Tag Archives: Larry Christenson

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.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Remembering the Phillies first-ever big free agent signing of Pete Rose

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Rose became the first big free agent signing by the Phillies in December 1978

The Philadelphia Phillies frustratingly lost out on free agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. They supposedly remain among the most active bidders for  the big bats of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as this off-season moves along.

It was forty years ago today that the Phillies made their first-ever free agent signing, and it was a big one. It turned out to have as positive an impact on the history of the organization as those who made the decision could have hoped.
There were a number of superstars who made up the core of the Cincinnati Reds legendary ‘Big Red Machine’ back-to-back World Series champions of 1975-76. But the man who provided the engine to that powerful train was Pete Rose.
Nicknamed ‘Charlie Hustle’ because of his highly competitive style of play, Rose was already 37-years-old when Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter gave his blessing to the four-year, $3.225 million contract negotiated by GM Paul Owens.
The Phillies had won three consecutive National East Division crowns from 1976-78. But each year they fell short in the League Championship Series. They were swept out by Rose and the Reds champions of 1976. In both 1977 and 1978, the Los Angeles Dodgers won an NLCS each year when the Phillies seemed poised to win for themselves.
Those Phillies teams were extremely talented. Led by future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and filled with numerous Gold Glove Award winners and NL All-Stars, they had the talent to win. They just didn’t seem to quite know how to actually get the job done.
Rose knew how to win the big one. He was a key part, perhaps the most important part, of those Reds championship teams. Voted the Most Valuable Player of perhaps the greatest World Series in history, the Reds unforgettable seven-game 1975 victory.
Rose was the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year and a decade later was the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player. He had been runner-up for that NL MVP in 1968, and would finish among the top five in voting on three other occasions. Rose was a 12x NL All-Star, and won back-to-back NL Gold Glove Awards as an outfielder in 1969 and 1970.
This was the player whom the Phillies decided was, even at an advanced age for a baseball player, worth the largest contract in the history of the game. Carpenter and Owens brought Rose to Philadelphia for one reason alone, to put the team over the top. To finally win the first World Series title in franchise history.
During his first season with the Phillies, Rose helped drive the team back to the top of the division. They moved into first place on April 21 and would remain there for more than a month, building an early 3.5 game lead at one point. And then the wheels fell off.
The 1979 Phillies collapsed under a myriad of injuries, losing second baseman Manny Trillo, catcher Bob Boone, and starting pitchers Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson for chunks of the season.
They would finish 84-78, a disappointing fourth place, 14 games behind the division-winning “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates team that would go on to win the World Series that year.
Rose himself could hardly have been considered a disappointment, however. He had 208 hits, including 40 doubles. He stole 20 bases and his .418 on-base percentage led the National League. Rose was selected to his 13th NL All-Star team that year.
It would finally all come together the following year. Rose led the NL with 42 doubles and was again an NL All-Star. And finally, the Phillies were World Series champions.
It wasn’t an easy battle. The Phillies had to fight off the tough, young Montreal Expos over the final week of the regular season, winning their fourth NL East crown in five years on the final weekend of the season in Montreal. Next came a tremendous challenge, overcoming the tough Houston Astros and their dominating pitching staff led by Nolan Ryan.
The Phillies would win what still may be the greatest NLCS in history by 3-2. Each of the last four games were decided in extra innings. Rose famously steam-rolled Astros catcher Bruce Bochy to score the winning run of Game 4 as the Phillies tied the series. It was stereotypical Rose, and epitomized the very reason he was brought to the team.
In the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Rose was largely absent at the plate. He hit just .261 with a double and two walks, and one RBI.
But even without his usual offensive impact, Rose would still leave a lasting positive impression. With one out in the top of the 9th inning of Game 6, Tug McGraw was on the mound and the Phillies were trying to nail down the title.
The Royals had base runners and were threatening a comeback when Frank White sent a foul pop towards the Phillies dugout. Catcher Bob Boone ran to snare it for the second out, but the ball popped out of his glove. It could have fallen to the ground, and the Royals could have been given another shot to extend their rally.
Rose would have none of it. Again typical of his ‘Charlie Hustle’ nickname, Rose sped towards Boone and the popup. When the ball bounced out of Boone’s glove, Rose shot his own out and snared the ball before it had a chance to drop.
The Phillies had the valuable second out. McGraw then struck out Willie Wilson, and the Phillies were world champions for the first time in their 97-year history.
That would be the lone championship during the four seasons that Rose would play in Phillies pinstripes. The 1981 team reached the postseason but were defeated in a tough five-game NLDS by the Expos. Rose hit .325 and led all of baseball with 140 hits during that strike-shortened campaign.
The 1982 Phillies were in first place once again as late as September 13, but a 4-9 stretch over the next two weeks doomed them. That team finished in second, three games behind a Saint Louis Cardinals team that would win the World Series. The four-year contract was up, but Rose and the Phillies agreed on a one-year deal for the 1983 season.
In his final Phillies season, Rose again helped lead the Phillies to a National League pennant. He was an NL All-Star for a 16th time in that 1983 season, his fourth straight all-star appearance as a member of the Phillies. Rose hit .375 in the NLCS victory over the Dodgers and then .313 in the World Series, but the Phillies lost in five games to the Baltimore Orioles.
Rose would sign as a free agent with the Expos, where he would play 95 games during the 1984 season. The Expos would then deal him back to where it all began in Cincinnati. Rose would finish out a 24-year big-league career with the Reds in 1986 at age 45.
Over his five seasons in Philadelphia, Rose hit .291 with a .365 on-base percentage from ages 38-42. He banged out 826 hits, including 139 doubles, and scored 390 runs. Perhaps most importantly, Rose pushed Schmidt from being an all-star to a Hall of Fame caliber player.
“Mike was the best player in the league three or four days a week when I got to the Phillies in 1979,” Rose told The Sporting News when Schmidt entered the Hall of Fame. “By the time I left, he had learned to be the best seven days a week.
There were a number of controversies that would envelop Rose in his later years as a manager. Even more would pop up in recent years to derail his enshrinement into the Phillies Wall of Fame.
But on this date in 1979 the Philadelphia Phillies did what the 2018 Phillies can only hope to accomplish. The signed a controversial superstar free agent player who actually helped the team win a World Series championship, and helped them contend for the life of his contract.

