Time Machine: 1970 - End of an Era.

1970 saw the Phillies play their final game at Connie Mack Stadium, ending a special era of Phillies baseball as a new era would begin in '71 at Veterans Stadium. It also saw the Phillies play a part in the beginning of another era not just in Philadelphia, but in major league baseball. A trade prior to the 1970 season would bring about what has become modern day free agency.

After Dick Allen became a major distraction and embarrassment to the Phillies in 1969, owner Bob Carpenter had decided that enough was enough and that Allen had to go. It all seemed so simple. The St.Louis Cardinals were willing to take Allen as part of a deal that would bring Tim McCarver and others to Philadelphia. That's where it all got sticky. Part of the "others" part of that was one of the game's better center fielders, Curt Flood. For Flood, going to Philadelphia, was not going to happen and he challenged baseball's reserve clause, which basically stuck a player with the team he originally signed with until he died – or at least, retired. Flood's battle led to modern day free agency and he stayed in St.Louis, with the Cardinals substituting Willie Montanez in his place. The trade officially became Allen, Cookie Rojas and Jerry Johnson for McCarver, Joe Hoerner, Byron Browne and Montanez.

The Phillies also had another piece of business to attend to prior to the 1970 season. They had fired Bob Skinner in the middle of the '69 campaign and interim manager George Myatt wasn't the man for the job. The Phillies looked within their organization and found the gentle Frank Lucchesi, a 19 year member of the Phillies organization and brought him in to manage the team and clean up the team's image. Lucchesi was a great choice, although his tenure with the major league team would only last until the middle of the 1972 season.

Chris Short was past his prime, as was Jim Bunning, who was reacquired in the offseason after an earlier run with the Phillies. The two would combine for 19 wins, but would also post a total of 31 losses. Bunning's ERA at the end of the year was 4.11 and Short finished at 4.50 on the season. Rick Wise came close to finishing the season at .500 (13-14) and had a 4.17 ERA. Hoerner and Dick Selma were strong out of the bullpen and Barry Lersch worked both the pen and the starting rotation effectively.

McCarver appeared to be everything that the Phillies were looking for in a catcher. He was a poised leader who handled the pitching staff well. In early May, lightning struck the Phillies not once, but twice. In a game in San Francisco, a foul off the bat of Willie Mays broke McCarver's hand, putting him out of action. Mike Ryan got his chance to play, but didn't last long. Later in the inning, Willie McCovey slid into Ryan, breaking his hand, exactly like McCarver's was broken. Two catchers went down with the identical injury not just on the same day, but in the same inning. Lucchesi didn't panic and simply rotated four other players behind the plate.

In 1969, rookie center fielder Larry Hisle hit 20 homeruns, stole 18 bases and hit .266, giving the Phillies a young player that they thought would develop into a cornerstone of their club. The sophomore jinx hit Hisle, cutting his homerun production in half and dropping his average to .205 in 1970. With Allen traded to St.Louis, Deron Johnson took over full-time duties at first base and picked up some of Hisle's power slack, hitting 27 homeruns.

If Lucchesi did anything that helped the Phillies long-term in 1970, it was at the shortstop position. Early on, Lucchesi decided that a young kid was a player that the Phillies could build around and that he needed to play everyday. That kid was Larry Bowa. Perhaps, the 1970 season is where Bowa learned patience with a young player like Marlon Byrd, because Lucchesi never quit on his young shortstop. Even as Bowa's average sank under .200 and the Phillies front office wanted to return Bowa to AAA, Lucchesi not only insisted that he stayed in the majors, he insisted on playing him almost everyday. A young Bowa responded somewhat and by the end of the season was hitting .250 and led the Phillies with 24 stolen bases. Who knew that ten years later, Bowa would be helping the Phillies win a World Series or that more than thirty years later, he would be managing a Phillies team fighting for a playoff spot?

The 1970 Phillies finished at 73-88. Bowa was entrenched in the infield and Montanez would become a fan favorite the following season after getting just 25 at bats for the '70 Phils. McCarver would return from the injury and go on to become another fan favorite, who would become Steve Carlton's personal catcher starting with Carlton's amazing 1972 season.

The 1970 Phillies were also the last team to play in Connie Mack Stadium. The old place was showing its age and then some and a new, state-of-the-art stadium was finally ready for the Phillies to move in for the '71 season.


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