Tag Archives: Joe DiMaggio

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.

Book Review: "Ahead of the Curve" by Brian Kenny

 

There is no book that I have read in recent years that I can more highly recommend than Ahead of the Curve” by Brian Kenny.

Kenny is a 2003 Emmy Award winner who was named as the 2004 Media Personality of the Year by Sports Illustrated. He is now well-known by baseball fans as a studio host for the MLB Network. In addition, Kenny is respected as a boxing analyst and broadcaster.
A longtime ESPN anchor and analyst, Kenny left in 2011 for the television stint with the then two-year old MLB Network. He also hosts ‘The Brian Kenny” show weekdays on NBC Sports Radio.
With his new TV gig, Kenny also joined former player Harold Reynolds on the ‘MLB Now‘ program. The show is highlighted by Kenny espousing modern “Sabermetric” statistical analysis of America’s Pastime.
Those Sabermetric views make up the centerpiece of “Ahead of the Curve“, which comes with an “Inside the Baseball Revolution” sub-title.

JAMES AND SABR REVOLUTIONIZE THE GAME

Sabermetrics principles were introduced decades ago by stats guru and writer Bill James, a hero of Kenny’s. This study and analysis of baseball via a statistical approach draws its name from SABR, the Society for Baseball Research, which itself was founded in 1971.
Kenny writes in chapter four titled “The Epiphany” of his own introduction to James’ questioning of previously long-accepted baseball dogma:
“Reading James unrelenting questioning gave me a vivid illustration of scientific inquiry. Like most everyone else, I had somehow glazed over all of that in Chemistry and Biology. Apply it to baseball? Now it all made sense. And nothing would ever be the same. Other baseball writing, by comparison, would seem like a gossip column.”
But readers of this book review shouldn’t allow the idea of statistics to intimidate you. Any baseball fan with any level of education will easily understand and appreciate the vast majority of Kenny’s brilliant work.

KENNY MAKES STATS ANALYSIS ACCESSIBLE

That is the true genius of this book. Kenny explains things in layman’s terms. He highlights the explanations and arguments with famous baseball events and personalities. As a result, he makes statistical analysis accessible to the common fan.
In comparing Joe DiMaggio to Ted Williams, or Mike Trout to Miguel Cabrera, both of which Kenny does in the book, he supports all of his points. Furthermore, Kenny does so in a language that fans of the game will find both easy and enjoyable to follow.
In the book, Kenny explains some of his favorite principles, such as the “bullpenning” concept. This was an idea touched on in the 2016 World Series.
“If professional baseball were starting now, there’s no way we would use the current model. We would “bullpen” most days. It will take a certain amount of reconditioning, no doubt, but the benefits of doing this would be enormous. No more ‘starters’, no more ‘relievers’, no more ‘wins.’ Another useful habit from the nineteenth century will be broken, giving the first to get there a huge advantage.”

TRADITIONAL STATS UNDER SCRUTINY

Kenny also goes after a number of traditional baseball statistics and theories that he finds to be mostly hogwash. Things like the sacrifice bunt, ‘Errors’ tracking for fielders, the ‘Win’ and ‘Save’ statistics for pitchers, and ‘Batting Average’ as a primary tool to evaluate hitters all come under Kenny scrutiny.
In conclusion, if you haven’t yet read this book, what are you waiting for? The final judgment of my book review of “Ahead of the Curve” is that it is a must-read for every true baseball fan. Therefore, this is one of those rare books that will earn a lasting place in your personal baseball library.

Racist Phillies Episode Earns City Apology

Today, the Philadelphia city council voted to pass a resolution which had been introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym. 
The resolution was basically a formal apology from the City of Philadelphia to Jackie Robinson for words and actions which baseball’s racial trailblazer experienced while playing here against the Phillies.
The resolution reads as follows:

Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Philadelphia, that City Council hereby recognize, honor and celebrate April 15, 2016 as a day honoring the lifetime achievements and lasting influence of Jackie Robinson, and apologizing for the racism he faced as a player while visiting Philadelphia.”

