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Philography: Mike Schmidt

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Statue of Michael Jack Schmidt, the greatest player in Phillies history, stands outside of Citizens Bank Park

 

This Philography series has now weaved its way through 20 individuals who have played a big part in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise. So it is perhaps fitting that we now take a look back at the career of #20 himself, the greatest player in franchise history, Mike Schmidt.

Philography began with 18 pieces that I wrote during each off-season between 2014-17. Over the last few months I re-introduced the series here at Phillies Nation with two of the players whose actual uniform numbers the Phillies have retired: Richie Ashburn and Jim Bunning.
Entire books can be written – have been written – in order to fully tell the story of one of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball. I’m not going to try to do that here. If you are interested in getting in deeper, check out a fine biography at this link written back in 2010 by Rob Maaddi titled Mike Schmidt: The Phillies’ Legendary Slugger.
In order to keep this to a reasonable article-length piece, I will simply rehash the early playing career, and then key on the 1980 highlights of the greatest third baseman in the history of the game, with a little background tossed in here and there. It should make for a great introduction for younger fans, and a fun bit of nostalgia for those who, like me, actually got to see him play.

BEGINNINGS

Schmidt was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and stayed home to play college baseball at Ohio University. He was a shortstop in those days and was selected at that position to the 1970 College Baseball All-America Team after leading the Bobcats to the College World Series.
With the sixth pick in the second round of the 1971 MLB Amateur Draft, the Phillies selected Schmidt at 30th overall. That was just one pick after the Kansas City Royals had chosen a California shortstop by the name of George Brett.
Schmidt described his contract signing process in a 2015 piece by Matt Monagan for MLB.com’s Cut 4:
The next day, Mr. Lucadello (Phillies scout Tony Lucadello) came to the house, pulled in the driveway, opened his trunk and he pulled out a typewriter. He pulled a typewriter out, walked in the house, set the typewriter down, had a piece of paper and said, “We’re prepared to offer Mike $25,000 if he’ll sign with the Phillies right now.” And my father said, “No way. Come back when you can give us $40,000.” We ended up settling on $37,500 and I went out and bought a Corvette for $7,000.
As an advanced college prospect, Schmidt went straight to Double-A Reading that same summer. He appeared in his first 74 professional games there, hitting .211 with eight homers and 31 RBI over 268 plate appearances.
With a full off-season of rest, Schmidt moved up to Triple-A Eugene for the 1972 season and really showed his ability. He slashed .291/.409/.550 while slamming 26 home runs and driving in 91 runs over 131 games.

MONEY FOR A CUP OF COFFEE

That performance earned him a September promotion to a 59-win, last-place Phillies club. The starting third baseman at that time was 25-year-old Don Money, who the Phillies had high hopes for at one point. However, Money hit just .222 with 15 homers that year following up on a 1971 season in which he had hit just .221 with seven homers.
Schmidt didn’t light the world on fire in that first brief big-league cup of coffee. But he got to appear in 13 games, and made eight starts at the hot corner alongside a fiery 26-year-old shortstop by the name of Larry Bowa.
On September 16, 1972 in the first game of a doubleheader at Veteran’s Stadium against the Montreal Expos, Schmidt blasted a three-run homer off Balor Moore for his first career round-tripper. It would turn out to be a game-winner, taking the Phillies from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead that would also end up as the final score that night.
Realizing that the Phillies had their starting third baseman for years to come, general manager Paul Owens swung a deal the very next month, shipping Money, infielder John Vukovich, and pitcher Bill Champion to the Milwaukee Brewers for four hurlers, including veteran Jim Lonborg and George Brett‘s brother, Ken Brett.
Schmidt’s contributions to the 1972 Phillies season, such as they were, were lost on most of Phillies Nation at that time. The big story had been the performance of a new arrival, starting pitcher Steve Carlton. The left-hander won 27 games and the NL Cy Young Award that year for a last place team. Little did anyone know that he and Schmidt would become the cornerstones of great Phillies teams for years to come.

RISE TO CONTENDERS

In his first season as a starter, Schmidt struggled mightily, slashing just .196/.324/.373 with 18 home runs. The Phillies again finished in the basement of the National League East Division, but under new manager Danny Ozark they showed some progress overall, entering September just six games off the division lead.
The 1974 season would prove to be a big step forward for both the team and its young third sacker. Schmidt slashed .282/.395/.546 and led the NL with 36 homers. He also produced 116 RBI, 108 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases, was selected as a reserve for the National League All-Star team and would finish sixth in the NL MVP voting.
On June 10 of that 1974 season in Houston, Schmidt drove an offering from Astros pitcher Claude Osteen that was a no-doubt home run right off the bat. But as the ball soared up and up at the Astrodome it struck a public address speaker that was suspended 117 feet up and 329 feet out from home plate. The ball fell into center field for what ended up as one of the longest singles ever hit.
Sparked by Schmidt’s emergence and the veteran influence of new second baseman Dave Cash the Phillies spent much of June and July of that summer of 1974 in first place. Though the club wilted in the August heat, they still won 80 games for the first time in eight years and ended the season in third place, the highest finish by a Phillies team since 1966.
The 1975 season would see the Phillies take another step forward. The team won 86 games and was tied for first place as late as August 18. The Phillies went 11-7 against the division power at that time, the cross-state rival Pittsburgh Pirates. But the Bucs again pulled away at the end, finishing 6.5 games ahead.
Schmidt had a bit of a fall-off that season, hitting just .249 and seeing his strikeouts total soar to a league-leading 180. But he also led the league for a second straight season with 38 home runs. He and left fielder Greg Luzinski gave the Phillies the most feared combination of sluggers in the game. “The Bull” slashed .300/.394/.540 that year with 34 homers and 120 RBI, making the NL All-Star team and finishing as the NL MVP runner-up.

