The head piece in the sports section the day after the series, this Jayson Stark article captures the essense of both Game 6, and the emotions that erupted from players, administration, fans, and even hard-boiled writers after the Phillies took their first world championship.
|From the October 22,
1980 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Phillies kings of baseball
Carlton, Tug KOs Royals
Schmidt Series MVP
By Jayson Stark
They have had to live with the ghosts of 105 awful seasons, seasons that didn't end this way.
To win it all, the Phillies didn't have to beat just the Kansas City Royals. They had to blow away 1915 and 1950. And '64 and '77. And a hundred other teams that never had a chance to blow it.
They had to demolish a whole legacy of failure in one crazy month. And they did it.
They did it that long, wet Saturday in Montreal. They did it that madhouse weekend in Houston. And, last night, they finished the job at the Vet.
They finished it with a 4-1 victory over the Royals. They finished it with Tug McGraw pumping one more strikeout past Willie Wilson with the bases loaded.
They finished it with police all over the field and 65,000 people screaming, "We're No. 1!" They had won the World Series. Look at that line over and over if you want. It won't change. The Phillies finally won one. They blew the ghosts away.
Steve Carlton made this easy. He was the Carlton they needed. He threw an overpowering three-hitter for seven innings while they built him a methodical 4-0 lead.
But Carlton started the eighth with a walk and a single, and Dallas Green sent for McGraw, the man who has finished all the big ones for him.
He got Frank White to foul to Pete Rose. But he walked Wilson to load the bases, and U.L. Washington got the Royals a run with a sacrifice fly. Next came George Brett, and a game isn't over as long as he has a bat in his hands.
He bounced to Manny Trillo in short right. Brett and Rose raced for the bag. They got there simultaneously. Ump Harry Wendelstedt called it a hit.
So the bases were loaded a second time, but Hal McRae grounded to Trillo. There were three outs left.
Famous Amos Otis started the ninth by looking at strike three. But it was not going to be that easy. Willie Aikens walked. John Wathan bounced a base hit to right. Jose Cardenal lined a single to center in front of Garry Maddox. The bases were full a third time.
They called him Grand Slam McGraw a year ago. But not this year. White popped the first pitch foul, in front of the Phillies' dugout. Bob Boone and Rose converged. The ball fell into Boone's glove. And out of Boone's glove. And into Rose's glove for an incredible second out.
You knew they would win it then. McGraw got one strike on Wilson looking. Then another on a foul tip. Then one ball, with the crowd standing and people screaming and police leading German shepherds around the warning track.
McGraw smoothed the mound, looked for the sign, fired. Wilson missed it, McGraw and eight other guys jumped in the air. The Phillies were world champs, friends. Believe it or not.
It was only a baseball game. You had to keep telling yourself that, because it didn't feel like a baseball game at the beginning. It was hard to say what it did feel like. Buy everybody knew it wasn't the first of three games with the Cubs in June, that's for sure.
There were 65,838 people crammed into the Vet, waiting to explode. But it was tough to tell whether they really wanted to bother playing this thing out or whether they just wanted to have the teams run out on the field and then have somebody declare the Phillies winners. It hardly seemed to occur to anybody except the people playing that the Series wasn't over.
"The only questions in Philadelphia," laughed George Brett before the game, "are, 'How bad is the stadium gonna be when they win?' and 'When does the parade start?' But hey, it doesn't bother me."
The managers, at least, were aware of the possibilities. The Royals' Jim Frey was a coach with the Orioles last year. The Orioles, of course, also came home for the sixth game, leading , three games to two. They had the reliable arms of Jim Palmer and Scott MacGregor ready to pitch.
"They were already building platforms for the politicians in Baltimore," Frey said.
But they didn't get to use them, because the Orioles lost two in a row, as you might recall.
Dallas Green also seemed concerned that people might be ready to launch the parade prematurely.
"We're one game away, I know," Green said. "But we were two games away many moons ago, weren't we? We've still got to win one out of two. When we do that, then we'll walk down Broad Street and Market Street. Then we'll have some fun."
But this crowd was ready for fun right now. It was quite the scene at 6:30 p.m. when the gate opened in the right-field corner and out marched row after row of uniformed police. It looked like the troops marching into Paris. Was this really just a baseball game?
The fervor built through the pre-game introductions, and the volume level as Carlton went out to pitch the first was unlike anything ever heard at the Vet. Carlton proceeded to fan the helpless Willie Wilson (Wilson's 10th strikeout of the Series), and it was bedlam clear into the bottom of the first.
