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A look at the 10 dramatic Philadelphia Phillies postseason extra-innings games

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Maddox was in the middle of the action during  the decisive1980 NLCS Game Five

The Los Angeles Dodgers season was on the brink as Game 3 of the 2018 World Series staggered into the bottom of the 18th inning at Dodgers Stadium. The Boston Red Sox had a 2-0 lead and would take a nearly insurmountable 3-0 stranglehold on the series with a victory.

The Dodgers were rescued when Max Muncy lofted a lead-off, walk-off, opposite-field home run to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win, pulling them back from the precipice and cutting Boston’s lead in the Fall Classic to a 2-1 margin.
In the 136-year history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise the club has reached postseason play on 13 occasions. They have been involved in 103 games across 22 different series during those playoff appearances.
Just ten of those games reached extra-innings. The Phillies have an even 5-5 split result. While none lasted nearly as long as last night’s marathon, each held its own drama and importance, and revealed its own heroes and scapegoats.
Let’s take a quick look back at each of those five Philadelphia Phillies extra-inning postseason victories and defeats.

1950 WORLD SERIES – GAME TWO

The Phillies were swept by the powerful New York Yankees in four straight games in this Fall Classic. But the young ‘Whiz Kids’ didn’t go down without a fight. They battled the Bronx Bombers evenly during the first three games, losing each by a single run.
After the Yankees had taken the opener by a 1-0 score, Game 2 of the 1950 World Series would again be held at what was still in those days known as Shibe Park. The Yanks went up early when Gene Woodling‘s ground single off Robin Roberts scored Jerry Coleman in the top of the second inning.
Mike Goliat left off the home 5th with a single off Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds. He rolled around to third base on a one-out base hit by Eddie Waitkus, and then raced home with the tying run on a sac fly to left from Richie Ashburn.
Roberts and Reynolds would battle into the 10th inning, both pitchers going the distance in what is a complete antithesis to today’s game. In the top of the 10th, Joe DiMaggio crushed a lead-off home run out deep to left field for what would prove to be the game-winner.

1978 NLCS – GAME FOUR

The Phillies had tied the franchise record by winning 101 regular season games for a second straight season. And for a second straight year they would meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers had taken the series the previous year by breaking the hearts of Phillies fans on what has become known as ‘Black Friday’ in team lore. Now a year later, LA appeared on the verge of doing it again, taking the first two games.
The Phillies fought back to win Game 3 on the road. And now Game 4 of the 1978 NLCS went to extra-innings with the Phillies looking to tie it up, and the Dodgers looking to advance to a second-straight World Series.
Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the 7th, Bake McBride had blasted a home run off Rick Rhoden to tie it up and force extras. In the bottom of the 10th, Tug McGraw retired the first to Dodger batters, but then walked Ron Cey.
The next batter, Dusty Baker, reached on an extremely rare error by Phillies center fielder Garry Maddox. Dodgers light-hitting shortstop Bill Russell then looped a first-pitch single cleanly to center, with Cey racing around to score the series-winning run.

1980 NLCS – GAMES TWO thru FIVE

For my money, the 1980 National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros remains the greatest NLCS in baseball history. After the Phillies won the opener 3-1, each of the final four games went to extra-innings.
In Game 2 of the 1980 NLCS at Veteran’s Stadium, Maddox’ single scored Lonnie Smith in the bottom of the 8th inning to send it to extras. The Phillies then had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the 9th, but the Astros Frank LaCorte wriggled out of the jam. Houston then scored four times in the top of the 10th and evened the series with a 7-4 victory.
In Game 3 of the 1980 NLCS at the Astrodome in Houston, Larry Christenson of the Phillies and Joe Niekro of the Astros dueled through shutout starts. In fact, Niekro lasted 10 innings. Joe Morgan led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple off McGraw.
After Phillies skipper Dallas Green ordered two intentional walks to load the bases, Denny Walling lifted a sac fly to score the game’s only run. The walkoff victory gave the host Astros a 2-1 lead and put them within one game of the first World Series appearance in franchise history. This remains the longest postseason game by innings in Phillies history.
Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS saw the Phillies trailing 2-0 with their season on the brink into the top of the 8th inning. But Verne Ruhle surrendered four straight singles to start the frame, and then a Manny Trillo double scored Pete Rose with the go-ahead run.
Houston battled back to tie it in the home 9th inning. Then in the top of the 10th, back-to-back two-out RBI doubles from Greg Luzinski and Trillo gave the Phillies a 5-3 win, tying the series at two games apiece and setting up the dramatic finale.
Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS is perhaps the most dramatic postseason game in Phillies history. It easily includes their greatest playoff comeback. For a second straight game, the Phillies season appeared to be ending as the game entered the top of the 8th inning, but this time it looked even more bleak.
Entering that top of the 8th, the Astros lead 5-2. Not only that, they had future Hall of Fame ace Nolan Ryan on the mound. But the Phillies somehow scratched out a pair of runs without hitting a ball out of the infield. Then huge hit from Del Unser tied it, and Trillo ripped a triple to left to put the Phillies incredibly ahead by 7-5.
This dramatic game and series were both far from over. Houston rallied back to score twice in the bottom of the 8th off McGraw to again tie it up, and the teams rolled into extra innings for a fourth straight game.
In the top of the 10th, Unser doubled with one out. Then with two outs, Maddox dropped an RBI hit to center field. Usually a starting pitcher, Dick Ruthven retired Houston in order for a second straight inning to finish it off and send the Phillies on to the World Series.

