Black Friday 1977: How Fate Reminded Philadelphia Of Its Heritage – Phillies Nation

Black Friday 1977: How Fate Reminded Philadelphia Of Its Heritage

This article was originally posted on Black Friday 2010.

Black Friday is a term that was coined here in Philadelphia during the winter of 1966. It described the congestion of vehicle and foot traffic caused by Christmas shoppers attempting to take advantage of early Christmas sales in the Center City shopping districts. For Philadelphia Phillies fans, it’s an ominous term that describes one of the most disappointing game outcomes in team history.

The Phillies were pitted against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 National League Championship Series. The best-of-five set was tied one game a piece with Steve Carlton waiting in the wings for a possible Game 4 clincher. The Phillies were benefited by their fans who destroyed Burt Hooton from the stands of Veterans Stadium with boos, catcalls and general Philadelphia-type vocal tendencies. Hooton gave up three runs, two of which were bases loaded walks educed by the hostile Vet crowd, in one and two thirds total innings. The Phillies had a 5-3 lead going to the ninth inning. But, in typical Philadelphia fashion, the Phils gave up three runs to lose the game due to a combination of poor outfield defense by Greg Luzinski (or was it bad managing by Danny Ozark?) and eventually the series in four games. The only thing worse than Luzinski’s outfield play was first base umpire Bruce Froemmings eye sight.

In the fateful ninth inning, there were two outs and with  a runner, Manny Mota, at third. Previously, Mota sent a ball deep to left field, which Luzinski goated against the wall and subsequently threw away, allowing a run to score and Mota to advance to third.  Davey Lopes now at bat, rocketed a ball at Mike Schmidt who couldn’t make the play. The ball ricocheted to Larry Bowa from Schmidt’s glove, who threw to first to make the play. Lopes was called safe even though multiple replays showed him out. Manny Mota scored to tie the ball game 5-5. After a botched pickoff attempt to first advanced Lopes to second base, Bill Russel roped a single to center to give the Dodgers a 6-5 lead.

As a child I always thought that the ‘Burt Hooton Game’ and ‘Black Friday’ were separate events in two very different games. When broached about either events, old timers couldn’t reconcile Bruce Froemmings call of ‘safe’ at first and they could never speak to the true volumes of Phillies fans jeering of Hooton on that night at Veterans Stadium. It was incomprehensible to me that a moment so glorious such as the fans interaction with Hooton could have possibly been during the same game as Danny Ozarks personnel mismanagement, shotty fielding and inability to close a team out.

Even though the Flyers won two consecutive Stanley Cup Championships in 1974 and 1975, the Phillies remained the primary focus of Philly’s sporting landscape. Prior to Game 3, Mitchell Nathanson the author of The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team’s Collapse Sank a City’s Spirit, credited the emerging Phillies of the 1970’s for being the face of the city. Being in New York’s geographical shadow since their emergence as the country’s premier city in the early 1800’s, Philadelphia was able to finally shed its inferiority complex due to its sporting success, social and urban renewal, and New York’s civic corruption and financial bankruptcy.

As the city and its fans experiences a rebirth, fate reminded Philadelphia once again of its sports heritage. Every modern generation of Philadelphian can single out an event in sports which makes them hesitant to embrace a team that shows the illusion of dominance. The events of Black Friday jaded the fans who grew up along with the 1970’s Phillies.

Their failure subsequently made the fans hesitant to truly believe in the teams that had prominent success in South Philadelphia during the years of 1976-1983. The four major sporting teams combined for 26 playoff appearances. 8 of those teams made it to the final round of their respective playoffs. Only two of those teams brought the city any championship glory – the 1980 Phillies and 1983 76ers. I happen to be a child of parents who grew up in this era. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is ingrained in me as it is in both my mother and father.

They have 1977. I have 1993 and now 2010. We both can understand the feelings of disappointment that my grandparents, their parents, felt in 1964 – even if we both weren’t alive to experience it.

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  1. Chuck

    November 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Yeah…but like your parents having 1980 with the Phillies and ’83 with the Sixers…you have 2008 to cherish forever.

    And I truly believe that either the Phillies, Eagles or Flyers will mandate a parade in the next five years….

    Maybe all three???……..

  2. Lefty

    November 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Gene Garber uggggh!

    Then the next game there was a two or three hour rain delay that screwed Carlton up and he let up a 2 run dinger (I think it was Dusty Baker) the next inning. The man of the famous surgery, Tommy John, beat us that day.

  3. brooks

    November 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I wanted to puke watching the lowlight of the playoffs…

    blahh… thanks for sharing

  4. Bart Shart

    November 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Nothing compares to the disapointment and frustratiion of 1964. That year we were winning all season long after years of dismay and failure.
    It looked like the spell was broken. And we lost a six game lead with only 11 games left to play. The city was heartbroken for years. The embarrassment was acute. The pain was lingering and we were known as the Feckless Phils. I hated it . Then manager Gene Mauch never lived it down and repeated the folly with the Angels some years later.

    • Ken Bland

      November 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      This is indeed acutely correct about the ’64 club, and would have been as valid about this year’s Oriole club had they failed to qualify for the playoffs.

