Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 1980 World Series. The Kansas City Royals had been knocking on the door since 1976. A team built shrewdly through the draft, trades, and outside-the-box thinking (such as the Royals’ Academy), owner Ewing Kaufman, general manager Joe Burke, and scouting director John Schurholtz built baseball’s model franchise of the 1970’s and 80’s. After finishing second in 1979, the Royals won 97 games to take the AL West for the fourth time in five years. Led by AL MVP George Brett (who famously flirted with .400 until ending up at .390), the Royals offense mostly featured a trait of former manager Whitey Herzog: speed. The Royals hit 115 homeruns in 1980, good enough for ninth in the 14-team American League, but led the league in steals with 185 while being successful an amazing 81% of the time (24% above the league average). They also ranked third in OBP, driven mostly by a league leading batting average. The pitching staff featured Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff (still to this day the Royals’ all-time leader in wins) and in the bullpen they found a submarine pitcher with impeccable control off of the scrap heap to become their relief ace. Dan Quisenberry in 1980 pitched 128.1 innings a walked only 12 hitters unintentionally. Because they brought him in as early as the sixth and let him go, Quiz racked up a 12-7 record with 33 saves.
In the ALCS the Royals finally got past the hated Yankees, sweeping the series with the clincher coming in Yankee Stadium and the key blow being a George Brett homerun off of Goose Gossage to give the Royals the lead. After just 11 seasons the Royals were on their way to their first World Series.
The Phillies were the perpetual doormats of the National League. From their formation 1883 as the Quakers through 1979 (97 seasons, mind you) they had won two pennants (1915 and 1950) and only one World Series game. From 1918 through 1948 they had one “winning” season (78-76 in 1932) and were regularly outscored by 200+ runs a season. After famously collapsing in 1964, the Phillies went into another funk and from 1968 through 1974 they had seven consecutive losing seasons. But then things started to change. They really mirrored the Royals in this sense; the Phillies started developing young players of their own and by 1975 had become competitive. They won the NL East each year from 1976 through 1978, but couldn’t get past the Big Red Machine or the Dodgers. After missing the NLCS in 1979, they won the division on the next to last day of the season. The Phillies were second in the NL in runs scored, led by NL MVP Mike Schmidt (48 HR, 1.004 OPS, 171 OPS+) while the rotation was anchored by NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton. Their closer is probably more famous now since his son is the popular country singer Tim McGraw, but Tug McGraw had one of his finest seasons in 1980, posting a 1.46 ERA in 92.1 innings and recording 20 saves. Another key component was signed before the 1979 season, as Pete Rose signed a four-year, $3.2 million deal with the Phillies and became their first baseman.*
*-Funny thing. All you ever hear about Pete was how competitive he was and how he always played to win and he always “played the game the right way”, and everything else. Yet, one thing that never gets mentioned how quickly he would take off for the bigger bucks.
In the NLCS (a series in which I thought about wrting on; probably another time) Philly played the Houston Astros in their first postseason appearance ever and it was a long winded drama. The last four games of the best-of-five series went into extra innings. The Phillies took in five for just their third pennant of all time.
There is one other parallel between the Royals and Phillies of this era. In the 1971 June Amateur Draft the Royals had the fifth pick and the Phillies had the sixth. In the first round both took a high school pitcher named Roy (Branch to the Royals, Thomas to the Phillies) who didn’t amount to much of anything in the big leagues. In the second round both drafted a third baseman who would become the cornerstone of their respective franchise and eventually have their plaques hanging in Cooperstown. That’s right; in the second round of the 1971 draft the Kansas City Royals took George Brett with the fifth pick and the Philadelphia Phillies took Mike Schmidt with the sixth pick.