BECOMING THE BEST

The Bicentennial season of 1976 would finally see the Phillies overtake the Pirates as kings of the east. Led by a rejuvenated Schmidt, the club would romp to a franchise-record 101 regular season victories. They moved into first place on May 14 and would never relinquish the lead, building a 15.5 game cushion at one point and finishing on top by nine games.
Schmidt led the charge for that club, again leading the league with 38 homers and also finishing with an NL-best 306 total bases. On April 17 he blasted four home runs during an 18-16 Phillies victory over the host Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Schmidt was selected for his second NL All-Star team, finished third in the National League MVP vote, and was honored with his first Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence at third base.
In the Phillies first-ever NLCS appearance, Schmidt was shut down over the first two games by Cincinnati. The Reds won both games by 6-3 and 6-2 at The Vet as he went just 1-8 in the two games combined. In Game 3 back at Riverfront Stadium, Schmidt finally broke out with three hits. But the big bats of the Big Red Machine scored three times in the bottom of the 9th, rallying to a 7-6 victory and the National League pennant.
The next three seasons would be a mixture of success and frustration. The Phillies equaled their record 101 wins in 1977, then won 90 games in 1978. They captured the NL East each season, giving them three consecutive division crowns. But the team came up short each year in the National League Championship Series, dropping back-to-back heart-breakers to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Frustrated by the Phillies inability to get over the hump in the postseason, Owens decided to finally go after a big piece in a free agency process that was only a few years old at that point. On December 5, 1978 he signed perennial All-Star Pete Rose, who had helped lead the Reds to World Series titles in both 1975 and 1976.
With Rose on board the Phillies opened 1979 as favorites once again. Things were going as planned early on, as the club built a 3.5 game division lead by early May and were still sitting atop the division on May 27. But then it all came suddenly and unexpectedly crashing down.
Starting on May 28 the Phillies lost six straight games. That began a 38-51 collapse over the next three months. Despite a 19-11 final month the 1979 Phillies would finish in fourth place, a distant 14 games behind the famed “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates team that would go on to become World Series champions.
That victory in the Fall Classic was the second of the decade for the Phillies main division rivals. It was the fifth overall World Series title for Pittsburgh. The Phillies had still never won a single World Series crown in what was then 97 seasons of existence.
From 1977-79, Schmidt cemented his place as one of the true stars of the game. He won the NL Gold Glove Award each season and twice was a National League All-Star. In 1979 his 45 home runs set a new Phillies franchise record, breaking the old mark of 43 set by Chuck Klein all the way back in 1929.
But that 1979 collapse had cost the laid-back Ozark his job. He was replaced by Dallas Green and his no-nonsense, in-your-face. It would be under Green that the team would turn it back around for that 19-11 final month performance.

1980 MANDATE

Green took over as Phillies manager at the end
of the 1979 season. He would drive the
team hard, but it all paid off in the end.
There was only one mandate as the 1980 season began, win a championship. If it failed to happen then an aging Phillies core was likely to see major changes after that season. That core of Schmidt, Bowa, Luzinski, and catcher Bob Boone had been together for most of the decade. They had led the rise to contending status but were also continually falling short in the playoffs.
Coming off their fourth-place finish, the Phillies were not considered division favorites entering the season. Sure enough the Phillies sat in fourth place and were already 5.5 games out on May 10. But by the All-Star break they had scratched and clawed their way back into the race.
For the first time since the opening days of the season, the Phillies took sole possession of first place in the NL East on July 11. And yet that was not a jumping off point.
On July 19 they were swept in a doubleheader by the Atlanta Braves. On August 10 they were again swept in a doubleheader, this time by the Pirates. Counting and between those two sweeps, the club lost 14 of 22 games to fall six off the division lead.
Unlike the prior season, the Phillies refused to die. Victories in eight of nine games at the end of August put them back into the race. It would remain a nail-biter from that point onwards. On the weekend of September 26-28, the Expos won two of three at The Vet to take a half-game lead. Those would be the last games that the Phillies would lose until the season finale.
Over the final week, the Phillies won four straight to even things up. This would set the stage for what may be the most dramatic back-to-back regular season games in franchise history, and Schmidt would play a pivotal role in both contests.

SHOWDOWN NORTH OF THE BORDER

On Friday night, October 3 the Phillies and Expos began a season-closing three game series at Stade Olympique in Montreal with the two teams tied atop the division. Behind Schmidt’s first inning sacrifice fly and sixth inning solo home run, and a tremendous two-inning relief stint from Tug McGraw, the Phillies won the opener by a 2-1 score.
That left the Phillies needing just one win to clinch the division crown. However, a win by Montreal would even things again, setting up a winner-take-all season finale. Rain and extra-innings on that Saturday, October 4 combined to add to the drama as the Phillies trailed by a run heading to the 9th inning of Game 161.
A pair of bang-bang plays at first base, the second on which Schmidt was called out when replay showed he was actually safe, left Bake McBride on second base with two outs. Down to their final out, Boone sliced the second pitch from 40-year-old former Phillies pitcher Woodie Fryman to center. McBride stumbled around third, but still raced home with the tying run.
The two teams remained knotted at 4-4 into the top of the 11th inning. With one out and Rose at first base, Schmidt stepped in against 35-year-old, 14-year veteran Stan Bahnsen. Working the count to 2-0, Schmidt got a fastball on Bahnsen’s third offering “right down the pipe” as Harry Kalas described it on TV and drove it deep out to left field – “He buried it!” as called by Andy Musser on radio – for a 6-4  Phillies lead.
In the bottom of the 11th, McGraw would set the Expos down in order, blowing a fastball by Larry Parrish for the final out. Schmidt led the charge to the mound as the Phillies celebrated their fourth NL East crown in five years. They could be forgiven if they thought that in the NLCS against the Houston Astros, things couldn’t possibly get any tougher, more exciting, or more dramatic. They would also have been wrong.
In what many consider to still be the greatest NLCS of all-time, the Phillies defeated the Astros by 3-2. After Luzinski’s home run gave them a 3-1 victory in the opener at Veteran’s Stadium the next four games would all be decided in extra-innings.
Trailing by two games to one, their backs to the wall with the host Astros needing just one win, the Phillies found themselves trailing by 2-0 entering the top of the 8th inning of Game 4 of that 1980 NLCS. But four straight singles, the last a game-tier by Schmidt to score Lonnie Smith, gave the Phillies the lead. They would ultimately win it in 10 innings to tie the series.
Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS is perhaps the single greatest postseason comeback in Phillies history. Trailing legendary future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan by 5-2 entering the top of the 8th inning, the Phillies rallied for four runs.
Schmidt would play no part in this famous game, going 0-5 and striking out three times, including right in the middle of that rally and again to lead off the top of the 10th inning. The Phillies would win it when Garry Maddox doubled to center with two outs in that 10th frame, scoring Del Unser with the eventual game-winner. Dick Ruthven shut down Houston in the bottom of the frame, and the Phillies were going to the World Series for the first time in 30 years.

