1979 Philadelphia Phillies
1979 Philadelphia Phillies / Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies / BR Team Page
History, Comments, Contributions
Three years' worth of defeat in the National League Championship Series left the fans and management of the 1979 Philadelphia Phillies nonplussed after the 1978 season. The club, talented but apparently lacking a spark, needed someone to apply the match, and the game's quintessential tinderbox was free agent Pete Rose, coming off his historic 44-game hitting streak for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Phillies targeted Rose and signed him in December. Their other moves seemed cosmetic in comparison. In spring training, they moved a swath of disposable players to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Manny Trillo and pinch-hitter deluxe Greg Gross. Then, just before the season opened, they traded veteran 1B Richie Hebner, displaced by the Rose signing, to the New York Mets for down-on-his-luck starting pitcher Nino Espinosa.
Danny Ozark's charges went 14-5 in April, as Rose put together a .471 on-base percentage for the month. The demons seemed to be exorcised. And then everyone seemed to tire at once. The Phillies played mediocre ball for the next three months and fairly stunk in August. Steve Carlton was on his way to an 18-win season, and Espinosa won 14, but rotation standbys Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson battled injuries and ineffectiveness.
Even more troubling was a general batting slump. There was nothing wrong with All-Star third baseman Mike Schmidt, who hit 45 home runs with 114 RBIs. Or with Rose, who chased Keith Hernandez for the batting title and ended up at .331. But Trillo hit poorly, as did aging stars Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski. From an offensive powerhouse in 1976-1978, the Phillies dipped into mediocrity at the plate.
After the Phils dropped eight of nine in late August, Ozark was fired in favor of farm-system director Dallas Green. The team immediately went on a hot streak, but at this point couldn't see the battling Montreal Expos and Pittsburgh Pirates with a telescope. Philadelphia ended up in fourth place, over .500 but 14 games back.
Schmidt led the National League in walks and sacrifice flies, Rose in singles, and Luzinski in getting hit by the pitch, but these little triumphs seemed to symbolize an ineffectual year. Trillo, Schmidt, catcher Bob Boone, and center fielder Garry Maddox won Gold Gloves, as at least, the team's defence was solid all season.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt
- NL Gold Glove: Bob Boone (C), Garry Maddox (OF), Mike Schmidt (3B) and Manny Trillo (2B)
- Kevin Cook: Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 2019. ISBN 978-1250182036
- Norm King: "How 'Bout Them Expos; May 29-31, 1979: Montreal Expos 9, Philadelphia Phillies 0; Montreal Expos 2, Philadelphia Phillies 0; Montreal Expos 1, Philadelphia Phillies 0 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 42-44. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6