Phillies to Immortalize Pete Rose on the Wall of Fame

The Philadelphia Phillies announced today that a baseball legend will become the 39th honoree on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
1980 World Series hero Pete Rose will be enshrined in a ceremony that will take place on Saturday, August 12, 2017. The ceremony will take place prior to a game against the division rival New York Mets.
On that night, numerous Phillies greats of the past who have been honored previously will return to take part in the ceremony. There they will welcome “Charlie Hustle” to the ranks of Phillies immortals.
Rose was one of 10 former Phillies greats who were originally nominated for the 2017 Wall of Fame slot. Fans of the team voted online at the start of the year from among 10 nominees to determine three finalists.

THE OTHER 2017 WALL OF FAME NOMINEES

Joining Rose among those original 10 nominees were three of his 1980 champion teammates. One of those was second baseman Manny Trillo, the 1980 NLCS MVP. The others were starting pitcher Larry Christenson and reliever Ron Reed.
Phillies
Two more relief pitchers, Gene Garber and 1987 Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian, were also nominated.
Another nominee was the late Jim Fregosi. He was the manager of the popular 1993 NL Pennant-winning Phillies team that electrified the city that summer and fall.
Rick Wise was a pitcher during the 1960’s and early-70’s who was traded straight-up for Wall of Famer Steve Carlton. He played longest ago for the Phils among the nominees, having first appeared on the infamous 1964 team. That Phillies team collapsed down the stretch, blowing the NL Pennant.
Among the most recent to play for the club and receive nominations were infielders Placido Polanco and Scott Rolen. The latter was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year. Both players won Gold Glove Awards at third base while playing with the Phillies, Rolen on four occasions.

WALL OF FAMER, SHOULD BE A HALL OF FAMER

Rose was rumored to be one of the finalists. Most of all, he was rumored to be the top vote-getter with the fans by a wide margin. Today, the club made his selection official.

It’s official. Pete Rose is the 2017 Toyota Phillies Wall of Fame Inductee.

Rose is a no-doubt-about-it Baseball Hall of Famer based on the record. He is the game’s all-time Hit King, having amassed 4,256 total hits over a 24-year career in Major League Baseball.
Rose helped lead the ‘Big Red Machine’ Cincinnati Reds to back-to-back World Series crowns in 1975 and 1976. He was MVP of the 1975 classic seven-game victory over the Boston Red Sox.
He was the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year, the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player, and a three-time NL batting champion. In addition, Rose won a pair of Gold Glove Awards, and was a 17x National League All-Star.

ROSE LEADS THE PHILLIES TO A WORLD SERIES CROWN

Following the 1978 season, Rose became a free agent. The Phillies had won three consecutive NL East crowns at that point. But that team, led by future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, had fallen short in the playoffs each year. Believing that leadership and winning experience were lacking, the club made Rose it’s first-ever big-ticket free agent signing that winter.
After an injury-marred 1979 season in which the Phils dropped from first place in May to a fourth place finish, the club rallied in 1980.
The Phillies held off the Montreal Expos on the final weekend of the regular season to clinch a fourth NL East crown in five years. Then the club fought past the Houston Astros in a grueling five game series that many believe is the greatest NLCS in history.
Finally, the Phillies held off a veteran Kansas City Royals squad in six games to win the first-ever World Series crown in franchise history. Rose hit .326 with a .431 during that 1980 postseason, and provided a signature moment with a hustling defensive play in the 9th inning of the clinching game of the Fall Classic.
As all baseball fans know, there is only one reason that Rose is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. That would be the controversy surrounding his gambling on the sport. Due to this issue, Rose agreed to a suspension from the game. Therefore he was mostly out of the game in any official capacity for over two decades.

ROSE PUBLIC RETURN TO MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

But last year, Major League Baseball allowed the Reds to honor Rose formally with a place in their team Hall of Fame. As a result, he was feted in a ceremony held in late June of 2016.
Rose was also a member of the Fox Sports crew analyzing the MLB postseason last Fall, joining Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas on what became a popular panel among fans of the game.
The Phillies received permission to consider him for their club Wall of Fame this off-season. As a result, they jumped at the chance to place Rose among this year’s nominees.
When the Reds announced that Rose would be honored, I wrote in a piece for FanSided’s “That Ball’s Outta Here” that the Phillies should do the same.

At that time I wrote: “for this fan who was around to see the obvious influence that Rose had in finally bringing a championship to Phillies fans, he is absolutely deserving of a plaque on that wall.”
I have no doubt that Citizens Bank Park will be see a full house for this summer’s upcoming Rose enshrinement. Finally, fans will be able to enjoy viewing and reading a Rose plaque on the Wall of Fame out on Ashburn Alley in center field.