Added to the picture were aging superstars, who would eventually wind up in the Hall of Fame. Joe Morgan and Tony Perez joined their former Cincinnati teammate, Pete Rose in Philadelphia. Morgan and Perez were well past their prime days with the "Big Red Machine", but still had enough gas in the tank to help lead the Phillies to postseason greatness.
Truth be told, the city wasn't too enamored with this group of "veteran" players. As the season started, nobody in the National League East looked particularly tough to beat. Manager Pat Corrales was in his second full season as manager, but wouldn't last the season. By the middle of the year, the Phillies were unimpressive and Paul Owens decided to take over the group of aging players that he had assembled.
Montreal had been picked to win the division, with St.Louis a close second. Both teams fell out of contention and couldn't get hot when it counted. Instead, it seemed that it would come down to a final weekend series between the Phillies and Pirates. Instead, the Phillies used an 11 game win streak in late August to take a six game lead in the division by Labor Day. As the Phillies headed to Wrigley Field in late September, they beat up on the Cubs to clinch the division and derail the predicted showdown with the Pirates.
The Phillies had made some deals that seemed suspect. Von Hayes wound up benched for part of the pennant race and finished the season with just six homeruns and a .265 average. John Denny celebrated the best season of his career, although when the Phillies acquired him, he was thought of as somewhat of a lost cause. 1983 turned out to be a Cy Young Award season for Denny, who went 19-6, 2.37 for the Phillies. Willie Hernandez came over from the Cubs and seemed like a new man. Hernandez finished with a 3.29 ERA and was the winning pitcher against his old team, the Chicago Cubs, when the Phillies clinched the east. As for Morgan, the Phillies had sent a promising young pitcher in Mike Krukow to the Giants to get the aging second baseman, but it paid off. Morgan would hit 16 homeruns and hit just .230, but his leadership proved to be key. He also sparked the Phillies throughout September.
How the Phillies finished the season with 90 wins is still somewhat of a mystery. As a team, they hit just .249 and featured just two .300 hitters in the unlikely tandem of Greg Gross and Joe Lefebvre. Mike Schmidt smashed 40 homeruns to lead the league, but nobody else had more than Von Hayes' 16.
The Phillies lost Larry Christenson to a bicycling accident and traded Dick Ruthven to the Cubs for Hernandez. The Phillies reached to their minor leagues and found Charles Hudson (8-8, 3.35) and Kevin Gross (4-6, 3.56) to add to the rotation. Steve Carlton was 15-16, but with a strong 3.11 ERA and beat his old team, St.Louis for his 300th victory.
After a World Series loss to the Orioles, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan all disappeared from the roster. Garry Maddox would play in just 77 games the following season, becoming just a role player on future Phillies teams.
Suddenly, the city had fallen in love with the group of aged veterans that they had dubbed "The Wheeze Kids" and "The Big Dead Machine". There was to be no World Series victory, but a battle with Baltimore brought the Phillies close to that cherished prize.