In his book You Can't Loose ‘Em All, longtime journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer Frank Fitzpatrick brilliantly chronicles the time a heroic bunch of guys who played for the Phillies in the fateful year of 1980 won us a World Series. In this easy read, just 237 pages, he informs those who may be too young (like myself) to have any idea about it while reminding those who lived through it exactly how unbearably tense and tiring it was waiting for the Phillies to win the almighty series that year. And for all the infamous, well known incidents Fitzpatrick recalls for Philadelphia, there are a slew of stories that will surprise and sometimes shock you.
Fitzpatrick does a great service to the reader by going into what he calls the "long, lamentable, legacy of losing" in Philadelphia starting from the beginning of the Phillies woeful history. "No baseball fans anywhere had waited longer," he writes simply. He continues by saying that "Any World Series victory provokes an outburst of joy and civic pride, but it's hard to imagine anyone savored a championship more than Philadelphia's baseball fans in 1980."
Fitzpatrick explains that much of the pain came from a haunting year known as 1964 in which Gene Mauch's club blew a 6 ½ game lead with 12 to play. For people who lived through that, it was gut wrenching. For us to fully understand why the city reacted so intensely to the World Series win in '80 Fitzpatrick gives us some of the unimaginable history of the oldest - and losingest - team in sports history. He talks of "Banned owners. Broke owners. Phantom owners. A racist manager. A manager who quit one game into a season. A great pitcher who died of typhoid. A great hitter who tumbled into Niagara Falls. The worst collapse in baseball history in both the pennant race and stadium divisions." He recalls 1930 when the Phillies had greats Chuck Klein and Lefty O'Doul setting countless club records that still stand today and the team batting average was .315. The Phillies would go on to finish last. A full fifty games under the .500 mark. Between 1933 and 1938 the Phillies never drew 250,000 fans in a season at Baker Bowl.
1980 was like a drink of cold water in the desert. Stars were born and history was made; history that Phillies fans could be proud of.
The 1980 Phillies, Fitzpatrick writes, were "A group of talented, underachieving individuals herded together by Dallas Green's constant prodding." Prodding that included a famous obscenity laden tirade in the clubhouse that would later get be credited for energizing the team. There was even jealousy between teammates in which everyone had a fear of being upstaged, according to Pete Rose. Fitzpatrick explores the Pete Rose/Mike Schmidt relationship and considers it historical. When Rose came to the Phillies he acted "as if he were a hired consultant," telling the Phillies why they had failed in the past and more importantly convincing Schmidt that opposing pitchers feared him. Schmidt would go on to post some of the best numbers of his career.
The 1980 season would also see the "eccentric" but highly disciplined Steve Carlton slipping some when his slider began to lose some of its "terrifying bite". Fitzpatrick captures the highly intense mood of the team that year that lead to the World Series and the difficult relationship between the fans and some of the players. Bowa once called the Phillies fans "the worst in baseball" and Schmidt battled against the fans disdain for what they perceived as his aloofness and his laid back approach to the game. But when the Phillies went on to win their fourth division title in five years all was forgiven. Green, who had been around the Phillies for over thirty years, felt things were different that year, writes Fitzpatrick, "and there was something like destiny at work." The Phillies would win game one - in which Bowa famously snubbed Green in the introductions on the field - but drop game two. Fitzpatrick talks about the classic Boone/Rose play in the final game of the series in which Boone let a ball hit by Frank White slip out of his hand and Rose, "with one swift motion, fulfilled his Phillies destiny" when he saved the play and the series. Tug McGraw would strike out Willie Wilson moments later of course, doing so with a lingering pain in his left hand. Fitzpatrick talks about the parade that followed as a spiritual experience and that the fans threw flowers, not plastic, but real flowers as their newly crowned baseball heroes passed on the float down Broad Street.
Fitzpatrick's book is as much a tribute to the fans of the Phillies as it is a passionate thank you to the team of 1980. The stories are endless, emotional and amusing (especially those about Bowa) and it is a must read for any fan of the team who was there or wishes (Like me!) that they were.