Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keeping Score: 1980 World Series Game 6

The 2011 season starts today (tomorrow if you are a Phillies fan), so I wanted to wrap up this 1980 championship "keeping score" series. It's been fun re-watching these games 30+ years later. Even though I was only a high school freshman when it actually happened, I can still remember what I was doing and how I was feeling during this magical time.

When the modern-day World Series began in 1903, the National and American Leagues each had eight teams. With their victory in the 1980 World Series, the Phillies became the last of the "Original Sixteen" franchises to win a Series (although it should be noted that the St. Louis Browns never won a Series in St. Louis, having to wait until 1966, twelve years after they had become the Baltimore Orioles).

If you ask a Phillies fan what he/she remembers most about Game 6 of the 1980 World Series, more than 90% of them will tell you something about Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson to clinch the title. However, after watching and scoring this game the real story of the game was Steve Carlton. Unlike his performance in Game #2 (where he struggled with his control and threw almost 160 pitches), Lefty was in complete control of this game until Dallas Green for some reason decided to take him out in the 8th inning. He had a shutout going, had only given up 2 hits, was barely over 100 pitches, and was facing his first real challenge when the Royals got the first two batters on in the 8th. Dallas was clearly nervous about blowing the lead and went immediately to Tug McGraw for the last 6 outs of the series. Tug was not nearly as sharp as Carlton and had to face the game tying or winning runs a couple of times.

This game was much different than every other game between these two teams. For the first time all series, the Phillies didn't have to battle back when they took an early lead as Mike Schmidt drove in both Bob Boone and Lonnie Smith with a clutch single to right center field in the 3rd inning of of Royals starter Rich Gale. Those two runs proved to be all the Phillies needed although they added single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a comfortable 4-0 lead.

One of the most spectacular plays you will ever see happened in the bottom of the 9th. After one out, the pesky Royals had once again loaded the bases on Tug McGraw. Facing Frank White, Tug was clearly tired. He got White to pop the ball into foul territory in front of the Phillies dugout. Bob Boone looked like he had it all the way, but the ball popped out of his glove. For a split second, the pain and agony of the 1976 sweep by the Reds and the 1977 & 1978 playoff losses to the Dodgers jumped into my heart and head, but Pete Rose was in place to grab the ball before it hit the turf. Instead of a groin kick, there were two outs and Tug had the slumping Willie Wilson to face. No one single moment in Pete Rose's incredible baseball career defines him more. He hustled to get into to the ball, just in case, and saved the series for the Phillies.

Of course Tug struck out Willie Wilson, turned and waited (as they discussed before the game) for Mike Schmidt to hug and jump on him, and the Phillies dog-piled themselves into an entire generation of fans.

Royals Game 6 scorecard

Phillies Game 6 scorecard

World Champs!


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