1980 WORLD SERIES – GAME THREE

The Phillies followed up that dramatic series with Houston by rallying for a pair of victories at The Vet in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. As the Fall Classic moved out to Royals Stadium for the first time ever, George Brett and the home squad were desperate for a victory.
Trailing 3-2 into the top of the 8th in Game 3 of the 1980 World Series, the Phillies once again showed their late-inning comeback resilience when Rose laced a two-out single to score Larry Bowa with the tying run.
The teams moved to the bottom of the 10th, and McGraw allowed the first two runners to reach base. He then battled back to retire the next two hitters, but following a steal and intentional walk, Willie Aikens base hit scored Willie Wilson with the walkoff game-winner.
The Royals would tie the series the next day, but the Phillies would ultimately capture their first-ever World Series crown in six games.

1981 NLDS – GAME FOUR

During a time when there was no such thing as a ‘Division Series’, a lengthy mid-season player’s strike resulted in Major League Baseball deciding to work under a split-season format with two half-seasons separated by the strike date.
The Phillies had the best record in the NL East at that point and were declared first-half division champs. The Montreal Expos took the second-half, and so the two teams would meet in a National League Division Series. The Dodgers and Astros were meeting in another such series, with the two winners slated for the NLCS.
The Expos shut the Phillies down in the first two games at Montreal, taking both by 3-1 scores. The Phillies offense finally awoke for a big 6-2 win in Game 3 back at Veteran’s Stadium. The Phillies needed to win to tie it up, while the Expos were looking to advance into the NLCS against the Dodgers.
The Phillies rushed to an early 4-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1981 NLDS, but Montreal scored in each inning from the 4th through the 7th, and the two teams battled into extra-innings tied at 5-5.
In the bottom of the 10th, Green sent young George Vukovich up to lead-off as a pinch-hitter for McGraw. Vukovich wasted no time becoming a postseason hero, ripping a walk-off homer over the right field wall. The Phillies had tied the series at 2-2, but Montreal would win it the following day when Steve Rogers out-dueled Steve Carlton.

1993 NLCS – GAMES ONE & FIVE

The 1993 ‘Macho Row’ squad went worst-to-first to win the NL East crown in an almost wire-to-wire performance that remains the single most fun Phillies season that I have witnessed in my 48 years following the team.
Waiting for them in the NLCS were the Atlanta Braves, who were then in the NL West Division. Atlanta had won 104 games that year and were seen by most as one of baseball’s up-and-coming teams. Despite winning their division, the Phillies were seen by many as a flaky fluke.
The Phillies sent a message in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS at Veteran’s Stadium that they were no pushovers. After the Braves tied it by scoring an unearned run off Mitch Williams in the top of the 9th, the Phillies walked off to victory in the bottom of the 10th of the opener.
With one out in that 10th, John Kruk drilled a line drive double to right field off Greg McMichael. Next up was Kim Batiste, who had entered the game as a late defensive replacement for Dave Hollins at third base. Batiste ripped a two-strike, walk-off hit down the left field line to score Kruk with the game winner.
In Game 5 of the 1993 NLCS with the two teams tied at 2-2 in the series, the pivotal game entered extra-innings with someone looking to take the series lead.
With one out in the top of the 10th, Lenny Dykstra stepped in against Braves fireballer Mark Wohlers. On a 3-2 pitch, ‘The Dude’ blasted a go-ahead solo home run to put the Phillies on top. Larry Andersen came on to set Atlanta down in the bottom, and the Phillies had a 3-2 series lead headed back to The Vet. They would win the NL Pennant in the next game.
That blast from Dykstra highlighted what would prove to be the last Phillies extra-innings postseason game to this point. Despite reaching the playoffs in ever year from 2007 through 2011 and playing in more games during that stretch than all previous playoffs combined, the Phillies would not need extra frames again.
Losing the first four times, the Phillies have battled back to even their all-time franchise record at 5-5 in extra-innings playoff contests. When will we see the club back in the postseason? Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we see bonus Phillies playoff baseball for the first time at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies have been involved in three winner-take-all postseason games

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Garry Maddox delivered the winning hit and recorded final out in 1980 NLCS

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by a 7-2 score on Friday night. The victory by the Brew Crew forces an ultimate Game 7 in the National League Championship Series tonight at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