WORLD SERIES MVP

The 1980 World Series would provide a showcase for the two players who were drafted at #29 and 30 overall back in 1971. Brett and Schmidt had each developed into perennial All-Stars and both had put up Most Valuable Player seasons that year. Schmidt broke Eddie Mathews‘ NL record by hitting 48 home runs. Brett took a run at becoming the first player to hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, finishing at the .390 mark.
In that Fall Classic, the Phillies would finally capture the first championship in franchise history. They defeated Brett and the Royals by four games to two. Schmidt led the way with two homers, seven RBI and six runs scored, capturing the World Series Most Valuable Player honors.
With Game 2 at The Vet tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Schmidt doubled off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry to score McBride. He then rumbled home on a base hit by Keith Moreland, giving the Phillies a 6-4 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
The Royals battled back to win the first two in Kansas City to tie the series, and took a 3-2 lead into the top of the 9th inning of Game 5, looking to take the series lead. Schmidt came through again. He led off the inning with a base hit against Quisenberry and when Unser followed with a double into the right field corner, Schmidt raced all the way around from first to tie the game. Unser would later score on a Manny Trillo double, and the Phillies were one win away.
In the climactic Game 6 it was Schmidt’s two-run single in the bottom of the 3rd inning that opened the scoring. Steve Carlton delivered a strong seven-inning effort and then turned the ball over to McGraw, who by that point was running on fumes. But Tug battled through the final two innings, finally striking out Willie Wilson to end it. Schmidt led that charge, leaping up into McGraw’s arms as their teammates swarmed them.

THE 1980’S

Of course, that is far from the end of the Mike Schmidt career or story, but I’m going to begin to wind to a close with mostly summations. As I said at the beginning, his is a story worth of a book.
Over the rest of the 1980’s, Schmidt would mostly continue as one of baseball’s superstar players. He captured NL MVP honors in 1980, 1981, and 1986. He was a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger winner from 1980-84 and again in 1986. He was an NL All-Star in eight of the decades ten seasons.
The Phillies returned to the playoffs in 1981, and to the World Series in 1983. But that 1980 world championship would be the only title won by the team during his 18-year career.
A milestone was reached on April 18, 1987 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. With the Phillies trailing the host Pirates by 6-5 in the top of the 9th inning, Schmidt came to the plate. Juan Samuel was at third base as the potential tying run, and Von Hayes stood on first as the go-ahead run.
Bucs pitcher Don Robinson fell behind Schmidt by 3-0, and then tried to sneak a fastball past him. It was a huge mistake. Schmidt crushed the pitch deep out to left field for a three-run homer that put the Phillies on top. Not only that, but it was career home run #500 for Schmidt, making him just the seventh player in Major League Baseball history to reach that plateau.
As the decade was drawing to a close, Schmidt entered the 1989 season as a 39-year-old who recognized that his once-dominating skills were clearly deteriorating. That had become somewhat noticeable as early as 1985, when the team had asked him to move over to first base temporarily at age 35 to accommodate young third baseman Rick Schu.
Schmidt bounced back from that slight indignity to have two of his best all-around seasons in 1986 and 1987. The Phillies won 86 games in that 1986 campaign. It would have been good enough for a Wildcard berth, if one existed at that time. Since it did not, that only left the team as distant runners-up in the NL East race to a 108-win New York Mets team that would go on to capture the World Series.

ENDING OUT WEST

On May 29, 1989 the Phillies were in San Diego to start the final series of a long west coast road trip. The team had lost five games in a row and 10 of their last 12 contests overall. The team was 8.5  games off the division lead already, 10 games under the .500 mark, and struggling through what would clearly be a third consecutive losing season, their fourth in five years.
The previous day at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Schmidt had taken an 0-3 collar. It would be the final game of his storied career. In his final plate appearance in the top of the 9th inning, Schmidt drew a walk from Mike LaCoss. He would advance to second base, and was running to third as Curt Ford grounded into a game-ending double play. Schmidt would turn and walk off a big-league field for the final time as an active player.
Of course, no one knew that at the time. It was not until an emotional press conference upon the team’s arrival in San Diego the next day that a tearful Schmidt would stand at his locker with Ashburn beside him and announce his retirement.
Despite his announcement, baseball fans voted him as the starting third baseman for the National League All-Star team. Schmidt declined to play but would don the Phillies uniform one more time in order to take part in pre-game introduction ceremonies.

STATISTICS AND HONORS

Over the course of his career, Schmidt slashed .267/.380/.527 with 548 home runs. That home run total left him seventh on baseball’s all-time list at the time of his retirement behind only Hank AaronBabe RuthWillie MaysFrank RobinsonHarmon Killebrew, and Reggie Jackson.
Schmidt also compiled 2,234 hits with 1,595 RBI while scoring 1,506 runs. He won three National League Most Valuable Player awards, the 1980 World Series MVP, and was a 12x NL All-Star. He was honored with 10 Gold Gloves and a half-dozen Silver Slugger awards. He received NL MVP votes for nine seasons in which he didn’t win the honor, including finishing third twice.
In January 1990, Schmidt was named as the 1980’s Player of the Decade by The Sporting News. The Phillies officially retired his number 20 during a ceremony at Veteran’s Stadium on May 26, and he was inducted that year as the 12th person on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Five years after his retirement, Schmidt was elected on the first ballot for enshrinement to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 96.5% of the vote. He would be joined in the induction ceremonies that summer by Ashburn, who had been voted in by the veteran’s committee.
In 1997, Schmidt was voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the third baseman on their Major League Baseball All-Time Team. Two years later, The Sporting News published their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, ranking Schmidt at #28. He was the highest-ranked third baseman and highest player whose career began after the 1967 season. He was also elected in 1999 to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
When the Phillies opened the new Citizens Bank Park for the 2004 season, Schmidt was one of four players honored with a statue at the new ballpark, joining his teammate Carlton, along with Ashburn and Robin Roberts. A decade later his collegiate #10 was retired by his alma mater at Ohio University.

