Yes, Phillie phanatics, it's true. Steve Carlton vs Curt Schilling. Nails and the Bull in the opposing dugouts. Mike Schmidt facing Mitch Williams or John Kruk waging battle with Tug McGraw. Through the magic of webcast, and with the simulated broadcast of Jacob Abaroa-Peters ready to fill the airways with the pitch-by-pitch account of this game, Phil's fans can sit back and enjoy quiet reflections on some of their favorite players from these teams while causing even more debate about which of these two teams was more talented.
The game is scheduled for 8:05 Eastern Time on Friday, February 11 and can be heard on www.whatifsports.com. This is but one of an ongoing series that eventually will pit some of the greatest baseball teams of all time head to head in a one game series. The winner will move on and the loser is eliminated. For Phils fandom, looking to ease post Super Bowl blues, and with spring training a
week away, it might be a good way to prepare for what promises to be a
fascinating, if as yet unsettling season for our heroes.
Of course, left unanswered is the question of just which Phillie team is the greatest of all-time? It says here that the 1977 team was the most talented Quaker team ever, left in the dust by a ten-minute nightmare known as Black Friday. To this day, Phillie fans still insist that but for a managerial mishap and an umpire's bad call, that team, and not the '80 squad would have been the first to celebrate a World Series victory on the pitcher's mound at Veteran's Stadium.
Yet, those are discussions left for another day...what is open for debate now is just which of these two opponents, the '80 club of Rose and Bowa or the '93 group of Hollins and Inky was the better team, and which club would be favored in a head to head dual? Ahhh, and with power of the pen, and with no preconceived idea of how it will turn out, allow me to speculate on just what might transpire through the airwaves this magical aand memorable evening.
A quick overview of the clubs is certainly in order, if for no other reason than time often fades the mind and many young Phil's fans might not quite remember our World Series Champions of 1980. So, without further delay, allow me to turn back the clock and follow Longfellow and I on a walk down "memory lane."
As with a love that may not have seemed as lasting while it was alive, the 1980 team was not nearly as endearing during that season. From battles with manager Dallas Green to newspaper reports of rampant player amphetamine use, most of the '80 season was a roller coast of underacheivement and disappointment. Oh, there were more than a fair share of standouts.
Certainly Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton did their parts with Schmidty's 48 HR, 121 RBI and Silent Steve's 24-9 records culminating in MVP and Cy Young awards. Right fielder Bake McBride played well and hit .309 with 87 RBI. Tug McGraw was brilliant during the pennant push from mid-August on and finished with a 1.47 ERA and 20 saves.
However, it was Rose and the Rookies who most saved the day. Yes, ever present Pete Rose and his winning attitude kept the ship afloat when all seemed lost, and no less than four rookies made their presence felt. Lonnie Smith was electrifying as a part time outfielder/leadoff hitter with a .339 average and 69 runs scored in only 100 games. Back up catcher Keith Moreland also hit over .300 and came through with several clutch hits.
Two rookie hurlers made their mark, Bob Walk early and Marty Bystrom late. Called up after a rash of pitching injuries in May, Walk parlayed a regular spot in the rotation to an 11-7 record, and a win in World Series game 1. Bystrom was the darling of September, with a stunning 5-0 record and 1.50 ERA. Ironically, Bystrom seemed the more talented of the two yet it was Walk whose career shown brighter. However, for one brief shining moment, Bystrom's presence made all the difference.
Longfellow felt that time would steal our years away, and if this be the case, Bowa, Boone, Luzinski and Maddox felt the pinch that season. None of the four played with their former brilliance, though all came through mightily down the stretch. Luzinski in particular was merely a shadow of his former skills, and finished with just 19 home runs and 56 RBI. Boone hit .229 while Bowa struggled at .267. Even the normally consistent Garry Maddox hit but .259.
