Tag Archives: PHILLIES

Price is right for Rays

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Talented rookie lefty Price shut down the Phillies to even up the 2008 World Series

 

History has shown that for a sports organization perhaps the most essential element in building long-term success is continuity at the top of the organization.

It is one of the principal reasons that sports talk radio programming can never be allowed to run a team. If call-in fans and trouble-starting hosts had their way, coaches and executives all across America would get canned on a nearly annual basis.

Just look at what is happening right now here in Philly with the Eagles and coach Andy Reid. All he has done is oversee the longest, most consistent winning tenure in the history of the franchise.

But Reid has made the mistake of not yet winning the ultimate Super Bowl title. The Philly sports fans constantly talk about time passing him by, and they call for his head.

The same was done around here with the Phillies organization for years, with the fans calling for the head of GM Ed Wade. Finally, almost mercifully by that point, the fans got their wish.

What they lost was the man who brought Jimmy Rollins (2007 NL MVP), Ryan Howard (2006 NL MVP), Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels among others into the organization with his drafts.

The fact, despite what know-it-all Philly fans and talk hosts might stir up, is that ownership needs to make the decision to hire a good person to head their club, and then get out of and stay out of the way barring some completely outrageous circumstances.

These Phillies were largely home-grown by Wade. Their opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays, were built in the same way by their original GM Chuck LaMar.

The Rays GM had the misfortune of taking on the job of an expansion team GM for an ownership that ultimately decided to build through the draft, a painstaking process that can take years.

LaMar did his job well, adding Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, James Shields and others via the draft. He also traded for Scott Kazmir. Another of his big draftees, Delmon Young, was eventually traded by the new GM Gerry Hunsicker to get Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.

That’s right, LaMar, just as Wade in Philly, was also gone before the fruits of his labor could be realized. New ownership wanted a new face at the top, and so Chuck LaMar watched as another man completed his building project.

In the end, the Phillies and Rays have gotten to the World Series without Wade and LaMar, but there is no denying their fingerprints all over these two clubs.

Teams most often win on a regular basis by having organizational patience, and by building solidly from the ground up, in player development and the Draft.

Last summer, Hunsicker’s first draft pick was electric lefty pitcher David Price, who again showed the value of the building process in last night’s Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.

An elite young talent (is that redundant on these Rays?), Price will be a long-term frontline starting pitcher in Tampa Bay (how many of those does one team need anyway?) beginning as soon as next season.

Price reached the big leagues in this, his first full professional season, by dominating at three minor league levels. In these playoffs he has proven a key cog out of the bullpen, and there he was last night, out on the mound at the end with the game on the line.

The 23-year old who was on the mound for Vanderbilt University just last summer ate up the final 2.1 innings for the Rays, and closed the game by striking out Chase Utley and coaxing Ryan Howard into a feeble grounder to second base, both as the tying run.

Tampa Bay won 4-2, evening this Fall Classic at a game apiece. David Price’s pitching heroics played a key role. For the Rays, this Price was right in the draft and in last night’s game.

No one should forget as this Series moves along that Ed Wade and Chuck LaMar also played key roles in getting both teams to where they are this October.

Tampa Bay’s red-hot Rays are Cole’d off in Game One

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Hamels shut down the Rays in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series at Tropicana Field in Tampa

The tall, lanky, mega-talented Phillies lefthander, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, took the mound for his first-ever appearance in the World Series. He seemed in complete command as his team staked him to a 2-0 lead.

Cole Hamels in last night’s opener of the 2008 World Series between the Phils and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field? Well, yes actually. But the same exact scenario could have been written about Steve Carlton in Game #2 of the 1980 World Series against the Kansas City Royals at Veteran’s Stadium, spotlighted in a story at this blog just two days ago.

Though there are differences, there are also many similarities shared by the two most talented left-handed starting pitchers to ever don Phillies pinstripes.

