Kansas City Star - October 23, 1980
Triumph over Yanks to stand out
By Joe McGuff, Sports Editor
When the sun rose Wednesday morning over Philadelphia, Independence Hall still was standing and the statue of William Penn was in its proper place atop City Hall Tower. Even so, it was apparent Philadelphia never again would be quite the same.
For the first time in history, the Phillies were the champions of professional baseball. Philadelphia’s most chronic loser had become a winner. Uncharacteristically, the Phillies had won by scratching and scuffling and gaining one clutch victory after another.
They won two games in Montreal at the end of the season, clinching the National League East. They defeated Houston for the National League championship in the most exciting series of games since the inception of the playoffs. And they defeated the Royals in a World Series in which the final two games ended on strikeouts with the bases loaded.
The Phillies are not a team for the ages, but in 1980 they did whatever was necessary to win. Each victory seemed to reinforce their belief that 1980 was to be their year.
Despite the Phillies' accomplishments and their toughness under pressure, the Royals always will believe the 1980 World Series is one they should have won. The Royals, who handled themselves with great class through their first World Series, spoke warmly of the Phillies following the final game, but there is little question the Royals still believe they are the best team.
Why then did they lose?
There were many reasons. Willie Wilson and Frank White were a combined 6-for-51 in the World Series after going 11 for 23 against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Royals had leads in each of the first three games they lost and couldn’t hold them. They made some costly mistakes on the field and Jim Frey also made some controversial managerial decisions in the fifth game. The Royals had chances to tie or win the fifth and sixth games in the ninth inning but were unable to take advantage of them.
And yes, the Royals had some bad breaks, but in the end they just didn't do enough of the things a championship team has to do. The Phillies were more combat ready for the Series than the Royals, who had won easily in the American League West and then swept the Yankees.
Games one and five were decisive.
The first game should have been the Royals’ percentage game in the Series. Their pitching staff was rested, and they started their leading winner Dennis Leonard. The Phillies’ pitching was exhausted, and they started a rookie Bob Walk. The Royals took a 4-0 lead in the third and might have had an even bigger inning, but Darrell Porter was thrown out at the plate for the third out.
Walk settled down after that the Phillies knocked out Leonard in the fourth and went on to win 7-6.
Although the Royals dug a deep hole by losing the first two games, they climbed out by winning the third and fourth. They played their best baseball of the Series in the fourth game, and there was general agreement the fifth game probably would be decisive.
If the Royals won, they could become world champions by winning one of the last two games in Philadelphia. If they lost, they would have to defeat Steve Carlton and then Dick Ruthven, the Phillies’ best starting pitchers.
An error by Willie Aikens cost the Royals a run in the fourth, and Porter again was thrown out at the plate in the sixth, but even so, the Royals went into the ninth with a 3-2 lead.
Frey did not make a defensive substitution for Aikens at the start of the inning and had third baseman George Brett playing about even with the bag instead of at normal depth for Mike Schmidt, the Phillies’ home-run king who led off the inning. The thought was that Schmidt might bunt, but it was scarcely a bunting situation for a man who hit 48 home runs. Schmidt singled off Brett’s glove, and the rally was on.
Pinch-hitter Del Unser doubled past Aikens, scoring Schmidt, and the go-ahead run scored on a single by Manny Trillo off pitcher Dan Quisenberry’s glove.
The Royals filled the bases in the ninth, but Jose Cardenal struck out, ending the game, and Frey was criticized for not pinch hitting John Wathan.
Tuesday night a disputed call and a botched bunt play helped the Phillies get a 2-0 lead in the third, but though the Royals came into the eighth trailing 4-0, they had two opportunities to catch up or go ahead. Hal McRae grounded out with the bases loaded and one run home in the eighth. In the ninth, the Royals loaded the bases but White fouled out and relief Sitcher Tug McGraw struck out Wilson.
This was not a classic World Series, but it was an unusually exciting one that produced many outstanding performances. Schmidt was named the most valuable player in recognition of his clutch hitting, but the Royals had numerous stars of their own.
Amos Otis, who had an off season, was at his best in the Series, He batted .478 with three home runs and seven runs-batted-in. He played flawlessly in the field. Aikens hit four home runs, and Brett and McRae each batted .375 White made a series of great plays at second, and Wilson was outstanding in left field.
The Royals left 54 runners on base, a record for a 6-game series, and tied a record by striking out 49 times.
Through the eight days of the Series, the Phillies were the better team. The Royals, a relatively young team, have reason to believe this will not be their last World Series. If they return next year or in the near future, they will be better prepared mentally for the media pressures, the distractions and the reality that in a World Series even the smallest mistake, the smallest controversy is blown out of proportion.
Kansas City’s first World Series was great fun, and the loss to the Phillies in no way diminishes the accomplishments of 1980. The season will be remembered not so much for the World Series, but Brett’s playoff home run that shattered Rich Gossage and broke the Yankees’ hold on the Royals.
