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.

 

Dream Season: Mike Schmidt

Every player longs for that dream season. The one where they stay healthy and just produce. I’m going to crunch the numbers and create dream seasons for notable 1980s stars. We’ll start with Mike Schmidt.

April 1986

Schmitty had some slow starts, but his final season was not among them. He went 2-4 with a homer off Mario Soto on Opening Day and kept going. Not a huge power month, but the batting average was solid. He ended April hitting .328 with 5 homers and 19 RBI with 10 runs scored. A great way to kick off the season.

May 1980

The Phillies first World Series season was Mike Schmidt‘s finest season as well and May was a huge month. Philadelphia entered May already 4.5 games behind in the National League East but by the end of the month, they were back in it. Schmidt hit .305 with 12 homers and 29 RBI to earn Player of the Month honors. His teammate Steve Carlton also had a pretty good month, going 6-1 with a 1.88 E.R.A. and was named Pitcher of the Month.

June 1977

After leading the National League in home runs for three consecutive seasons, Schmidt finished 4th in 1977, but he still hit 38 dingers and drove in 101 runs. He also raised his batting average and cut down on his strikeouts. In June, Schmitty hit .318 with 14 homers and 28 RBI.   His biggest day came on June 10th against Atlanta when he went 3-4 with two homers and 5 RBI, one of two multi-homer games that month.

July 1979

Once Pete Rose came to the Phillies, Schmidt’s career really took off. He hit 40 homers for the first time in 1979 and his July was something to remember. Mike hit .354 with 13 homers and drove in 32 runs in 28 games. During a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants from July 6-9 at The Vet, Schmidt went 8-14 with 6 homers and 13 RBI. The Giants never knew what hit ’em.

August 1981

Among the many tragedies of the strike season was what it took away from Mike Schmidt. He won his second consecutive MVP award that season and also had the best single-season batting average of his career, batting .316. When the players finally got back on the field Schmitty went off, hitting .380 with 9 homers and 24 RBI in 20 games.

September/October 1980

The stretch run in 1980 is something no Phillies phan will ever forget and Mike Schmidt played a huge role. For the month, he hit .298 with 13 homers and 28 RBI, but there’s one homer that stands out above the rest. On the next to last day of the season, his 11th inning homer in Montreal gave the Phillies the N.L. East division crown.

The Totals:

When you put it all together, it doesn’t look too bad. In Mike Schmidt’s dream season he hit .327 with 66 homers and 160 RBI while scoring 118 runs. I’ll take that.

Best Baseball Weekend EVER

It was January of 1995 and Mike Schmidt had just been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I distinctly remember coming home that day and my girlfriend, now wife, could sense I was a bit down. She asked me what was wrong and I told her I had always told myself I would go to Cooperstown when Schmitty got in but I didn’t think it was going to happen.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because I can’t?” I said

“Why not?” she asked again.

That was pretty much all it took. That night, I called around and finally found a hotel that had a room on induction weekend. The only problem was it was in Utica, about an hour away, but I didn’t care. I was going.

Hitting the Road

In Late July, a friend and I rented a car and took off from Clearwater, FL on our way to Cooperstown, a scant 1,200 miles away. We didn’t have cell phones or satellite radio, but we did bring a baseball encyclopedia and spent a good part of the trip quizzing each other on lineups and all kinds of other minutiae to pass the time.

The trip went off without a hitch until we reached our hotel. In a horrible rookie move, I hadn’t reserved the room with a credit card and they had given it to someone else. So here we were, 1000+ miles from home with no place to stay. Good times. I don’t remember how, but by some miracle we were able to get a room and settle in.

Off to the Hall

My friend, Bob, and I worked in television and we were doing a documentary about Richie Ashburn, who was also being inducted that weekend. We secured press credentials through the Phillies and went to the Hall to pick them up. As soon as we stepped outside someone offered to buy my press pin. Sorry, dude. No go. This was the big time. I was a credentialed member of a HOF Induction weekend about to see my guy go in.

Mike Schmidt
Schmidt Locker display at the Hall of Fame

It was fantastic. We cruised up and down the main drag in Cooperstown and went inside the museum shooting video for the documentary. After a long day we hopped in the car for the drive back to the hotel. When we got back all we had to do was charge the batteries for our equipment and we were all set. Except we weren’t.

When we plugged in the charger it started to spark and pop. Turns out we left it on the air conditioning unit in the hotel room and condensation had built up while it ran during the day.  Another rookie move by me. We tried to dry the charger without much luck and figured we’d let it air dry deal with it in the morning.

The Big Day

The main order of business on Induction Day was finding a place to plug in our charger. After a while, I found a security person and explained our predicament. Amazingly, the guy took us into a building and showed us a place where we could plug in. Second miracle of the day; there were no sparks, no pops and the lights indicated the batteries were charging. We were all set.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I looked around the room and was dumbfounded.

Me: “Um Bob? Is that Stan Musial over there talking to Yogi Berra?”

Bob: “Sure looks like it.”

Whoever we asked to help us had apparently shown us into the room where all the Hall of Famers hang out before the induction ceremony. Fanboy in me was thrilled, but I quickly realized the best way to get kicked out of there was to start running up to guys and bothering them.

I spotted Roy Smalley, who was working for ESPN at the time, explained we were working on a documentary about Ashburn and asked if he thought it would be OK to interview some of his contemporaries. He said he wasn’t sure but that it probably wasn’t a good idea. Smart guy.

MIke Schmidt
Schmidt delivers his induction seech

We eventually we found a place to shoot the ceremony and get a really good sunburn before attending the post-induction press conference where I got what I needed for my documentary.

It’s All Good

The trip was a success despite everything I did to ruin it. The next day we woke up in Utica and prepared to drive back to Florida. I told Bob I’d start driving and then we could switch but if he got tired I’d help him out. Shortly after Bob started driving I fell asleep and by the time I woke up we were just outside of Tampa. I’d been asleep for about 6 hours, maybe more.

The moral of the story? Marry a baseball fan, and NEVER drive long distances with me. I’ll bag you every time. I also never finished the documentary.

The Best of 2016 on ’80s Baseball

I started this blog 364 days ago. Since then, I’ve published 64 posts, including guest posts, for which I’m very grateful.

It’s been a great year and I thought I’d take a look back at the Top 5 posts of 2016 based (unscientifically) on page views.

Number 5: George Brett’s amazing 1980

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Brett was absolutely ridiculous in 1980 and this post tells the story of his remarkable season. If you’re going to hit .400, or even have a shot, it helps to have a summer like George Brett did in 1980.

 

Number 4: Schmidt and Brett in 1971

The Reds passed on a kid in their back yard. The Phillies snapped him up

The most important day of the 1980 baseball season may very well have taken place in 1971. One decision would have put Mike Schmidt in a Royals uniform and given the 1980 World Series a completely different look.

 

 

Number 3: Missed it by That Much: The Mike Parrott Story

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Mike Parrott was the opening day starter for the Seattle Mariners in 1980. Unfortunately for him, 1980 was just a horrible year, in more ways than one.

 

 

Number 2: You Forgot How Good J.R. Richard Was

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James Rodney Richard was absolutely dominant and 1980 was shaping up to be the best year of his career. Then tragedy struck and he never pitched again.

 

 

 

Number 1: Missed it By That Much: The Drungo Hazewood Story

<a rel=Drungo Hazewood had all the talent in the world. He was a can’t miss prospect for the Baltimore Orioles. Then he missed.

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to 2017!

-J.D.

Schmidt, Carlton and the 1980 Phillies

 

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The poster hung on the wall of my bedroom in southwest Ohio for years. MVP and CY. Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. My guys. I was far from unique in worshiping the two future Hall-of-Famers, but to this day the site of this poster still makes me smile.

The Phillies were considered underachievers entering 1980 because they hadn’t been able to reach the World Series. NL East crowns in 1976, ’77 and ’78 had resulted in being bounced from the playoffs by the Reds (1976) and Dodgers (1977 & 78). Signing Pete Rose for the 1979 season was thought to be the answer but injuries decimated the roster. It was do or die in 1980 and the Phils struggled out of the gate, going 6-9 in late March and into April. Then MVP and CY took over.

Schmidt earned Player of the Month honors in May by hitting .305 with 12 home runs and 29 RBI to pace the offense, while Carlton earned the Pitcher of the Month award, turning in a 6-1 record with an E.R.A. of just 1.66. Carlton flirted with a no-hitter against Atlanta on May 5th, going seven and a third before yielding his first hit.

There was one game that served as a microcosm of the month for the Phillies. On May 23rd, Carlton was just dominant against Nolan Ryan and the Houston Astros, throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout. The only runs he needed came in the 3rd inning when Schmidt homered with Rose and Bake McBride aboard.

Philadelphia went 17-9 in May and their 144 runs scored led the National League. It wasn’t enough to get them to the top of the division, but it was a much-needed step in the right direction. Another rough month early in the season coupled with strong play by the Pirates and the Montreal Expos could have spelled doom for the Phillies.

The NL East race went down to the final weekend of the season and the Phillies ultimately prevailed and went on to win their first World Series. But it may not have happened had their two best players not stepped up early in the year to get them back on track.

 

 

Schmidt & Brett in 1971

The most important day of the 1980 baseball season may very well have taken place in June of 1971.

Goodwin told Chicago no and went to Southern University
Goodwin told Chicago no and went to Southern University

June 8th was draft day. The Chicago White Sox held the #1 pick and chose a high school catcher named Danny Goodwin from Peoria Central High School. Goodwin was the consensus #1 choice, a 6′-2″ 195 lb school boy star. But the White Sox couldn’t sign him and he ended up going to college. He holds the distinction of being the first overall #1 choice not to sign AND the only player to be selected #1 overall twice. The Angels chose him at the top of the first round in 1975.

The first round was heavy on pitching and shortstops. Nineteen of the 24 first round picks fit into that category. One team bucking the trend was the Boston Red Sox who took an outfielder at #15 overall. His name was Jim Rice.

The Kansas City Royals held the 5th pick in the first round and chose a pitcher named Roy Brance who eventually appeared in two games with Seattle in 1979. The Philadelphia Phillies picked one spot behind the Royals and selected pitcher Roy Thomas from Lompoc, CA.

The Royals took Brett with the 5th pick of the 2nd round
The Royals took Brett with the 5th pick of the 2nd round

Having gotten their pitcher in the first round, the Royals were on the prowl for a shortstop and chose George Brett, a high schooler from El Segundo, CA,  who had impressed scouts by, among other things, playing all nine positions in a high-school all-star game including pitching both right and left handed in the 9th inning. Yet despite this, he was overshadowed by his older brother, Ken, who had always been the one destined for stardom and was pitching for the Red Sox when George was drafted.

With Brett off the board, the Phillies chose an All-American shortstop from Ohio University named Mike Schmidt with the next pick.

The Reds passed on a kid in their back yard. The Phillies snapped him up in the second round
The Reds passed on a kid in their back yard. The Phillies snapped him up

The Major League Baseball draft is an inexact science to say the least, but eight different shortstops were selected ahead of two of the best players ever to play the game. The most accomplished of them was Craig Reynolds. Three of them never played in the big leagues and the eight combined to hit 59 career, home runs, or eleven more than Schmidt alone hit in 1980. Hindsight is obviously a distinct advantage, but it does seem curious that the Cincinnati Reds would choose Mike Miley, a high school shortstop from Louisiana, over Mike Schmidt a Dayton native who played his college ball just a few hours away in Athens, OH.

Schmidt later recounted a story of a Phillies scout arriving at his house to negotiate a contract. He pulled a typewriter out of his trunk and offered a deal worth $25,000. Schmidt’s father, acting as his agent, said they wanted $40,000. A contract of $37,500 was eventually agreed upon and Schmidt immediately went out and purchased himself a Corvette.

Joe Theisman
Joe Theisman coulda been a Twin

There was one other shortstop of note selected on that day in 1971. In the 39th round, the Minnesota Twins selected a kid from Notre Dame named Joe Theisman.

How would the 1980 season have played out had the Royals taken Schmidt instead of Brett? What if the Reds had taken Schmidt in the first round instead of Miley? Can you imagine the Big Red Machine with another Hall-of-Famer in the lineup? How did every team in baseball pass on these two in the first round?

Bad Blood at The Vet

“Green’s Phillies Win Brawl Game” read one headline.

“Phillies Wrestle First Place Away From Bucs” read another.

On May 26th, 1980, the Pittsburgh Pirates came to Veterans Stadium for an NL East showdown. Philadelphia had won four straight to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in the division to just a half game and the four-game series was a chance for the Phillies to reassert themselves as the class of the NL East. The Pirates were in a foul mood after losing six of their last eight, including a 5-2 loss on “Bat Day” in Pittsburgh on May 25th. The loss so incensed the Pirate faithful that a few of them took their new bats and smashed the back window of Willie Stargell’s Rolls Royce.

Pittsburgh sent Bert Blyleven to the mound, while the Phillies countered with rookie Bob Walk who was making his major league debut after going 5-1 in AAA Oklahoma City. For Walk, it would be his first time atop a major league pitching mound but not his first time throwing objects at big-leagues. As a teenager, he was once arrested at Dodger Stadium for throwing a tennis ball at Astros outfielder Cesar Cedeno from the bleachers.

Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead on Willie Stargell’s first-inning home run. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, with the Pirates lead standing at 3-1, Blyleven threw inside to Mike Schmidt and Schmidt took exception, heading to the mound to confront the Pirates’ hurler and the benches quickly emptied. Home plate umpire Doug Harvey, who carried the nickname, “God” for the clout he earned among players and other umpires, was able to intercept Schmidt before he reached the mound and order was restored.