Carlton gave indications right off that he had exceptional stuff. He fanned U.L. Washington on a crackling fastball for the second out. Brett hardly had a decent swing before be bounced a 1-2 pitch to second. Watching that inning did not serve to calm anybody down.
The tumult continued as Lonnie Smith grounded out to start the Phillies half of the first. Finally, Pete Rose stroked a one-out single between short and third for the first hit. Suddenly, it felt like a ball game again instead of New Year's Eve.
Writers were organizing pools before the game to figure out how long Royals starter Rich Gale would last. It wasn't long.
Gale was out before he had gotten an out in the third inning. The only faster exit by a starter in the Series was Larry Christenson's five-batter show in Game 4.
Not all of this was Gale's fault, though. He walked Bob Boone on four pitches leading off the inning. But he got Smith to bounce to Frank White at second, and White flipped the ball over to Washington for what looked like a routine force on Boone.
Washington had cheated a little. But he wasn't exactly the first shortstop in history to do that. Ump Bill Kunkel thought the cheat was so flagrant, though, that he called Boone safe.
That delighted Washington and Frey, naturally. But how do you argue when you've clearly cheated? Your only case is that nobody ever calls it. Kunkel wasn't buying that one.
So White got an undeserved error, and the Royals had to figure out whether Rose, the next hitter, was bunting and how to play it. Rose squared twice and took two balls. Out charged pitching coach Billy Connors. Then out stomped Green, claiming Frey already had visited the mound once when he was arguing with Kunkel.
Gale was allowed to hang around, but it was just as well for the Phillies. Rose swung away on the 2-0 pitch and fouled one back. Then he squared again and took ball three.
Brett came to the mound and told Gale the rotation play was off. But when Rose bunted the 3-1 pitch toward third, Gale didn't charge. So Brett, who had backed up to the bag to cover, had to race in and barehand it. Rose got to first before the throw did, and the bases were loaded.
Mike Schmidt strolled to the plate amid a din that probably could have been heard in Asbury Park. Clearly, the crowd sensed that this could be it.
It was. Schmidt took a ball, fouled one back, then lined a fastball to right-center for what looked like an automatic two-run single. Trouble was that Smith hadn't suffered his daily case of Fall Down Disease yet. Boone trotted in with one run. But Smith barreled around third, got two steps beyond the bag and fell flat on his posterior. It looked like crisis time, because Rose was already on his way to third and Smith had no choice but to head for the plate. But White, the cutoff man, had conceded the two runs and set up at second, so Jose Cardenal, the rightfielder, didn't even look at the plate, threw it to Washington between second and third, and Smith scored.
That ended Gale's postseason, and on came Renie Martin to see if he could keep it from getting worse than 2-0. He could- in seven pitches. He got Bake McBride to foul out to White, Greg Luzinski to line one right at Brett and Garry Maddox to fly to Cardenal. So it was still a game.
But the Phillies kept inching away. Martin ran into trouble in the fifth, all because Smith has those incredible racehorse legs. Smith led off the inning with an ordinary rope to left-center and turned it into a double.
This is just what the Royals had done to the Phillies in Game 4. Now the Royals were finding out that it didn't feel so hot when it happens the other way around.
The Phillies turned it into a classic grind-it-out run. Rose flied to deep-enough center that Smith could tag and zoom into third, and the infield had to march in as Martin worked ever so carefully to Schmidt.
Martin nibbled, Schmidt stayed ever so patient and the duel turned into a walk. Exit Martin. In came the reluctant reliever, Paul Splittorff, to face McBride.
They got to 2-and-2. McBride dribbled one off the end of his bat toward short. Washington had moved back, looking for the double play, so he had to make a fabulous charge just to get the out at first. But Smith scored, and it was 3-0.
An inning later, it was 4-0. Larry Bowa doubled with two out. Boone lined a Splittorff curve into center. The rest was up to Carlton, and the way he was going, four runs looked like 40.
He had a no-hitter for three innings. Then Washington beat out a chopper to deep short for the first hit. But Brett bounced to Bowa, who raced to second and started his seventh double play of the Series. That's a record for any player at any position.
The one-hitter stood until the fifth, when John Wathan bounced a single through the middle with two outs. But he didn't get past first, either.
In fact, for seven innings, the only Royal who did was Amos Otis. Otis and Willie Aikens walked back-to-back with one out in the second. But Wathan bounced into the evening's first double play before that threat got too serious.
Brett got a seventh-inning single with nobody out. But he didn't move either. So the outs kept ticking down, the cheers grew louder and maybe, just maybe, the impossible wasn't so impossible after all.