Alumni Profile: Bake McBride

Often in my kindergarten class I will ask my students what animal they would be if they could choose. Undoubtedly, had Bake McBride been asked this question, he would have chosen a gazelle - for if ever a player ran with the grace and speed of a gazelle - it was no other than, Bake McBride.

Bake McBride, who played nearly five seasons with the Phils, was a member of two of the best Phillie teams in history: the 1977 team that quite possibly was the most talented, and the 1980 WorldSeries Champions, the team that forever buried the ghosts of past Phillie phlops in post season play.

During the reign of Paul Owens as GM of the Phils, he was famous for making last minute trades at the deadline that helped his team. Perhaps no last minute trade ever helped the Phillies greater than the June 15,1977 trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for one Bake McBride. At first glance, the trade seemed almost impossible to conjure, for McBride during his three-plus seasons with the Cards had been a solid .300 hitter, Rookie of the Year in 1974, and a general nuisance to opposing teams throughout his three seasons in the league.

But McBride had become disenchanted with the Cards, and vice-versa, and the June 15, 1977 trade was made. Oh, the Phils had to give up talent. In lefty Tom Underwood, the cards were getting a solid young pitcher, but to get talent you must give up talent, and clearly McBride was a talent worth having. Few people remember that the 1977 team, which ultimately became quite possibly the most talented team in Phillies history, actually slumbered out of the gate for the first 60 games. However, as soon as he joined the team, McBride took the ZZZZZZZ's out of the slumping Phillies and gave them instant PaZZZZZZZaZZ! With McBride as their catalyst, the Phils went from a 31-28 record to a near .680 pace the rest of the season.....70-33. McBride at the top of the order set the table for what was a very formidable middle of the order in Schmidt-Luzinski-Hebner. Few signs were more welcome that season than McBride going from first to third on a single to left field or McBride turning a routine single into a double. His .339 average the rest of the season helped the Phillies literally bludgeon their way into the NL Playoffs.

Want an example? Look no further than the early Augustshowdown in Wrigley Field with the Cubs. The Cubs, merely three games behind the first place Phils were excited about this four game showdown...until it was over. With scores of 10-3, 10-7 (won on a McBride HR in the 10th),10-2 and 4-2, the Phils waltzed to the East crown...and a likely World Series birth..... likely, that is until the most disappointing ten minutes in Phillies history, in what would later be called Black Friday. Never did a ten minute stretch so clearly turn a series around as on this day when with the Phils one out from a 5-3 win, and a 2-1 game lead in the best of five series, a nightmarish turn of events turned the game and playoffs around. The Phils would remember this disappointment, as well as the 1978 loss to those same Dodgers into ultimate redemption, as out of the ashes of ‘77 came the only World Series title in Phillies history, the 1980 club.

Ah, 1980..what wonderful memories. From Schmidt's 48 home runs to Carlton's 24 win brilliance. From the hustle of Pete Rose to the exuberance of rookies Lonnie Smith, Keith Moreland, Bob Walk and Marty Bystrom. From the clutch hitting of Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Bob Boone and Manny Trillo to the solid bullpen of Tug McGraw, Ron Reed, Sparky Lyle and Warren Bruustar. Heroes all and memorable ones. However, if the exciting final weekend conquest of the Montreal Expos was merely a prelude to the five-game Playoff pandemonium of the Houston Astros, then it was the scintillating World Series triumph over the favored KansasCity Royals that would forever bury the ghosts of Phillie failures.

Finally, the slipper fit Cinderella and the Midnight Madness of seasons past turned into a golden slipper that fit perfectly. And no one played a more meaningful role in this triumph than Bake McBride.

Talk to any Phillie fanatic about the 1980 World Series and ask them the most important moment and the answers will be varied. Some will talk of McGraw's strikeouts or the Rose catch. Some will talk of Schmidt's individual brilliance and others will talk of Trillo's clutch single. Push them further and many will tell of Unser's pinch hits or Bowa's steal of second base. But ask me and I will tell you with no fear of rebuttal that the single most important play of the entire ‘80 Series, the play that showed the Phils they could win, was turned in by Bake McBride. His three-run home run in Game One of the World Series helped the Phils steal a game they had all but conceded beforehand.

For unlike the well-rested Royals, the Phils were a tired spent group with less than 48 hours rest from their grueling series with the Astros. The Royals pitching was in great shape, the Phils staff in tatters and Manager Dallas Green made a difficult, but necessary decision. He would entrust Game One to rookie Bob Walk against the Royal ace Dennis Leonard. Clearly, the matchup, and possibly the series favored the Royals and when they took a 4-0 lead into the third inning, it appeared as if it would go their way. But with the score 4-2, Rose and Schmidt somehow got on base for McBride. He then delivered the single most telling blow of the series, a booming home run to the distant reaches of right field. This home run sent up a thunderous applause at the Vet that would not stop until the Phils were crowned World Series Champions.

Oh, the Royals would rally to even the series at two games a piece but McBride's home run set the tone for a Phillie team that would not be denied...and their first and only World Series victory. Ironically, this would be the only home run McBride would ever hit in the World Series and would be his pinnacle of success. For as Achillies had a Heel, McBride had a knee, an achy one at that and his days as a Phillie would end after the 1981 season.

McBride, with achy knees would have leg problems, and McBride without legs was like Mozart without fingers.... not likely to be successful. Sadly, he would depart almost as quickly as he arrived, traded in the winter of 1981 to Cleveland for mediocre lefty reliever, Sid Monge. His stay in Cleveland was short, lasting two seasons and less than 100 games before injuries led to his retirement after the 1983 season. Ironically, his retirementcoincided with another Phillie World Series birth, albeit with acompletely overhauled team.

In all, McBride played eleven seasons and hit over .300 in seven of them. In fact, he was a lifetime .300 hitter till the last week of his career, when a season ending slump dropped his career average to .299. Though he will be remembered by some as a standout Rookie of the Year with the Cards in 1974, he will forever most be linked as a member of the Team that Wouldn't Quit, the 1980 Phillies.

As a whirling dervish galloping gazelle from Fulton, Missouri, McBride was truly the piece of the puzzle that helped turnedthe Phillies from bridesmaids to brides.

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