gives you a dependable, veteran, quality start most times out. Kyle Kendrick kept winning for awhile, but it was with mirrors, and the league finally caught up to him. To the rescue has come lefty J.A. Happ, who has been solid every time the Phils have given him a chance. In the bullpen, the off-season trade to bring in Brad Lidge as the new closer has proven to be perhaps GM Pat Gillick’s best acquisition to date. Lidge has been perfect in save opportunities, though he has struggled from time to time since being misused in the MLB All-Star game back in July. The rest of the pen has also been solid, with Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, Clay Condrey, Rudy Seanez, and now the newly acquired Scott Eyre holding most of the leads with which they have been entrusted. Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett have been invaluable off the bench, and Pedro Feliz has been one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the league when healthy. The Phils catching combo of Chris Coste & Carlos Ruiz is highly underrated. And for the pennant push there are veteran bench bats Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, So Taguchi, and Tadahito Iguchi around for depth and pinch-hitting. Charlie Manuel’s team appears like it has everything that it needs heading into the final games, and hopefully into the playoffs, and there is every reason for we fans to believe that not only will this pennant push be successful, but that the season will continue well into October.