The Phillies’ Ten Greatest Games
October 12, 1980: Wild Beyond Belief
The Phillies won their first-ever world title in 1980, but getting there was far more than just half the battle.
The National League Championship Series had become an exhaustive saga between the Phillies and the Houston Astros, with the second, third and fourth games all decided in extra innings; the fifth and deciding game at the Houston Astrodome would prove no less suspenseful. The pitching matchup seemed almost unfair—with Astro ace Nolan Ryan paired up against the Phillies’ Marty Bystrom, with all of six major league appearances to speak for. But Bystrom held his own in enemy territory against the Ryan Express, losing a 2-1 lead in the sixth on an unearned run that led to his exit. An inning later, the Phillies bullpen imploded—allowing three Houston runs to give Ryan a comfortable 5-2 lead headed into the eighth.
Proving that no team was going to win any game in this series with ease, the Phillies upset the calm of the Astro lead. They loaded the bases off Ryan on three singles—two of them infield hits—and Pete Rose next walked to bring home one run and usher Ryan into the showers. Then it was the Astro bullpen’s turn to go blown save; with two outs, Del Unser stroked a two-run single that tied the game, and Manny Trillo immediately followed up with a two-run triple that gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead. Rebuttal, Houston: The Astros responded with a two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth off closer Tug McGraw, tying the game anew—and sending it into extra innings. At that point, the Phillies wasted no time, using a pair of doubles by Unser and Garry Maddox to tip the lead back in their favor; Dick Ruthven, making his first relief appearance since 1977, pitched his second perfect inning to end yet another overtime masterpiece and send the Phillies packing to their first World Series in 30 years.
October 1, 1950: Averting the Collapse
Philadelphia’s Whiz Kids of 1950, a collection of talent that made up the NL’s youngest, had taken the opposition by storm for much of the regular season and looked ready to clinch the Phillies’ first NL flag in 35 years with ease. But a funny thing happened on the way to the World Series. Actually, it wasn’t very funny to the Phillies, who almost didn’t make it there.
With six games to play, the Phillies led second-place Brooklyn by five games. But they lost the next five, and the Dodgers cut the lead to a single game going into Philadelphia’s final game of the season—at Brooklyn.
With the Philadelphia rotation shattered by injury and Curt Simmons’ sudden draft call from the military, the Phillies had no choice but to go with young ace Robin Roberts—making his third start in five days. After failing to win in his previous three outings, Roberts was still looking for his 20th win of the year. Opposing him was Dodger star hurler Don Newcombe, seeking his 20th win. They both threw well and long enough to earn the victory.
A scoreless game was finally broken in the top of the sixth as the Phillies struck first blood with Willie Jones’ two-out single to bring home Dick Sisler. But the Dodgers quickly evened things a half-frame later in highly bizarre fashion; Pee Wee Reese lofted a fly that hit the right-field screen atop the Ebbets Field scoreboard—and didn’t come down. Per the ground rules, it was declared a home run.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers nearly won the game to force a playoff; the first two batters reached base off Roberts, and Duke Snider next lashed a single to center field. Richie Ashburn, equipped with a weak-throwing arm but fortuitously playing in as part of a potential pick-off play at second, quickly got to the ball and fired home—where a disbelieving Cal Abrams, running from second, was out by a mile. From there, Roberts worked himself out of the jam.
In the tenth, the Phillies struck the fatal blow. Roberts, not even being pinch-hit for, nailed a leadoff single. Eddie Waitkus followed up with another hit. Two batters later, Sisler—the son of Hall-of-Fame legend George Sisler, smashed his fourth hit of the day: A three-run homer that took the wind out of the Dodger sails and wound up the game-winner. George Sisler, the father, was happy for his son; George Sisler, the Dodger executive, was unhappy that his son just knocked his team out of the postseason picture.
October 27-29, 2008: The Longest Delay
The Phillies won their second world title in their 125-year history, but it took a clinching, bizarre Game Five victory that seemed to take just as long.