A PHILLIES ICON

Schmidt has remained active with the Phillies community since his playing days. In 1990 he was a commentator during Phillies broadcasts on the old PRISM cable TV network. Since 2002 he has frequently appeared at Phillies spring training to help work with the players, a role he will fill once again this year in Clearwater.
Just last spring, Schmidt expounded on his way of thinking during an interview with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com:
Assuming you have a pretty good base for hitting mechanically, I believe you’ve got to be a thinking man’s hitter. I don’t believe in freelancing, which is what I call it, when you go to home plate and you see the ball and hit it. I don’t believe in the see the ball and hit it approach. Just going to home plate, ‘If he strikes me out he strikes me out, if I get a hit, I get a hit.’ I believe in a plan for each day. If you don’t want to do that, I don’t think you’re on the right track toward reaching your potential. Everybody told me I thought too much when I played, but I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for my crazy brain taking me to different levels.
He managed the High-A Clearwater Threshers during the 2004 season, and then Schmidt served as the third base coach for Team USA which included Phillies players Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino at the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
In June of 2014, Schmidt was on hand as Rollins passed him to become the Phillies all-time hits leader. Schmidt remains second on that list today. He is the franchise all-time leader in games played, home runs, RBI, runs scored, walks, and strikeouts. Schmidt is also second in at-bats, third in slugging percentage and fifth in OPS on the club’s all-time list.
Schmidt had yet another honor bestowed on him in a vote by fans back in 2006. In what was known as the DHL Hometown Heroes event that year, Schmidt beat out Ashburn, Carlton, Klein, and Roberts in fan voting for the greatest player in Phillies history. The only players to receive more overall votes with their team were Aaron, Ruth, Brett, Tom Seaver of the Mets, and Ty Cobb of the Tigers.
Starting in 2014 and continuing into the upcoming 2019 season, Schmidt has joined the Phillies television broadcasts for weekend home games, providing color commentary. Fans of a new generation are enjoying listening to the insights, opinions, and anecdotes during those “Weekend with Schmidt” telecasts from the greatest player in Phillies history.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Philography: Mike Schmidt

Bud Black trying to guide Rockies back to the MLB postseason

Black and Rockies in control of a postseason berth
This is the first year as the skipper at the helm of the Colorado Rockies for former big league pitcher Bud Black.
Black has prior big league managerial experience, of course. For more than eight seasons, from 2007 through the opening months of 2015, he guided the San Diego Padres.
In that first season of 2007, Black succeeded Bruce Bochy. All Bochy had done was take the Friars to the postseason four times in a dozen years, including to the 1998 World Series. They remain the only postseason appearances in San Diego history, aside from the Fall Classic team of 1984.
San Diego would win 89 games that first year, but the team would finish in just third place. His 2010 Padres club won 90 games and finished in second. But neither of those teams, nor any of the others, would reach the postseason.
Those 2007 and 2010 clubs were the only in Black’s tenure to finish with a winning record. He was relieved of his duties 65 games into the 2015 season with the Padres languishing a game below the .500 mark. Overall he finished with a 649-713 mark as the manager in San Diego.

HEAD FOR THE MOUNTAINS

The previous manager in Colorado was Walt Weiss, a popular former Rockies player. Weiss had been the Rockies scrappy shortstop from 1994-97 during the time of the ‘Blake Street Bombers’ of Larry WalkerAndres GalarragaVinny Castilla, and Dante Bichette.
But popularity and nostalgia weren’t enough for Weiss to keep his job at the team’s helm after he fashioned just a 283-365 mark. None of his Rockies teams finished higher than third place.
Enter Black, a15-year veteran pitcher in Major League Baseball who won 87 games while pitching with five different organizations. The righty won a World Series as a member of the 1985 Kansas City Royals starting rotation.
Black had also been a bit player in some MLB historical moments during his playing time. He was the starting pitcher for the Royals at Yankee Stadium in June of 1983 for what would become known as the George Brett ‘Pine Tar Incident’ game. He also surrendered both Reggie Jackson‘s 500th and Mike Piazza‘s first career home runs.
In the first half of the last decade, Black served as the pitching coach with Mike Scioscia‘s early Angels teams. He was in charge of the Halos arms as the team captured the 2002 World Series championship.
Black was brought in by young Rockies GM Jeff Bridich in hopes that his decades of experience as a player, coach and manager would help the team overcome a history of futility. This is the 25th year of Colorado Rockies baseball, but just three times has the organization reached the postseason. There has been no playoff baseball in Denver since October of 2009.

HOLDING ON DOWN THE STRETCH

It has been a largely successful first season for Black as the Rockies skipper. After 140 games, the club controls the second National League Wildcard wildcarplayoff berth.
However, with just over three weeks to go, their lead is just three games over both the Milwaukee Brewers and Saint Louis Cardinals.
The Rockies have been staggering along for just over a month now. Since August 5, Colorado has fashioned just an 11-18 mark. That’s a month of mostly bad baseball.
However, with September and the stretch run of the season now underway, the team may be regaining some equilibrium. On Thursday night, the Rockies blitzed Clayton Kershaw and the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers by a 9-1 score. It was Colorado’s third win in their last four games.
Black is hoping that his lineup, which has produced nine runs twice now in three games, is beginning to feed off one another once again.
“I think there’s something to that,” said Black per MLB.com’s Joshua Thornton and Ryan Posner. “When you see a couple guys ahead of you in the lineup having good at-bats. It’s a momentum-builder for you up there, too, that you’re seeing it, and it sort of heightens your awareness with what’s happening …I believe in contagious.”
When they’re healthy and feeding off one another, the Colorado lineup can be downright frightening for any pitcher to face. Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieuCharlie BlackmonMark ReynoldsCarlos GonzalezGerardo ParraTrevor StoryJonathan Lucroy, and Ian Desmond make for as daunting a lineup as there is in the game.
Three more weeks. They need to continue feeling that momentum from one another, feeding off it, spreading it around to one another like the contagion described by Black. If they do, the Colorado Rockies will once again get to enjoy the thrill of October baseball.

