Wild One at the Vet

Sometimes mistakes can work in your favor. That was certainly the case for Tommy Lasorda and the L.A. Dodgers when they took on the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on May 4th, 1980.

Prior to the game, Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton took the lineup care to home plate and handed it to umpire Paul Pryor. There was just one problem.  Bench coach Monty Basgall had two different versions of the lineup. He handed one to Sutton, but posted the other on the wall of the Dodgers dugout. Then the fun began.

Eventful 1st Inning

Davey Lopes led off with a single off Phillies starter Randy Lerch and Rudy Law reached on an error by 2nd baseman Luis Aguayo. Two batters later, Steve Garvey was up when Pete Rose noticed something was amiss. The lineup posted in the Dodgers dugout had Dusty Baker up after Garvey, while the one given to the umpires (and the Phillies) had Ron Cey as the next batter.

Rose noticed the Dodgers were out of order

“I’m out there on first and I see Baker on deck,” said Rose. “I said to (first base umpire John) McSherry, ‘They’re batting out of order. What do I do?’ He said, ‘Wait ’til he makes an out or something.”

So that’s what Pete did. Garvey singled to score Lopes and give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead and when Baker strode to the plate, he hit a ground ball to Aguayo for what looked to be an inning-ending double play. But the Phillies couldn’t turn it and Baker was safe on a fielder’s choice while Rudy Law scored the Dodgers’ second run.

“When I got to first, Pete Rose said, ‘You hit out of order,'” Baker told the media after the game. “I said, ‘Man, you’re crazy'”

But it turned out Pete was right. at least according to one of the lineup cards. Rose immediately told the Phillies dugout what had happened and the umpires were summoned. But then there was another problem. The rule book stated what happened when the batter got a hit or made an out but there was no specific mention of what happened if the batter hit into a fielder’s choice. A lengthy umpire conference ensued and the final decision was that Cey, who should have been hitting, was declared out, Law was returned to 3rd, Garvey returned to 1st and Baker was the batter. Phillies manager Dallas Green was furious.

“I didn’t make the mistake, yet I’m the one suffering the consequences,” he said. “The batter should be out because he did what he did. And the runner at second was out so he should be out. If the batter makes an out, I don’t say anything. If we turn a double play, I just let it go.”

But that’s not what happened and it was about to get even worse for Green and the Phillies. Baker stepped up to the plate to face Lerch for the second time in a row. But instead of grounding out, he hit a three-run homer.

“It was a weird game,” said Baker. “Weirdest I’ve ever been in.”

More Twists

It only got worse for the Phillies from there. The Dodgers tacked on one run in the 3rd and four more in the 6th. When the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 6th, they trailed 9-0. But that’s when their bats came to life.

Bull got the Phillies on the board

Dodgers starter Dave Goltz was riding a scoreless streak of more than 20 innings when Del Unser singled and Mike Schmidt doubled to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Greg Luzinski followed with a three-run homer, Bob Boone homered after that and suddenly it was 9-4. Philadelphia added three more in the 7th and two in the 8th. What was a 9-0 game was suddenly a 9-9 tie.

“I’m sitting there relaxed,” said Lasorda. “I’m feeling good. I’m winning 9-0. I’ve got a guy out there going for his 3rd straight shutout. All of a sudden I look up and I’ve used everybody on my (pitching) staff.”

Eventful 9th Inning

Green went with Dickie Noles, his 5th pitcher of the afternoon, for the 9th inning and things immediately went downhill. A Derrel Thomas single was followed by back-to-back broken-bat singles by Gary Thomasson and Garvey and a passed ball by substitute catcher Keith Moreland.  Mickey Hatcher then doubled to score Thomasson and Garvey and the Dodgers were up 12-9.

Lasorda called on Jerry Reuss, who would later throw the season’s only no-hitter, to close the game for the Dodgers. Two singles and another passed ball made it 12-10, but Reuss struck out Moreland to finally end the game.

It was a game that featured 36 players, 28 hits, 22 runs, 11 pitchers, four errors, three passed balls and two wild pitches. Just another day at the yard.

 

Game Six

You never forget your first time. For me it was October 21st, 1980; the night I had my first championship experience.

I was a few months into 8th grade at a small school in Oxford, OH. By small, I mean really small. My graduating class had about 25 people. I was a little anxious about beginning high school the following year but none of that mattered now. What mattered was that my Phillies were about to win their first World Series title.

Phillies phans in southwest Ohio were pretty rare in the Big Red Machine era, but I was one of them. Call me an outlier if you like, I prefer to think of myself as a member of a very select club. One that was accustomed to heartbreak.

For me, it began in 1976 when the Reds swept the Phillies in the NLCS. In all honesty, my memories of that season are pretty sketchy since I was only eight at the time but the soul-crushing defeats at the hands of the Dodgers over the next two seasons still resonate, especially 1977.

I grew up in a college town and used to walk home from school. One day on my journey from McGuffey Laboratory School to our house on Beech St., I recounted the events of the horrible 9th inning of Game Three to some unsuspecting Miami University student. He seemed amused; though I don’t remember if it was by the story or because a nine year-old was lamenting the fact that Vic Davalillo, at age 40, actually beat out a bunt. Don’t get me started on Manny Mota’s drive to left and the ensuing Greg Luzinski incident.

But that was in the past and twelve year-old me was ready to move on. After enduring a gut-wrenching NLCS, in which four of the five games went extra innings, and a back-and-forth World Series against George Brett and the Royals, I sat on the edge of my bed in the 9th inning of Game 6 while Tug McGraw was putting on his usual show of loading the bases and then trying to get out of it.

