Tag Archives: Jerry Martin

For Phillies fans like me, there will always be only one Black Friday

The 101-win, star-crossed 1977 NL East Division champion Philadelphia Phillies

 

Across the United States today is known as “Black Friday”, perhaps the single busiest shop-in-person day of the entire year. You may not be aware that the term as popularly used actually originated here in Philadelphia.

In the early 1950’s, the Philadelphia Police Department began referring to the two days after Thanksgiving as ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Black Saturday’ in reference to crowds and congestion which had begun the Christmas shopping season.

On November 28, 1981, the Philadelphia Inquirer was the first to assign a financial aspect to the phrase. Typical accounting practices showed negative amounts in red ink and positive in black ink.

Many businesses would run at a loss for most of the year, and the holiday shopping season would put them “into the black”, thus the significance of the opening of that season was significant for retailers and others.

However, for myself and many other fans of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball club there is only one, true “Black Friday”, especially for those of us who experienced it first-hand.

The date was Friday, October 7, 1977. The place was Veteran’s Stadium in South Philadelphia. The occasion was Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the host Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In those days, the League Championship Series in Major League Baseball was only a best-of-five affair. And there was no Division Series. If you came in first place in either the East or West Division, you went to the LCS and played for a shot at the World Series.

The Phillies had reached the postseason for the first time in 26 years the prior season. But that 1976 club was swept out of the NLCS by Cincinnati’s ‘Big Red Machine’, who would go on to capture their second straight World Series title.

In 1977, the Phillies used that sweep as motivation. A more mature and determined team set a then-franchise record by winning 101 games, the most by any team in the National League.

Capturing their second consecutive NL East Division crown, the Phillies faced a 98-win Dodgers squad. The two teams appeared evenly matched, having split their regular season meetings, each winning six times.

The NLCS began in the same manner. The Phillies rallied for a pair of runs in the 9th inning to take the opener at Dodger Stadium by a 7-5 score. The host Dodgers battled back, getting a grand slam from Dusty Baker in the bottom of the 4th inning to break a 1-1 tie, leading to a 7-1 series-tying victory in the second game.

So, Game 3 at Veteran’s Stadium was going to be pivotal. For the Phillies this appeared especially so, as they had lefty ace Steve Carlton scheduled to take the mound in Game 4 the following day.

Carlton would win his second of four career Cy Young Awards that year, and a Phillies win on Friday would mean that the Dodgers would have their season on the line against the best pitcher in the league.

Los Angeles struck first, scoring twice in the top of the 2nd inning off Phillies’ starting pitcher Larry Christenson. It could have been worse, but Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

In their half of the inning, it would be the 63,719 fans in the stands at The Vet who would literally scream the Phillies into the lead.

Two singles and a walk against Dodgers starter Burt Hooton had the bases loaded with two outs, but it was Christenson at the plate. As the count worked full, the crowd began a deafening roar, and Hooton delivered ball four to cut the Phillies deficit to 2-1.

Sensing they had affected that outcome, the crowd continued to roar, getting louder with each pitch. Hooton appeared unnerved. He would walk each of the next two batters as well, forcing home two more runs to put the Phillies on top by 3-2.

It is fairly amazing then how that inning ended, with the Phillies all-star third baseman Mike Schmidt fouling out to the catcher on the very first pitch. Why under the circumstances the future Hall of Famer didn’t at least take one is hard to imagine.

The Dodgers got even in the top of the 4th inning when Baker singled home Ron Cey, who had led off the inning with a double against Christenson.

The game remained knotted at 3-3 into the bottom of the 8th inning. There, it appeared that the home team would put the game away thanks to uncharacteristically sloppy defense from the visitors.

Richie Hebner doubled to lead it off. He came around to score the go-ahead run when Garry Maddox followed with an RBI single, and Maddox chugged to third base on a throwing error by right fielder Reggie Smith. Then Bob Boone reached on an error by Cey, which allowed Maddox to score what appeared to be an insurance run.

The Phillies thus took a 5-3 lead into the top of the 9th inning. Manager Danny Ozark sent out Gene Garber to seal the deal. Protect the two-run lead, and the Phillies would go up two games to one with Carlton ready to send them on to the Fall Classic the next day.

Garber was one of a trio of relievers who Ozark called upon in such situations that season. He led the club with 19 saves, had a 2.35 ERA, and pitched in a team-high 64 games. Ron Reed delivered 15 saves over 60 games with a 2.75 ERA. Tug McGraw registered nine saves over 45 games with a 2.62 ERA.

A 29-year-old right-hander, Garber appeared well on his way to cruising through the frame by retiring the first two batters with no trouble. The Phillies were now just one out away from victory with nobody on base.

Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, in his first full season at the helm, decided to send up Vic Davalillo to pinch-hit for Yeager. Garber got ahead of the 37-year-old with a quick strike.

Davalillo then surprised nearly everyone in the ballpark. The crafty veteran laid down a perfect drag  bunt on which Phillies second baseman Ted Sizemore had no play, and the Dodgers would bring the tying run to the plate.

In almost all such situations during the season – protecting a late, close lead – Ozark would have made a defensive substitution in left field, removing the big bat of Greg Luzinski in favor of the far more athletic Jerry Martin. For some reason, Ozark opted to leave Luzinski in this time. It was about to cost him dearly.

Lasorda must have figured that it worked once, let’s try it again. This time he sent up 39-year-old veteran Manny Mota to pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot.

Mota lofted a fly ball to deep left. Luzinski drifted back to the wall and for a second it appeared that he would snare the final out in his glove. However, the ball popped out of his glove and off the wall. It is a play that Martin almost certainly would have made.

Then to add insult to injury, Luzinski’s throw back to the infield kicked away from Sizemore. This allowed Davalillo to score and sent Mota to third base as the tying run.

Crazy stuff already. But the insanity was about to ratchet up another notch. The next batter, Davey Lopes, laced a rocket that smashed off the glove of Schmidt at third base. The ball popped perfectly to shortstop Larry Bowa, who gunned a throw that appeared to get Lopes for the final out.

If replay existed at the time, the Phillies would likely have won the game, gone up 2-1 in the series, and history may have played out in completely different fashion. But there was no replay review in those days. The call by first base umpire Bruce Froemming stood.

The game was now tied at 5-5, the Dodgers had the go-ahead run on base, and the insanity was not finished. Garber tried to pick-off Lopes, threw the ball away, and Lopes moved into scoring position at second base. Bill Russell followed with a clean RBI single and somehow the Dodgers had miraculously turned sure defeat into a 6-5 lead.

With two out in the bottom of the 9th, Luzinski stepped to the plate as the potential tying run. Perhaps the failure of Ozark to make the defensive substitution in the top of the frame would now pay off with a game-tying “Bull Blast” home run?

No such luck. Luzinski was hit by a pitch instead. Now, finally, Ozark sent in Martin – as a pinch-runner. Dodgers reliever Mike Garman then retired Hebner on an easy grounder to first baseman Steve Garvey to end the ball game.

The Phillies had inconceivably blown what appeared to be a certain victory and in stunning fashion watched a series lead evaporate. On the misty Saturday that followed, it would not be Carlton, but instead another veteran lefty named Tommy John who would close out the series in the Dodgers favor.

That 6-5 loss to the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1977 National League Championship Series became known almost immediately as “Black Friday”, and has remained so in Phillies lore down through the years.

If you are among the many who will venture out to some mall or shopping center on this Black Friday and come home frustrated after battling traffic and the crowds, just know one thing. You will never be more bitter or frustrated than we Phillies fans who experienced our Black Friday in October of 1977.

 

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Philography: Greg Luzinski

Embed from Getty Images

Now a Phillies Wall of Famer, Luzinski starred with the team from 1970-80

 

With next year’s 2015 season being the 45th that I hope to enjoy as a fan of the Fightin’ Phils, I’ve decided to take on a Phillies history project moving forward.