Phillies Fall Classics V: 1980 World Series Game Six

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Phillies celebrate winning 1980 World Series

A dramatic, hard-fought, come-from-behind win on a Sunday in the hostile environs of Royals Stadium had left the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies just one win away from the first championship in franchise history.

The series would now return to South Philly for the final two games, the Phils hoping it would be just one, in front of the roaring, partisan fans at Veteran’s Stadium.
Philadelphia at that time had not won a major sports championship in 5 ½ years, since the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had skated off with their second consecutive Stanley Cup in May of 1975. However, Philly was also in the midst of a pro sports renaissance.
Those Flyers had remained a strong contender throughout the 70’s, still led by future Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke. The Flyers had reached the Stanley Cup finals earlier in 1980, losing in six games.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers, featuring a true living legend in Julius Erving, had also become a perennial contender in recent years. Led by ‘Dr. J’, the Sixers had also come close, losing the NBA Finals earlier that year.
For their part, the long-suffering fans of the city’s pro football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, were enjoying their own emergence as a contender under fiery coach Dick Vermeil. The Birds would eventually fly all the way to the franchise’ first-ever Super Bowl appearance in January.
So on the chilly night of October 21st, 1980 the sports fans of Philadelphia could be forgiven if, for once in the town’s history, they felt on top of the sporting world.
What we were on that night, in actuality, was near the top. Our hockey and basketball teams had come close enough to see the summit, but were unable to reach that ultimate goal of standing on top of the mountain. The Phillies would now take their shot.
For Game Six, manager Dallas Green would get to send the greatest pitcher in the history of the franchise to the mound. 
“Lefty” Steve Carlton was 35-years old, and was wrapping up a season that would see him take home his 3rd career Cy Young Award. He had battled through 8 tough innings in which he threw an unreal 159 pitches to gain a win in Game Two.
Kansas City skipper Jim Frey would counter with his Game Three starter, Rich Gale. The 26-year old righty had gone 13-9 in the regular season , but had not appeared in the ALCS sweep of the New York Yankees. 
He lasted just 4.1 innings at Royals Stadium in his earlier appearance, a game that saw KC eventually rally for their first win of this series.
Carlton strode to the mound in the top of the 1st inning, and immediately let the Royals hitters know what they were in for, striking out both U.L. Washington and Willie Wilson to start it off. He then got star third baseman George Brett to ground weakly to 2nd base.
In the 2nd, a nifty 6-4-3 doubleplay from shortstop Larry Bowa to 2nd baseman Manny Trillo to 1st baseman Pete Rose got Carlton out of a bit of a jam, after he had walked a pair with one out. In the 3rd, Carlton struck out two more, and was cruising.
Gale was able to match Lefty with zeroes over the first two frames. When the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 3rd with the game still scoreless, the Vet faithful were still excited and anticipatory, but growing somewhat tense.
Carlton’s battery mate, catcher Bob Boone, led off by drawing a four-pitch walk. Rookie Lonnie Smith then grounded to the right side of the infield. 
Royals 2ndbaseman Frank White fielded the ball, pivoted, and threw to get Boone as the lead runner. But his throw pulled Washington off the bag, and the Phillies had the first two runners aboard.
That brought grizzled veteran Rose to the plate, and the man known as ‘Charlie Hustle’ surprised the Royals with a perfectly placed bunt towards 3rd base. Brett fielded it, but had no play, and the Phillies suddenly had the bases loaded without hitting a ball out of the infield.
Now up to the plate strode the Phillies MVP and future Baseball Hall of Famer, 3rdbaseman Mike Schmidt. With the bases loaded, Gale had no choice but to pitch to the dangerous Schmidt and hope for the best.
Coming through in the most clutch moment of his long career, Michael Jack sliced a single to right center, scoring both Boone and Smith. 
The big 2-run single not only put the Phillies on top by 2-0, but also chased Gura from the game.
Reliever Renie Martin came on and was able to wriggle out of further damage, but his team was now trailing by two runs with Carlton looking strong enough to make that hold up.
In the top of the 4th, Washington led off with a single, bringing Brett to the plate for a showdown of future Baseball Hall of Famers. Carlton won, inducing the Royals’ star to ground to Bowa, who started a 6-3 doubleplay. 
Over the 5th and 6th, all the Royals bats could muster was a two-out single by catcher John Wathan after Lefty had struck out the first two batters of that 5th inning.
Martin had kept the Phillies bats at bay, retiring six straight into the bottom of the 5thwith the Phils still coasting on that 2-0 lead. But Smith doubled to lead it off, went to 3rd on a fly ball, and then Schmidt walked on a full-count pitch
That was all for Martin, and Frey opted to bring in lefty swingman Paul Splittorff to face the lefty swinging Bake McBride
Splittorff would get ‘Shake-N-Bake’ to ground out slowly to short, but ‘Skates’ Smith skated on home with another Phillies run, pushing the lead to 3-0 as the home fans roared.
In the bottom of the 6th, with Splittorff still on the mound, the Phillies bats struck again. 
Garry Maddox led off with a single, but then Trillo hit into a twin-killing, and it appeared that the Royals were out of trouble. But Bowa drove a double to deep left, and Boone singled to bring him home, giving the Phils a 4-0 lead.
Carlton allowed a leadoff single to Brett in the top of the 7th, but kept KC off the scoreboard again, and the game moved into the 8th inning with the Phillies holding a 4-0 lead, their ace on the mound.
Now just six outs from a world title, the excitement level among Phils fans was growing with each pitch. But as with most things involving this battle-hardened team over the last month, these final two innings would not pass quickly or easily.
Wathan led off the top of the 8th by drawing a walk, and former Phillie Jose Cardenal slapped a base hit to left field. 
Having thrown 110 pitches on the night just six days after making 159, Green felt that Lefty had given enough. Carlton was done after 7 official innings, having allowed just 4 hits, striking out 7 and walking 3 batters.
If there was any thought that anyone was coming in to this game now other than Tug McGraw, then whomever had such a thought simply had not been paying attention to Phillies baseball over this last month.
The Tugger confidently strode to the mound, though he was admittedly wearing out, the zip on his fastball almost completely gone. 
However, his assortment of ‘cutters’, the cut fastballs that were his signature pitch, were usually allowing him to remain successful. 
As a young man, McGraw had been part of the ‘Miracle Mets’ championship team in 1969. Now he would try to finish this one off as a veteran closer.
He began by getting White to pop out in foul territory on just his 2nd pitch, but then walked Wilson, and now the Royals had the bases loaded with one out.  
Washington sent a sacrifice fly to center, putting the Royals on the board. But now there were two outs, and the Phillies still led 4-1.
With runners at first and second, up strode Brett as the tying run. One of the top hitters in the history of the game grounded a single to reload the bases. 
Still, under the circumstances, it was a mild setback. McGraw then got the always dangerous Hal McRae to ground softly to Trillo, and the threat had passed with minimal damage.
The Phils got nothing off Royals’ closer Dan Quisenberry in the home 8th, and so Game Six of the 1980 World Series moved into the top of the 9th inning.
Things began calmly enough, with McGraw striking out Amos Otis on a 2-2 pitch to lead things off. 
But Willie Aikens walked, and he was replaced by speedy pinch-runner Onix Concepcion. When Wathan and Cardenal each followed with singles, the Royals suddenly had the bases loaded.
McGraw had to bear down. The tying run was now at 1st base, the go-ahead run would come to the plate, possibly twice. 
First up with a shot was Kansas City’s steady 2nd baseman White, to be followed by the similarly tough and speedy center fielder Wilson.
On the first pitch, White popped a ball into foul territory near the Phillies dugout. Boone tossed off his mask and went in pursuit, reaching up as the ball came down, and appearing set to make it two outs. 
But the ball somehow popped out of Boone’s glove. Just before it fell to the ground, giving White new life, Rose, who had raced over as well, snatched it out of the air for that precious 2nd out of the inning.
Now there were two outs, but the bags were still loaded. The threat to the Phillies 3-run lead was still very real, especially with Brett now just two batters away. 
McGraw battled ahead of Wilson to a 1-2 count. The crowd of 65,838 was on its feet, roaring with every pitch.
The Tugger breathed deep, set, and delivered a fastball right down the middle. Wilson swung mightily, but it was passed him. Strike three. The Philadelphia Phillies were the world champions of baseball!
McGraw thrust his arms into the air. Boone, his knees completely shot, was unable to rush the mound, but simply raised his as well and walked towards his closer.
In a predetermined move, McGraw instead turned towards 3rd base, and was met by the charging Schmidt, who leapt into his arms. 
Schmidt, who would be named the World Series MVP, had driven to the park with McGraw that day, and had told the closer to look for him if just such a situation should arise.
For the first time in the 98-season history of the franchise, the Phillies and their fans were enjoying a World Series championship. 
As fireworks filled the chilly skies above The Vet, the crowd remained to cheer their heroes, and the party would go on long into the night on the streets of Philadelphia.
For the crew that had come up through the organization together, fighting through the lean years of the early mid-1970’s and the tough losses in the ’76-’78 NLCS it had to be especially gratifying. 
Schmidt, Bowa, Boone, Greg Luzinski and Dick Ruthven. And of course, for owner Ruly Carpenter, GM Paul Owens, and for Green.
That Phillies nucleus would never take the field again together. By the time the team returned to the World Series just three years later, there would be new ownership, new management, half the infield and two-thirds of the outfield would be gone, and the pitching staff would have many changes. 
We’ll talk about that team when our series resumes with Phillies Fall Classics VI: Game One of the 1983 World Series.

