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.