1983 Philadelphia Phillies
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Clinched Division: September 28, 1983, At Chicago Cubs
Won National League Pennant
The 1983 Philadelphia Phillies were only the fourth team in franchise history to make it to the World Series. The 1982 team had lost a close divisional race to the St. Louis Cardinals. An aging team, with most of its starters past 30 and its top pitcher, Steve Carlton, in his late 30s, the Phillies were not the focus of much hope as the 1983 season began. In fact, the earned the nickname the "Wheeze Kids", a play on the nickname of the 1950 team better known as the "Whiz Kids". But the oldsters did the kids one better, as they managed to win one World Series game before losing the next four to the Baltimore Orioles. After that loss, the Phillies would not be competitive again for another decade.
In the offseason, they traded star second baseman Manny Trillo, prospect Julio Franco, and three other players for Cleveland Indians outfielder Von Hayes, which seemed like a retreat to a youth movement as Hayes, who quickly earned the nickname "five-for-one", was entering only his second full season in 1983. But to take Trillo's job at second base, the Phillies imported 39-year-old Joe Morgan. With Pete Rose still playing first base at age 42 and the signing of Tony Perez as a bench player, it threatened to turn the roster into a reunion for the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.
Other transactions reinforced the idea that the Phillies were simply on a treadmill. They had acquired starter John Denny late in 1982 as a stretch-drive addition, but they lost Mike Krukow in the Morgan trade. Mercurial closer Al Holland came with Morgan, but at the loss of top pitching prospect Mark Davis. In May, the Phillies traded starter Dick Ruthven to the Chicago Cubs for journeyman reliever Willie Hernandez.
By the June 7th, the Phillies were at 21-25, with Carlton at 6-6. On July 4th, Carlton shut out the New York Mets to send the team into the All-Star break at 38-36 (Mike Schmidt was the team's sole All-Star), but they kept taking a step back for every step forward. Although the Phillies were in first place at 43-42, manager Pat Corrales was fired on July 17th. General Manager Paul Owens took over as field manager, the surest sign of a team packing it in and rebuilding. The club responded badly at first, tumbling to 46-47 on July 26th.
But there were counter-indications. Holland and Hernandez were pitching well. Rookie starter Charles Hudson had joined the rotation late in May and given the team strong outings every time. And after a 6-5 start, John Denny was quietly winning seven games in a row with outstanding control and timing of his pitches.
And no one else was taking control of the division. Even on July 26th, the Phillies were only two games out of first place, though they trailed the Pittsburgh Pirates, [^1983 Expos|Montreal Expos]] and St. Louis Cardinals. Even after Holland surrendered a disastrous George Foster walk-off home run on Labor Day to lose a game that the Phillies had appeared to seize from the Mets in the top of the 9th, they remained in a pack of four teams separated by only half a game.
Age was beginning to tell, however. With the aging ex-Reds and others fading down the stretch, Owens patched together an ad hoc team of platoon players and hot hands. Only catcher Bo Diaz, shortstop Ivan DeJesus, and third baseman Schmidt played every day. Rose shared first base with Perez and Len Matuszek. Kiko Garcia played second when Morgan couldn't, and a huge cast of outfielders rotated through Owens's lineup cards. Happiest of all the role players was certainly Joe Lefebvre, a marginal OF-3B who had come over from the San Diego Padres in May for Sid Monge and hit well in limited duty in June and July. Lefebvre platooned against right-handed pitching down the stretch and drove in 14 runs in 84 September at-bats.
The Phillies' collection of spare parts won 11 in a row in mid-September to run away with the Eastern Division, and crushed the favored Los Angeles Dodgers in a four-game NLCS. They won the first game of the World Series in Baltimore on an 8th-inning home run by Garry Maddox before losing four straight to the Orioles.
John Denny won the Cy Young Award for his 19-6 season. Schmidt was home run champion with 40 and won a Gold Glove; Carlton finished only 15-16 but won his 300th career game in September. Al Holland finished second in the league with 25 saves.
Other career milestones include Morgan's 2500th hit and 250th home run, Schmidt's 350th home run, 1000th run, and 1000th RBI, and Rose's 2000th run.
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Mike Schmidt
- NL Cy Young Award: John Denny
- NL Rolaids Relief Award: Al Holland
- NL Comeback Player of the Year: John Denny
- NL Gold Glove: Mike Schmidt (3B)
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Mike Schmidt (3B)
- 2022 Philadelphia Phillies Media Guide, pg. 218