Phillies Time Machine: 1973 - A New Road

1973 was somewhat of a turning point in the modern day history of the Phillies. The team that had never quite recovered from 1964 and hadn't put together a winning season since the 1967 team finished two games over the .500 mark. In 1972, general manager Paul Owens put himself in the manager's office for a close-up look at what changes needed to be made and his plan went into affect for '73.

The newness of Veterans Stadium had worn off. Fans in Philadelphia loved baseball and the Phillies still drew over one-million fans in 1972, but it was obvious that a fairly new stadium and Steve Carlton weren't enough to keep fans interested or to win many ballgames.

Danny Ozark was given the job of managing what would become the new-look Phillies. Ozark was a sullen, dire manager hand picked by Paul Owens to come in and work some old school magic in the Phillies clubhouse. Ozark slowly, but surely, pulled the Phillies together and eventually would become one of the more successful managers in Phillies history, although ultimately, he was unable to get the job done and didn't get the Phillies to the World Series. The Phillies did become a successful regular season team under Ozark, winning three straight division titles. In Ozark's early years, the Phillies slowly climbed their way through the National League East before finally winning the division in 1976.

A new manager wasn't the only change on Owens' list. Having gotten to see the players first-hand in the clubhouse and dugout, Owens knew that he had to add some new personalities and talents to the group.

The starting pitching was a mess, outside of Carlton. A deal with the Brewers brought Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg. Another deal with Cleveland saw Del Unser come to Philadelphia to take over in center field, costing the Phillies Oscar Gamble and Roger Freed in return. Owens saw enough drive and potential in a young third baseman to give him the job, even though his stats didn't show a lot of hope. The Phillies were rewarded with a Hall of Fame career from Mike Schmidt, who became the cornerstone of the organization for years to come. Another young player, Bob Boone, was handed the starting catcher's job again, because of the potential that Owens saw in his stint as Phillies manager in '72.

The addition of Unser to play center field allowed the Phillies to move Willie Montanez back to first base. Montanez was a natural first baseman, but moved to center out of necessity. Montanez move back to the infield cost first baseman, Tommy Hutton his job as part of the rebuilding of the Phillies.

With all of the moves Owens made, the pitching moves were the most significant. Brett and Lonborg both won 13 games for the '73 Phillies. Wayne Twitchell upped his win total from 5 to 13 and Steve Carlton finished off the quartet of 13 game winners, going 13-20 for the Phillies. While Carlton's season was disappointing, nobody could have truly expected that he would have the kind of season in 1973 that he had in 1972 when he went 27-10, winning 46-percent of the Phillies games. Carlton still led the National League in starts (40) and innings pitched, with an amazing 293 innings. Of course, that paled in comparison to his 346 innings in 1972.

Offensively, Greg Luzinski and Bill Robinson were the power guys. Luzinski led the team with 29 homeruns, while Robinson hit 25. An emerging Mike Schmidt hit 18, but his average was a woeful .196 by the end of the season. Overall, youngster Boone had a better season, hitting 10 homeruns and hitting a respectable .261 for the Phillies. New arrival Del Unser took to the center field job – which he would hold for just one more season – and hit .289 with 11 homeruns.

The Phillies were still an also-ran in the NL East, finishing 11 ½ games behind in sixth place. Owens would make more changes after the season and the 1974 squad would be the one to truly start turning things around in Philadelphia. 1973 was somewhat of a building block for the future. Fans at least saw a light at the end of the tunnel and the Phillies front office had turned the corner in bringing the Phillies to the perennially strong club that they would be through the latter part of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s.


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