Game 1 was in The City of Brotherly Love and the starters on the hill were Dennis Leonard for K.C. and Bob Walk for Philly. Both teams went scoreless in the first, then in the top of the second Bob Walk lived up to his name, walking Darrell Porter to lead off. Amos Otis then launched a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence for a 2-0 Royals lead. In the third Hal McRae had a one-out single and after Brett struck out Willie Mays Aikens drove a ball that kept carrying over the right-center field fence and it was 4-0 Royals. The Phillies answered back, though. In the bottom of the first Larry Bowa got a one-out single and stole second on a high throw. Bob Boone* then doubled down the left field line and the score was 4-1. Lonnie Smith then lined a single past a diving U.L. Washington. Boone was held up at third, but Lonnie Smith kept going and was caught between first and second. He managed to force a rundown, and was tagged out as he slipped (he was nicknamed “Skates” for a reason; he had small feet and was notorious for slipping on the turf despite his great speed), allowing Boone to score and it was now a 4-2 game. Pete Rose was then hit by a pitch in the calf. Rose took a couple of steps towards Leonard, but then sprinted the first. Mike Schmidt then drew a walk on five pitches, bringing Bake McBride to the plate. The Phillies’ right fielder turned on a 1-1 pitch and put it just over the wall in right center and the Phillies were in the lead. After the Royals went scoreless the Manny Trillo got an infield single on a high chopper up the middle. Leonard then tried to pick Trillo off at first, but Leonard threw the ball into the dirt and it bounced off of Aikens’ leg and Trillo went to second. A Bowa ground out moved Trillo to third and with two out Boone lined a shot down the right field line for his second RBI double of the night, ending Leonard’s night**. The Phillies would add another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and the lead was 7-4.
*-I don’t know if Aaron or Bret have sons, but if they do and any of them go on to become decent major leaguers, that would make four generations of Boone’s as major league contributors. Crime families don’t even have that long of a run.
**-Incidentally, the NBC crew of Tom Seaver, Joe Garagiola, and Tony Kubek was the prime example of what Howard Cosell hated – the “jockocracy” he called it. Tom Seaver was talking about relief pitcher Renie Martin (not Remi Martin), and Seaver said “curve ball” six times in five sentences.
The Royals had attempted to make some noise, sending Walk to the wall on back-to-back pitches in the fifth, but it was quiet until the top of the eighth. Brett lined a double into the left-center field gap to lead off. A wild pitch sent Brett to third, but that really didn’t matter. Aikens blasted the next pitch off of the pull away bleachers in right center for his second homerun of the game*. Walk was pulled for Tim McGraw’s dad to finish the game. Amos Otis got a one-out single, but John Wathan hit the first pitch he saw right to Larry Bowa, who tossed it to Manny Trillo at second, who fired to Rose to complete the double play. The Royals went down quietly in the ninth and Game 1 was the Phillies, 7-6.
*-Yes, Willie Mays Aikens in one World Series game hit two more homeruns than the Hall of Famer he was named after hit in 13 World Series games. Baseball’s funny that way.
Game 2 featured Larry Gura against Lefty Carlton. The two sides matched scoreless frames through four, then in the bottom of the fifth Keith Moreland got an infield single to short when he just beat out U.L. Washington’s strong throw. Gary Maddox then lined a ball just inside the left field line for a double. Manny Trillo sent Jose Cardenal to the warning track in right for a sac fly and a 1-0 lead. Larry Bowa then lined a single to left for a 2-0 lead. In the top of the sixth Amos Otis led off with a single and Wathan drew a four-pitch walk. Then Aikens hit a high chopper towards second. Manny Trillo leaped to grab it, but rushed his throw and instead sent it to the fence behind Rose. Otis scored, Wathan went to third and the Royals were in business with nobody out. Carlton recovered, though, striking out Cardenal, and then getting Frank White to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to keep the score 2-1. The Royals had a kick in the gut going into bottom half of the frame as George Brett’s hemorrhoid problems were plaguing him to the point where Dave Chalk had to replace him at third. Regardless, K.C. held the Phillies scoreless and then speedster Willie Wilson led off the seventh with a four-pitch walk. Then U.L. Washington laid down a 32-point bunt (Why? This guy could steal his way to scoring position (79 for 89 in 1980) and while Bob Boone was a decent defensive catcher, let’s not confuse him with Johnny Bench or Gary Carter), then Wilson stole third (See?!?!?!). Carlton walked Chalk on five pitches. Then Carlton attempted to pick off Chalk at first and succeeded at it, but Chalk took off for second and Rose, not wanting to allow the tying run to score, looked to third and instead allowed the go ahead run to move into scoring position with less than two outs. Carlton then walked Hal McRae on the next pitch to load the bases.
OK, we really need to jump into this a bit here. Now, we all know my disdain for the sacrifice bunt. My formula for those who don’t know is based on seven questions and all of them can be answered before the pitch is even thrown. Baseball is different than the other sports in which a brilliant strategy can just as easily blow in your face and a stupid strategy can work out brilliantly. What we as humans fail to realize is that you cannot accept in victory what you would not accept in defeat. My bunt scale is questioning the thinking process, not the result.
