Epic World Series win over Royals was one for the ages
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- It was across the street from Citizens Bank Park, in what is now a parking lot, that the Phillies won their first World Series title more than 28 years ago.
On the mound for the Phillies in the ninth inning at old Veterans Stadium was the late Tug McGraw. At the plate for the Royals was Willie Wilson, who whiffed for the final out of a 4-1 Phils victory.
With that, the mounted police hit the artificial turf and a two-day celebration began that has been replayed so many times it has grown exponentially in the telling. That is until this week, when a new generation of Phillies finally won it all again.
Thursday offers a chance to watch those two Phillies World Series champions back-to-back in a mini-marathon on MLB.com.
The day of Phillies programming starts with the club's news conference followed by World Series news and analysis on This is MLB.com.
Then catch the entire thrilling 2008 Game 5 clincher, from Monday's rainy start by World series MVP Cole Hamels to Wednesday's finish with Brad Lidge fanning Eric Hinske.
And stay tuned to watch Philadelphia's first championship clincher in its entirety, Game 6 of the 1980 series, which was capped by McGraw's memorable strikeout of Wilson.
"There are a lot of similarities [between the 2008 and 1980 Phillies]," said Dallas Green, the Phils' manager then and a high-level consultant for the club now. "These guys had to fight like the devil to get in there. We did, too. It took us 161 games to win our division. Honestly, we hadn't won it all in a long time and it was a great feeling."
Tug's son, Tim, the country music star, symbolically spread his dad's ashes on the mound at Citizens Bank Park before Saturday night's rain-delayed Game 3.
But it was across the way that the senior McGraw finished off one of the greatest innings in Phillies history.
The Vet lived from 1971 until 2003. The turf was hard and often peeled at the seams. And only once in its short, colorful history did one of its tenants dance the dance of ultimate victory within its confines.
It was a two-inning save that night for McGraw, who replaced Hall of Famer Steve Carlton with a 4-0 lead and one on in the top of the eighth inning. Carlton had pitched a four-hitter and struck out seven before handing the ball to the Tugger after walking John Wathan.
Wathan eventually came around to score on a U L Washington sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
After the late Dan Quisenberry retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, the scene was set for the finale.
"At that time, I was second in command on the business side," said Dave Montgomery, now the club's general partner and president. "I was working that game and I had responsibility for a lot of our employees. For me, when it ended, all I can remember was a quiet satisfaction."
The 65,838 in the circular three-deck ballpark certainly didn't feel the same way. They were all on their feet in the ninth inning, roaring with each out. The Phillies had never won, losing in their only other World Series trips -- to the Red Sox in 1915 and the Yankees in '50.
But the Royals wouldn't go quietly. After Amos Otis was called out on strikes to open the inning, Willie Aikens walked, Wathan singled and Jose Cardenal singled to load the bases.
In those days, the closer was the closer. It was McGraw's game to save or lose.
And then Frank White produced the play that would symbolize the shift in the Phillies' fate. White, the five-time All-Star second baseman, hit a foul pop toward the Phillies' right-side dugout. There, catcher Bob Boone and first baseman Pete Rose converged.
Boone camped under it and the ball actually popped out of his glove. But to everyone's astonishment, the always-mercurial Rose grabbed it before it hit the ground for the second out.
Even Green, who came down from the front office to replace Danny Ozark as manager in 1979, said that that championship wouldn't have been won had the Phils not broken the bank to sign Rose as a free agent that same season.
"There's no question about that. We didn't play very well in '79," said Green, whose club fell to fourth place in the National League East that season after winning three consecutive division titles from 1976-78. "But in the end, he was the glue that finally pulled us together."
Wilson, who was 4-for-26 (.154), punctuated the end of that Series by striking out for the 12th time.
The celebration roared throughout the night from the Vet in south Philly all the way downtown on Broad Street to Center City and City Hall.
The parade the next day took the same route, only in the opposite direction, and ended at old 100,000-seat John F. Kennedy Stadium, a rickety wooden and steel structure that was home every winter to the Army-Navy college football game. Every seat was taken, one of them by a present member of the Phillies, who grew up in the area and skipped school that day to be at the ceremony.
"I can remember coming up from the subway station here on Broad Street, I do remember that," said Jamie Moyer, the 45-year-old pitcher who worked into the seventh inning of the Phillies' victory in Game 3. "And it was wall-to-wall people. It was just excitement. We went over to JFK. We were the hicks coming from out in the suburbs.
"We didn't know what was going on. We thought it was best to go hang out in JFK. So we went over and found some seats and waited for the parade to come to us. There were people all over the place -- in the trees, climbing in the lights. Everybody was happy and everybody was excited. And rightfully so. It was a celebration of a team that had a great year."
It was a long, tough climb for that team, which clinched the division title on the next-to-last day of the season on Mike Schmidt's two-run homer in the 11th inning at Montreal.
In the best-of-five NL Championship Series, the Phillies had to come back from a 2-1 deficit to win their first pennant in 30 years. They won Game 4 in the Astrodome with two runs in the 10th inning. And in Game 5, the Astros had a 5-2 lead behind Nolan Ryan heading into the eighth inning. The Phils knocked him out and scored five times to take a 7-5 lead, only to allow the Astros to tie it in the bottom of the inning.
They won it in the 10th on doubles by Del Unser and Garry Maddox.
"Pete Rose came up to me after that series and told me not to worry," Green said. "After that, the World Series would be easy."
It wasn't that easy.
The Phils won the first two games at the Vet and Kansas City came back to match in the next two games at what was then called Royals Stadium. Game 5 turned out to be the pivotal game of the Series, and like they had in key tilts all season, the Phils had to score twice in the top of the ninth to come from behind and win it against Quisenberry.
Again, one of the key hits was a run-scoring Unser double. McGraw pitched the last three innings and earned the win.
And so it came down again at the end of Game 6 to McGraw and Quisenberry, two pitchers who sadly died six years apart from complications of brain tumors.
The memories, of course, will always remain.