Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 44.
THE DATE: Oct. 15, 1980
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Kansas City Royals, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa.
THE STAKES: Game 2 of the World Series
THE GREAT: In 1950 the Phillies were the Whiz Kids. In 1983 they were the Wheez Kids. But in 1980, you had the Cardiac Kids.
As you’ll see on this countdown, few teams introduced heart palpitations quite like the 1980 world champion Phillies. They had a knack for surging back late in games to take tenuous leads, only to put fans on the edges of their yellow, orange, brown, tan and red seats as Tug McGraw tried every tool in his arsenal to finish the game successfully.
Game 2 of the 1980 World Series was no different. After holding on for a win in Game 1, the Phils sent ace Steve Carlton onto the mound to face the Royals’ top pitcher, Larry Gura. And it started as a typical Carlton evening at Veterans Stadium – through five he had struck out seven and wiggled out of danger with timely double plays. Then the Phillies broke through in the bottom of the fifth, as Manny Trillo sacrificed Keith Moreland and Larry Bowa singled home Garry Maddox. Up 2-0, it seemed Carlton could coast to a 2-0 Phillies series lead.
But the wheels started coming off right away. Carlton surrendered a leadoff single to Amos Otis in the sixth, then walked Joe Wathan. Willie Aikens seemed to give “Lefty” another gift with a grounder to second, but Trillo threw the ball away trying to start the double play, allowing Otis to score. Carlton recovered, striking out Jose Cardenal and getting Frank White to hit into the double play.
Carlton had thrown 104 pitches at that point, and while he went deep into games all the time, the patient and pesky Royals were a different breed than most National League clubs. They came at Carlton hard in the seventh. Willie Wilson drew a leadoff walk, and after a sacrifice to second, stole third. Carlton followed that up by walking Dave Chalk, who promptly stole second. At that point “Lefty” should’ve been pulled. He wasn’t. He walked Hal McRae, loading the bags for Otis.
And Otis unloaded. A liner down the left field line scored two and put runners on second and third. Then Wathan smacked a fly to center field, which would score McRae. But Pete Rose wisely cut the ball off and tossed it to third, stopping Otis from advancing. The damage was done: 4-2 Royals heading into seventh, and Kansas City relief ace Dan Quisenberry heading to the mound.
At this point it was already a great game, with outstanding early pitching, timely hitting and a big inning from Kansas City. But it got better.
Quisenberry wasn’t the most feared reliever in the American League in 1980, but he got by on guile. Playing in nearly half of the Royals’ games, the 27-year-old used his submarine delivery style to confuse hitters, making most of them ground out awkwardly. And because he wasn’t a power pitcher, he could throw tons of innings, racking up 128 in 1980. Once the seventh began, it was clear the Phils had to figure out how to be Quisenberry, because there was no other option.
It started exactly how you’d expect. Maddox, Trillo and Bowa each grounded out, giving every Royal infielder an equal opportunity to work.
But the eighth was different. Bob Boone put together one of the finest Phillies at bats you’d ever see, denying Quisenberry his low-and-inside pitch and walking to lead off the inning. Pinch hitter du jour Del Unser stepped in next, found his pitch, and laced a double into the left field power alley, scoring Boone. Two batters later, Bake McBride smacked a Baltimore chop single to score Unser, tying the score at 4.
Then came Mike Schmidt. Smelling blood, the best player in baseball pounced on a Quisenberry pitch and slammed it to deep right. It just missed going over, but it was enough to score McBride. Schmidt then scored on a Moreland single, making it 6-4 Phils and giving the Phils bullpen a chance to finish it off.
This time it wasn’t McGraw; instead, Ron Reed pitched the ninth, struck out two Royals, and cemented a 2-0 series lead.
Funny, Carlton got the win. Since he was the ace, and undoubtedly baseball’s best pitcher, “Lefty” came back out for the eighth, and despite surrendering consecutive singles, got out of trouble. His line wasn’t pretty (8 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 10 K, 6 BB) but it did the job.
Meanwhile the Royals’ best player, American League MVP George Brett, left the game in the sixth. Why? His hemorrhoids became too severe.
Just imagine *this* game happening in the age of social media.