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. 27.
THE DATE: Oct. 19, 1980
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Kansas City Royals, Royals Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
THE STAKES: Game 5, World Series
THE GREAT: The Phillies opened the 1980 World Series by winning two hotly contested games – both of which featured at least one lead change before concluding – against the Kansas City Royals. By Game 5, though, the series was tied, and the Phillies risked allowing the series to slip away from them. The Royals were the superior team in the regular season, winning six more games than the Phils, and winning Game 5 would have given them a very dangerous series lead and put them one win away from a world championship.
Fortunately, the Phillies had Mike Schmidt, an all-time great who wasn’t outmatched by many pitchers, regardless of the record of their team. With the game scoreless in the fourth inning, the National League Most Valuable Player launched a two-run bomb off Larry Gura to give the Phillies an early lead and their first glimpse of the possibility of heading back to Philly with a series lead.
The real work came late in the game, with the Phillies trailing by a run in the ninth inning. Three outs from being down in the series, Schmidt again reached base, this time with a single. He scored when Del Unser roped a double down the right field line to tie the game. Unser moved over to third when the next batter bunted but, an out later, the Royals looked primed to escape the threat with the score still tied. A single from Manny Trillo changed that, scoring Unser and giving the Phillies the decisive 4-3 lead.
Tug McGraw came in for the save which, despite Tug notching 20 saves in the regular season, did not come easily. Three walks in the inning loaded the bases, putting the tying win 90 feet away and the winning run a base behind him. With no room for error, McGraw reared back and got the last out himself, striking out Jose Cardenal swinging.
It took more grinding than the Phillies would have liked, but the result was a key win and the arguable turning point in the series.
Philadelphia is a city that prides itself on its grit and perseverance, qualities few teams can win a championship without. While the Phillies were the last of the original American and National League franchises to win a World Series and were still a win away from doing so even after taking Game 5 from the Royals, they showed themselves as having plucky determination and a very Philadelphian willingness to earn their achievements, even if it means having to fight for them.