I bring this up because of the back-and-forth between Garagiola and Kubek after the Chalk pickoff play and the subsequent McRae walk:
Kubek: Joe, I’ve gotta believe this and we might have look at it as a mistake, but when you know Pete Rose . . .
Garagiola: No, no . . .
Kubek: Awe, wait a second . . .
Garagiola: I ain’t buying that.
Kubek: He might’ve thought – I want to hear his comment after the game because he might’ve said ‘Hey, if I throw to second Wilson might score” . . .
Garagiola (interrupting when Kubek says ‘Wilson’): I wanna hear his comment now!
Kubek (continuing): This way we can walk McRae and get to a little bit weaker of a hitter.
Garagiola: I’m not buying it.
Kubek: He thinks that far ahead.
I side with Garagiola on this one, and not because of the results that followed. OK, first off, if you watch the play from the NBC TV angle, Carlton throws to first and McRae turns around in disgust, knowing that there are now two outs and a fly ball will not score the tying run. Garagiola even comments after Rose holds onto it that Wilson wasn’t that far off the bag. Even if you don’t believe in pitch counts, you have to notice that Carlton is tiring, having gone to three balls on the three hitters not trying to give him an out. By keeping Wilson at third you allow the go ahead run to move into scoring position instead of being 360 feet away, and you still don’t have a double play possibility unless you walk the guy to load the bases, giving a tired and wild Carlton an even smaller margin for error. Also add that Amos Otis was not a terrible hitter. Yes, 1980 was a down year, but up to that point he had a 119 OPS+ for his career (not that they knew that, but they had to know that a .279 average probably wasn’t too terrible), and you are now bringing up a right handed hitter against a tired lefty.
Now, I realize that I am looking at this 36 years later with the benefit of hindsight, but I have yet to mention an end result here – I am just stating what the situation has created and what the other situation would have created. That and for all of my criticisms of Pete Rose as a person I don’t criticize him as a player. He thought about baseball more than any player of my lifetime. But what happened was that he made a mistake. He’s human. Oh well.
Anyway, Amos Otis came up with the bases loaded and one out. Otis lined a 2-2 pitch right down the left field line for a two-run double and the Royals were in the lead. John Wathan then hit a fly ball to center field. Maddox caught it and threw home. Pete Rose cut the ball off and then threw to third. Otis, who was trying to go to third, got into a rundown, allowing McRae to score, but ending the inning. The Royals handed a 4-2 lead to their relief ace.
Quiz took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and retired the side in order. Then in the bottom of the eighth Bob Boone led off with a rare walk. Pinch hitter Del Unser then doubled into the left-center field gap to score Boone. Pete Rose grounded out to move Unser to third. Bake McBride then hit a chopper off the turf and into right for a game tying single. Mike Schmidt then blasted a ball off the top of the wall in right center, scoring McBride and giving the lead back the Philadelphia as Schmidt took third on the throw home. Moreland then singled to center to score Schmidt. Ron Reed came in to close out the ninth and the Royals were limping back to Kansas City down 2-0.
George Brett was back in the lineup for Game 3 and it couldn’t have come at a better time. In the first Brett took a 1-1 pitch from Dick Ruthven and deposited it in the right fields seats for a homerun and a 1-0 Royals lead. The lead didn’t last, though as Bowa and Trillo got things going in the top of the second with a pair of one out singles. Boone then drew a walk to load the bases and Lonnie Smith came to the plate. Smith hit a shot right back up the middle and pitcher Rich Gale knocked it down. But he didn’t feel it cleanly and instead of going straight to home he looked to second, then threw to first to let the Phillies tie the game.
Anyway, the game remained tied until the fourth. Aikens hit a fly ball into left field. Lonnie Smith made an attempt to catch it, but couldn’t quite get there and the ball went to the fence for a triple. Hal McRae then lined the next pitch to right-center for a 2-1 lead. That lead didn’t last, either, as Mike Schmidt led off the fifth with a blast into the left field bullpen to tie the game. Again, it remained tied for a few more innings. Then in the bottom of the seventh, Amos Otis hit a long fly ball towards the falls in right center. It went over the fence and the Royals once again had a one-run lead.
And once again, the lead didn’t last long. Larry Bowa came up with one out and hit a high chopper in front of home plate and while Renie Martin got to the ball he threw wide, though he wouldn’t have gotten Bowa anyway. After Boone flew out to center –Amos Otis tying one of the most meaningless records in World Series history, most putouts by an outfielder in a World Series game with 8 – Bowa stole second and Lonnie Smith drew a walk. Pete Rose then lined the very first pitch into right center for a game-tying single. The game went into extra innings.