There have now been 136 seasons of baseball in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise, 14 of which have resulted in a postseason appearance. None has ever resulted in the Phillies participating in a Game 7.
However, the Phillies and their fans have experienced the nervous energy and thrill of some winner-take-all drama on three occasions.
The first was Game 5 of the National League Championship Series back in 198o. The following year during the first-ever National League Division Series held because of the split-season due to a player strike, it happened again. Three decades would then pass before the next in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
The Phillies have enjoyed the thrill of victory just once, in that 1980 NLCS. They went down in heart-breaking fashion in both 1981 and 2011. The two losses came as a result of similar circumstances.
The 1980 series between the Phillies and Houston Astros was perhaps the greatest NLCS in history. All three were close, dramatic games, with the last four all ending in extra-innings.
The Phillies won the opener at Veteran’s Stadium by a 3-1 score behind a Steve Carlton gem and a Greg Luzinski home run. Houston then scored four runs in the top of the 10th to even the series at Veteran’s Stadium in Game Two.
Back home at the Astrodome for Game Three, the Astros got a leadoff triple in the bottom of the 11th from Joe Morgan off Tug McGraw in a 0-0 game. Following two intentional walks, Denny Walling scored Morgan with the walkoff, putting Houston within a game of their first-ever World Series appearance.
The Phillies fought back, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in Game Four to score three times in the top of the 8th inning. After Houston tied it up in the last of the 9th, the Phillies scored twice in the top of the 10th to win it. That rally was highlighted by Pete Rose plowing into Bruce Bochy with the go-ahead run.
With the NLCS tied at two games apiece, the decisive Game Five would take place once again in Houston. This time the Astros had a literal ace-in-the-hole in Nolan Ryan, and the big right-hander rolled into the top of the 8th inning with a 5-2 lead.
The Phillies then scratched and clawed their way back, scoring five times in that 8th inning to take a 7-5 lead. Houston refused to die, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to tie it up, and again the two teams headed to extras.
In the top of the 10th inning, Del Unser, whose pinch-hit RBI single had tied it up in that big Phillies 8th inning rally, once again played the hero by doubling to right field. Then with two outs, Garry Maddox dropped a ball into center field, driving in Unser with the go-ahead run.
Manager Dallas Green then brought his #2 starting pitcher, right-hander Dick Ruthven, in to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning. Ruthven retired the Astros in order, getting Enos Cabell to fly out to Maddox for the final out. The Phillies had won their first National League pennant in three decades en route to their first-ever World Series victory.
The following year of 1981 was marred by a strike from the players, one that resulted in Major League Baseball deciding to split the season into two halves. The Phillies were in first place at the time of the strike, and thus were awarded the first-half title.
In the second half, the Montreal Expos finished on top. This meant that the Phillies and Expos would face-off in the first-ever National League Division Series.
The whole split-season thing was all a bit frustrating for the Saint Louis Cardinals, who finished with a better overall record than both the Phillies and Expos in the NL East, and who finished just a half-game behind Montreal in the second half.
In fact, over in the NL West Division the Cincinnati Reds finished with the overall best record in baseball but were also shut out of the postseason. The Reds ended the first half at a half-game behind the Dodgers and finished the second half at 1.5 back of the Astros.
In the best-of-five NLDS, the Expos bolted out to a 2-0 lead by shutting the defending champion Phillies down in identical 3-1 victories at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The series then returned to Veteran’s Stadium for the final three games. The Phillies bats finally awoke for a 6-2 win in Game Three.
With the Phillies now trailing 2-1 in the series and their backs still to the wall, Game Four moved into the bottom of the 10th inning tied at 5-5. Green sent up 25-year-old George Vukovich to leadoff as a pinch-hitter for McGraw.
With just a single home run in 91 plate appearances spread over his first two seasons to that point, Vukovich seemed an unlikely hero. But that is exactly what he became when he ripped the first pitch from Expos closer Jeff Reardon over the right field wall and into the Phillies bullpen for a walkoff homer.
The momentum now seemed in the Phillies favor for the decisive Game Five. They had won two straight, were at home in front of their roaring fans, and would have Carlton on the mound. The only problem? Someone forgot to tell Expos starting pitcher Steve Rogers that he didn’t stand a chance.
Rogers had bested Carlton in the opener by battling through 8.1 innings in which he surrendered 10 hits but allowed just a single run. He was even better this time.
In a complete game masterpiece, Rogers shut out the Phillies on six hits. And in the top of the 5th inning his bases-loaded single off Carlton scored two runs to break up a 0-0 showdown. The Expos won 3-0 and advanced on to the NLCS, and the Phillies were dethroned.
The last winner-take-all for the franchise in 2011 also ended in heartbreaking fashion with the opposition starting pitcher out-dueling a Phillies ace.
In 2011, the Phillies had set an all-time franchise record by winning 102 games during the regular season. That came largely thanks to a starting rotation featuring the ‘Four Aces’: Roy HalladayCliff LeeRoy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
The Cardinals had not even won their division. They finished in second place in the NL Central, six games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. But the Cards beat out the Atlanta Braves for the NL Wildcard berth on the final day of the season, earning an opportunity against the Phillies in the NLDS.
The Phillies took two of the first three games and very nearly got a sweep. Saint Louis stayed alive by rallying from an early 4-0 deficit against Lee to eke out a 5-4 win in Game Two. The Cards then won Game Four at Busch Stadium to force a decisive game back in Philadelphia.
For that dramatic Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel sent his ace of aces Halladay to the mound. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa countered with big right-hander Chris Carpenter, an off-season hunting and fishing buddy of Halladay’s.
The Phillies had battered Carpenter early in Game Two, driving him from the mound by scoring four times over the first three frames. But a parade of six Cardinals relievers then completely shut the Phillies bats down to keep Saint Louis in the series.
Halladay was strong, surrendering just a single run on six hits while walking one and striking out seven over eight innings. He yielded extra-base hits to the first two batters of the game to fall behind 1-0 but would scatter just four singles the rest of the way.
Carpenter, however, would not allow himself to be embarrassed again. The 36-year-old veteran delivered a true masterpiece, allowing the Phillies just three hits in a complete game shutout that was eerily reminiscent of Rogers’ elimination of the Phillies three decades earlier.
Carpenter was in trouble just once, getting Raul Ibanez to fly out with runners on the corners and two down in the bottom of the 4th inning. In the bottom of the 9th, he retired Ryan Howard on a weak grounder for the final out, ‘The Big Piece’ crumpling to the ground with what turned out to be a major Achilles injury while trying to run from the batter’s box.
Someday the Phillies and their fans may have to sit through the tense drama of a Game 7 during a National League Championship Series or a World Series. It would be a first for the franchise.
If it should come in one of those scenarios, or perhaps during an NL Wildcard Game or a decisive fifth game of a Division Series, the memories of those three previous winner-take-all Phillies October dramas are sure to be relived.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies have never been to Game 7, but have been winner-take-all

Top 10 Clutch Hits in Phillies History

Both of these sparkplugs made the “#Clutch10” cut

The game on the line. The series on the line. The season on the line.

