1980 Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Champs
Managed by Dallas Green
History Comments, Contributions
The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies were the first Phillies team to win the World Series. Before that year, the Phils had not only never won the Fall Classic, they had won a grand total of one game in two appearances.
Despite finishing a distant fourth in the divisional race in 1979, the Phillies had ended that season on an uptick, winning 18 of 29 September games under farm director-turned-manager Dallas Green. Green made no significant changes in the club during spring training in 1980, though he brought two youngsters - outfielder Lonnie Smith and catcher Keith Moreland - north in April and added promising rookie starting pitcher Bob Walk in May.
Walk's debut on May 26th was the Phillies' fifth win in a row, their first consistent move away from .500 in the young season. The streak brought them to six games over, but they were still at six games over (and in third place) almost three months later, when Walk beat the New York Mets on August 16th to run his record to 9-2. The other bright spots were the consistently brilliant Steve Carlton, eventual MVP Mike Schmidt, Moreland (who caught fire in July and August), and Smith, who took over left field more and more from an aging and hurting Greg Luzinski. Overall, however, the rest of the Phillie bats were anemic well into August.
Four wins in a row on the West Coast early in September propelled the Phillies into first place by a thin margin over the Montreal Expos and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies played nine extra-inning games in September, winning seven of them; "Ya gotta believe," opined reliever Tug McGraw in a reprise of his rallying cry for the 1973 New York Mets. Unheralded rookie pitcher Marty Bystrom was called up after September 1st and won five consecutive starts down the stretch, a performance that ended up being the difference-maker. He looked like a future Hall of Famer during that month, but would end up with an otherwise undistinguished big league career.
Fittingly, the Phillies arrived in Montreal on October 3rd tied for first with the Expos; the Pirates had long since fallen out of the race. Late-season acquisition Sparky Lyle and McGraw saved the first game of the series, a 2-1 victory (both RBIs by Schmidt). The Phillies went into the 9th inning of the second game trailing by a run, but managed to tie it against Woodie Fryman, and then to win it on an 11th-inning home run by Schmidt against Stan Bahnsen that clinched the pennant.
National League Champions
Main article: 1980 NLCS
The Phillies had lost the NLCS in 1976, 1977 and 1978, and while their experience seemed to make them favorites over the new Western champion Houston Astros, old Philadelphia hands expected the worst. Carlton and McGraw combined to win Game 1 handily at home but McGraw couldn't hold the Astros in Game 2, however, and the dam burst in the top of the 10th, giving Houston a 7-4 victory. Joe Niekro threw ten fabulous shutout innings in Game 3 in Houston, and the Astros, after a leadoff triple by Joe Morgan, beat McGraw in the 11th.
With two games remaining in the Astrodome, Phillies fans packed their bags emotionally for a long winter. The Astros chased Carlton early in Game 4, taking a 2-0 lead into the 8th. The Phillies scraped together three runs that inning, but Houston tied the game in the 9th. Then, hits by Pete Rose, Luzinski, and Manny Trillo gave the Phillies two 10th-inning runs, and McGraw came on for the save.
The Phillies dug an even deeper hole in the fifth and deciding game, trailing 5-2 with Nolan Ryan on the mound to start the 8th inning. But Ryan quickly loaded the bases and then walked Rose, triggering a five-run rally capped by Trillo's two-run triple. The Astros roughed up McGraw in the bottom of the 8th, however, and the teams went to extra innings for the fourth straight game. Green pressed starter Dick Ruthven into service and waited. In the top of the 10th, Garry Maddox doubled home Del Unser with the pennant-winning run. The Phillies would return to the World Series after a drought of 30 years.
That series is generally one of the most exciting playoff series ever played. After it was over, Tug McGraw famously quipped "It was like going through an art gallery on a motorcycle", refering to the incredible number of comebacks, great performances, and nail-biting endings to which fans had been privy.
World Series Champions
Main article:1980 WS
After one of the greatest NLCS of all time, that World Series (against the Kansas City Royals) was fairly anticlimactic. Solid performances by Carlton (two wins) and Schmidt (.381, two homers, and the MVP trophy) were somewhat overshadowed by George Brett's hemorrhoids and a bizarre 9th-inning play in the deciding Game 6. With the bases loaded and McGraw pitching, Frank White hit a foul pop-up that Philadelphia catcher Bob Boone dropped - into the glove of casual bystander Rose. McGraw proceeded to strike out Willie Wilson to win the first World Championship for the Phillies.
Schmidt was a unanimous National League MVP and Carlton won his third Cy Young Award with only one dissenting vote. Schmidt and Maddox won Gold Gloves. Schmidt led the league in slugging percentage, home runs, and RBIs. Rose was the doubles leader. Carlton led the league in starts, innings, wins, and strikeouts; McGraw had 20 saves.
Bill James famously scoffed at the team's lack of depth beyond Schmidt, Carlton, and McGraw, saying that if you took the Toronto Blue Jays (who were dreadful that year]) and added Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Hoyt Wilhelm, you'd approximate the makeup of the Phillies. But James was a Royals fan, after all.
The famous Boone-to-Rose 2-3 foul out seems to epitomize the 1980 Phillies. They were a veteran group who, if they lacked athleticism, made few mental errors and played sharp fundamental baseball. Maddox, Trillo, Boone, and Larry Bowa were weak bats but played good defense up the middle. Whether they were likable depended on your affection for the aloof Schmidt, the distant Carlton, the pugnacious Rose and the talkative McGraw, but they scraped by every challenge offered them.
The Phillies' championship was the highlight in an unprecedented year in Philadelphia sports. In addition to their World Series crown, the Flyers of the NHL played in the Stanley Cup finals, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals, and the Eagles of the NFL capped off their 1980 season by reaching the Super Bowl in 1981. Many consider this the greatest sports year any city has ever known.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt
- NL MVP: Mike Schmidt
- NL Cy Young Award: Steve Carlton
- NL Rookie of the Year Award:
- NL Gold Glove: Garry Maddox (OF) and Mike Schmidt (3B)
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Mike Schmidt (3B) and Manny Trillo (2B)
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Lonnie Smith (OF)
- J. Daniel: Phinally! The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2019. ISBN 978-1-4766-7088-1