Against the surprising Tampa Bay Rays, the Phillies had taken three of the first four games and were hoping to ice the title before the series moved back to Florida. The weather was atrocious, with cold rain and gusty winds making play difficult, but Major League Baseball wanted to keep the prime time slotting for the Fall Classic on schedule and ordered the teams to play ball. The Phillies quickly broke the wet ice when Tampa starter Scott Kazmir loaded the bases in the first inning on two walks and a hit batsman and then paid for it as Shane Victorino knocked home two runs with a single. The Rays got one back in the fourth, and then tied it in the sixth with a two-out rally.
By then, the weather worsened even more and the umpires sent the teams off the field. Because the Rays had tied it up, modern rules stipulated that it would become a suspended affair to be completed later; additionally, commissioner Bud Selig—known for occasionally shoving the rulebook in midstream—made an agreement with both teams’ owners before the game that no contest would be decided short of nine innings.
After another lousy day of rain, the two teams reconvened to finish Game Five two days after it had started. Under dryer but colder conditions, the Phillies quickly (well, it was actually 48 hours later) responded in the bottom of the sixth when Jayson Werth’s looping single brought home Geoff Jenkins; after Rocco Baldelli tied the game anew in the seventh, the Phillies grabbed the lead right back (after a seventh-inning stretch that took place barely an inning after the game had restarted) when Pedro Feliz stroked a run-scoring single. The lead held, as Brad Lidge—completing a year in which he compiled 48 saves without once blowing a lead—closed out the Rays in the ninth to end the longest World Series game by elapsed time at 49 ½ hours.
October 6, 2010: Happy Halladay
The Phillies wanted Roy Halladay to help them win in the playoffs. Halladay wanted to come to Philadelphia just to have the chance to be in the playoffs. Finally getting his first postseason assignment in his 13th major league season—his first with the Phillies—Halladay certainly made the most of it.
In Game One of the NLDS against Cincinnati, the Phillies’ offense jumped on opposing starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, who appeared visibly nervous and out of sorts throwing in his first postseason game; before he was replaced in the second, he had given up four runs on four hits and two walks. The early 4-0 Phillies lead was plenty enough for Halladay to take from there, especially on this afternoon. He dominated with a deadly combination of fastballs and curves, giving the Reds—a good-hitting team featuring NL MVP Joey Votto—no chance to build up any count to their liking, let alone put any ball firmly into play. Jay Bruce became the Reds’ first baserunner on the day when he walked on a full count with two outs in the fifth.
After that, Halladay shut the door back down on the Reds—and kept it shut, as Cincinnati failed to make any trouble for the Phillies' fielders. The toughest play of the day may have come on the very last out, when Brandon Phillips’ swinging bunt was grabbed by catcher Carlos Ruiz (sliding on one knee) while barely avoiding Phillips’ discarded bat, and threw strongly in time for the out to finish baseball’s second no-hitter in postseason history. Halladay’s no-no was his second of the year (after a perfect game earlier in the season); he threw 104 pitches, 79 of them for strikes.
October 21, 1980: Finally, Philly
The Phillies entered the 1980 season never having won a World Series, and their fans weren’t going to believe a championship until they saw it with their very eyes. After countless disappointments in previous years (the infamous 1964 collapse down the stretch, three straight NLCS losses in the mid-1970s), there was ample reason for that.
Against Kansas City in Game Six, the Phillies simply needed a win to grab the trophy, but nothing had come easy; in ten previous postseason games on the season, five of them had gone extra innings, only one game had been decided by as much as three runs and the Phillies had trailed at some point in every one of them. So when the Phillies ran out to a 4-0 lead after six innings, there was an unsettled comfort among the Veterans Stadium crowd of 66,000 that sensed triumph around the corner, but also the possibility that it could all fall apart as it had so often before. Steve Carlton, who six days earlier had defeated the Royals in Game Two on 159 pitches, stayed strong for seven shutout innings before wilting in the eighth as the Royals loaded the bases. Closer Tug McGraw came in and put out the fire, but not before the suspense of watching the Royals nab one run and leaving two men in scoring position.