These are the moments when not only talent, but mental toughness are required.

Facing the other team’s ace starting pitcher, or lock-down setup man, or flame-throwing closer.

Whether their hits came with the Phillies backs to the proverbial wall, or a postseason series needing to be turned, or a Pennant needing to be clinched. Barely ahead and a nail needing to be put in the other team’s coffin.

These are the Philadelphia Phillies franchise top 10 “clutch” hits. The biggest rips, the most key bloops and blasts, the cracks of the bat that brought Philly fans to their feet, whether in a ballpark or in their homes.

To reach a final Top 10 from among hundreds of big hits, there had to be a few basic criteria set. To even be considered, the hits had to come in either a postseason series or a pivotal game towards the end of a regular season.

Also, this is not necessarily a list of the most important hits in Phillies history. To me, such a list would absolutely include Pedro Feliz’ single to drive in the winning run of the 2008 World Series, and Mike Schmidt’s home run in Montreal to clinch the 1980 National League East crown.

Those two big hits made the list of about two dozen finalists for this Top 10. But I was looking for something more than the obvious big moment. The 10 who made the cut all had even more of an edge to them. More of that “we might not actually win this thing” feel prior to the hit.

Any list of this type is going to be subjective. Your own list will undoubtedly have a handful of different hits on it. The two just mentioned by Schmidt and Feliz will be there for many. There were so many clutch moments in 1980, 1993, 2008 and across club history. I hope this spurs your thoughts, comments, and some conversation.

There are hits here on my own list from 1950, 1981, and 2009. There are two each from 1993 and 2008. And there are three from the 1980 postseason. 7 of the 10 hits came on the road in 5 different cities. At home, two came at Citizens Bank Park, and one at The Vet.

And perhaps as a testament to the ability of a player to rise to the moment, the hits were registered by 10 different players. That was not contrived. I didn’t realize it until I had settled on the final 10.

So here we go, one man’s take on the all-time top 10 clutch hits in Philadelphia Phillies history, all but one of which I had the pleasure to experience as they happened during my lifetime:

10. George Vukovich: Saturday, October 10th, 1981
In 1981, a work stoppage had caused MLB to conduct a split-season format for the only time in history. The first half was won by the defending World Series champion Phillies in the NL East, the 2nd half by the young and talented Montreal Expos. The two teams then faced off in a National League Division Series at a time when normally no such series existed. Montreal had won the first 2 games of the best-of-5 series at home, putting the Phils in a desperate situation, backs to the wall. But the team played well in Game 3, winning back at Veteran’s Stadium to stay alive. Now in Game 4 at The Vet, the Phillies needed to again win to stay alive and force a decisive 5th game. They built an early 4-0 lead, but the Expos came roaring back, and the game went to extra innings tied at 5-5. In the bottom of the 10th, George Vukovich stepped to the plate. No relation to Phillies Wall of Famer John, the left-handed hitter had just 91 plate appearances spread across parts of the 1980 and 1981 seasons to that point. Vukovich was leading off as a pinch-hitter for Phils closer Tug McGraw, facing Expos closer Jeff Reardon, who would be in his 4th inning of pitching, having set down 8 batters in a row. With the season hanging on the line, Vukovich came up big in his clutch moment. He blasted the only walkoff postseason homerun in Phillies history, winning the game and tying the series.

9. Lenny Dykstra: Monday, October 11th, 1993
The Phillies had gone worst-to-first from 1992 to 1993 in winning the NL East in wire-to-wire fashion. The “Macho Row” gang of mulleted misfits was still a heavy underdog to the 104-win Atlanta Braves. But this tough group, who had over the previous 6 months put on the single most consistently exciting and fun regular season that I still to this day have ever experienced, had typically battled Atlanta hard, confounding the experts in splitting the first four games of the best-of-7 NLCS. The Phils took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the 9th at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and appeared poised to go back home up 3-2 in the series. But the Braves roared back to tie it up, nearly won it, and had all the momentum as the pivotal game moved to extra innings. With one out and nobody on in the top of the 10th, the man alternately known as “Nails” and “the Dude” stepped in against Atlanta’s young fireballing righthander Mark Wohlers. Dykstra drove a supremely clutch homerun to steal away all the Atlanta momentum and put the Fightin’s on top 4-3. Veteran Larry Anderson then came out of the bullpen in the bottom to shut the Braves down and win the game. Now up 3 games to 2, the Phillies would return home to complete the stunner and advance to the World Series for the first time in a decade.

The Flyin’ Hawaiian delivered off C.C. Sabathia in 2008 NLDS

8. Shane Victorino: Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
At first blush, this might not appear to be such a clutch situation. The Phillies were on top of the Milwaukee Brewers already 1-0 in the NLDS. They were playing in front of a raucous home crowd at Citizens Bank Park. But they also were facing the Brewers hired gun, ace lefty C.C. Sabathia, who was obtained in a July trade for just such big games. Sabathia had gone 11-2 after coming from Cleveland to Milwakee in that deal. Coming into this game, the Brewers had every reason to expect to ride C.C. to the series-tying victory, heading back home all even and with all the momentum. The Phils had been swept out of the NLDS the year before by Colorado, and as yet had proven nothing in the postseason. The Brewers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st, and then Sabathia struck out both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard with Victorino in scoring position to end the Phillies half of the 1st. It looked like it might be a long night. But then the first piece of 2008 magic happened. With one out, the Phils got to Sabathia for the tying run, and then pitcher Brett Myers battled him hard for the most electrifying walk in club history. After another walk, Victorino stepped up with the bases loaded. If the Phils were going to ever get to Sabathia and win this key game, they could not afford to squander this opportunity. They wouldn’t, as “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” drove a grand slam to put the Phils on top 5-1 and send the crowd into a state of delirium. Myers would pitch a gem, and Victorino’s slame would prove clutch, holding up for a 5-2 victory. The Phillies went up 2-0 in the best-of-5 series that would prove to be the first step on the road to a world championship.