Carlton mixed in a moving fastball and a solid curveball with his devastating signature slider. Hamels mixes in that same fastball-curveball combo with his own devastating changeup. Both have led the Phillies as the staff pitching ace into the World Series. And now both can say that the team won their start, albeit after overcoming a few bumps in the road during the game.

‘Super Steve’ mowed down those Royals through five shutout innings, but KC got to him for three runs in the 7th. He ultimately went eight innings, allowing 10 hits and six walks, but the Phils won the game 6-4 thanks to their own four-run 8th inning rally.

Hamels had to endure his own rough stretch, but was ultimately in far greater control than Carlton had been. The young lefty mowed through the first two innings without a scratch, usually a sign that the other team is in for a long night.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the 3rd before Hamels induced young Rays’ star outfielder B.J. Upton to hit into a doubleplay to end the inning.

In the Phils 4th, Carlos Ruiz knocked in Shane Victorino with a groundout and Hamels had a 3-0 lead. Carl Crawford then touched Hamels for a two-out solo homerun in the bottom of the inning and cut that lead to 3-1.

The Rays then rallied again in the 5th, but Hamels induced another doubleplay to get out of the jam. This time it came courtesy of a nice play by 3rd base glove whiz Pedro Feliz. Hamels then settled down and went through the 7th inning without being challenged further.

Manager Charlie Manuel then turned the ball over to the bullpen combo of setup man Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge. What that has meant for the Phillies this season has been an automatic victory. Madson and Lidge would close it out without incident, and the Phillies had a key victory in this pivotal Fall Classic opening matchup.

Hamels had yet another strong outing to pad his already bulging playoff resume. He won the NLCS MVP award as a pair of his strong starts led the Phils into the Series. He had previously been strong in last season’s NLDS loss to Colorado, and in this year’s NLDS victory over Milwaukee.

Cole Hamels is proving that he may be Carlton’s talent equal, though he still has many years to go before he can think of joining ‘Lefty’ in the Hall of Fame. But his performance last night has the Phils up in this Series.

Now it is Brett Myers turn. Myers, who plays an ’emotions on his sleeves’ ying to Hamels‘ ‘calm and cool’ yang, needs to harness his talent and control those emotions. If he does, he can take the Rays bats that Cole made go cold and put them on some seriously thin ice in this World Series.

The forgotten Philly World Series

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Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey was the MVP of an often overlooked 1983 World Series

 

No one of a certain age will ever forget the events of October 1980 as the Phillies won their first and only World Series title behind future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, the legendary Pete Rose, and beloved icons such as Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski, and of course, Tug McGraw.

The magical, fun, worst-to-first 1993 team that went to the World Series before losing on a home run by Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays off Mitch Williams is unforgettable as well to even more fans. That cast of characters led by Darren Daulton, Lenny Dysktra, Curt Schilling, and John Kruk will be spotlighted later this week.

There are even some old enough to remember with fondness all the way back to Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts, who led the 1950 ‘Whiz Kids’ as that Phillies team went toe-to-toe with the Yankees dynasty before falling short, losing three of the four games by just one run.

But somewhere along the way, the Phillies appearance in the 1983 World Series seems to get lost in the memory banks of many fans. It remains to this day, sandwiched between that 1980 magical title and 1993 near-miss, the forgotten series to many Phillies fans.

The 1983 World Series matched the Phillies against the American League champion Baltimore Orioles. Back in those days, the O’s were regular contenders in the American League East Division.

From 1966 through that 1983 season, a span of 18 seasons, the Orioles enjoyed their ‘Glory Days’, winning three World Series during this span, as well as six A.L. pennants and five of the first six A.L. east titles.

Three players from the Orioles won American League MVP awards in this span. Their pitchers won six A.L. Cy Young Awards.

Theirs was a great organization, and the 1983 team was typical. Led by future Hall of Famers Jim Palmer (in his final full season), Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr (a rookie that year), the Orioles won 98 games during the regular season.

The Phillies that year had the oldest average player age in the big leagues at 32-years-old, and had thus been nicknamed the ‘Wheeze Kids’ by the media, a pun hearkening back to that 1950 team whose youth earned it the legendary moniker of ‘Whiz Kids’.

Schmidt, Carlton, Rose, Maddox, reliever Ron Reed, and pinch-hitter Greg Gross were still around from the 1980 world champions of three years prior. They were joined by former all-stars and Rose’ former fellow ‘Big Red Machine’ teammates Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.

Also starring on that club were outfielders Gary Matthews and Von Hayes. and pitchers John Denny (who won the NL Cy Young Award that year), Al Holland, and Larry Andersen (the only Phillies player to appear in both the 1983 and 1993 Fall Classic.) A young Juan Samuel came off the bench that year to provide speed and spark.

The Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1983 World Series thanks to an 8th inning leadoff home run by Maddox, which came after Morgan had tied the game with a two-out home run in the 6th. Denny tossed 7.2 strong innings, allowing just five hits, and Holland finished up for the save in the 2-1 victory.

In Game 2, the Orioles received another pitching gem from Mike Boddicker, who had won the ALCS MVP, and took the contest by a 4-1 score to knot the series at 1-1. But the Phils felt good. They had split in Baltimore, and would now return to Philly for the next three games in Veteran’s Stadium.

Game 3 was a gem tossed by Steve Carlton. ‘Lefty’ took a 2-1 lead into the 7th inning thanks to solo homers by Morgan and Matthews, and appeared to be cruising as he got the first two outs.

But the longtime team-leading catcher Rick Dempsey, who would end up taking the World Series MVP award, smacked a double, and a pinch-hitter brought him home as the tying run with a single. Holland came in to relieve, gave up another hit, and an error by shortstop Ivan DeJesus brought home the go-ahead run.

The sequence would prove to be a series turning point, as the Orioles nailed down the 3-2 win despite mustering just six hits, taking a 2-1 World Series lead.

In Game 4, the bats broke out as each team clubbed ten hits. The Phillies again took the lead, this time by 3-2 heading into the 6th inning. But reliever Willie Hernandez suffered a two-out meltdown that resulted in the go-ahead runs.

An insurance run by Baltimore in the 7th proved pivotal, and a Phillies 9th-inning rally fell just short in a 5-4 loss that put the Orioles within one win of a title.

For the vital Game 5, Phillies manager Paul Owens sent young right-hander Charles Hudson to the mound. But it wasn’t the kid pitcher that did the club in, it was the non-existent bats.

The Phillies managed just five hits, and Eddie Murray snapped out of a series-long slump with a pair of home runs to seal the Phillies fates. Baltimore won the game in a 5-0 shutout in front of a dispirited crowd at The Vet, taking the Series by four games to one.

Then a rookie player, but soon to be a record-breaking legend, Cal Ripken Jr recorded the final out, and the Orioles celebrated on the turf at The Vet. The Phillies would not return to the World Series for a decade.

Worse days were ahead though for the Orioles who have not returned to the World Series since that day. Meanwhile, the ‘Wheeze Kids’ appearance in the 1983 World Series remains often overlooked in Philadelphia.

The World Series of my childhood

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Carlton Fisk of Boston tries to wave his long fly ball to left field fair in the 10th inning of Game 6 in the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park vs Cincinnati

 

For the first time in 15 years, and for just the fourth time in my life, the World Series is coming to Philadelphia.

All this week, I will be turning over my website to my favorite sport, our American ‘National Pastime’, what I like to call ‘The Greatest Game That God Ever Invented’.

For those looking for the usual social and political commentary there are plenty of other outlets. With the election coming those important topics will return next week.

My own experience in enjoying the Fall Classic may be highlighted by the Phillies infrequent appearances, but is not exclusive to the home team. The World Series of my childhood were dominated by dynasties in Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and New York.

