The Sporting News ran its World Series issue dated October 25, 1980. Of course, that's four days after the Series ended, but you know how these things are always postdated. This article describes the Phillies' wild road through the National League Championship Series against Houston to get to the Series.
|From the October 25,
1980 edition of The Sporting News:
Chaos of Playoff, It's Phils on Top
By Lowell Reidenbaugh, Senior Editor
HOUSTON- In the recorded history of baseball, there may never have been a game like it and, in all probability, there will never be another to match the fourth game of the National League Championship Series.
"It was," said Houston Manager Bill Virdon, "a strange game." His Philadelphia counterpart, Dallas Green, termed it "unusual."
Effervescent Philadelphia lefthander Tug McGraw declared, "It was like a motorcycle ride through an art museum... you see the pictures but afterward you don't remember what you saw."
Perhaps it was significant that the game was played in the Astrodome, initially referred to as "The Eighth Wonder of the Modern World." The game just might be remembered as "The Ninth WOTMW."
The contest overflowed with bizarre plays, missed opportunities and colossal controversy. It abounded, too, with mental lassitude that enabled the Phils, six outs short of extinction, to remain alive, win the 10-inning game, 5-3, and come back to win the N.L pennant the following day.
Foremost among the "unusual" plays that gives the game its distinctive character was a fourth-inning episode that started with singles by Bake McBride and Manny Trillo off Vern Ruhle. At this juncture, abnormalcy arrived.
When Garry Maddox stroked a soft liner back to the mound, Ruhle fielded the ball and, inexplicably it seemed at the moment, disdained a possible double play via second base, and threw to first base for a putout.
Abnormalcy now yielded to chaos. Philadelphia players swarmed out of the dugout, insisting that Ruhle had trapped the ball. Houston players maintained that the ball had been caught. Slow-motion television replays from numerous angles were inconclusive.
As confusion mounted, Houston first baseman Art Howe sprinted to second base, claiming a triple play, and the Astros strolled into their dugout.
Plate umpire Doug Harvey, with nearly two decades of National League experience, was unable to rule on the catch-no catch because Maddox, breaking from the plate, obstructed his vision. Harvey requested help from fellow arbiters Bob Engel at third base and Ed Vargo at first. Both ruled a catch.
So if Maddox was out, Trillo was too, for having strolled off the bag. But what about McBride, the interested spectator on third base?
The six umpires huddled at length, then Harvey conferred with League President Chub Feeney, who was in a first base box seat. Players and spectators grew more baffled by the moment.
At last, Solomon-like, Harvey explained the ruling that, while it did not prove wholly satisfactory to all parties, seemed to be entirely just under difficult circumstances.
"Maddox hits the ball and steps in front of me," Harvey began. "There are runners out there wondering if it's a catch or a trap. My first reaction is no catch and I put my hands down to signal fair ball in play. But I see the pitcher throw to first as though he's going for the double play.
"So I ask for help and they tell me the pitcher caught the ball, and that's good enough for me."
Inasmuch as time had been called before Howe tagged second base, Harvey disallowed that putout, returned McBride to that base and bade the game go on.
The ruling evoked protests from both clubs, but neither was pursued, inasmuch as the Phillies won and Feeney indicated that he would not entertain a Houston protest because McBride was stranded at second base.
The rhubarb, consuming 20 minutes of the three-hour 55-minute game, overshadowed but scarcely minimized the day's other wacky events.
In the sixth inning, with the Astros leading 2-0, at the expense of Steve Carlton and enjoying a bases-loaded, one-out situation, Luis Pujols lifted a fly to McBride in right field, a sure sacrifice fly, it appeared to the 44,952 crammed into the Dome. At third base, Gary Woods tagged up and proceeded across the plate after the catch.
The Phillies dissented. Instructions were shouted to young pitcher Dickie Noles, who stepped on the pitching rubber, in accordance to the rules, then threw to Mike Schmidt, who stepped on third base. Woods, Bob Engel ruled, had left before the catch, thereby scratching a run that the Astros would have found extremely valuable later in the game.