7. Kim Batiste: Wednesday, October 6th, 1993
It was the opening game of the National League Championship Series between the upstart, worst-to-first Phillies (same team as the earlier Dykstra homer here), and the Phils were considered big underdogs to Atlanta by most observers. Curt Schilling pitched fantastic, and the Phils took a 3-2 lead into the 9th. However, the effort was squandered as the Braves tied it off closer Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ Williams, sending the game into extra innings. It appeared that the Phillies had wasted a golden opportunity to get a jump on the favored Braves. Williams was still in the game, and in the top of the 10th had a typical tightrope walk. He got the first two hitters easily, then gave up a single and double to put two runners in scoring position, then got a strike out for the third out. In the bottom of the 10th, the Phils needed to make something happen. With one out, John Kruk lined a double to right field off Braves closer Greg McMichael. Up stepped reserve infielder Kim Batiste, who had a good season coming off the bench. Batiste had come in for defensive purposes at 3rd base for Dave Hollins in the top of the 9th. The move by manager Jim Fregosi backfired almost immediately, as Batiste made a key error that helped Atlanta tie the score. Presented with this chance to atone for the error and deliver a huge victory, he came up clutch, drilling a hot shot double past 3rd baseman Terry Pendleton. Kruk came rumbling around to score the game-winner, and the Phils had a confidence building 4-3 walkoff victory.

Pete Rose bowled over Bruce Bochy on The Bull’s big 1980 NLCS hit

6. Greg Luzinski: Saturday, October 11th, 1980
The veteran-laden Phillies were most certainly feeling the pressure in Game 4 of the best-of-5 NLCS vs the Houston Astros. After winning Game 1 thanks in large part to a massive home run from Luzinski, the Phils had dropped the next two. Now the Astrodome was rocking, as the Astros took a 2-0 lead into the top of the 8th, and appeared poised to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. But the Phillies vets would prove resilient this entire postseason, and they rallied to go ahead 3-2. Houston was tough as well, and in front of the increasingly roaring crowd, the Astros rallied to tie in the bottom of the 9th, nearly winning it as well. The game headed to extra innings with the Phils season on the line. With one out, Pete Rose singled, but then Mike Schmidt lined out for the 2nd out of the inning. With two down, the Astros looked to the tough Joe Sambito to get the 3rd out, hoping they could come to bat trying to win the series. But the man known as “the Bull” had other ideas. One of the most senior of Phillies, Luzinski came through in the clutch, driving a Sambito offering for a hit into the gap. Rose charged around the bases. Hustling all the way from 1st, Pete came charging around 3rd, and then bowled into Astros catcher Bruce Bochy at the plate, knocking the ball away just as the throw arrived. Luzinski’s double and Rose’s hustling score had put the Phillies ahead 4-3. They would tack on another run, Tug McGraw would shut down Houston in the bottom of the 10th, and the Phils would force a decisive Game 5 in a series in which the final 4 games all went to extra innings.

5. Dick Sisler: Sunday, October 1st, 1950
Over nearly the entire first century of Phillies baseball, this was by far the biggest, most important, most “clutch” hit in franchise history. For 93 seasons from the organization’s founding in 1883 until 1976, the Phils would reach the postseason just twice. In 1915, they had lost 4-1 to the Red Sox in the World Series. The “Whiz Kids”, as these young 1950 Phillies had become known, came down the stretch in September holding the lead in the National League. In those days there were no divisions. A team had to come in first place in the NL to reach the World Series. The Phils led the league by 7 1/2 games as late as September 20th. But in losing 8 of their next 10 games, the lead had collapsed to just a single game over the Brooklyn Dodgers with one left to play between the two teams. If the Phils won, they would win just the team’s 2nd-ever NL Pennant and head to the World Series. Lose, and Brooklyn would have forced a tie, and a playoff for that NL Pennant. The two teams battled hard, each scoring just a single 6th-inning run. In the bottom of the 9th, the Dodgers nearly had won it. Their first two hitters reached base. Then Duke Snider delivered what looked like the game-winning hit. But centerfielder Richie Ashburn saved the day. He charged and threw a strike to backup catcher Stan Lopata, who tagged out the sliding Cal Abrams. Pitcher Robin Roberts then wriggled out of the jam, and the Phils stayed alive. They came up in the top of the 10th knowing that they couldn’t give the Dodgers many more chances. Two hits and a sacrifice brought Sisler to the plate. In his historic clutch moment, the Phils leftfielder drove a pitch from Don Newcombe over the wall for a 3-run homer and a 4-1 lead. Roberts set the Dodgers down in order in the bottom of the 10th, and the Phillies had won the National League Pennant on the final day of the season.