Phillies Fall Classics III: 1980 World Series Game Two

A big 3rd inning explosion and Tug McGraw bullpen heroics gave the Philadelphia Phillies a 7-6 victory in Game One of the 1980 World Series at Veteran’s Stadium the previous night, setting the stage for Game Two on Wednesday night, October 15th, 1980.
This was a big night for me personally, as it was and remains still the only World Series game that I have ever personally attended. 
I was 18 years old, working for a year at First Pennsylvania Bank as a low-paid, low-level clerk. I didn’t make a lot of money, and frankly saw an opportunity to make some quick cash.
The Phillies had added a new tier of seating for this World Series, bleacher style seating in what had previously been a walkway at the very top of the 700 level at The Vet, ringing the entire stadium.
The weekend before that Fall Classic began, you were able to purchase tickets at the stadium box office. I took a wad of money that I didn’t really have, and on a prayer and the hope that I could sell the tickets for a profit, went down to stand in line.
Tickets that were available by the time my turn came were for that upper level at $15 per ticket. There was a maximum available per person of eight tickets per game. I purchased eight for Game Two, shelling out the $120 from my wallet.
Based on today’s ticket prices, that might sound like a bargain to you. But remember, these were 1980 dollars, and I didn’t have $120 of them to spare. 
However, the Phils were in the World Series for the first time since 1950, the 2nd time ever, and the 1st time in my lifetime. The team had the town wildly excited.
I believed that I could sell the tickets for a profit, but had no clue for how much. The very first day that I walked in to work and let it be known that I had them, one of the more well-off members of my department offered to buy a pair for $50 each. Sold! Later that same day, I sold another pair for another $50 each.
Four tickets sold in a matter of hours, and $200 returned on my original $120 investment. 
The next day, which was the day before the game, I unloaded two more for $25 each. With a $130 profit, more than what I paid for the eight tickets, I was now going to use the final two for myself.