Next time, Series berth won’t suffice
By Mike DeArmond, Sports Writer
The orchids have yet to turn brown around the edges, and the night of the prom remains fresh in this city’s memory. The succession of spring, summer and fall nights that sparkled like prisms hanging from a crystal chandelier have yet to lose their glimmer.
There still is the bloom of innocence in Kansas City.
But slowly, almost imperceptibly, this will change. The Royals won the American League pennant. Carrying a city on their backs, the Royals went to the World Series and nearly tasted the sport’s finest wine. That the Royals simply helped with the uncorking, then watched the Philadelphia Phillies guzzle all the nectar, detracts not a bit from the experience.
The players, though, no longer can call themselves boys. In coming close to the ultimate, the Royals have moved past the fairy tale and the romance. Future experience may be just as heady, but never as giddy.
“You really want to win," the Royals' Frank White said in the waning days of the Series. “But at the same time, you can’t make this a job. Getting to the World Series is a luxury.
"I think the players want it more for the city than for themselves. This city has been looking down a lot to a lot of people for a long time. This is more than a 4-out-of-7-game benefit."
White was correct. What Kansas City, the Royals and their fans gained was an unforgettable experience. But that experience, satisfying simply because it was a first, never again will he enough.
“In our eyes,” White said, “we felt we achieved what the city wanted us to achieve by beating the (New York) Yankees and getting into the Series.
“Now, it’ll be tougher next year. We’re going to want it all. They’re going to want it all."
The next time the Royals have a chance to grab a World Series ring, they will be expected to take it. You need look no further than 1976 and 1977 for proof. In 1976, it was enough to win the American League West Division. By 1977, the goal was the World Series. The Royals didn’t make it in 1977, and failed again in 1978 despite a third straight West championship.
Joe Burke, Royals’ executive vice president and general manager, has spoken eloquently to the point in the past few days.
The Royals lost the World Series four games to two. "But we’re not losers," Burke said. "We’re not going to let anybody put that tag on us again.”
Burke believes the Royals came of age "three years ago when we went to the playoffs. Being in the World Series was the ultimate.”
But the limits have been raised, the pot increased.
And while Burke still assumes a stance of "no comment — give us several weeks to appreciate this," that approach will, by necessity, be discarded in the coming weeks.
The Royals will hold organizational meetings beginning Friday in Sarasota, Fla., and Burke then will head for Miami for meetings of general managers.
At those meetings, and at the winter baseball meetings in December, the new face oi the new Royals will be shaped.
Changes will be made. Contract problems involving White, Hal McRae and Amos Otis must be dealt with. Darrell Porter, Pete LaCock and Marty Pattin are eligible to become free agents. In White, McRae, Otis and Porter, the considerations involve starting players.
Paul Splittorff, openly critical of his virtual non-use in the World Series before toning down his remarks, probably will be considered in trades, although club officials refuse to discuss this or any possible moves.
With Renie Martin being sent to Venezuela to work on becoming a starting pitcher, the Royals’ chief priority may be for a middle-relief man. Such commodities are scarce, left- or right-handed. The Royals steadfastly have maintained their interest in gaining a short-relief left-hander such as Sparky Lyle.
Lyle’s long-term, post-baseball contract blocked a deal this season that might have brought Lyle to Kansas City from the Texas Rangers. Lyle instead went to the Phillies.
It is possible Lyle might be pried loose from Philadelphia, but there still is the problem of his contract.
The Royals would love to get hard-throwing Jim Kern, Texas’ right-handed reliever who was injured most of this season. Kern, late in the year, questioned whether he would be a Ranger in 1981. But it would be a shock if the Rangers, as wacky as some of their personnel moves have been over the years, would deal Kern to the team that has made Texas a perennial also-ran in the American League West.
Even without changes, the Royals stand to be better next year. Winning the pennant and reaching the Series accomplished that.
"We'll be a much better team because of the experiences we’ve gone through," said McRae. "We’re going to be a tougher team next year and a better team than they've ever seen in Kansas City because of what we went through.
"We didn't do it all, but we almost did it all."
And now, in the coming seasons, that final challenge to "do it all" is staring the Royals squarely in the face.
As the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series, their former manager Danny Ozark, 56, watched on television and wished he were there.
“My wife and I both had a couple of tears in our eyes, of happiness,” said Ozark. “But I wish I’d have been there, to have been a part of it. I guess that’s how my wife and I both feel about it.”
Ozark, who led the Phillies to the National League Championship Series in 1976, 1977 and 1978,, sat with his wife in front of their television at their home in Vero Beach, Fla., Tuesday night and watched the Phillies become world champs.
"It was very interesting to me, very exciting, and yet I was down because I wasn't there," said Ozark. “We went through a lot of wars together, those players and me.
"But I can't be bitter. I might be hurt by some of the things that were said back then — some of them irked me a little bit — but that’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.”
Ozark currently is the third-base coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers.