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1977 Philadelphia Phillies

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[edit] 1977 Philadelphia Phillies / Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies / BR Team Page

Record: 101-61, Finished 1st in NL Eastern Division (1977 NL)

Managed by Danny Ozark

Ballpark: Veterans Stadium

1977 was the first (and to date, only) year since 1950 that the Phillies finished with the best regular-season record in the National League. It was also Philadelphia's second straight 100-victory season (the only two in Phillies history to date). Though the 1980 and 1983 editions of the team would go further, you'd have to consider 1977 the acme of this Philadelphia "success cycle."

The team was substantially the same as the 1976 division champs. Free agency cost them second baseman Dave Cash and first baseman Dick Allen but netted them Pirate third baseman Richie Hebner. With Mike Schmidt anchored at third base, Hebner took Allen's job at first. Ted Sizemore became the starter at second. Young Randy Lerch arrived from AAA Oklahoma City to join the Phillies starting rotation.

That rotation lost the first four games of the season; the Phillies didn't climb above .500 till mid-May. The mid-June acquisition of Bake McBride from St. Louis added a strong bat to the lineup, but the team had hitting to spare, led by outstanding seasons from Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. (Schmidt would finish the season with the lowest batting average among Phillies' regulars, a crisp .274.) The teams' inconsistency in the early going was largely a matter of pitching; the bullpen was strong but overworked, because only the phenomenal Steve Carlton among the starters gave the Phillies a solid chance to win.

On 25 June the Phillies were in fourth place; the Chicago Cubs were running away with the division, 8 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia. The next day, veteran Jim Kaat and reliever Gene Garber combined to shut out the Cardinals 2-0, as the Phillies began an 11-1 run, gaining 5 1/2 games on the Cubs.

At the end of July, the Phillies were still two games back. They dropped their first game in August but then reeled off 13 straight wins, including a four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Young starter Larry Christenson was especially hot during this streak. They paused to lose 13-0 at Montreal on 17 August and then won six more in a row. By that point the Cubs had wilted and Philadelphia had opened up a considerable lead on the second-place Pirates. Christenson beat Chicago on 27 September to clinch the division for the Phillies.

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1977 Postseason

1978 >>

NL Championship Series (3-1) Dodgers over Phillies

World Series (4-2) Yankees over Dodgers

AL Championship Series (3-2) Yankees over Royals

With the Big Red Machine just a memory, the Phillies saw a clear path to the pennant through the relatively weak Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The Phillies captured Game One in L.A., 7-5.

Veteran Jim Lonborg was pounded in Game Two, but the Phillies headed home with a split in the series. In Game Three, Garry Maddox drove in Hebner and scored on an error to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead -- and that was their high-water mark. In the top of the ninth, as Phillies fans sat stunned, Dodger pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo nosed a weak two-out infield hit. The great pinch-hitter Manny Mota followed with a drive to left that Luzinski, inexplicably still in the game despite his immobility, could not catch. Two errors and a single off the body of Mike Schmidt later, the Phillies trailed 6-5, and went quietly in the bottom of the ninth.

In the fourth game, Carlton was simply outpitched by Tommy John, and what was perhaps the best Phillies team ever had to settle for a mere division flag.

Schmidt, Maddox, and Kaat won Gold Gloves. Luzinski finished second in the NL with a career-high 130 RBI. Carlton led the league in wins with 23 and claimed his second Cy Young Award.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Mitchell Nathanson: The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008.


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