Pray writes an article that gives a summary of the season for the Phillies. Mostly stuff that those who followed the team in 1980 or have studied about in the years since would know. The Phillies started the season strong, hit a long dry spell in June and July, then played like demons in August and especially September to steal the division from Montreal in the second-to-last game of the season. Nevertheless, it is interesting reading.
|From the Camden
Courier-Post (World Series Insert), October 14, 1980:
Phillies won when it counted most
By Rusty Pray
It is not difficult discovering how the Phillies reached their first World Series in three decades.
They won the National League's East Division by staging a classic run through the stretch, sprinting through September to catch and pass Montreal.
The Phillies won the National League pennant in equally dramatic fashion, nudging aside the game Houston Astros in five after losing two of the first three games of the playoffs.
Indeed, the "how" of the Phillies 1980 season is simple, a straightforward proposition of winning when it counted most.
Why the Phillies are in the Series is another matter entirely, and not nearly so easy to delineate.
If you want to crack open the shell of 167 games and get to the meat of 1980, you must first accept the fact that it is impossible to pigeon hole this 1980 Phillies team. Put the Phillies under a microscope and what you see is a series of "buts" dividing the core like so many reproducing amoebae.
The Phillies are a power team, but their power was generated almost exclusively by one man. The Phillies are a team with speed, but that sword was removed from its scabbard only on occasion.
The Phillies are a team of good pitching, but only because two of their pitchers had super-human years. And, the Phillies are a team of superb defense. But the defense consistently made fundamental mistakes.
In short, the Phillies of 1980 are a team of paradox, a team that sometimes won because of its talent, sometimes despite it.
The year began with a mandate from management- win or else. For the veterans of the club, the players who had failed to reach the World Series in 1976, '77 and '78, this would be their last chance.
Manager Dallas Green, who stepped from a front office job to assume the field position in August of 1979, made it clear that this season was the last chance for many of the veterans. He had the blessings of both owner Ruly Carpenter and General Manager Paul Owens.
"The nucleus of players never reached the potential that was expected of us," said reliever Tug McGraw. "Now, time is passing that nucleus by... We want to win this thing before it's too late."
Time, indeed, was pressing hard upon this team. Of the eight players in Green's opening day lineup, only two- second baseman Manny Trillo and left fielder Greg Luzinski- would not see their 30th birthday before the end of the season. Both are 29.
Catcher Bob Boone is 32; shortstop Larry Bowa 34; center fielder Garry Maddox turned 31 in September; right fielder Bake McBride is 32; first baseman Pete Rose is 39, and third baseman Mike Schmidt turned 31 in September.
"If the guys we have aren't good enough to win it, I don't know how long we can wait for them," Green said many times.
If there was a sense of urgency of purpose to this team it seemed apparent in the early months of April and May. They hit .282 with 32 home runs in May, with Schmidt batting .305 with 12 homers and 29 RBIs. Luzinski hit .321 with eight homers and 18 RBIs and McBride hit .330 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
Their pitching was equally awesome. Lefthander Steve Carlton, who finished the season with a 24-9 record and is the odd-on favorite to win his third Cy Young Award, went 6-1 with a 1.65 earned run average and 70 strikeouts in May. McGraw and righthander Ron Reed came out of the bullpen to combine for three wins, four saves and an ERA of under two.
But then came June and July. And it became apparent that the Phillies were just as capable of finishing fourth- their final standing in 1979- as first.
Luzinski was the most serious casualty of the middle months. He hit .177 in June and .158 before injuring his knee July 5. He would undergo surgery and not return to the team until mid-August.
The list, however, included more than one name. Boone, obviously troubled by off-season knee surgery and his duties as National League player representative during the strike-threatened days of May, hit .226 and .218 in June and July. Schmidt tapered off to .244 and .231. Bowa hit .200 in July after a respectable .286 in June.
And the pitching was in a shambles. Righthander Larry Christenson had undergone elbow surgery and would not pitch again until late August. Righthander Nino Espinosa, who developed bursitis in his shoulder the previous September, never recovered. Lefthander Randy Lerch was totally ineffective.
