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A Franchise First: Phillies Are World’s Champions
It was 1950 all over again. A three-game season-ending series with the pennant on the line, except this time, a Division playoff series stood in the way. Also different from 1950 was this time the Phillies did not have a six-game cushion to rest on; they began September tied with Montreal for the Division lead. Both teams played well in September, the Phillies buoyed by rookie Marty Bystrom, who went 5-0 for the month.
The teams had played 14 games against each other on the season, Montreal winning eight. The Phillies were a veteran team that had won 465 games over the past five seasons, they were led by Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, and Steve Carlton. The expansion Montreal Expos finished last in1976, 37 games behind the winning Phillies, but since then had improved every year, finishing second in 1979 with 95 wins, two games behind Pittsburgh and 12 games ahead of the fourth place Phillies. The City of Philadelphia, and the ever hopeful surrounding area fans, prepared for another disappointment; it seemed like a last gasp for the team that had dominated the National League East for five years but had always faltered in the end.
Game One was played before 57,121 fanatic French-Canadians on October 3, 1980 at Stade Olympique in Montreal, Canada. Like all that had gone before, it looked like an even match, Dick Ruthven (16-10) for the Phillies, against Scott Sanderson (16-10) for the home team. The Phillies did not waste time, Pete Rose singled to center on Sanderson’s first pitch, and stopped at third on Bake McBride’s double to left. Rose scored on Mike Schmidt’s sacrifice fly. With the pennant on the line, Rose pulled out all stops when, feeling unstoppable as he always did, he tried to steal home in the third inning; he failed. Mike Schmidt made it 2-0 with a sixth inning homerun, his 47th on the season. Ruthven gave up a run in the sixth, but Sparky Lyle relieved him with two-out, then got through the seventh before turning it over to Tug McGraw. McGraw, feeding on the juice that only he could generate, turned on the afterburners to strike out five of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth to put the Phillies one win away from the Division Championship.
In Game Two, the Expos were one pitch away from forcing a final game showdown for the championship when Phillies’ catcher Bob Boone singled up the middle to score Bake McBride and send the game into extra innings. It was arguably the most important Phillies’ hit since Puddin’ Head Jones’ game/season-saver in the 1950 Dodger final confrontation. Tug McGraw, bless his Irish heart, blanked the Expos in the ninth, 10th, and 11th, striking out four, as the Phillies won the pennant on Mike Schmidt’s 48th home run, off Stan Bahnsen, in the 11th inning.
The 1980 League Championship series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies was hands down the most remarkable, most amazing, and most unlikely series ever seen. The teams split two games in Philadelphia then played three extra inning games in Houston where the Phillies won the final two when both teams scrapped and scratched with late inning rallies. Tug McGraw pitched in all five games.
For a remarkable account of this remarkable series take a look at what Thomas Boswell had to say about it—especially the bases-loaded Nolan Ryan-Pete Rose confrontation in Game Five—in "How Life Imitates the World Series" (Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.). Ryan took a 5-2 lead into the eighth inning of that deciding game, only to see the Phillies score five. The ‘Stros tied it in the eighth off the sainted McGraw, only to see their season trickle down the Astrodome drain in the 10th on doubles by Unser and Maddox and a 1-2-3 inning delivered by Phils’ Dick Ruthven.
The Phillies were in the World’s Series for only the third time in franchise history, but somehow it seemed anticlimactic after that Houston series. The Phillies beat Kansas City, four games to two, for a glorious first World’s Series triumph. Tug McGraw famously fanned Willie Wilson to seal the victory.By max blue