Saucier was looking for vengence
Saucier was looking for vengence

Walk lived up to his name in his debut, issuing free passes to five Pirate hitters in two and two-thirds innings before being replaced by Lerrin LeGrow. When Kevin Saucier took over for the Phillies in the 5th inning he had revenge on his mind. After getting Dave Parker to ground out to Manny Trillo at 2nd, Saucier plunked Willie Stargell, causing the Pirates dugout to take notice. In the 6th, Saucier finally got a chance to get even with Blyleven and did so by drilling the Pirates’ starter with a pitch. None too pleased, Blyleven picked the ball up and prepared to throw it back at Saucier.  Harvey was able to stop Blyleven, but he wasn’t able to prevent the swarm of Phillies or Pirates from rushing the field. Someone tackled Saucier and a nearly five minute brawl ensued. Things were seemingly under control until Pirate outfielder Lee Lacy began hurling insults towards the Phillies.

“I told Lacy to stop trying to instigate things,” Harvey said. “He was cursing and I threw him out of the game. The next thing I knew, (Phillies pitching coach) Herm Starrette was shouting at someone and I told him to stop instigating. He kept yelling and I threw him out of the game.”

But Starrette wasn’t the only Phillies coach causing problems. Bullpen coach Mike Ryan began jawing with several Pittsburgh players and a second brawl broke out, this one bigger than the first. For the Pirates, there was no doubt who was to blame.

Ryan fanned the flames
Ryan fanned the flames

“It was Ryan’s fault,” said Lacy. “He ran into a pile of players and started kicking everyone, even his teammates.”

“I didn’t kick anyone,” Ryan said. “As a coach, I was trying to be a peacemaker. Some of the Pirates, two or three of them, started pointing at me. I said, OK, if you want a piece of me, try me.”

The teams finally returned to their dugouts and the Pirates held a 6-5 lead in the 9th inning with their closer, Kent Tekulve, on the mound. Tekulve faced five batters in the bottom of the 9th and retired none of them. Larry Bowa’s single to right field scored Bob Boone and the Phillies had a win and sole possession of first place in the NL East.

It was a lead that would bounce back and forth between the Pirates, Phillies and the Montreal Expos for the rest of the summer.

The 80’s are my 50’s

I grew up reading Angell, Halberstam, Kahn and others wax nostalgic about baseball in the 1950’s. The pictures they painted of sun-drenched afternoons at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds made the era come to life. I’m sure it was a magical time with great baseball. They can have it.

This isn’t an indictment of them as baseball men and it’s most certainly not an indictment of them as writers. The point is that was their time. The 80’s were my time. My affection for the 80’s comes not from the ballparks or the innocence of the time, but from being young and watching my heroes play baseball.

I’ve read countless accounts of people walking up the ramp and seeing the green grass at Yankee Stadium or some other baseball cathedral for the first time. You really get a sense of the awe they felt. I don’t have a similar memory of seeing the turf at Riverfront Stadium for the first time. Not the same, although the outfield at Riverfront was undoubtedly the greenest Astroturf I had ever seen in my life.

Riverfront Stadium
Behold the beauty

But I do have a brief but amazing memory of having blue seats for a Reds/Phillies game. I spent the pregame standing near the Phillies bullpen watching watch Steve Carlton warm up before the game. I don’t remember what year it was or who won. All I remember is that I was 10 feet away from Steve Effing Carlton! The guy who had won Cy Young Awards and had pitched my favorite team to a World Series Championship. And I was RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.

Steve Carlton
Lefty!

I didn’t watch games through knotholes, but my buddies and I did learn how to jump over the railing from the green seats at Riverfront into the blue seats and dash down the aisle before the usher could catch us. Once in the blue section, the world was ours and we could really see up close the same guys we watched on TV, back when Monday Night Baseball and the Saturday Game of the Week were a big deal.

Willie, Mickey & the Duke were amazing players. Hall of Famers all of them. I never saw any of them play live. But I did see Mike Schmidt play.

I saw Tom Seaver

And Johnny Bench

And Nolan Ryan

 

I saw Rod Carew

And Reggie Jackson

And Andre Dawson

Chicki-Crunch
Chicki-Crunch

 

I also saw Wayne Krenchicki

With the Reds AND the Expos

Were Feller, Yogi and Musial better than Seaver, Bench and Reggie? Maybe. Maybe not, but here’s the thing: I don’t care.

 

You can have Joe Black. I’ll take Bud Black

You take Campanella. I’ll take Carter.

You take Eddie Mathews and I’ll take Gary Matthews.

You can have Vin Scully. I’ll take… well, Vin Scully.

Garvey, Winfield, Schmitty, Luzinski… they were all my guys. They were larger than life. They were who I grew up watching, and the guys you grew up watching are mythical figures by definition.

The 80’s was the decade I came of age as a baseball fan. Willie, Mickey and The Duke were great, but I’ll take Willie Wilson, Mickey Hatcher and John “Duke” Wathan.

With no regrets.