The date of April 15th is significant in that it intentionally coincides with what Major League Baseball has traditionally celebrated as “Jackie Robinson Day” across the game. All players wear his uniform number, a number that is retired across the game, on that day.
Beginning in Robinson’s rookie season of 1947, the first black player in MLB in over 60 years was subject to taunts, derogatory comments, and outright racist harassment by some fans and opposition players across the National League.
Nowhere was that harassment more offensive than here in the City of Brotherly Love, where Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman infamously attacked Robinson with racist verbal barbs that would make a sailor blush.

Allen Barra of The Atlantic interviewed Chapman for a piece just three years ago, asking “Is it true that you said those things to Jackie Robinson? You know, the names, the words, that everyone said you used?

Heck, yeah,” replied Chapman, per Barra. “Sure I did. Everyone used those kind of words back then. Heck, we said the same things to Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg.

Those things included calling DiMaggio names such as “Dago” and “Wop” on the field, and the Jewish Greenberg “Kike” as well.
It was all part of the game back then,” said Chapman. “You said anything you had to say to get an edge. Believe me, being a southerner, I took a lot of abuse myself when I first played in New York. If you couldn’t take it, it was a case of if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
The Phillies and their fans, however, became well-known for their vocal racial attacks on Robinson in his early years. As Philly.com’s Tricia Nadolny tells it, Chapman really laid into Robinson. 

“When the Phillies traveled to Brooklyn that 1947 season, Phils manager Ben Chapman led the bench in crude taunting of Robinson such as, “Go back to the cotton fields,” and “They’re waiting for you in the jungles, black boy.””

It was part of a questionable racial history for the team. It wasn’t until 1957, a decade after Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier, that the Phils added their first black player, shortstop John Kennedy.
Kennedy came into a game for the first time on April 22nd, 1957 as a pinch-runner in the top of the 8th inning against, ironically, the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was exactly 10 years to the day after Chapman had first verbally berated Robinson, who had retired after the 1956 season.
Philadelphia would go on to experience some questionable racial attacks by fans on 1960’s superstar Richie Allen during that decade as well. Today’s apology by the Philly city council may be specifically geared towards Robinson, but is certainly an attempt to begin overcoming those old unacceptable actions and attitudes as well.

Philadelphia was one of the most disappointing places where he experienced racism,” said Gym per Nadolny. “And I felt like it was important for City Council to acknowledge that, to acknowledge a great man. And that sometimes can start with an apology.

One way that the Phillies as a ball club have permanently chosen to acknowledge Robinson is to hang his number in Dodger blue upon an outfield wall, prominently displayed at Citizens Bank Park alongside greats of the franchise’ past, right next to the numbers of pitchers Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts.

The Whiz Kids

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Dick Sisler is mobbed by his Whiz Kids teammates after the 10th inning home run that won the 1950 NL pennant

 

The team that we now lovingly know as the Philadelphia Phillies was born way back in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers. During that first season they also became referred to as the ‘Philadelphians’, which was frequently shortened to ‘Phillies‘, and so the club thus has the distinction of being the oldest, continuous, one nickname, one city franchise in all of pro sports.

In 1887 they began to play regularly at ‘The Philadelphia Baseball Grounds’, which became ‘National League Park’ in 1895, and finally became known as the ‘Baker Bowl’ in 1914. After playing there for over a half century, the Phillies moved to ‘Shibe Park’ in 1937, which they shared with it’s original tenants, the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics. (The ballpark was renamed ‘Connie Mack Stadium’ in 1953 after the legendary A’s owner/manager.)

With the notable exception of the 1915 World Series season, the Phillies were mostly losers on the field during that first half-century. But new ownership during the 1940’s began to put increased emphasis on the farm system, developing strong players who finally jelled in the 1950 season.

Two of those players went on to become long-term Phillies legends and Baseball Hall of Famers. Center fielder Richie Ashburn was a Kansas farm boy who could run like the wind. One of the great Negro Leaguers of the time famously called Ashburn ‘the fastest white man in the game.’

Robin Roberts was a bulldog of a starting pitcher who by the end of the century was recognized as one of the top 75 greatest players in the history of the game by The Sporting News.