In fact, it was these struggles that lead to an almost team wide revolt after a critical four game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates in early August left the phloundering Phils 6 games out at 55-52. Manager Green almost came to blows with a few players in a clubhouse tirade that is still discussed in the late night hours. Clearly, the Phils had reached that mysterious Y in the road, and had to choose which path to take. Happily, they chose wisely, though the road was still paved with potholes.
If ever synchronicity played a role in a team's fortunes it was true with this club. For on two otherwise dissimilar 15 inning games against the Chicago Cubs, separated by over one month, Phillie wins saved the season. The first came the day after the Green explosion, when McGraw retired a Cub batter with the winning run on third in the 9th. The game finished the next day, with a three-run rally in the fifteenth and the Phils went on to win eight of their next ten to climb back into the race.
Still, on the evening of September 29, the team appeared once again on the edge of the precipice as they entered the bottom of the fifteenth inning, trailing 5-3. Almost certainly, a loss would have finished this team off with but five games to play, but two walks, and clutch two out hits by Maddox, Moreland and Trillo gave the Phils an exhilarating 6-5 win. Many former Phils still think this was the night a pennant lost became a pennant won.
The rest...as they say, is history. A division clinching win north of the border in Montreal, a pennant clinching under the Dome in Houston and a World Series clinching triumph in Philadelphia. Of this, heroes, and memories are made. And for this, we still chant with reverence the names Schmidt, Carlton, McGraw, Ruthven and Rose.
No team could have been more different to that bunch than the 1993 Phillies. If the '80 club was tight, the '93 club oozzed loose. While the '80 team always seemed near collapse, the '93 team emitted confidence and cool. Even their seasons were dissimilar. The '80 group seemed to run on three cylinders for most of the campaign while the '93 squad was a souped up Chevy Corvette.
Arguably, no less than eight players had career seasons in 1993 and it showed. No less than seven players hit over ten home runs and three players scored over 100 runs each. Dykstra was healthy and efficient that season and parlayed a 161 game season into a staggering 143 runs scored. He also had time to hit 19 home runs, and steal 37 bases.
Certainly, John Kruk, Dave Hollins and Darren Daulton were on everyone's list of most thundering 3-4-5 hitters that year with a combined total of 56 home runs and 283 RBI. Mariano Duncan was a part time infielder who still had time to hit 11 home runs and knock in 73 runs. When rookie shortstop Kevin Stocker arrived in early July, the Phils only weakness suddenly disappeared. His .324 average led the club and his glove stabilized the defense.
Truth be told, this team never struggled until the World Series. Oh, there was an uneasy moment in Montreal in mid-September when the Expos were trying to make a race of it, five games out and counting. Yet when reliever Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams ended a Saturday night game with the tying run hugging third, that 5-4 win assured a most enjoyable victory lap.
As well as this team hit, they pitched almost as well. Five starters, led by Curt Schilling and Tommy Greene with 16 wins each, won in double figures, and the bullpen was stout and sturdy. Williams saved 43 games before his meltdown in the World Series, and ageless Larry Anderson and lefty David West were a welcome bridge from the starters to Williams.
In all, this team finished 97-65 as opposed to the 1980 squad and their 91-71 mark. Both teams won exciting playoff series over the Astros and Braves, respectively. Yet, the lasting memories of both clubs involve lefty relievers and their final real meaningful pitches as Phillies. For while McGraw forever made himself part of Philadelphia sports folklore with a strikeout of Willie Wilson to end the 1980 World Series, Williams was almost literally run out of town after his final pitch ended up in the Toronto left field seats, compliments of Joe Carter.
Two teams, one city. Two teams, one era. Two teams, one winner. Two teams, one loser. Yet, who might prevail in a head to head tussle? Which team would be the probable winner in a seven game series? It says here that in a seven game series, the 1993 team's depth would prevail. It might go seven, but that '93 club would eventually wear down an '80 staff that basically finished with Carlton, Ruthven, Bystrom and McGraw.