In the ninth, McGraw, the Phillies and their mortal psyche were tested again. Kansas City loaded the bases once more on a walk and two singles. Frank White next shot a pop fly near the first base dugout, and catcher Bob Boone never seemed to have a comfortable bead on it. When the ball came into—and out of—his glove, there was a momentary moment of mortification felt by Phillies players and fans, except for one Pete Rose—the Philadelphia first baseman who came alongside Boone and caught the carom. At that point, fate seemed to finally smile on the Phillies, and when Willie Wilson next struck out, it was finally official: The Phillies were world champions.
September 27, 1964: The Collapse
The Phillies could taste the NL pennant; they were 6.5 games in first place with 12 to play, and were coming home to a seven-game homestand all but convinced that the flag was theirs. So did Sports Illustrated, which photographed Phillies ace Jim Bunning for a cover of their World Series preview edition. So did the NL, which gave the Phillies permission to print tickets for the Fall Classic.
But it all fell apart, and fast. The Phillies lost the first six games of the homestand, five of them by two runs or less. Their offense was sputtering and a virtual two-man rotation of Bunning and Chris Short—frantically used and reused by panicking manager Gene Mauch—had grown exhausted. For their final game of the stand against the Milwaukee Braves, Mauch went again to Bunning—making his fifth start in just 15 days. A Phillies loss would cause them to fall from first place, something that would have been unthinkable just a week earlier.
Bunning was shaky to start, allowing two first-inning runs, but appeared to settle in. Better than that, the Philadelphia offense finally appeared to awaken—scoring one in the first and two in the second off Milwaukee starter Tony Cloninger to take a 3-2 lead. But the tenuous lead went bye-bye in the fourth and fifth innings. The first four Brave batters safely reached to start the third, and when Cloninger himself singled to become the fifth, Mauch knew that he couldn’t depend any longer on Bunning for the day. The bullpen took over and proved no better, allowing three more tallies in the fourth inning and four in the fifth to propel the Braves to a 12-3 lead. The Phillies tried to power back in vain, with Johnny Callison homering in each of his last three at-bats, but the early damage on Bunning and the 22 total hits by the Braves proved too much. The Phillies lost the game, 14-8, and the NL lead; they never got it back, completing one of baseball’s most memorable late-season collapses.
September 29, 1915: Alex-cellent
The very first pennant in Phillies history—32 years after the team’s birth—was finally clinched thanks to the two men who almost double-handedly brought the team there: Prodigious ace Pete Alexander and deadball era slugger Gavvy Cravath.
In Boston taking on the defending NL champion Braves, the Phillies got off to a quick start thanks to Cravath, who launched a three-run, first-inning homer in a season in which he’d hit 24—the most by any player in the century prior to Babe Ruth. From there, Alexander took the game under his control. Former Phillies star Sherry Magee nailed a single in the fourth inning, but that would be the only hit of the day against Alexander. Two other baserunners reached for Boston—one by a walk and another thanks to an error—but otherwise the Braves were shut down by Alexander, who won his 31st game, recorded his 12th shutout and lowered his ERA to a season-ending (and career-best) 1.22. He even joined in at the plate with a double, his fourth extra-base hit of the year.
Although he never would pitch a no-hitter throughout his illustrious career, Alexander’s one-hitter was one of four he would throw in 1915.
August 8, 1903: Tragedy at Baker Bowl
The Phillies were in the throes of one of their worst years to date in 1903, but that all became secondary on a midsummer’s day turned tragic at Baker Bowl, the team’s home of eight years and said to be, at the time, one of the more modern ballparks in the majors.
After losing the first game of a doubleheader to the Boston Beaneaters (Braves), 5-4, the Phillies were leading 6-5 in the second game when a commotion took place behind the left-field bleachers. Outside the ballpark on the street, a scuffle of some sort had broken out; fans rushed over to an overhang pieced together by rotting wood behind the seats to get a better look. Some 500 fans had assembled when it gave away, crashing 20 feet to the street below in what a local newspaper would later describe as a sight “never to be forgotten.” The collapse made such a noise that the remainder of the 10,000 in attendance, in a possible panic, invaded the field as the game was halted. After the confusion and shock had worn off, the game was called and authorities tended to the numerous casualties. Estimates vary, but the final toll often repeated is 12 dead with nearly 300 wounded. It was the worst loss of life associated when any major league game.