"I thought I did it properly, but it's not my opinion that counts," Woods observed. "I had a clear look at McBride. I made the judgment to go and I thought I made a clean start. It's my fault for not making sure."
In the eighth inning, with the Astros still nursing a 2-0 lead behind Ruhle, the Phillies snapped their 18-inning scoring drought with the help of a mental lapse by Jeff Leonard, newly installed in right field for defensive purposes.
Pinch-hitter Greg Gross and Lonnie Smith singled to open the inning. When Pete Rose grounded a single to right, Gross scored and Smith raced to third. Instead of heading off the potential lead run at second base, Leonard uncorked an ill-advised throw toward third, permitting Rose to gain the extra base.
When Schmidt smacked a ground ball to Joe Morgan behind second, the 37-year-old veteran hesitated a moment as he glanced toward Rose, en route to third, then looked too late toward first, where Schmidt was sprinting across the bag.
One out later, Trillo hit a fly to Leonard in medium right field. Schmidt took a quick look, decided it was not a catch, and took off for second. But umpire Bruce Froemming, stationed down the right field line, ruled it a catch. Rose dutifully tagged at third, then sped for the plate, arriving comfortably ahead of Leonard's throw. Bruce Bochy's throw to first base doubled off Schmidt.
Virdon exonerated the young outfielder for failing to throw to first base. "In that situation, I don't think I've ever seen an outfielder throw to first base," said Virdon, an old outfielder himself. "Unless," he added, "the fellow's psychic."
Now it was the Astros' turn to avert imminent defeat. With one out in the ninth inning and Rafael Landestoy on second base as the result of a walk and Joe Sambito's first sacrifice of the season, Terry Puhl singled to right field, tying the score. Moments later Puhl was doubled off first base on Enos Cabell's fly to McBride.
The Astros did not enjoy their equality long. In the 10th inning, as he's been doing for 18 seasons, Rose inspired another rally, rapping a one-out single to center field.
Schmidt lifted a 3-and-2 Sambito pitch to left field for the second out. Then Greg Luzinski, benched because of speed and defensive liabilities after hitting a two-run homer in the Phillies' 3-1 opening victory, bounced a pinch-double off the left field wall.
Rose, running on contact, sped around second base as his cap went flying. He never missed a stride at third, turning for home as Landestoy, taking the throw from left fielder Jose Cruz, fired toward the plate.
Rose was highballing as he approached the plate, where Bochy tried to short-hop the ball. Rose charged into the catcher, a forearm to Bochy's face, and the ball trickled free as Rose stepped on the plate.
Trillo's double plated the final run of the game and the Astros succumbed to Warren Brusstar in one-two-three order in the last half of the inning.
When it was suggested that Bochy's inexperience (22 games, two starts in 1980) had been responsible for permitting Rose to score, Pete leaped to the catcher's defense.
"I had an advantage over him," Pete pointed out. "He couldn't brace for the throw. I had to charge into him. It was the only way I could reach the plate.
Bochy was in the game only because Alan Ashby suffered a rib separation in the Western Division playoff with Los Angeles and Luis Pujols was incapacitated by a nick on the ankle when struck by an eighth-inning foul tip.
"I couldn't move out to catch the throw on the fly," Bochy noted. "I have to guard the plate even if I must short-hop the ball. Otherwise Rose slides around me. I made the play the only way I could and didn't get him."
Rose lavished praise on third base coach Lee Elia. "He saw the relay coming up short in the outfield and he gave me the green light," Pete revealed. "If he hadn't sent me on, I'd have held up. He showed a lot of courage in making the decision."
The situation was totally unlike the one that prevailed three days earlier when Elia's failure to wave McBride plateward touched off criticism in the Phillies' 10-inning, 7-4 loss in the second game.
The Phils were on the threshold of a second consecutive victory after Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw had collaborated in the opener. The score was tied, 3-3, at Veteran's Stadium. McBride was on second and Schmidt on first in the last of the ninth when Lonnie Smith flied to right. McBride, confident the ball would fall safely, ran halfway toward third base, then hesitated when Elia held up his hands.
