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 goes over the matchup for the World Series, as well as the fates of the division champions from 1979.
|From the October 25,
1980 edition of The Sporting News:
World Series Then... Now
On Stage: Royals and Phillies
By Joseph Durso
NEW YORK- It took six months to pick the cast and set the stage, but finally it's curtain time: The 77th World Series is at hand. And the only thing that's certain is that they won't have the Birds and the Bucs to kick around anymore.
They probably deserved a better fate, those Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates, who carried us through seven tingling games last October before the swinging, singing "Fam-a-lee" of Pittsburgh swept three straight and won the Series. But they were all swept from the stage in 1980 as new heroes and old powers took charge, and Chuck Tanner shed no tears.
"We lost some key guys to injuries," the manager of the Pirates said, "but so did a lot of other clubs, so we offer no alibis. We simply didn't play as well as some of the other teams. But we will regroup, and we will be back."
Having resisted any temptation to intone, "We shall return," Tanner then evacuated the premises with Earl Weaver and watched the final battles take shape.
The survivors of those last battles, of course, were the Kansas City Royals, who finally ended their frustration against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who outlasted the Houston Astros to win the National League Championship Series in a five-game playoff.
The National League went into the World Series trailing, 45-31, in the showdowns with the American League.
An unusual number of struggles were fought to produce the survivors from the 26 teams that opened the season in April all even: No wins, no losses, 162 games to go.
But that was a lifetime ago. Since then, Kansas City's George Brett flirted with .400, the New York Mets flirted with .500 and the Yankees and Orioles won 100 games. Bobby Cox revived the Atlanta Braves, who finished fourth in the N.L. West. Billy Martin revived the Oakland A's, who finished second in the A.L. West. And Jim Frey revived the Royals, who clinched the A.L. West Division title so early that everybody spent the final four weeks watching Brett take that sweet swing at the .400 mark.
Pete Rose hustled past 3,500 hits. Reggie Jackson powered past 400 home runs and hit .300 for the first time in his career. The A's Rickey Henderson sprinted past Ty Cobb's A.L. record of 96 stolen bases, a mark that had stood for 65 summers. Henderson had 100 thefts. And Manny Mota got himself reactivated at age 42 and, naturally, delivered a pinch-hit single for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also reactivated was Minnie Minoso, 57, who became the second player to appear in five decades when he pinch-hit twice for the Chicago White Sox.
But for all the virtuosos on all the teams, there remained one goal: The World Series. Even to Mike Schmidt, who has whacked more home runs that anybody in the business during the last six seasons, the goal was clear.
"I could be very satisfied with my numbers," the muscle-man for the Phillies said, "but it would color my career if I didn't play in a World Series. In hockey and basketball, most teams seem to get into the playoffs, and in football even the wild cards make it. In baseball, only one team from each division makes it, and only one team in each league makes the Series."
But, to sort out the contenders and pretenders, baseball needed a kind of free-for-all that lasted half the year. And beyond the individual performances that made headlines, it required some significant shifts in the balance of power in both major leagues. The power structures already had undergone dramatic changes during the four years of the free-agent system.
For three straight seasons, 1976 through 1978, the scene was dominated by the Yankees and Royals in the American League and by the Phillies and Dodgers in the National League. But in 1979, all four fat cats were trampled under the rise of the Pirates, Orioles and California Angels, and the revival of the Cincinnati Reds. It was an upheaval, suggested Whitey Herzog, then manager of the Royals (and since fired by Kansas City, then hired as St. Louis manager and later elevated to general manager of the Cardinals).
"If somebody had predicted," he said back in 1979, "that going into September, the Royals would be second, the Dodgers third, the Yankees fourth and the Phillies fifth, I wouldn't have believed it. No way. And for all four to finish out of the money, no way. It's probably good for baseball, as they say. But it's amazing that they're all down, and in the same season."
That was a year ago. Since then, the Royals, Yankees, and Phillies made strong comebacks under new managers, and the Dodgers made a run for it under Tommy Lasorda before losing out to Houston in a playoff. So, in 1980, came the counter-revolution.
In the American League, at least, the old powers were restored. The Yankees, who won their first pennant in 1921, returned under a new manager, Dick Howser, with the strongest history in the sport: 32 pennants and 22 World Series championships. The Royals, who lost three consecutive playoffs to the Yankees, also had a new manager, Frey, and exciting stars like swift Willie Wilson and submarine reliever Dan Quisenberry. Wilson became the second player in history to get 100 hits each batting right handed and left handed (the Cardinals' Garry Templeton was the first, in 1979) and Quisenberry won 12 games and saved 33, earning A.L. Fireman of the Year honors.
In the National League, though, except for the Phillies, the cast of contenders was new and historic. The Montreal Expos, who missed by only two games last year, raised the possibility of baseball's first playoff and World Series outside the United States before they came up one game short against Philadelphia. And the Astros, who missed by 1˝ games last season, overcame the loss of pitching star J.R. Richard to qualify for baseball's first tournament play indoors.
Houston became the fourth expansion team to win a division championship. Only the Royals, Angels and Mets had ever risen from expansion status to divisional titles, and only the Mets (1969) had gone on to capture a World Series.
Montreal could have been the fifth expansion team to reach the playoffs, and more history stood in the wings. Dick Williams, the manager of the Expos, spent the summer shooting for a rare distinction. He already led the Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant in 1967 and the A's to the pennant and World Series championships in 1972 and 1973, and now he was trying to win one in the other league, a feat accomplished only by Joe McCarthy, Yogi Berra and Alvin Dark. And if Williams could make it with three clubs, he would share an honor gained only by Bill McKechnie, who won pennants with Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati.
But those were the goals of summer. The realizations of summer rode on the battles of summer, which went down to the final weekend in three of the four divisions. And by then, only the Royals were safe, with the elimination rounds at hand.
There were a few certainties in the main event. This is the alternate year when the designated hitter will swing for the pitcher in the Series. This is the year when the ABC network televises the playoffs and NBC handles the World Series.
This is also the year when they will play the Series without "Pops" Stargell, who helped shoot down the Orioles by hitting three home runs at the age of 38, and reliever Kent Tekulve, who pitched five times in seven games.
And, lest we forget, this is the year after the Pirates lost three of the first four games and trailed as last as the sixth inning of the fifth game. Then they turned the trick that only three other teams had ever turned in World Series history: They swept three and won it all. To the Pirates, it was worth $28,236 a man. The Orioles got $22,113 a man.
To the rest of us: Center-stage, the curtain rising, and a chance for an encore in the 77th World Series.