One of the biggest strengths of the 1980 Phillies was the bench. The reserves, particularly Del Unser, Greg Gross, Keith Moreland and Lonnie Smith (who, admittedly, became more of a starter by the end of the year), were a major factor in the Phillies reaching the playoffs. This article focuses on the veteran Unser, who played for the second installment of the Washington Senators and was a Phillie - a starting outfielder - in 1973 and 1974, was brought back in 1979 by the team to bolster the bench after a disastrous season in Montreal. Unser became a cluth pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder and first baseman for the Phils in 1980.
|From The October
17, 1980 edition of The Galveston Daily News:
Phillies' Unser's Greatest Asset is Even Disposition
By Milton Richman, United Press International
PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — Del Unser's greatest asset is neither his bat nor his glove, but his disposition:
He's the type ballplayer who knows exactly what his role is with the Philadelphia Phillies, that of a fifth outfielder, backup first baseman and pinch hitter when they need him, and never gripes or kicks the water cooler when they don't. He doesn't makes waves.
Two years ago, after hitting only .196 for the Montreal Expos, Unser's contract with them had expired and he decided to go through the re-entry draft as a free agent. Five clubs signified their desire to talk to him.
"Nobody offered me anything, though," he says, without the slightest trace of resentment. "Nobody wanted me."
Today, it's an entirely different story. Gesturing toward the smallish, 35-year-old Unser in the interview room at Veterans Stadium Wednesday night after the Phillies had come from behind to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 6-4, and go two games up in the World Series, Mike Schmidt declared for everyone to hear:
"There's the guy right there who got the biggest hit I've ever seen in my life — Del Unser. If not for him, I wouldn't be here now. I'm talking about what he did for us a coupla nights ago in Houston. You all know I was having my troubles there. But before I got my bat back in the bat rack, Del came through with that single of his."
Schmidt was talking about Game Five in the National League playoffs with the Astros last Sunday, the game in which he struck out three times and the one in which Unser singled home the tying run in the eighth inning and then doubled to set up the winning run in the 10th.
Unser came through once more for the Phillies in Wednesday night's second Series' contest when he ripped a pinch double off Royals' reliever Dan Quisenberry leading off the eighth to touch off a four-run rally that decided the game.
"I can't get over that little guy," marveled DarreJl Porter, the Royals' catcher. "He really drove that ball. He's a pretty pesty little hitter."
That's about the size of Unser. He's an absolute pest to opposing pitchers, but certainly not to the Phillies, who have come to value him over even some of their regulars. They've already told him they want him back with them next year.
"He's there when you need him," offers Bobby Wine,
one of the Phillies' coaches. "He's not one of those guys who gets
teed off if he isn't playing and he always keeps himself in shape. No
matter what the situation is or when you call on him, he's always ready
Unser gets part of that from his father, Al, who used to catch in the majors.
"The one thing he always taught me was to keep hustling," says the Phillies' utilityman. "He told me once you put that uniform on, just forget everything else and go out and do it." This is Unser's second time around with the Phillies. He broke in originally with the Washington Senators 12 years ago, then went to Cleveland in 1972 and to the Phils for the first time the following season. They dealt him to the Mets in the Tug McGraw deal in 1975 and reacquired him as a free agent in March of last year after he failed to sign on with anyone else.
"I'm pretty practical," he says regarding his status with the Phillies now. "I know what I'm supposed to do here — pinch hit if they need me, play the outfield a little and back up Pete Rose at first base. Whenever he (manager Dallas Green) says, 'Del,' I go get a bat or a glove."
"You just don't take over for Garry Maddox," he said Wednesday night. "I'm not in the same class with him."