Together, Ashburn and Roberts helped fuel a young, exciting Phillies team that gradually rose into contention, and which because of their youth were handed the nickname of ‘The Whiz Kids’.

By the final week of the season the young Phillies were battling the far more veteran Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant. Roberts started three times for the Phillies that week, including the season finale showdown on the final day at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn.

The two clubs battled into the bottom of the 9th inning, where a base hit saw Cal Abrams head for home as the Dodgers potential winning run before a perfect throw from center field by Ashburn nailed him to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th with two men on Dick Sisler stepped up to the plate. The son of Baseball Hall of Famer George Sisler delivered the biggest hit in Phillies history to that point, driving a three-run opposite-field home run to put the Phillies out in front.

Roberts set the Dodgers down in the order in the bottom of that 10th inning, and the Philadelphia Phillies had won their first NL pennant in 35 years.

In the World Series the club that everyone was by now calling ‘The Whiz Kids’ would take on the powerful New York Yankees.

For Game 1 at Shibe Park, manager Eddie Sawyer was unable to call on his ace Roberts because of that pennant-stretch work load. So, Sawyer tapped reliever Jim Konstanty, who would be named the Most Valuable Player in the National League that season, for the assignment. Many felt that the game was a mismatch in favor of Yankees 21-game winner Vic Raschi.

Konstanty, normally a relief pitcher, surprised most everyone by nearly matching Raschi pitch-for-pitch. But the Yankees scored a 4th inning run that held up for a 1-0 victory in the opener.

For Game 2 in North Philly, Roberts was back on the hill facing Yankees ace Allie Reynolds, and it resulted in yet another pitcher’s duel. New York again took the lead with a 2nd inning run, but Ashburn’s RBI tied it up in the bottom of the 5th, and the two teams battled into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, future Hall of Fame legend Joe DiMaggio stepped to the plate and blasted a solo home run to left field. It would stand up as the winning run in a 2-1 Yankees victory.

Down 2-0 after a pair of dispiriting one-run losses on their home turf, the Phils moved on to Yankee Stadium where a third consecutive pitchers duel took place.

Phillies left-hander Ken Heintzelman carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning, but he finally tired, got wild, and loaded the bases. Konstanty relieved to try and preserve the lead. Unfortunately, the usually sure-handed Granny Hamner bobbled a ground ball that allowed the tying run to score.

That tie moved into the bottom of the 9th where Russ Meyer came on to pitch for the Phillies and retired the first two batters, and the Series appeared headed for its second straight extra inning tilt. But Meyer then allowed three consecutive singles, the final one to Joe Coleman knocking in the game-winning run.

That 3-2 victory had the Yanks up by three games to none, all three victories in tense affairs taken by just a single run each. Now they looked to clinch their franchise’ 13th World Series title in front of the home fans in Game 5.

Yogi Berra‘s 1st inning homer and a 3-run 5th inning rally put the Yanks up 5-0, and they coasted into the 9th inning with that same big lead. After recording the first two outs, the home team was apparently ready to end it easily.

The Phillies decided to put up one last fight, however. They put two men on base and then, with two outs, Andy Seminick hit an easy fly ball for what looked like it would be the final out. Yankees left fielder Gene Woodling settled under it, the ball came down into his glove…and popped out, falling to the ground as two runs scored.

Suddenly the Phillies were down 5-2, and when the next batter got a hit they were improbably, perhaps miraculously bringing the tying run to the plate.

Alas, there would be no miracle. Reynolds came on in relief and struck out pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. The Yankees celebrated their title as the home crowd went wild. The Phillies walked off the field having fought a great dynasty to a near draw, yet still having been swept.

The Phillies were young and talented, and it seemed as if they had a bright future together as contenders. Even that was not to be as the team slowly faded back into mediocrity over the next few years.

But for one glorious summer in Philadelphia, a young, talented, lovable group of ballplayers excited the town and battled the dynastic Yankees in the World Series.

It would be years before many of those ‘Whiz Kids’ would ever again have to pick up a dinner check in the the city of Philadelphia, and they are still remembered fondly more than a half-century later.