Phillies ownership was cleared of any criminal neglect in the accident and the team was forced to take nearly two weeks off after the incident, though unusually stubborn summer rain had as much to do with it as an untrustworthy ballpark. When the Phillies did return to action, they played the remainder of their home games at Columbia Park, home of the A’s, and were forced to cram in 17 doubleheaders over the season’s final seven weeks to make up for lost time; they returned a year later to Baker Bowl, which would suffer a few more structural failures (though none nearly as tragic) through its 44-year run as home of the Phillies.
October 11, 1993: Bailing Out the Wild Thing
Having done well to tie the NLCS at two games apiece against a red-hot Atlanta side, the Phillies for Game Five brought back to the mound Curt Schilling—who pitched solidly in the Phillies’ ten-inning, 4-3 Game One win, but did not earn the victory as closer Mitch Williams blew his lead in the ninth. It was about to be déjà vu all over again.
The Phillies tallied for single runs in the first, fourth and ninth innings. Meanwhile, Schilling was brilliant; after surviving a first-inning Atlanta rally that yielded no runs for the Braves, he clamped down and kept the 104-game winners scoreless through eight. But in the ninth, he ran into quick trouble when he walked Jeff Blauser, followed by an error by back-up third baseman Kim Batiste that put Ron Gant on base. Manager Jim Fregosi pulled Schilling for Williams, whose flamethrowing acrobatics had given rise to the nickname “Wild Thing.” Wild he wasn’t on this day; hittable he was. Three of the first four Atlanta hitters he faced all singled, and the Braves collected three runs to tie the game. An incredulous Schilling, hiding his face under a towel as Atlanta rallied because he couldn’t bear to see it, fumed.
As in Game One, Williams would be rescued by his mates—or more pointedly, Lenny Dykstra, continuing his career season with a one-out solo homer in the tenth. Larry Andersen, the once-and-current Phillie who was a member of the team that took its previous pennant in 1983, pitched a perfect bottom of the tenth to seal the Phillies’ 4-3 win—and give them a crucial 3-2 game lead in a series they would win in six.
April 17, 1976: Holy Schmidt!
When the wind blows out at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, it blows out. Such conditions make mile-high Coors Field in Denver look like a pitcher’s paradise by comparison. So it was one of those days in Chicago when the Phillies showed up for what would be an orgy of offense—and a showcase for Philadelphia star third baseman Mike Schmidt.
Under normal circumstances, a matchup between Phillies ace Steve Carlton and emerging Cub star Rick Reuschel called for a pitching duel, but neither had any chance against the jet stream roaring straight at them. Carlton was gone almost immediately, allowing seven runs on seven hits (two of them home runs) before being chased to the showers in the second inning. The bullpen did no better, and by the end of four innings the Phillies trailed, 13-2.
That’s when Schmidt sprang into action. He hit a two-run homer in the fifth. He then connected for a three-run shot in the seventh, finally knocking Reuschel out of the game. An inning later with two outs, he drilled a three-run blast to cap a five-run rally that pulled the Phillies back to within a single run of the Cubs, trailing 13-12. Inspired, Schmidt’s teammates kept the splurge going in the ninth, notching three runs to take the lead. After the Cubs rebounded to tie the game at 15-15 in the bottom of the ninth, Schmidt appeared again and homered for the fourth time off Paul Reuschel—Rick’s brother—giving him eight RBIs on the day. Ahead 18-15, the Phillies withstood one more Cub uprising that netted a run and prevailed 18-16, tying the NL record for the biggest comeback in one game. Schmidt’s four-homer performance, meanwhile, was the eighth of the century.
Philadelphia Phillies Team History: Year-by year records, statistics and an oral history of the Phillies, decade by decade.
The Phillies' Ten Greatest Hitters: A list of the ten greatest hitters based on their productivity and efficiency.
The Phillies' Ten Greatest Pitchers: A list of the ten greatest pitchers based on their productivity and efficiency.
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