In the top of the tenth Bob Boone led off with a single off of Quisenberry then Greg Gross came on to pinch bunt (12 points). Pete Rose was intentionally walked (11 points on Posnanski’s scale). Then Mike Schmidt hit a line drive up the middle. Frank White was there to snag it and tag second to complete the double play, ending the threat.
In the bottom of the tenth U.L. Washington lined a bullet past Bowa at short for a single. Wilson then drew another four pitch walk.* Frank White then tried to bunt. He missed on the second attempt and Bob Boone pumped to second, then threw to third as Schmidt got back to the bag in time to nail U.L. Washington for the first out. White then struck out for the second out of the inning, bringing Brett up to the plate.** Wilson stole second when a poor throw from Boone on a pitch out gave it to him. This brought up Willie Mays Aikens with two outs. Aikens launched a 2-1 pitch into left center as Willie Wilson scored easily to win the game and bring the Royals back into the series.
*-This should be noted: Willie Wilson HATED taking walks. He once said, “If I wanted to walk I’d have been a mailman.” In 1980 he went to the plate 745 times . . . and walked in 28 of them – THREE OF THOSE WERE INTENTIONAL!!!
**-Here’s another issue with the bunt . . . you leave first open and take the bat out of your best hitter’s hands.
The Royals got going early and often in Game 4. Wilson led off with a single to left center. Right away Phillies’ starter Larry Christenson tried to pick Wilson off of first, but Rose simply missed the ball and Wilson was on third. Frank White then hit a ball to right too shallow for Wilson to tag up on, bringing Brett up with one out. Brett lined a triple into the right field corner to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Willie Mays Aikens then blasted an 0-1 pitch deep into the fountains in right for two-run homer and a 3-0 lead. Hal McRae followed up with a single up the middle. With Maddox not paying attention, McRae took second for a double. Amos Otis then followed that up with a double off the wall in right center and it was 4-0 K.C. That was all for Christenson as Dickie Noles came in to relieve the banged around starter. Philly got a run back in the second, but the Royals got it right back as Willie Mays Aikens again went yard, this time into the Royals bullpen and with a Reggie Jackson-esque pose at home plate.* That was more than enough for the Royals as Dennis Leonard went seven strong and Quiz wrapped it up. It was a 5-3 win for the Royals and the series was tied, 2-2.
*-For those counting at home, that gives Willie Mays zero homeruns in 13 World Series games, Willie Mays Aikens four homeruns in four World Series games. For some fun overall effect – and why you can only take so much out of postseason performance and “clutch” BS, Aikens played in 12 postseason games and hit .375/.490/.725 with a 1.215 OPS; Mays in 25 postseason games hit .247.323/.337 for a .660 OPS. Now I ask you, would you rather have Willie Mays, or Willie Mays Aikens?
Game 5 was quiet for the first three innings, then the Phillies capitalized on another Royals mistake. Bake McBride came up with one out and bunted back to the pitcher. Larry Gura fielded it cleanly and threw to first, only Aikens failed to touch first then according to the umpire McBride beat his second attempt. Mike Schmidt made him pay, crushing a homerun to center and giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead. The Royals got a run back to make it 2-1 in the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Amos Otis led off and smashed a hanging curveball over the left-center field fence to tie the game. Clint Hurdle and Darrell Porter followed up with singles, putting men on the corners with nobody out. Ron Reed came on to relieve the starter Marty Bystrom. U.L. Washington hit the first pitch he saw from Reed into left field to score Hurdle and give the Royals a 3-2 lead. Then Willie Wilson ripped a double over the head of McBride and here’s where the third base coach became stupid. The ball was well hit and Darrell Porter is not a fast runner. I mean, he could outrun any other member of my family, but so can boulders rolling uphill. But Royals coach Gordie McKenzie was a human windmill, McBride played it cleanly, Trillo made a strong relay, and Porter was out by ten feet. Frank White fouled out to third and the Phillies escaped further damage.
Now while I appreciate aggressive play, you again have to know the situation. By holding the slow runner you have second and third with one out and the heart of your order coming up. I would still take my chances with Brett coming to the plate with two outs instead of leading off the following innings. Oh the fine line between aggressive and stupid. And it would come back to haunt the Royals.