Once a week, I’ll be presenting a short biography of an interesting figure from the Philadelphia Phillies long and storied past. This might be a player, a coach or manager, a team executive, a broadcaster, maybe even the occasional fan.
To kick things off, we’ll start with someone who not only has nostalgic interest to me personally, but also someone who the majority of today’s Phillies fans are familiar with: Greg “the Bull” Luzinski.
If you were born in the early-1970’s or beyond, your memories of ‘the Bull’ as an active ballplayer are likely few or none at all. But many of today’s younger generation of fans know him from “Bull’s BBQ”, the popular food joint out in right field adjoining Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.
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Luzinski is a Windy City native, born in Chicago on November 22nd, 1950. He became a slugging high school star at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois, and the Phillies made him their 1st round selection, 11th overall, in the 1968 MLB Draft.
At age 17, Luzinski headed for Huron in the Northern League, where he belted 13 homers in his first 212 professional at-bats. The following season he was moved up to the High-A Carolina League, where at Raleigh-Durham he crushed 31 homers and had 92 rbi.
With the big league club struggling in the final years of Connie Mack Stadium, speculation was quickly rising as to how fast the kid masher would reach Philly. The talk grew louder when he moved to AA Reading in 1970 and, at age 19, he hit .325 while powering 33 homers and driving in 120 runs.
It was then, at the tail end of the 1970 season, in the final month of the club’s stay at old Connie Mack, that Luzinski got the call.
It would prove to be an inauspicious debut. Wearing uniform #42, Luzinski recorded just a pair of hits in a dozen at-bats spread across 8 games, appearing mostly as a pinch-hitter or at 1st base.
1971 found the Phillies opening Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly. It also found Luzinski back in the minors. He would spend most of the year at AAA Eugene, again tuning up minor league pitching. At age 20, the young slugger crushed 36 homers, drove in 114 runs, and hit .312.
As the 1971 season wound down, Luzinski again got the call to the parent club. This time it would be for good. Donning what would become his familiar #19, he again played solely at 1st base. Thickly built and possessing no speed, the Phillies were not sure that he could handle the outfield. In just 100 at-bats, Luzinski hit .300, and he registered his first three career home runs.
With his powerful build, he was given the nickname “The Bull”, and his homeruns became more frequent and impressive in 1972. These powerful blasts were becoming known as “Bull Blasts” to writers, broadcasters, and fans. He hit .281 with 18 homers and 68 rbi in that first full MLB season as he made a permanent move to left field.
1973 would be the true coming-out party for The Bull. He hit .285 with 29 homers and 97 rbi. He was joined that year by a new regular at 3rd base for the Phillies, as 23-year old Mike Schmidt hit 18 homers in his own first full season. The two young sluggers would now become a powerful combination in the Phillies lineups for the rest of the decade.
In both the ’72 and ’73 seasons, Luzinski had put on impressive performances down in Clearwater, Florida for spring training. But both seasons, late spring injuries had actually hindered him and held his regular season numbers down. In 1974, that bad luck run got worse.
Off to a slow start already, Luzinski tore the ligaments in his right knee on June 1st of that 1974 season. He would miss three full months, and the injury sapped him of much of his power. He hit just seven homers and knocked in only 48 runs, both of which would prove to be career-low figures.
Perhaps worse yet, the Phillies were beginning to contend as a team. They finished just eight games out of first place in that ’74 season, with Schmidt breaking out as an NL All-Star, hitting 36 homers and driving in 116 runs. Dave Cash had come over from the Pirates, becoming an All-Star himself and inspiring the Phillies to believe in themselves with the motto “Yes We Can!” Could the Phils, with a healthy Luzinski, have made a run at the NL East crown in 1974?
Hopes were high as the 1975 season rolled around. The Phillies were clearly an emerging threat to the perennial NL East pace setters, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Saint Louis Cardinals. Luzinski came back with a vengeance. He not only stayed healthy, he dominated, hitting .300 with 34 homers and 120 rbi.
The performance earned him his first NL All-Star nod, and he finished 2nd in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting to the more charismatic LA Dodgers young 1st baseman Steve Garvey. Schmidt had 38 homers and 95 rbi himself. Cash hit .305 and scored 111 runs. Still, despite the obvious improvements, the Phils finished in 2nd place in the NL East, 6 1/2 games behind the Pirates.
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It would be the following season where the team would finally kick in the door, win the division, and establish itself as longterm favorites. The 1976 and 1977 Phillies teams each won 101 games in the regular season, establishing a franchise record that would last for 3 1/2 decades, and the 1978 club won a 3rd straight NL East crown. Bull did his part: 1976 – .304/21HR/95RBI, 1977 – .309/39HR/130RBI, 1978 – 35HR/101RBI. He was an NL All-Star each season, and again was NL MVP runner-up in 1977.
Luzinski had established himself as not only one of the game’s great sluggers, but one of it’s best hitters, period. He was a perennial All-Star. And his team was a perennial contender. But still, something was missing. Each year, the Phillies fell short, losing in the postseason. In ’76 it was acceptable. The Phils were first-time playoff participants, and they lost to the defending World Series champion Cincinnati Reds during the ‘Big Red Machine’ heyday.
