As good as Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt had been in the 1970s, some Philly fans still considered him an underachiever by the 1980 baseball season. Although he had taken three consecutive National League home run crowns and traveled to the playoffs three times, he had not claimed an MVP or a league pennant.
The 1980 baseball season proved to be a different kind of year for the 31-year-old Schmidt. He set career-highs with 48 homers and 121 RBI, won the MVP Award, and led the Phillies to a win in the 1980 World Series.
Managed by Dallas Green, the Phillies were a veteran club strong up the middle. Their pitchers included Cy Young-winner Steve Carlton (24-9), Dick Ruthven (17-10), and Tug McGraw (20 saves). The Phillies beat the Expos in the penultimate game of the season, on Schmidt's two-run homer in the top of the 11th, to clinch the division crown.
But that race wasn't half as exciting as the National League West dogfight. The Dodgers beat the Astros in the season's last three games to force a one-game playoff between the two teams. Houston won the playoff 7-1, and went to its first postseason series.
A tragedy kept the Astros' celebration in check, however. Their great hurler, the 6' 8" J.R. Richard, suffered a near-fatal stroke in July. Although he returned to health, he never pitched in the majors again.
In the American League East, the Yankees took the division under manager Dick Howser. The Yanks got great years out of Reggie Jackson, who hit .300 with 41 homers and 111 RBI; catcher Rick Cerone, who batted .277 with 85 RBI; and Tommy John, who won 22 games. The Orioles, winners of 100 games, came in a close second.
The most spectacular player of the year was MVP George Brett, who batted .390 and had 118 RBI in 117 games. The Royals had plenty of other talent as well; Willie Wilson stole 79 bases and Willie Aikens powered 20 home runs and 98 RBI. Dennis Leonard led the staff with 20 wins and Larry Gura added 18. Rickey Henderson's 100 stolen bases were not enough for the A's, who finished in second place, 14 games behind Kansas City.
The National League playoffs provided drama, as the last four games went into extra innings. In game three, Houston's Denny Walling drove home Joe Morgan with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th to break a scoreless tie.
In game four, tenth-inning hits from Philadelphia's Pete Rose, Greg Luzinski, and Manny Trillo gave Philly a 5-3 win. And in game five, Philly overcame a three-run deficit to send the game into extra frames. Garry Maddox's double in the tenth drove home Del Unser to give the Phils their first pennant in 30 years.
There was a surprise finish in the American League. The Royals, who had lost to the Yanks three straight times in the playoffs, swept the Bombers. Royals second baseman Frank White spearheaded tournament hitters, racking up a .545 average and three RBI.
In the 1980 World Series, the Phils utilized their strengths, namely Schmidt and Carlton. Schmidt hit .381 and had seven RBI; Carlton won two games with a 2.40 ERA.
The moment that will always be remembered, however, came in the ninth inning of game six. A popup squirted out of the mitt of Philly catcher Bob Boone, and Rose -- the 39-year-old "Charlie Hustle" -- charged over to grab the ricochet. McGraw then struck out Wilson to give the Phillies their first-ever World Championship.
Find headlines and summaries of the big stories from the 1980 baseball season on the next page.
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