At the last minute, my original game partner was unable to go, due to a work scheduling conflict. 
In those days before cellphones and pagers and social media, I got on the telephone and dialed around, looking for someone to go with me. Finally, by a twist of fate, my Uncle Frank LoBiondo, husband to my father’s sister, would prove the lucky recipient.
We headed up to the game on the 79 bus, a trackless trolley, along Oregon Avenue in South Philly, then took the Broad Street Subway across to The Vet. 
It was a wonderful atmosphere, with the Phillies in the World Series, and the stadium was dressed up and rocking. In just its 10th season of existence, The Vet was still a wonderful place to watch a baseball game in those days.
That was my personal setting for the dramatic events that were about to unfold before us, as Uncle Frank and I looked down from our nosebleed seats directly above home plate.
The game began as a pitcher’s duel between a pair of strong, experienced lefties. For the Royals it was 32-year old, 11-year veteran Larry Gura, and the Phillies’ were going with a future Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton, who was then 35 years old and pitching in his 16th MLB season.
Gura and Carlton set down the opposition for the first 4 1/2 innings, and the game remained scoreless as the Phillies came to bat in the home 5th. 
In fact, Gura had a perfect game brewing. When he got Phils’ star 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt to leadoff by grounding out, it was his 13th consecutive batter retired.
But the Phils’ bats finally began to get to him. Rookie Keith Moreland started it off, finally breaking up the perfecto with a clean ground single past KC shortstop U.L. Washington
Garry Maddox then drilled a ball deep into the left field corner, holding with a double as the slow-footed Moreland got around to 3rd base.
Manny Trillo, the Most Valuable Player of the dramatic NLCS victory over Houston, then delivered a sacrifice fly to score Moreland, and the Phillies had a 1-0 lead. 
Larry Bowa then followed with a line single to left, and it was a 2-0 lead. The crowd was roaring, and everyone felt the confidence now with Carlton being given a two-run lead with which to pitch.
However, “Lefty” wouldn’t hold that lead for long. In the top of the 6th, Amos Otis led off with a single and John Wathan walked, putting two aboard with nobody out. 
Willie Aikens then grounded a ball to the Phillies’ usually sure-handed 2nd baseman Manny Trillo. But on this one, Trillo threw the ball away at 1st base, allowing Otis to score to cut the lead to 2-1.
In trouble now, Carlton bore down like the 3-time Cy Young Award winner that he was about to become. 
He struck out former Phillie Jose Cardenal, and then induced Frank White to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 doubleplay.
But trouble would return for Carlton in the top of the 7th, this time of his own doing. He walked Willie Wilson to lead off the inning, Washington bunted him over to 2nd, and the speedy Wilson then took off and stole 3rd base, putting the tying run just 90 feet away with one out.
That brought to the plate what would normally have been future Hall of Famer George Brett‘s spot in the order. 
The Royals 3rd baseman was already 2-2 with a walk in the game. However, Brett had to be removed, suffering from a severe bout with hemorrhoids that would plague him the entire series.
In his place, Dave Chalk worked another walk off Carlton. When veteran DH and cleanup hitter Hal McRae stepped in, Chalk took off and stole 2nd base. 
With runners and 2nd and 3rd and one out, McRae then walked on a 3-2 pitch, Carlton’s 3rd free pass of the frame.
The Phillies still led by 2-1, but the Royals had the bases loaded and just one out. The veteran Otis stepped up and delivered, ripping a 2-run double down the left field line to score both Wilson and Chalk, giving the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Wathan then delivered a sac fly to score McRae, and the Kansas City lead was up to 4-2. Carlton then got out of the inning on the same play, as Otis was thrown out on an 8-3-5 tootblan.
Royals’ manager Jim Frey then decided that he wasn’t going to waste this newfound momentum, and brought his submarining right-handed closer Dan Quisenberry into the game in the bottom of the 7th inning. 
Quisenberry made him look like a genius for the moment, setting the Phils down in order and sending the game to the 8th with the Royals still up by 4-2.
Carlton was still in for the Phillies, and despite allowing a pair of 2-out singles, the big lefty got out of the inning without damage, striking out a pair of Royals hitters to raise his total to 10 K’s on the night. So the Phillies would come to bat in the bottom of the 8th trailing by two runs.
Quisenberry was back out on the mound for KC in that bottom of the 8th, and he returned Carlton’s favors by committing the baseball cardinal sin of walking the leadoff man, Bob Boone
Now Phillies manager Dallas Green made a move, sending up pinch-hitter extraordinaire Del Unser to bat for rookie Lonnie Smith.
Unser made his skipper look like a genius, lining a double into the left center gap that rolled to the wall, allowing the slow-footed Boone to score all the way from first. 
Pete Rose followed by grounding weakly to 1st base, but it allowed Unser to move over to 3rd, where he stood just 90 feet away from tying the game.
The other 65,773 fans in the record crowd who had joined Uncle Frank and I would not long forget what happened next. First, Bake McBride drilled a single to right, scoring Unser to tied the game at 4-4.
Then up stepped Mike Schmidt, the Phillies’ own future Hall of Fame 3rd baseman. Schmidt crushed a double and McBride charged around 3rd, sliding in just ahead of the throw as the go-ahead run. 
Schmidt rolled on to 3rd base on the play. When Moreland followed with a clean base hit to center, Schmidt scored with the run that put the Phillies up by 6-4.
Carlton would not come out to try to protect the lead in the 9th inning. He had thrown 159 pitches already. Let that sink in for a minute. 
Green also did not have closer McGraw, who had thrown 27 pitches in registering his 3rd Save of the postseason the previous night, available to him.
So Green considered his options, and chose to bring in 37-year old, 15-year veteran righthander Ron Reed to try to close this one out. 
Reed allowed a one-out single to McRae, but then after registering the 2nd out, he faced Wathan as the tying run. 
Reed struck Wathan out on a 2-2 pitch, setting off a wild celebration in the stands, including Uncle Frank and I exchanging high fives with one another and every fan in slapping distance.
The Phillies had a 2-0 lead in the 1980 World Series. That meant at the very least that they would return home to The Vet, even if the Royals somehow managed to sweep the three games that would now take place out in Kansas City.
That very nearly did happen, but as the next chapter in this Phillies Fall Classics series will show, the Fightin’ Phils would indeed find a way to win one game on the road, coming home less than a week from this very night with a chance to win the first World Series championship in franchise history. 

ALCS: Royals over Orioles

On Sunday night, October 27th, 1985, Hall of Famer George Brett and the Kansas City Royals put an 11-0 beat down on the Saint Louis Cardinals to win Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

The victory clinched the first and only World Series championship in the history of the Royals organization. It would also prove to be the last time the team would reach the MLB postseason until now.

The current incarnation of the team ended that postseason drought by clinching an American League Wildcard playoff berth on the final weekend of the regular season. Then they put on one of the wildest comebacks in history to win that Wildcard Game over the Oakland Athletics.