The losses in both the 1977 and 78 playoffs were a bit harder to swallow, however. Particularly in 1977, when the Phils had the best record in the National League, were tied with the Dodgers at 1-1 in the NLCS, and had a 5-3 lead with 2 outs and nobody on for LA in the 9th inning of Game 3.
The Phillies were just a step away from a 2-1 lead in the series, which would put them a win away from reaching the World Series, with ace Steve Carlton scheduled for Game 4. One more out. Luzinski was in left field. This was unusual, because in such situations, manager Danny Ozark frequently used Jerry Martin as a defensive replacement for The Bull. But for some reason, not this time.
Phils’ closer Gene Garber got those first two outs, and got ahead of Dodgers pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo 0-2. Just one strike away from victory, the unspeakable began to happen. Davalillo surprised the Phils defense with a 2-strike drag bunt single. Another pinch-hitter, Manny Mota, stepped to the plate. Again, Garber got ahead of the hitter 0-2. This time, Mota sent a fly ball to deep left field. It is a ball that Martin likely would have tracked down fairly easily for the 3rd and final out.
But Martin wasn’t out there, Luzinski was. He tracked back towards the left field wall at The Vet, reached up, and momentarily appeared to have it. But he didn’t have it. The ball clanked off his glove, hit the wall, and bounced back to him. Luzinski fired wildly towards the infield, trying to nail Mota at 2nd base, but his throw skipped past 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore allowing Davalillo to score and sending Mota to 3rd as the tying run.
Davey Lopes then followed with another crazy play. His hot-shot careened off Schmidt’s leg at 3rd base and redirected to shortstop Larry Bowa, who gunned a throw that appeared to reach 1st baseman Richie Hebner’s glove for the final out just before Lopes hit the 1st base bag. But umpire Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe, and Mota scored the tying run. And still, it didn’t end.
Garber tried to pick the speedy Lopes off, and threw the ball past Hebner. Lopes moved up to 2nd base on the error. When shortstop Bill Russell followed with a single, Lopes scored, and incredibly the Dodgers, one strike away from defeat twice with weak-hitting pinch-hitters at the plate, were ahead 6-5. The Phillies went down without as much as a whimper in the their half of the 9th. The defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory, has forever become known as “Black Friday” in Phillies lore.
The following day, Carlton was bested in the rain by Tommy John. Yes, that Tommy John, of surgery fame. The Dodgers 4-1 victory put them into the World Series, and left the Phillies shell-shocked in defeat. Los Angeles would do it again in 1978, dumping the Phils in the NLCS.
In 1979, the Phils signed star free agent 1st baseman Pete Rose away from the Big Red Machine to help get them over the playoff hump. The addition of “Charlie Hustle” to the team didn’t help, as the club let an early fast start deteriorate into a horrid 4th place finish, 14 games behind the Pirates.
In that disappointing 1979 season, Luzinski had slumped to a .252 average with 18 homers and 81 rbi. In 1980, things didn’t go much better. He slumped further to a .228 average, with 19 homers and just 56 RBIs.
That decreased offensive production combined with his defensive shortcomings and the emergence of speedy, exciting rookie Lonnie Smith to reduce The Bull’s overall playing time. But also in that 1980 season, the team under new manager Dallas Green was able to fight its way to the NL East crown and a return to the playoffs.
There, the Phillies engaged in perhaps the greatest NLCS in history, coming from behind to edge the Houston Astros 3-2 in games. A titanic “Bull Blast” homer from Luzinski helped put the Phillies in front in the opener. And his clutch 10th inning double knocked in the go-ahead run in the series-tying fourth game.
The group of players who Luzinski had grown with was finally advancing to the Fall Classic for the first time. He would appear in just three of the six games against the Kansas City Royals, going 0-9 with a walk and five strikeouts.
But most importantly, the Phillies and The Bull ultimately won that World Series, bringing home the first championship in the 128-season history of the franchise.
The World Series victory would prove to be the final official appearance for The Bull in a Phillies uniform under competitive circumstances. At the end of spring training prior to the 1981 season, Luzinski was sold to the Chicago White Sox.
Now in the American League, free from having to play defense regularly, Luzinski returned to being an offensive force. With Chicago he became one of the top Designated Hitter’s in the game, blasting 84 homers and driving in 317 runs over four final seasons.
Following the 1984 season, Luzinski officially retired. He would take a job as the combined baseball/football coach at a New Jersey high school for a few years, and showed up at Phillies old-timer’s and reunion events.
When the Phillies moved out of The Vet and into their new home at Citizens Bank Park for 2004, one of the food attractions was named for him, with Luzinski as part owner. “Bull’s BBQ” remains a fan favorite to this day, and most home games The Bull himself can be found there, meeting and greeting fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.
Greg Luzinski finished up his MLB career with 307 homeruns and 1,128 rbi across parts of 15 seasons. 223 of those long balls were hit in a Phillies uniform, leaving him currently 7th all-time on the club Home runs ranking. He is 12th in RBI, tied for 14th in Doubles, 21st in Games played,  and 21st in Hits.
In 1989, Luzinski received the honor of being inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. Then in 1998, Luzinski was honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame, where he is now forever remembered with an honored place among the franchise immortals.

Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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