Dick Sisler’s homer won the 1950 NL Pennant for the ‘Whiz Kids’

4. Matt Stairs: Monday, October 13th, 2008
The Phillies had won the first two games of the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park, but LA won big in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium. In Game 4, they looked to tie up the best-of-7 series, and would then hold the home field advantage for Game 5 as well. Los Angeles appeared well on it’s way to accomplishing that goal, taking a 5-3 lead into the top of the 8th. The Phils got a leadoff single, and Dodgers manager Joe Torre brought in reliever Corey Wade to face a series of Phils righty hitters. He got Pat Burrell to pop up to 2nd base for the first out. But then Shane Victorino stepped up and smacked a line-drive, game-tying blast that was his own 2nd huge clutch homer of the postseason. Wade remained in the game, getting the 2nd out, but then yielding a single. With 2 outs, a man on first, and the game still tied, Torre  then called on his big, flame-throwing righty setup man Jonathan Broxton. Phils skipper Charlie Manuel countered with big veteran lefty hitter Matt Stairs as a pinch-hitter for reliever Ryan Madson. Stairs drove a Broxton fastball “deep into the night”, a long home run into the rightfield stands that was as clutch as could be, putting the Phillies on top 7-5. A key double play helped keep LA off the scoreboard in the bottom of the 8th, Brad Lidge closed the game out in the bottom of the 9th, and the Phils had a pivotal 3-1 lead in the series. Cole Hamels put the final nail in the LA coffin the following day, advancing the Phillies to the World Series for the first time in 15 years.

3. Jimmy Rollins: Monday, October 19th, 2009
The Phillies were the defending World Series champions entering this rematch with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Just as a year earlier, the Phils took 2 of the first 3. But this time, game 4 was at Citizens Bank Park. Having that home crowd didn’t help. Just as a year earlier in the same pivotal 4th game between the teams, the Dodgers took a lead into the late stages looking to tie the series up. As the Phils came to bat in the bottom of the 9th, they would take their last hacks, the true benefit of the home game. As fate would have it they were facing Jonathan Broxton, the man who Stairs had omered off the previous year in our “Clutch Hit #4” above. Broxton had now become the LA closer. With one out, Charlie Manuel tried to see if lightening could strike twice, sending Stairs again in to pinch-hit against the big Dodger. But this time there was no key home run. The wily veteran Stairs did, however, work a walk. So the tying run was now on base. Manuel sent Eric Bruntlett in to pinch-run for Stairs, and after Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch, the tying run moved into scoring position. Broxton got pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to line out to 3rd base for the 2nd out. The Phillies were down to their last hitter, still trailing by a run, with LA needing just this final out to tie the series and take the momentum. The only one standing in their way was the Phillies senior player and leader, shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Batting left-handed against the power righty, the switch-hitting JRoll shot a clutch double into the right-centerfield gap. Bruntlett scored the tying run, and as Citizens Bank Park erupted in a bedlam that was becoming almost commonplace in that era, Ruiz scored the game-winner. Just as the previous season, the Phils had a near-miraculous win and an improbable 3-1 lead in the series. Just as the previous season, they would wrap it up the following game behind Hamels to advance to the World Series.

2. Garry Maddox: Saturday, October 11th, 1980
For my money, the best-of-five 1980 National League Championship Series between the Phillies and the Houston Astros remains the greatest NLCS in history. The Phils won a tight opener 3-1 behind a Steve Carlton gem, and each of the next four games were decided in extra innings. The 4th game, in which the Phillies rallied from behind to gain a 2-2 tie, was the subject of “Clutch Hit #6” on this list from Greg Luzinski. Thanks to that hit, the Phils had forced this 5th and deciding game, one that would ultimately yield a handful of incredible clutch hits. But at the start, the Astros were sending power ace and future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to the mound. The Phils were countering with a rookie, Marty Bystrom. The matchup clearly favored Houston. Bystrom, as he did that entire September and October, battled into the 6th inning and kept the team in the game, leaving with the score still tied at 2-2. But Houston then roped around Phils veteran Larry Christenson in the 7th to set up the living legend Ryan with a 5-2 lead heading into the top of the 8th. That inning has become legendary in Phillies lore. The team managed to load the bases off Ryan without hitting a ball out of the infield. The events unfolded in such incredulous fashion as to seemingly unnerve the usually unflappable Ryan. It didn’t help that the similarly unflappable Pete Rose was at the plate. Rose worked a based loaded walk, and the Astros lead was down to 5-3. Manager Bill Virdon took out the clearly shaken Ryan, who still had not been hit hard by the Phils, and brought in Joe Sambito. The reliever got pinch-hitter Keith Moreland to ground out, with another run scoring on the play. The chess game then continued with Virdon bringing in starting pitcher Bob Forsch to face Mike Schmidt. Forsch won, getting the Phils slugger to strike out looking. Now there were two outs, and the Astros still held the lead at 5-4. The Phillies were down to their final 4 outs. Phils manager Dallas Green then made his move in the chess game, sending up lefty pinch-hitter Del Unser to face the righty Forsch. Unser delivered a clutch hit of his own, singling to rightfield to score Greg Gross with the tying run. Up stepped Manny Trillo, who would be named the MVP of this NLCS for moments just like this one. The Phils 2nd baseman ripped a ball down the left field line for the 8th inning’s umpteenth clutch hit. Ramon Aviles scored the go-ahead run, and Unser scampered all the way around from 1st as Trillo slid head-first into 3rd base. The 2-run triple had put the Phillies on top 7-5. Incredibly though, it wouldn’t end up a game-winner. The Astros tied it in the bottom of the 9th, and the game entered extras. In the top of the 10th, Unser hit a one-out double, but when Trillo flew out easily to center there were two outs. One more, and the Astros would come up to try and win the series in their half of the 10th. That’s when Maddox became a clutch hero. He roped a punch-shot base hit to centerfield, with Unser scoring the go-ahead run as the ball fell in, with Maddox running all the way and reaching 2nd for a double. Dick Ruthven, usually a starting pitcher, had come in and retired Houston in order in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras. Now he did the same in the bottom of the 10th, and the Phillies were National League champions for the first time in 30 years.

