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. 21.
THE DATE: Oct. 10, 1981
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Montreal Expos, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
THE STAKES: Game 4, National League Division Series
THE GREAT: As a Phillies fan, there are certain Harry Kalas calls that stick in your mind. You have Michael Jack Schmidt’s 500th home run …
… Chase “The Man” Utley …
… and, of course, HK’s 2008 World Series call.
George Vukovich’s walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 1981 NLDS is another one of those classic Harry moments.
Now, I must admit. I was still a decade away from being born but Vukovich’s homer – and Kalas’ call – is a part of my Phillies fan DNA. I don’t remember when I first heard it or who first told me about the classic game. It was just something you knew as a Phillies fan.
The Phillies had high expectations in 1981 after winning the World Series the year before and staked out to an early National League East lead. Lucky they did – the mid-season strike split the season in half, and the first-half division champs would play the second-half champs in a special division series, the first of its kind. That made the Phils’ opponent the rival Montreal Expos, and they found themselves on the brink of elimination in Game 4. After losing the first two games on the road, the Phils won Game 3 in Philly and were hoping to extend the series to five games when Dickie Noles took the mound in Game 4.
Schmidt gave the Phils an early lead with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Phils extended their lead in the third to 4-0. Slowly, Montreal started to climb back, adding a run in both the fourth and the fifth and tying the game at four in the top of the sixth. Gary Matthews hit a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth to break the tie but it didn’t last long. Gary Carter tied the game at five the next inning with a double to center.
There are few things in life that are more stressful than extra innings in an elimination game. That’s where the Phils found themselves after failing to score off of Jeff Reardon in the eighth and ninth. Tug McGraw threw two scoreless innings to send the Phillies to the bottom of the 10th still tied at five.
Reardon had been lights out since being traded from the Mets midway through the season, but in the 10th he was gassed. Dallas Green called on Vukovich to pinch hit for Tugger. Let HK tell you the rest …