Quisenberry came on in the seventh inning and snuffed out a potential rally. He pitched around an error in the eighth to hold the lead. So he came out for the ninth to finish it off. Schmidt led off with a shot off of Brett’s glove for an infield single. Del Unser came in to pinch hit and doubled down the right field line (while the guys were talking about bunting and the difficulties of bunting on turf), and Schmidt scored all the way from first without a play. Moreland then bunted Unser to third, but Maddox chopped one down the line to Brett, who made the play and prevented the run from scoring, meaning the Phillies needed a two-out hit.
And they got one. Manny Trillo fouled off three straight pitches, then lined the next pitch off of Quisenberry. Despite Brett’s best effort he couldn’t get Trillo at first and Philly had the lead. Tug McGraw made things interesting in the ninth, issuing three walks to load the bases but struck out Jose Cardenal to win the game and the Phillies took the series lead 3-2 as they went back to Philadelphia.
The Phillies had every reason to feel confident going into Game 6, with Lefty taking the hill. They Royals had Rich Gale going for them. The game was scoreless until the third, when Bob Boone led off with a walk, bringing Lonnie Smith to the plate. Smith hit a ground ball to Frank White, who threw to second, but his throw pulled U.L. Washington off the bag at second (according to Tony Kubek a couple of inches – a foot and a half). After Dallas Green questioned a trip to the mound (Garagiola compared it to blaming the Johnstown flood on a leaky faucet – I miss him) Pete Rose then laid down a 39-point bunt, but because the Royals have screwed up repeatedly this series they decided to play for a wheel play and Gale didn’t get off the mound and the bases were loaded. Naturally, Schmidt made them pay with a two-run single (despite Lonnie Smith stumbling around third) and the score was 2-0. They added another run in the fifth on a McBride groundout and it was 3-0. Boone added an RBI single in the sixth to make it 4-0. THEN it got interesting.
Carlton was going along rather well – 97 pitches through seven innings, only once had the Royals gotten two on base and that was with two out – but John Wathan led off the eighth with a walk and Jose Cardenal singled. McGraw came to try and finish it out. Frank White fouled out, but Willie Wilson walked (how many times have I typed that in this piece? Again, 28 times in 745 plate appearances!!) to load the bases. Washington hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-1, bringing Brett up to the plate. He hit a bouncer towards second. Trillo made a good play, but Pete Rose missed the bag, again loading the bases. McGraw got McRae to ground out to end the threat. The Phils went down in order in the bottom of the inning, setting up the ninth.
McGraw started off by striking out Otis. But Willie Aikens drew a walk, and Onix Concepcion came in to pinch run for him. John Wathan then followed up with a single to right. Not wanting to run themselves out of the Series, Concepcion stayed at second. Cardenal followed up with single to center, loading the bases and setting up one of the dramatic moments in baseball lore, let alone Philadelphia lore.
Frank White came up to the plate and popped the very first pitch up foul towards the first base dugout. Bob Boone sprung out of his catching position and sprinted over to make a play on the ball. He reached out and had it, but could not hold on to the ball as it squeezed out of his glove. Pete Rose, however, was also hustling towards the ball and snagged it out of the air before it could drop. He ran in bouncing the ball like a point guard and tossed it back to McGraw. They still weren’t out of the woods, though. There was still the matter of getting Willie Wilson. McGraw had Wilson 1-2, and when McGraw fanned him with a fastball, the Phillies were World Champions.
Now, when the first official World Series was played in 1903, there were 16 Major League Baseball teams. By 1955 all but one of them had won the World Series. The last team was the Phillies. It wasn’t even that they hadn’t won – they hadn’t even been close. In 1915 they lost the World Series in five games to the Red Sox. In 1950 the Yankees swept the Whiz Kids. Those were their only two pennants. But finally, in 1980, they had reached the pinnacle. Mike Schmidt was named the series MVP, hitting two homeruns, driving in seven, and posting a 1.176 OPS in the six games. An older version of the Phillies (along with a couple of Pete’s former Big Red Machine teammates) would return to the World Series in 1983, but the Wheeze Kids didn’t have enough for the Baltimore Orioles. Phillies fans would have to wait until 2008 for another World Series. The Royals fans can relate. They had to wait another five years after that series loss to celebrate a World Series championship, and it would take another 30 years after that.
Ironically, this team – like the 1985 Royals – was not the Phillies best team. But it was a champion. And for Phillies fans, that’s all that really matters.