Del Unser delivered the most clutch hit in Phillies history in the 1980 World Series

1. Del Unser: Sunday, October 19th, 1980
The events of the previous hit had put the Phils in the World Series for just the 3rd time in their franchise history. The first in 1915 ended in a 4-1 loss to Boston after winning the opener, and in 1950 the “Whiz Kids” had been swept out by the Yankees dynasty. These veteran, resilient 1980 Phillies quickly put an end to the franchise’ Fall Classic losing skid by taking the first two games in Philly. But the talented Kansas City Royals led by Hall of Famer George Brett, slugging 1st baseman Willie Mays Aikens, speedster Willie Wilson, and unflappable vets like Amos Otis, Hal McRae, and Frank White then returned home and won the next two at Royals Stadium to even things up. This Game 5 would be the pivotal contest that would put one of these teams to within a game of their first-ever franchise championship. The Royals appeard to have it. They entered the 9th inning leading 3-2, and had side-arming closer Dan Quisenberry on the hill. Mike Schmidt led off with a hot-shot single off George Brett to put the tying run on for the Phils, and Green sent Del Unser up to pinch-hit for Lonnie Smith. As he had so many times that postseason, Unser delivered, ripping a ball down the rightfield line. Schmidt, an underrated baserunner, was off and running, never slowing as he rolled all the way around, sliding in with the game-tying run. On with his clutch double, Unser was sacrificed to 3rd by Keith Moreland. He had to hold there when Garry Maddox grounded out to 3rd base. But then with one out, Manny Trillo shot a ball right back at Quisenberry. The hotshot ricocheted off the KC closer and rolled away as Unser scored what would turn out to be the winning run. Tug McGraw, almost out of gas and pitching in this 3rd inning of relief, walked three batters in the bottom of the 10th. But when he struck out ex-Phil Jose Cardenal swinging, the Phillies had the huge 4-3 win, and a 3-2 lead in the series. They would now head back to Philadelphia for Game 6, and a date with history and destiny. Unser’s hit was clutch in every way in it’s own right in the course of a baseball game. But that it came in this game, with the Phillies never having won a World Series in their 98-year history, tying the pentultimate game in the final frame and leading to the winning run, makes it, for my money, the greatest clutch hit in Phillies franchise history.

What’s yours?

Philography: Von Hayes

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Phillies obtained Hayes from the Indians in exchange for a five-player/prospect package

 

For Phillies fans who were around at the time, the rationale for the trade by GM Paul Owens with the Cleveland Indians that brought Von Hayes to town following the 1982 season seemed sound.

The Phils had been regular contenders for the better part of the period from 1975-1981, a seven year string of success that had yielded a World Series championship, 4 N.L. East titles, and even a split-season title in the work stoppage season of 1981.

In 1982, the Phillies had not been far off. They finished 89-73, just 3 games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the N.L. East. The Cards went on to win the World Series that season. But even prior to that 1982 season, the organization had begun the turnover from the 70’s core to a new generation of players.

They said goodbye to 1980 World Series heroes Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Bake McBride, Keith Moreland, and Dickie Noles as well as manager Dallas Green. Coming in to Philly were starting pitcher Mike Krukow and shortstop Ivan De Jesus.

Krukow joined with holdovers Steve Carlton, John Denny, and Dick Ruthven to give the team an enviable pitching rotation, but the team’s offensive core was limited and aging. Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox were 32, Gary Matthews and Manny Trillo were 31, and Pete Rose was now 41 years old.

So the deal with Cleveland was to land the Phils a near-ready, high ceiling offensive outfielder. Hayes fit the bill perfectly. At the time of the trade on December 9th, 1982 he was a 23-year old coming off his first full season in the Majors.

A 7th round pick of the Tribe in the 1979 Draft out of Saint Mary’s (CA) College, he could run, hit, field, and hit for power. At the minor league level, he played 2 full seasons. As a 21-year old in his first pro season at A-Waterloo in 1980, Hayes hit .329 with a .405 on-base percentage. He showed his power/speed combo with 15 homers, 90 rbi, 51 steals, and 105 runs scored.

Hayes skipped AA completely, and in 1981 at AAA-Charleston hit .314 with a .401 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 73 rbi, and 34 steals in almost 120 fewer plate appearances than the year before. His performance resulted in a promotion to the Indians, and it would be a decade until, late in his career, he saw another minor league appearance.

After getting his feet wet over the last couple months of the 1981 season in Cleveland, his first full 1982 season resulted in 14 homers, 82 rbi, and 32 steals. The Phillies scouts had seen enough, and Owens pulled the trigger during the off-season in what would become one of the more controversial and discussed deals in team history.

The problem with the deal, at least as far as the media was concerned, was not with the player coming to the club, but in the price paid to land Hayes. The media hung the handle “Five-for-one” on Hayes to recognize that the Phils gave up 5 players in order to bring this one individual to the organization.

The package headed to Cleveland included longtime popular World Series hero 2nd baseman Manny Trillo, starting rightfielder George Vukovich, and a trio of prospects: infielder Julio Franco, pitcher Jay Baller and infielder Jerry Willard. To many, this seemed a steep price to pay, and the deal would be criticized for years. But the fact is, when evaluated fairly, the Phillies got the better end.

In his first season with the Phillies, Hayes split time at all three outfield spots, playing mostly in rightfield. He got just 392 plate appearances, stealing 20 bases, for a Phils team that put on a late charge to win the N.L. East and eventually reach the World Series. Hayes saw limited postseason action, going 0-5 as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. He appeared in the first four games of the World Series that was eventually lost to the Orioles 4-1.