      Bart says…”That year we were winning all season long after years of dismay and failure.” And quite often, people look at a last to first type club that dances to the finish line, but goes home as early as the also rans. The ’64 club was 6 and a half ahead with 12 to play, meaning that over 150 games, they kicked the League’s ass. And when you do it for that long, it’s right and proper to believe, and expect a reasonable finish. Couple years ago, the Phils went out to San Diego, and brutalized them over a 4 game series. The Padres, heading into the last 7-8 weeks started that series some 7 games, maybe more ahead of the Giants, who went on to win it all. That’s one thing, when you have played 110-120, and people wonder if you’re really that good. The Pads weren’t, they finished about 210 out, and 2-3 out of the Wild Card. But you get to mid-September, like the Phils, and lose, I’m sorry, that’s bitter.

      It’s well documented how Gene Mauch went Bunning and Short on 2 days rest. That wasn’t ridiculously out of the mode at that time. Nobody else would have done that, but it wasn’t as ridiculous as it would be looked at today, on a more modern 3 days rest scale. Johnny Callison hit 3 homers in 1 game, and the Phils still lost, 14-8. For years, Art Mahaffey made no secret of his hatred for Mauch for just going Bunning andf Short. People love Carlos Ruiz, but that’s awfully close to another name I wouldn’t dare mention from a certain Friday night during the 10 loss in a row murder.

      Some years later, when Mauch had finished managing the Expos, he took a last shot at winning it all by going to the free spending Angels. I lived in SoCal at the time, 3 miles from a childhood friend in what was 3000 miles away from back in the day.Small world, parlayed with the more things change, the more they stay the same.. In 1986, the Angels were a hair away from eliminating the Red Sox in the ALCS under Mauch, leading by about 4 runs as the top of the 9th gave Boston a last shot. I called my fiend Spec, and didn’t say hello, or “I listen to WFIL”. My opening line rings loud and clear to this day. “It’s getting late, even for Gene Mauch,” I said, planning to discuss our strategy for getting World Series tickets.

      It wasn’t late for Gene Mauch. The Red Sox amplified their then 70ish year old curse by coming back, only to strengtehn The Devils hold on them in the ensuing Series against the Mets. Gene Mauch and Company had found a way to challenge the depth of despair felt in Philadelphia 2 decades prior. If you were a bright eyed youth in Philly, learning slowly how hard life could be with responsibities very limited, you found it hard to believe that the Angels plight could have been worse. But rest assured, they killed the Disneyland spirit of the community. And to think that Mauch managed both ballclubs. Oh, Brother. Compound Black Friday and another loss a year later to the pain in the ass Dodgers, and 4 extra inning games in ’80 against Terry Puhl and Houston, and you understand the exhiliration of the greatness of 1980.

  5. Bruce

    November 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    You’re so right about that Bart. I was very young then (1964) and still can remember how heartbroken I felt. Mauch’s strategy of using only Bunning and Short for the last dozen games of that season is still a painful topic for old timers like myself. Art Mahaffey not being used as starter was a crucial mistake. Of course, it’s hindsight with that thought. That discussion always bring to mind the famous description..”Spahn and Sain and two days of rain for another era (1940’s).

  6. Kate

    November 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    We’ve also got the fourpeat NL East crown and still reigning.

    I don’t think we have it as bad as people did during the seven or eight DECADES between the first WS appearance and the 1980 World Series team.

    Also, the 2010 squad with the best record in the major league?

    As brutal as that NLCS was, it doesn’t compare to DECADES of futility.

    Get some perspective and have a little respect. This squad is the best in franchise history and there’s no reason to think they won’t fivepeat it next year.

    • Ken Bland

      November 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      I think you might have oversimplified this, Kate. While there’s a lot of truth in what you say, losing sucks period, and if you were part of the many decades of losing and your around today, you fell into nature’s trap of feeling you had all the time in the world. Now, when the Phils lose, I wonder how many more chances they will provide for me to witness another ultimate high. Not that I especially care, to be honest. A HUGE monkey came off my back on 10-21-80, and everything since is gravy. But I still hate losing.

  7. Chuck

    November 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    For bullpen consideration, check out these numbers for George Sherrill against lefties.

    Granted, he sucked overall….but used properly as a lefty specialist ….a la Scott Eyre…who knows…

  8. Dan

    November 27, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you R.C. Cowie for this bit of history. I wasn’t alive for Black Friday so it’s neat to see some of it. I think Lopes was out.

    • Ken Bland

      November 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      “I wasn’t alive for Black Friday so it’s neat to see some of it.”

      Wow. I think I just read it was “neat” to relive that. I don’t think so!

      • schmenkman

        November 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        In the same sense that it would be neat to see Vesuvius cover Pompeii, or watch tsunami waves as they wash away coastal communities.

      • Ken Bland

        November 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        Well, so much for me even considering myself anything close to the King of Analogies in Western Civ. Well put!

  9. David

    March 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    That top of the ninth in 1977 was the 10 game losing streak of 1964 compressed in a half-inning.

    • Ryne Duren

      November 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      wow david that was my exact thought of the game back then and now! i remember the 64 collapse like it was yasterday! i was 14 yrs old glued to the radio listening to the games and a few seen on TV! and the black friday game ! well it made me think of 64 just as you said. all wrapped into one half inning. But we got 80 and 08 so i’m happy! but i’m spoiled now i want more!

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