So the Phillies muddled through the mid-term months with a rotation that included Carlton, righthander Dick Ruthven and whomever happened to be available.
Still, they hovered insistently within striking distance until Aug. 10, a date which marks both the beginning and the end. It was the nadir of the season in terms of winning. But it was the fulcrum upon which the entire year turned.
The Phillies lost both ends of a doubleheader to the Pirates, their third and fourth straight of a lost weekend, and fell six games off the pace.
Between those Sunday games, Green screamed at his team in a tirade that pealed paint from the clubhouse walls. He accused the players of quitting and challenged their desire.
The results of Green's sorcam therapy speak speak for themselves. The Phillies left Pittsburgh and took two of three from Chicago, then swept five from New York. They were 36-19 from that day on, moving into first place less than a month later.
The season, however, was hardly history. They lost the last three games of their final West Coast trip and were in second place, behind Montreal, on Sept. 7. For what remained of the season, the Phillies would occupy first place alone only seven days.
It would be patently unfair to recount 1980 without mentioning some of the rookies Green sprinkled throughout his roster.
There was, first, Lonnie Smith, who substituted sensationally for Luzinski in left. Smith hit .339 and set a club rookie stolen base record with 33. Keith Moreland served well as Boone's backup and as the club's No. 1 right-handed pinch hitter. Moreland hit .412 as a pinch hitter and the club's record was an impressive 22-10 in games he started.
There was, also, righthander Bob Walk, who was called up from the minor leagues to replace the injured Christenson in the rotation. Despite limited experience, Walk won eight of his first nine decisions and brought stability to a staggered staff.
And there was Marty Bystrom with other prospects called up from Oklahoma City, the Phils' Triple-A affiliation, on Sept. 1. Bystrom won all five of his September starts and went 20 innings before allowing a run.
The final drive, however, belonged to the veterans. McBride hit .350 and finished the season at .309 with a career-high 87 RBIs. Schmidt hit 12 home runs and drove in 23 runs. Bowa hit .272 and Trillo emerged from a 3-for-59 slump to hit .317 over the final 15 games en route to a career-high .292 average.
Luzinski, restored to the lineup in August, struggled at the plate. Nevertheless, he delivered clutch hits that tied games, won them, and put the Phillies in the lead.
McGraw was nothing short of awesome, going 5-0 with five saves and a 0.33 ERA. After the All-Star break, McGraw allowed only three earned runs. An incredible figure in September, he permitted one.
Overall, the Phillies were 23-10 from Sept. 1- Oct. 4. They went 12-3 in one-run games, 5-0 in extra innings.
"We played," said Green, "one of the greatest Septembers in history. Talk about playing with your backs to the wall. Our backs were to the wall almost the entire month. We had to win almost every time we went out there."
They had to win two of three games in their final climatic series of the season at Montreal. Earlier in that last week, Green had benched Luzinski, Boone and Maddox in an offensive shakeup.
The move created serious controversy. Bowa publicly criticized the move. Maddox suddenly remembered a finger injury. Green accused some of his players, again, of not wanting to win.
Yet, the Phillies took the first game, 2-1, when Schmidt homered and hit a sacrifice fly. McGraw saved it for Ruthven by striking out five of six batters.
The second game was straight out of Ripley. The Phillies fell behind early, 2-0, scratched out a run then went ahead, 3-2, in the seventh on a two-run single by Luzinski.
In the same inning, Trillo dropped a pop up- one of five Phillies errors- to gift wrap two unearned runs for the Expos. But Boone tied it with two out in the ninth, then Schmidt rapped his 48th home run- a major league record for third baseman- in the 11th to clinch it.
Afterward, Schmidt, who finished the year with 121 RBIs, acknowledged that a division title was not enough. "There's a bigger hill for us to climb," he said.
Added Boone, "We through it all never lost sight of the ultimate goal, found a simile in that bizarre final game.
"This game was like the season," he said. "It didn't look like we were going to win it because we didn't do the things we're capable of doing. We didn't do it very well until it got to the end. That's when we did it. That's the bottom line."
Indeed, the Phillies had to reach the top to get to the bottom. That may be contradictory, but it is true of this particular Phillies team, a team of paradox.