This past weekend, KC put the capper on an ALDS sweep of the West-champion Los Angeles Angels with an 8-3 thrashing. That victory advanced them to the ALCS beginning on Friday night, where their opponents will be the equally impressive Baltimore Orioles.

The O’s had to overcome the losses of multiple major pieces to their puzzle this season. Catcher and team leader Matt Wieters early on, and mega-talented kid 3rd baseman Manny Machado at midseason, both for the rest of the year. And then slugging 1st baseman Chris Davis for the final month and into the playoffs thanks to a violation of MLB’s substance abuse policy.

Despite those losses, Baltimore won the AL East by a dozen games. In their ALDS against the playoff-tested Detroit Tigers, winners of the AL Central, the O’s slugged their way to 12-3 and 7-6 wins before clinching the sweep with a tight 2-1 victory that showed they can win the low-scoring duels as well.

The ALCS will be an extreme contrast in managerial styles, and possibly competency. Buck Showalter has been widely lauded for his guidance of the Orioles to the AL East crown, overcoming those previously mentioned position player losses and a pitching staff loaded with no-names.

Buck Showalter: O’s skipper has been AL’s best in 2014

Royals manager Ned Yost, on the other hand, has been widely criticized for many of his moves. There is a perception among a large and growing segment of baseball evaluators that Kansas City is winning despite, not due to, the ability of it’s skipper.

Whatever your feeling about Yost and the tactical job that he does in-game, there is a fact that you cannot dispute: he is winning. He has his team in this postseason for the first time in almost three decades. He has led them past the team that was atop baseball for much of the summer (Oakland) and the team that finished on top of baseball (Angels) in the playoffs.

The Royals generally do not bash the ball around the yard. They beat you with defense, speed, pitching, and timely hitting. They were the top defensive club in the sport for the entire season, and finished there by a wide margin. Their bullpen may be the best and deepest in the game. They can run like the wind. Those are three tough-to-beat weapons this time of year.

In comparing the two clubs, the O’s are clearly the more powerful offensive team. They finished as the #3 offensive club in the game, while the Royals finished in the #10 ranked position. Baltimore crushed 211 homeruns, tops in MLB, while KC’s total of 95 round-trippers was last in baseball. The O’s outscored the Royals by 705-651.

But the Royals have an element of their offensive game that completely off-sets the Orioles power advantage: their speed advantage. Kansas City stole 153 bases in the regular season, more than 30 better than the next best AL club. The Orioles swiped just 44 bags total. Offensively, on paper, this looks like a classic power (Baltimore) versus speed (Kansas City) matchup on the offensive side of the game.

Jarrod Dyson (36), Alcides Escobar (31), and Lorenzo Cain (28) all play regularly and run regularly. Both Nori Aoki (17) and Alex Gordon (12) are also willing to run. And Yost carries Terrance Gore (5 steals in 11 regular season games) as a pinch-running weapon this postseason. He is one of the fastest men in the game.

Lorenzo Cain is a Royals star emerging from obscurity

On defense, the Orioles were the 2nd best team in the entire sport. The Cincinnati Reds in the NL, and the Boston Red Sox in the AL (when Jackie Bradley Jr was playing centerfield) were the only teams in MLB who were in their neighborhood as far as overall quality defense.

Problem there is, while the other 26 MLB teams were behind those three, there was one team that was not in their neighborhood, only because they were way ahead of them. That team was the Royals. So in the end, you have a really good defensive team in Baltimore, but a truly great defensive team in KC.

On the mound is where the disparity between these two clubs shows up. The Royals finished as the #5 pitching team in MLB, while the Orioles were middle-of-the-pack at just the #15 spot. The Royals pitchers are better across the board than the O’s.

KC’s rotation is led by the best starting pitcher in this series, “Big Game” James Shields. Yordano Ventura and Jason Vargas are solid #2-3 options, while either Danny Duffy or Jeremy Guthrie can keep them in games as well. The rotation guys really just have to be able to last 5-6 innings, because the bullpen is so dominating.

When the games start to get late, or the middle innings start to get dicey, Yost can turn to a group of dominating relief pitchers. Righty Wade Davis pitched 72 of the most valuable innings in baseball this season. Greg Holland is a shutdown closer. And the Royals will mix in Kelvin Herrera and rookie lefty Brandon Finnegan as well.

The Orioles have a solid lefty-righty combo at the front of the rotation in Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman, and a solid back-end pair of Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. They have an effective closer in Zach Britton, and in between you’ll see Buck bring in a parade of relievers including Kevin Gausman, Andrew Miller, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, and T.J. McFarland.

On offense, it will be about the power of Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Steve Pearce for Baltimore. These guys will need to produce a few long balls if the O’s are to have any shot, and that will be difficult against this Royals pitching staff.

The series begins at the beautiful, iconic Orioles Park at Camden Yards

One great thing about the return of these two teams to postseason prominence this year is that it gives baseball fans a chance to revisit two of the truly beautiful ballparks in the game. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which will host the first two, and Royals Stadium are each unique, and will provide an aesthetically pleasing setting for the entire affair.

Expect plenty of references to the two franchise’ great living iconic players: Cal Ripken Jr for Baltimore, who is scheduled to broadcast the games nationally, and George Brett for Kansas City, who will be rooting the club on from it’s Executive boxes as the Royals VP for Baseball Operations.

In my final Power Ranking a week ago, based solely on regular season performance, Kansas City finished on top, with Baltimore finishing 3rd overall. They were the top two teams in the American League in those final rankings. So it is fitting that they have reached this point. Whichever team wins will be my pick to win the World Series, barring key major injuries.

I think that we will see a tremendous pitching and defense series here, with both clubs fairing well in those areas. I think we’ll see the offense play out generally as it appears: power vs. speed.

A popular song getting a lot of new attention around their postseason run has been “Royals” by Lorde. At the end she sings: “And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule. Let me live that fantasy.

Lorde: you can call her Queen Bee

I think these Royals from Kansas City will indeed rule, will indeed live a fantasy, and will get a trip to the 2014 World Series as their reality. The games will be mostly close battles, but I think the KC pitching and defense combo will overcome the Orioles offense. Call it Kansas City in five games.