With Schilling, Green, and lefties Terry Mulholland and Danny Jackson, the longer the series the greater the advantage would swing to the '93 wrecking crew. And that '93 club was smart and industrious, and unlike the Royals, they would have never pitched to Mike Schmidt in key situations. They would have figured that without Schmidt leading the way, a group of Dykstra, Duncan, Kruk, Hollins, Daulton, Incaviglia, Eisenreich and Chamberlain would have won the day.
Yet, tonight's broadcast is one game only...Carlton vs Schilling. It will be a winner take all game, and with this as the proposition, the tide might change. In one game, with Carlton on the hill, that 1980 club was capable of beating anyone...and they did! It says here that the lineups will be...Rose, McBride, Schmidt, Luzinski, Maddox, Trillo, Boone, Bowa and Carlton for the 1980 group.
This was the lineup that Green used during the pennant push and playoff race when facing a strong right hander like Schilling. Expect the bench of Smith, Moreland, and pinch-hitters Del Unser and Gregg Gross to make an appearance and McGraw and Reed are the probably relievers of choice.
For the 1993 squad, facing a lefty like “Lefty”, they would have served up Dykstra, Duncan, Kruk, Hollins, Daulton, Incaviglia, Chamberlain, Stocker and Schilling. Lefty hitters Dykstra, Kruk and Daulton were equally effective against southpaws and their presence actually would take away Carlton's wonderful slider in the dirt. Switch-hitters Hollins and Stocker hit lefties better than righties so they might have enjoyed facing Super Steve.
Few teams in Phillie history had a deeper bench than did the '93 crew so if this club gets ahead, watch for Milt Thompson to move to left, Eisenreich to take over in right, and Mickey Morandini to sub at second. They were also fine southpaw bats and always played against right-handers like Ruthven or Reed. Less likely to play, but still dangerous were bench players Ricky Jordan and Todd Pratt. Both contributed sporadically for this club.
Now...peering into my crystal ball, here is what might just happen! With Carlton and Schilling both in big game form, the score should be low and close. Let's say 2-2 after 7 innings. While Rose will no doubt be a factor, and Schmidt should be in the equation, look for the "little" hitters like Bowa, McBride and Trillo to have the most success against Schill. The 1980 version of Greg Luzinski would probably have been overmatched and is unlikely to make a statement tonight.
On the other side, expect Dykstra and Kruk to be in the middle of the action all night. Hollins was always effective against lefties like Carlton, and Stocker might be a factor also. Less likely will be the free swingers like Duncan, Chamberlain and Daulton.
Expect relievers to take over in the eighth inning, and when the '80 champs score a run in the top of the eighth to take a 3-2 lead against Anderson or West, they turn the ball over to Ron Reed. Led by Dykstra, the '93 team ties the game, and leaves the lead runs at the corners. So, with a 3-3 game entering the ninth, we turn the game over to those wild and crazy lefties, Williams and McGraw.
True to historic form, Williams walks a few, strikes out a few, but surrenders a hit to a righty like Rose, Trillo or Smith which plates the fourth and eventual winning run. Of course, no 1980 win would be replete without a McGraw heartburn so expect the bottom of the ninth theatrics to get exciting.
Certainly, at least one and probably two runners will get on base, at least one via the walk, but in the end, McGraw will strike out one of the '93 squads most feared middle of the order hitters and preserve a scintillating and most apropos 4-3 win. Bragging rights for the 1980 squad once again, as they have continued to have ever since their first and only Philadelphia Phillies World Series triumph.
Phewww...there you have it! Now all that is left is to sit back, enjoy the game, and see just how wrong this writer can be! After all, no matter how the game turns out, one of our favorites will win while the other will lose. And in the end, isn't that how we began? With a walk down Longfellow's "Memory" lane...where "half our joys renew."
Tune in at 8:05 Eastern Time on Friday February 11th for the battle of Philly’s best on a live webcast.
Columnist's Note: Please send all comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond. Thank you! CD from the Left Coast