Suddenly Elia started waving furiously, but McBride had come to a near-halt and was unable to turn on the generators on such short notice. The bases were loaded with one out, but they were all stranded on the Phils' way to a game total of 14 left on base.
"I messed it up," Elia admitted. "I should have taken a chance and sent him in. I held him up, and when I tried to get him going again, it was too late. Throwing up my hands was a reflex action."
Rose insisted that Elia assumed the blame unjustly. "There was only one out at the time and all we needed was a fly ball, which we didn't get," he pointed out.
Frank LaCorte escaped the bases-loaded jam by fanning Trillo and retiring Maddox on a foul pop. The Astros salted the game away with four runs in the 10th.
Even with a four-run cushion, LaCorte needed help in the last half as the Phils scored a run. Two runners were on base when Joaquin Andujar, after running the count to 3-and-0, retired Schmidt on a fly to right.
When the series, after a one-day travel break, resumed in the Astrodome, Joe Niekro, Houston's 20-game winner, was matched against Larry Christenson, five-game Philly winner in an injury-plagued season.
Christenson spun zeroes for six innings, Niekro for 10, but in the 11th, McGraw's third inning of relief, Morgan crashed a leadoff triple and Cruz and Howe were walked intentionally. Denny Walling's sacrifice fly scored pinch-runner Landestoy and made a winner of Dave Smith for one inning of work.
The victory was dearly bought. Cesar Cedeno, stepping awkwardly on first base while trying to beat a double-play relay in the sixth inning, suffered a compound dislocation of the right ankle and was done for the year.
Incredible as game four was, it was merely a prologue for the one-game showdown that produced a pennant for the Phils after playoff defeats in 1976, '77 and '78.
Dallas Green entrusted the big assignment to Marty Bystrom, activated as an eligible only five days earlier. The 22-year-old righthander was matched against Nolan Ryan, in his second start of the series. Bystrom lasted until the sixth, when Alan Ashby pinch-singled to drive in Walling with the run that tied the score, 2-2.
In the seventh, Green, having used Bystrom and Warren Brusstar, asked Christenson, his third game starter, to check the Astros. Christenson encountered immediate trouble, Terry Puhl leading off with the third of his four hits. With two outs and Puhl on second, Jose Cruz was walked intentionally. Walling singled in Puhl and Cruz scored from third on a wild pitch. Ron Reed replaced Christenson and Art Howe tripled on his first pitch for a 5-2 Houston lead.
Ryan lost his touch, too. Larry Bowa singled to center to open the eighth, Bob Boone scratched a single off Ryan's glove and Greg Gross bunted perfectly to the right side, loading the bases.
Rose walked on a 3-and-2 pitch, forcing in Bowa, and bringing Joe Sambito to the relief of Ryan. Keith Moreland forced Rose as Boone scored and Sambito exited in favor of Ken Forsch. After Schmidt was called out on strikes, Del Unser batted for Reed and singled home the tying run. When Trillo, the most valuable player of the series, tripled into the left field corner, two more runs scored and the Phillies led, 7-5.
Now it was the Astros' turn to retaliate against McGraw, appearing in a record fifth playoff game. With Craig Reynolds and Puhl on base via singles and two out, Rafael Landestoy, inserted as a defensive replacement at second base, singled to left and Cruz singled to center. It was tied again, 7-7.
The Phillies got Bowa as far as third in the ninth, but came up empty. Green then entrusted the Phillies' pitching chores to Dick Ruthven, second game starter. He never made a wiser decision. Ruthven set the Astros down in order in the ninth, as he was able to do in the 10th, while the Phillies wrapped up the record-setting fourth consecutive extra-inning contest with a run in the 10th on doubles by Unser and Maddox.
A tension-packed week was over, emotion drained from players and patrons alike. The Phillies had qualified for their third World Series.
There may never be another playoff like it!