The first Series that I recall was the 1971 victory by Roberto Clemente and the Pittsburgh Pirates over Brooks Robinson and the Baltimore Orioles. As a nine-year old that summer, I had first fallen in love with the game when my hometown Phillies opened Veteran’s Stadium virtually in my backyard in South Philadelphia.

The shame of that 1971 Series for me was that I never really got to appreciate Clemente fully as a ballplayer. It was my first time watching him, and one of the final times. He would be tragically killed in a plane crash the following off-season, and I didn’t learn about just how great he had been until much later.

To me, those Pirates were the rival villains in the Phillies division. They had slugging Willie Stargell, daring Dave Cash, colorful catcher Manny Sanguillen, professional hitters in Al Oliver and Gene Clines, and a pitching staff led by Steve Blass and Dock Ellis.

On September 1st of that year those Pirates had become the first team in MLB history to field an all-black starting lineup. They were good, and as the Phillies emerged in mid-decade as contenders in their own right, it would be those Pirates whom they battled.

I really got into the game of baseball the following season which saw the emergence of the Oakland Athletics dynasty. Known as the Swingin‘ A’s, the team wore colorful uniforms and had even more colorful stars including Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Gene Tenace, Catfish Hunter, and Rollie Fingers.

As the sun set on that Oakland dynasty in the mid-70’s, we saw the emergence of the ‘Big Red Machine’, who won back-to-back world championships in 1975-76 with players like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster, and Ken Griffey Sr leading the way.

That 1975 Fall Classic gave us one of the greatest moments in World Series history when the Red Sox won Game 6 in extra innings to tie the series and send it to a seventh game on a dramatic homerun by Carlton Fisk.

The future Hall of Fame catcher has been forever immortalized after he nailed a long fly along the third base line towards the ‘Green Monster’ in Fenway Park’s left field. Fisk was pictured waving the home run fair as he headed toward first base, then leaping for joy as it cleared the wall.

Watching on television as a 14-year old, I was rooting for Boston and screamed for joy when Fisk hit his blast, waking my dad who was a cop and who came running out thinking that something was wrong in our apartment.

That was one of the most dramatic games that I had ever seen to that date, and I have always recalled a game-tying home run by Bernie Carbo of Boston in the late innings of that game almost as well as Fisk’s blast.

The New York Yankees turn came next. Their bombastic owner, George Steinbrenner, used the new free agency system to buy the Bronx Bombers back to the top, signing players such as former A’s stars Jackson and Hunter and winning the ’77-78 Series in back-to-back fashion.

It was during these years that the Phillies began to emerge as serious contenders. The 1975 club was in contention for most of the year before falling short. But then the Phillies won three consecutive National League East Division titles in 1976-77-78, winning 101 games in both the ’77 and ’78 seasons.

Those Phillies always managed to fall short in the playoffs. In 1976 it was pretty much accepted, as the Phillies were newcomers to the post-season and the Big Red Machine who defeated them was in its heyday.

But the ’77 & ’78 teams were arguably better than the LA Dodgers clubs that defeated them. In that ’77 playoff, it was the ‘Black Friday’ game that cost the pennant, a game that was discussed in detail in one of my postings last week.

So the Phillies were contenders for the entirety of the second half of the decade, most of my teenage years, but they just couldn’t seem to reach the World Series.

After that 1978 season, ownership opened its wallets and signed Pete Rose away from the Reds as a free agent. The Phillies bolted out to another division lead with Rose, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox, and Larry Bowa leading the way.

But that team faded down the stretch, largely due to injuries, and was passed in the standings by a red-hot ‘We Are Family’ Pittsburgh Pirates team and their ‘killer bee’ uniforms highlighted by flat-top caps.

The Pittsburgh Pirates franchise that won the first World Series which I had ever followed back in 1971 by defeating the Baltimore Orioles would close out the decade by repeating that feat and becoming champions once again.

Would the Phillies, serious contenders now for the previous five years, ever get to the World Series, or had their best opportunities passed them by? The 1980 season would answer the question in dramatic fashion. But that story will wait until tomorrow.

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.