Phillies Time Machine: 1980

As the 1980 season started, the Phillies were good and they knew it. That may have been part of the problem actually, as the team sputtered out of the gate and had the look of a team that lacked fire. Even Pete Rose, in his second season in Philadelphia, didn't have the look of a winner. In fact, it would be very late into the season before baseball started to really take the Phillies seriously. By fall, the dust settled and the Phillies truly were winners.

Randy Lerch started the season 0-6, Dick Ruthven was 5-5. Larry Christenson was pitching well, but was on an operating room table for elbow surgery by late May. Tug McGraw was having a good season, but not spectacular. By July, he too would be sidelined with tendonitis. Steve Carlton was near dominating, but he was pretty much the only one on the staff that was.

Offensively, Greg Luzinski saw his average dip under the .250 mark, Garry Maddox was a mere shell of himself and while Pete Rose was near the .300 mark, he seemed to be going through the motions at times.

The Phillies were stumbling and the season was growing old. In early August, the Phillies headed to Pittsburgh for a showdown with the Pirates. It was time for the Phillies to make their move. That's when the season hit a low. The Pirates took the first three games of the series and with just the second game of a Sunday double-header remaining to be played, the clubhouse doors slammed shut. Apparently, manager Dallas Green's voice is in fact stronger than steel, because it easily penetrated the steel clubhouse doors that the Phillies were sequestered behind. The words were not mild and nobody in sight was spared. As the second game started, the tirade continued, with Green and reliever Ron Reed having to be separated in the dugout. All of the yelling didn't have an immediate impact, as the Phillies lost the second game of the twin bill and fell six games behind in the National League East.

Not much changed through August and the Phillies seemed destined for also-ran status. That's when general manager Paul Owens reached his boiling point and once again, the clubhouse doors slammed shut. With players pointing fingers at one another, Owens reminded everybody who was in charge and let all know that he and owner Ruly Carpenter were watching. The message sank in and the Phillies moved into first place by sweeping San Francisco. Even though the team seemingly had pulled together, the road continued to be rough. By the time the penultimate weekend of the season was over, the Phillies had fallen one-half game behind the Montreal Expos.

With the Expos having an off day, the Phillies welcomed the Cubs to The Vet. The game went extra innings and seemed bleak when the Cubs got two runs in the top of the 15th inning. As fans booed violently, the Phillies found the mettle to push across three runs in the bottom of the inning for a 6-5 win and a share of first place. The boos turned to cheers, but by the next night, one Phillie was the target of constant fan criticism and unending booing.

After the Phillies win over the Cubs, Larry Bowa went into an uncontrolled rant in the clubhouse about the way the fans had reacted. Using plenty of expletives, the basic message was that Phillies fans were the "worst fans in baseball." The edited quotes showed up on the front page of local sports sections the next day and Bowa was continuously booed throughout the rest of the season and even through the post-season.

On the field, the Phillies and Expos stayed neck-and-neck with a final weekend series in Montreal set to settle the score.

The Phillies came into Montreal having gone 19-6 in since Paul Owens discussion with the team, but another problem arose. Mike Schmidt, who had hit 46 homeruns, came down with the flu. By game time, he felt well enough to play and even contributed a homerun as Dick Ruthven picked up his 17th win of the season and the Phillies beat Montreal 2-1 to move one game ahead of the Expos.

On Saturday, the Olympic Stadium roof was open because it had malfunctioned and hadn't been repaired. A cold rain fell on the city and the two teams waited three hours before they could start the second game of the series. It again looked dim for the Phillies as they trailed by a run going to the ninth. Soon, the Phillies found themselves with Bake McBride on second base and Bob Boone, who had been mired in a horrible slump, at the plate. Boone came through with a single to tie the game, disappointing the 50,000 fans at "The Big O".

In the top of the eleventh, Mike Schmidt stepped to the plate with a runner on. Fans watching on television saw the classic Schmidt swing and as the ball rocketed toward the left field seats, announcer Andy Musser simply yelled "He buried it." Tug McGraw, who had pitched the bottom of the tenth, finished off the Expos to make the Phillies the National League East Champions.

Picking a team MVP wouldn't be easy. Schmidt led the league with 48 homeruns and 121 RBI. Steve Carlton led the league in wins (24), games started (38), innings pitched (304) and strikeouts (286). Tug McGraw allowed just three earned runs in 52 1/3 innings after he returned from the disabled list. Youngsters contributed too, as rookies Lonnie Smith (.339) and Keith Moreland (.314) contributed. Bob Walk took Christenson's place in the rotation and went 11-7. Another rookie, Marty Bystrom joined the team in September and won all five of his starts, with a 1.50 ERA.

The Phillies played one of the greatest League Championship Series in the history of the game against Houston and finished off the Kansas City Royals in six games in the 1980 World Series.


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