A Defining Moment

With the Phillies leading 4-1 McGraw struck out Amos Otis to lead off the inning, but walked Willie Aikens and then surrendered singles to John Wathan and Jose Cardenal. On the mound at The Vet, McGraw was summoning the energy to record two more outs. In Ohio, I was sitting on the edge of my bed wearing one of those plastic Phillies batting helmets and holding two different Phillies pennants. Tugger needed me at this moment and there was no way I was going to let him down.

rose-backs-up-bob-booneWhat happened next was pure World Series magic. The infamous Frank White popup in foul territory that Bob Boone muffed but Pete Rose caught followed by McGraw striking out Willie Wilson to end the game. Pandemonium ensued both in Philadelphia and on Coulter Lane in Oxford as we all jumped for joy. It was nearly 11:30 at night on a Tuesday and I had school the next day. I can’t stay up that late anymore but I’m so glad I did then.

Years later, I met McGraw at an event and stupidly said something to the effect that I remembered that game, as if neither he nor anyone else there didn’t. I told him about sitting on the edge of my bed and how excited I was when he struck out Wilson.

“Ah, Willie Wilson,” Tugger said. “My favorite baseball player.”

It was perfect and so are my memories of that season and that moment. You never forget your first time.

My Top 3 Larry Bowa Moments

I was an outsider.

A malcontent.

I grew up as a Phillies Phan in Reds Country in the 1970s.

Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton were my guys, but I also had an obsession with shortstop Larry Bowa. He was small and feisty and played great defense. In T-Ball, I played shortstop and wore his uniform number proudly.

Larry Bowa
1980 World Series

When I was eight years-old, I went to Philadelphia on vacation and acquired a replica Phillies uniform. Upon my return to southwestern Ohio, I convinced my mother to put a big number 10 on the back for Bowa. I’m guessing not a lot of kids in the Cincinnati area were rocking fake Larry Bowa uniforms in the late ’70s but I definitely was. I wore that uniform to every Reds game I went to until I grew out of it. If the Reds were playing the Padres, why not wear a full Phillies uniform?

Opportunities to see Bowa and the Phillies were rare at the time but three Phillies/Reds games stand out for me, especially as it pertains to Bowa.

May 10th, 1980

This game had it all. It was a beautiful spring day and the pitching matchup featured future Hall of Famers going head-to-head. Tom Seaver started for the Reds against Steve Carlton for the Phillies. Somehow I got down to field level before the game and got to watch Carlton warm up.

BowahitOnce the game began, my buddy and I were back in the upper deck and decided to take a stroll around the concourse. The announced attendance was just under 29,000 so the wisdom of walking an empty upper deck concourse escapes me but as we were walking in the top of the 5th inning I heard Riverfront Stadium P.A. announcer Paul Sommerkamp say, “Now batting, the shortsop, Larry Bowa.”

I shot up the ramp in left center just in time to see Bowa send a line drive right at us. Left fielder Dave Collins and center fielder Sam Mejias collided going after the ball and collapsed to the turf. Right fielder Hector Cruz had to come over to field the ball but he was way too late. My man, Larry Bowa, had himself an inside-the-Park homer and the Phillies led 2-0. The Reds ended up winning the game 5-2 despite Bowa’s heroics.

August 28, 1977

My second Bowa memory isn’t quite as sweet. In fact, it still haunts me. I was nine years old and my mom took me to see my Phillies. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day if you weren’t rooting for the home nine. Phillies starter Randy Lerch gave up six runs in just an inning and a third, and by the time Bowa came up in the top of the 8th inning the score was 9-0 Cincinnati.

Bowa hit a bouncer to second and umpire Satch Davidson called him out on a close play at first. Bowa went ballistic and got tossed. Now my team was losing and Bowa had just been run. I cried. My mom did what she did to console me, as did some guys sitting near us who tried to cheer me up by assuring me that the Phillies would end up playing the Reds in the playoffs and I’d get another chance to see Bowa at Riverfont that season. Little solace at the time. Turns out they were wrong anyway. The Phillies lost in the NLCS to the Dodgers that year.

The next day in the Cincinnati Enquirer, there was a photo of Bowa yelling at Davidson. Veins were bulging in his neck and the photo perfectly captured his ire. The caption read, “Big Temper for a Little Guy.”

June 22, 1977

But my favorite Larry Bowa vs. the Reds moment came just a few months prior to his meltdown at Riverfront. In June, the Reds were in Philadelphia and it was a rare instance where the game was televised. In the days before cable TV, there were just a handful of games on and I was front and center for this one.

Larry Bowa hitsIn the bottom of the 7th inning, the Phillies held a slim 10-9 lead in a game that had featured six home runs to that point. Tom Hume started the inning for the Reds and loaded the bases, prompting Sparky Anderson to pull him in favor of veteran Joe Hoerner. Hoerner faced Ted Sizemore and uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Greg Luzinski to score and move everyone up 90 feet.

With a base open, Sparky opted to walk Sizemore intentionally to face Bowa. Big mistake. Acting manager Bobby Wine told Bowa to be ready for a squeeze. But he also thought the Reds may be anticipating one so he gave Bowa the green light on the first pitch. Hoerner threw a fat one right down the middle and Bowa hammered it over the boards in left for a grand slam.

Larry Bowa hit a total of 15 homers in his career and that slam came in a May game nearly 40 years ago. I remember it like it happened last night. And by the way, I still have that uniform.

Larry Bowa Jersey
My Larry Bowa jersey.

 

What are your favorite memories of your favorite players?