In 1984, Hayes played his first full Phillies season. It was the first of four consecutive years, and five of six, in which he would appear in at least 152 games. He hit .292, stole 48 bases, drove 16 homers, and drove in 67 while scoring 85 times. He tailed off in 1985, with his average (.263), homers (13), runs (76), and especially his steals (21) all dropping.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were also collapsing. In 1984 the club finished exactly at .500, with an 81-81 record and in 4th place. In ’85 they dropped even further, to 75-87 and 5th place. As the championship era faded further into the past, Von Hayes, who was supposed to lead the charge into the future, became a poster boy for the team’s struggles with his own personal struggles. The nickname “Five-for-One” became a full-blown insult thrown in his face at every turn.

Hayes did have a bright moment in 1985. On June 11th that season, Hayes led off with a homerun against New York Mets pitcher Tom Gorman. The Phillies batted around, and Hayes came up again. In his 2nd at-bat of the opening frame, Hayes again homered, this time off Mets reliever Calvin Schiraldi. He thus became the first player in MLB history to hit 2 home runs in the 1st inning of a game. The Phils won 26-7, the most runs scored by a team in MLB in more than 40 years.

In 1986 though, Hayes rebounded, producing his career-best season. He hit .305 with a .379 on-base percentage, blasted a career-high 19 homers, drove in a career-high 98 runs, scored an NL-high 107 times, and he stole 24 bases. In addition to Runs, he led the NL in Doubles. The result was not only an 8th place finish in National League MVP balloting as an individual, but his performance was a key part of the team rebounding to an 86-75 record.

The team success was fleeting, however. In ’87 the club fell below .500 again at 80-82, and then in 1988 they completely collapsed to 65-96, their worst season since 1972. Hayes wasn’t the reason for the 1987 slip. He cracked a career-high 21 homers, both drove in and scored 84 runs, stole 16 bags, and continued as one of the league’s best all-around outfielders. But in ’88, he got hurt right before the All-Star break. He would not play again until September as the team collapsed.

As the 80’s drifted through the 2nd half, the old gang was slowly dismantled, or drifted away. Tug McGraw had retired after the 1984 season. Garry Maddox retired after 1986, having been a parti-timer the last 3-4 seasons. Steve Carlton was traded away during the 1986 season. He hung around for a couple years before finally retiring following the 1988 season.

At this point, Phillies all-timer Mike Schmidt was clearly seeing the writing on the wall. The good old days of his being an impact player were over, as were the teams days as a contender, and the effort to play became a chore. In late May of the 1989 season, Schmidt suddenly and, to many, surprisingly retired.

The efforts that Phillies management did make to try and bridge that late-70’s, early-80’s winning group largely failed, with the exceptions of Hayes and Juan Samuel. The Phils had brought “Sammy” in full-time in 1984. He was 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting that season, and through the 80’s had become an All-Star, and a Silver Slugger winner.

But as the Phillies mostly lost, as the old heroes aged and left, and as it became obvious to the fan base that the winning wasn’t returning, both Hayes and Samuel, arguably the two faces of the franchise in the 2nd half of the 80’s (aside from the aging Schmidt) received a lion’s share of the blame from the fans. Despite the fact that they produced, the fans saw them and saw losing, and many equated the two.

Still, Hayes had a final hurrah in him. In 1989, with Schmidt retired, Samuel traded to the Mets (for Lenny Dykstra), and the Phils struggling to a last place finish, old “Five-for-One” became a National League All-Star for the only time in his career. Hayes banged a career-best 26 homers, stole 28 bases, and scored 93 runs. For the player originally billed as a power-speed combo, it was his only career 20-20 season at age 30.

He also had another big moment of glory as well in 1989. On June 8th, the Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the 1st inning at Veteran’s Stadium. Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Rooker said on-air that “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.” Hayes smashed a pair of homeruns in leading the Phillies all the way back to a 15-11 victory. Rooker did not walk home, but did conduct a charity walk from Pittsburgh to Philly after the season.

The early 1990’s were the end days of Von Hayes career as an MLB player. He played a full season in Philly in 1990 as the team improved slightly to 77-85. His final season as a full-timer ended with 17 homers, 73 rbi, 70 runs, and 16 steals.

In 1991 his arm was broken by a pitch from the Reds’ Tom Browning, which caused him to miss more than a month, and the Phillies cut ties with him. He caught on with the Angels as a part-timer in 1992, and then retired, claiming that he was never able to recover fully from the broken arm.

Over the course of a career encompassing parts of a dozen MLB seasons, 9 of them in Philadelphia, Von Hayes ended with a career .267 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. He accumulated 143 homeruns and 253 steals. On the current Phillies all-time lists he is 10th in Steals, 17th in Homeruns, 21st in Extra-Base Hits, 24th in Runs, and 25th in Hits.

After his playing days were over, Von Hayes eventually tried to get into the game as a manager and coach, and had some success in the minor leagues. He was the High-A level California League Manager of the Year in 2004 at Modesto, and the AA Texas League Manager of the Year in 2005 at Midland, guiding both clubs to championships. He last managed with the Independent local Camden Riversharks in 2010 and 2011.

As for the trade, old “Five-for-One” was a win for the Fightins in the end. Trillo called it a career soon after the deal. All three of Vukovich, Baller, and Willard were inconsequential as MLB players. Only Franco enjoyed success and longevity, but Hayes out-performed him and the Indians dealt Franco away to Texas eventually.

In the end, Von Hayes became a symbol for everything that was going wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies as the 1980’s moved from early-decade glory to an end-of-decade bottoming out.

That decline coincided with his, and Juan Samuel‘s, presence as key players. But it would be hard to blame that decline on either of them. Hayes was one of the few consistent bright spots during that largely dark era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.