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When 46,687, non-Yankee fan New Yorkers filled Shea Stadium to watch the first game of the 1983 National League season, they surely weren’t there to see the Mets, who were in one of those long losing troughs that had peppered their short major league existence. And they bloody sure weren’t there to see the Philadelphia Phillies who, in the 100 years of New York-Philadelphia baseball competition, had long been considered the dog meat of the league. They were there to pay tribute to one of their all-time favorite ballplayers – Tom Seaver. Tom Terrific was coming home after six years in a midwestern swamp near Cincinnati, and they wanted to welcome him back in grand style.
The game had the odd feeling that, though billed as a legitimate league championship game, it was, in fact, an old-timer’s game. When home plate umpire, Doug Harvey, looked at the lineup cards handed him by the rival managers, he saw the names of four players who, only a few short years earlier had been hammering major league opposition as part of Cincinnati’s fearsome “Big Red Machine”. Batting fourth for the Mets was 35-year-old George Foster, and for the Phillies: Pete Rose (41) leading off, ahead of Joe Morgan (40), batting second, and Tony Perez (41) batting 5th. Seaver (39), and Carlton (38) added to the Old-timer flavor, as did Mets’ left fielder Dave Kingman (35).
The Philadelphia geezers soon became know as “the Wheeze Kids”, and after some bumpy stretches, they delivered what they had come to do: they delivered a fourth franchise pennant to the Phillies when they finally beat the Dodgers in a League Championship Series behind the pitching of Steve Carlton, and the hitting of Gary Matthews who had three home runs, and Mike Schmidt whose first inning home run in Game One was the only run needed by Carlton on that day.
On July 17, with the Phillies (43-42) in first place by half a game over Pittsburgh (43-43), and one game over Montreal (43-44), General Manager Paul Owens fired his manager, Pat Corrales, and took the job himself. He must have felt vindicated when the team finished 47-30, six games ahead of the Pirates. On the other hand, he had to find someone to blame when the Phillies lost 4-1 to Baltimore in the World’s Series.
Schmidt led the league with 40 home runs, and was third with 109 RBIs behind Atlanta’s Dale Murphy (121) , and Montreal’s Andre Dawson (113). John Denny (19-6, 2.37 ERA) won the Cy Young Award.By max blue