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. 24.
THE DATE: Oct. 14, 1980
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Kansas City Royals, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa.
THE STAKES: Game 1, World Series
THE GREAT: Bake McBride stands in the box, bottom of the third. The Phillies have two on base and are down two after giving up four early runs.
Every day, without fail, you’ll see some piece on the internet about how millennials are entitled. They were given trophies just for showing up, some lazy writer would type, probably reaching back into his past and remembering some soccer banquet back in 1995.
His words help drive public opinion. Soon you’re at some family function, and your uncle is sitting in the recliner, clutching his third Miller Lite in five hours. His eyes are fixed on another rerun of “The King of Queens,” and he’s telling you to get a job.
“But I have a job. I write.”
“Get a real job.” Then he laughs at Kevin James.
And you wonder what entitled felt like back in his day, when Friday nights meant gathering around the new VCR and slipping in the latest purchase from the video store, a movie that he watched nine months before but he forgot all the pertinent plot points.
Entitled must have been some way of seeing those movies faster, like having HBO. “Stop spending time watching TV,” his uncle must have told him. Then the uncle laughed at his favorite radio program.
I think about the first dozen years of my life, when I couldn’t simply sit at a computer – let alone with a mobile phone or tablet – for enjoyment. I watched plenty of morning game shows and Saturday cartoons. I scoured the Inquirer sports page. When the weather was warm enough I’d sit outside and play with action figures, Fleer baseball cards and Lincoln Logs. Later I’d toss a ball against a warehouse wall off a side street in Port Richmond.
We evolve. Kids today have mobile phones and tablets. That’s how they play. It’s not better or worse than what I had, though one can easily argue the physical consequences of staring at a smartphone for hours. The point, to me, is that most of us aren’t necessarily entitled, but we’re taking advantage of the situations handed us. We wouldn’t have cared about the trophies if our parents didn’t demand every kid get a trophy.
I may express jealousy at some kid in 15 years, maybe my own, for having unlimited and cheap access to every baseball game she can absorb. Today the MLB.tv package is still a little expensive, like HBO back in the late-1980s. At some point new platforms will develop. New methods of watching baseball will take hold. We will evolve. Maybe our kids will be able to catch J.P. Crawford’s diving stop at 7:34, Kris Bryant’s 500th home run at 7:39, and Trey Griffey’s highlight-reel catch at 7:43, maybe all on one screen without even pressing a button. They won’t have to wait for MLB Network to break in. They won’t have to switch games. It’ll just happen.
I wonder how some kid in, say, Wyoming, felt in October 1980. She’d get the national Game of the Week telecast, which meant checking in on stars like Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench. But there wasn’t a team local to Wyoming, so televised baseball wasn’t a daily possibility. At least until the postseason.
And thankfully the 1980 World Series had a couple of the game’s most outstanding stars: George Brett of the Royals, and Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt of the Phillies.
Approximately 56 percent of American televisions were watching the 1980 World Series. And Game 6 – the first Phillies championship ever – is the highest-watched baseball game ever. The reasons are relatively simple: 1980 is just years before the rise of cable TV, and the 1981 strike leveled enough of a blow to baseball’s popularity (just before Joe Montana, Magic and Larry and “The Great One” transformed their own sports). For baseball, there will be no peak like 1980.
So imagine that kid in October 1980. For a full week, that kid gets at least four games between the Royals and Phillies, teams dancing on Astroturf with stars in wild blue outfits capable of carrying the games by themselves.
And imagine that kid watching Game 1, where the Phillies, down 4-2 in the third, put two men on base with two outs for Bake McBride.
He stands in the box. Sees a ball. Sees a strike. And then he gets a fastball down the chute.
Seconds later, Veterans Stadium is thumping. The Phillies have a 5-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They’d win 7-6, taking Game 1 of one of baseball’s most thrilling World Series.
We’ve evolved. Some things are a lot easier than they used to be. But imagine seeing magic on that baseball diamond. That magic never changes.