Camden Courier-Post - October 28, 1980
Changes to determine Phillies’ future success
By Ray W. Kelly, Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – If there is a final irony about the world champion 1980 Phillies, it is that just when the fans have come to know and admire the players the most, the fact that there will be changes in the team before next season looms on the horizon.
It’s sad. For how can one thing of the departure of shortstop Larry Bowa, for example, after watching him make his peace with Manager Dallas Green and listening to him tell how, as a little boy, he used to dream of playing in a World Series as he threw a ball up against the garage door at home.
“My dad had to pain that door a couple times a year,” said Bowa, “But, I guess his dream was my dream.”
A LOT OF wishes came true this October. Fred Burnside’s did.
You might not know him, but he was the baseball coach at Miami Killian High when a hard-throwing youngster named Marty Bystrom showed up. Burnside taught the kid all he could.
And, when the possibility of Marty being used in the Series arose, Burnside told a friend, “I don’t care if I have to take a second-mortgage on my home. If that young man gets to start a game in Kansas City, I’m going to be there to see it.”
Bystrom called him the next day. A round-trip ticket to Kansas City, a ticket to the game and hotel reservations were waiting. He hadn’t forgotten what his coach had done for him.
Everything was on Marty.
THERE ARE dozens of little stories that would make fans wish the Phillies would stay exactly as they were when they rode triumphantly into JFK Stadium the other day.
Yet, if there is one less the organization learned during the final months of the season, it was that change may not only be desirable, it make be necessary for the success of the team.
“The infusion of new blood onto the club was a big item this year,” admitted General Manager Paul Owens. “Over the long haul, it may have spelled the difference.”
A look back at 1980 shows the truth in Owens’ statement.
WHEN leftfielder Greg Luzinski went out of the lineup because of injury, it was Lonnie Smith who not only saved the day, but proved to the Phillies that they didn’t have to be a home run-oriented club. They could also win with speed.
Despite Lonnie’s obvious problem with footing, the bottom line is that Smith has now gained enough experience and confidence to become a regular. And, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Del Unser’s clutch performances has got the brass thinking about platooning the duo in leftfield next year.
If that means Luzinski is gone, well, that’s baseball.
Given a choice, the Phillies would probably prefer to have a power-hitter who swings from the left side of the plate, anyway.
THAT’S WHY ALL the talk about Bake McBride leaving is almost laughable. Because he was a south-paw swinger with home run potential, Bake’s role on the predominantly right-handed-hitting Phils was not only underrated, but perhaps the most crucial to the success of the team.
Speed is the new rave in baseball. And the Phillies have to like the idea of having Smith and McBride (with his sore knees rehabilitated) on the basepaths.
Now, we also know that centerfielder Garry Maddox can fly. Plus, he’s got a longstanding contract.
But, if you’re the type of fan who likes to spend his winters speculating about trades, consider this:
TWO OF THE finest outfielders in baseball are going to be up for grabs during the next few months. They are Dave Winfield, who will be leaving San Diego by way of the free-agent draft, and Fred Lynn, who has made it clear to the Boston Red Sox that he would like to play elsewhere.
Both are lefthanded power hitters with outstanding defensive capabilities. Sure, the Phillies’ hierarchy will ponder the possibility of making deals involving Luzinski and Maddox (with consent) and using the money to pay a Lynn or Winfield.
The trading posture of the Phillies is excellent. Because of the mix of young pitchers, their biggest problem at the beginning of 1980 may turn out to be their most prizes excess.
As it stands now, the Phils will be going to spring training next year with two of the best looking rookies you ever saw – Bystrom and Bob Walk. They’ll also have another super-kid named Mark Davis. Jim Wright may be ready to fulfill his promise. Cy Young Award-winning Steve Carlton and a fully-recovered Dick Ruthven will be there, as will young Dickie Noles.
THEN THERE is Larry Christenson, who may be turned loose in the free agent market. Nino Espinosa, a potential steal for any club willing to gamble, will be available. As will southpaw Randy Lerch, who should never be written off – not when you throw a baseball as hard as he does.
If a bullpen can become “too great,” the Phils have the opportunity to enjoy such a luxury next year. It’s going to be crowded down there.
Which brings us to the one big mistake the front office made during the past year. They didn’t sign Tug McGraw when they had the chance.
“We decided in May to forget negotiating during the season and just wait to see what happened,” recalled Tug with a smile.
THE REASON HE was grinning should be obvious. After the All-Star Gaem, McGraw went on to become the most effective reliever in baseball. He also became a folk hero.
Now the Phils are faced with the possibility of a big-buck organization stealing him away under the free-agent plan, a potential disaster that the Phils provided for when they added another lefthander, Sparky Lyle, to the bullpen.
If it looks like the Phillies won’t be able to hold onto Tug, they may make a pitch for split-fingered fastball specialist Bruce Sutter, who will be saying good-bye to the Chicago Cubs.
Either way, the bullpen picture got a lot better during the playoffs because of the way righthander Warren Brusstar pitched. He’s coming over the top with his sinkerball again, indicating his arm problems may be in the past. When Brusstar was “right” he was considered by many experts to be among the top three relievers in the league.
WHAT THIS all means is that the Phillies will have an excess of outfielders and pitchers, all of whom had their value increased by the way the team finished.
There are other excesses. With Keith Moreland on the rise and minor leaguers Don McCormack and Ozzie Virgil in the wings, there will be a lot of interest in veteran Bob Boone.
Boone’s gutty comeback during the final weeks may prompt the Phils to rethink their position on this matter. Moreland could use some extra time to polish his defensive skills. And, there is no denying the Boone’s handling of the hurlers on the field and Manager Dallas Green’s handling of them off the field boarded on perfection.
Although Pete Rose slipped statistically this past season, his performance in post-season play had to convince the brass that, in the overall picture, Charlie Hustle is invaluable at first base.
MANNY TRILLO had his grandest season. His close relationship with Green over the years had more than a little to do with Manny living up to his billing as one of the finest second basemen in baseball.
But the other half of the double-play combination, Bowa, is another matter. Larry is considered by a number of scouts around the league to be on the down side of his career. He neither charged grounders nor threw the ball with the same impressiveness that once marked him as untouchable.
Like a number of veterans, Bowa charged hard down the stretch. That may change some of the early thinking. But, don’t count on it.
With youngsters like Luis Aguayo coming up and rumors that Chicago speedster Ivan DeJesus might be available, the possibility that the Phils may make a change at shortstop for 1981 is very real.
WHAT YOU HAVE to understand is that the men making the decisions have takena long hard look at what transpired. And, they’ve realized two things:
When they literally stood pat on the 1979 ball club and sent it into 1980, it faltered… until the kids on the block got into the act. Then, when the rest of the newcomers hit the lockerroom late in the season, the entire attitude of the club changed for the better.
That’s the kind of thing the men at the top would like to see continue. Now, all they have to do is to get Dallas Green back in uniform to manage the whole shooting match. That may be the toughest job of all.
Comeback Kids never quit trying
By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor
There have been many dramatic finishes in major league baseball history, but no team ever came back from the dead as often as the 1980 Phillies.
Perhaps no single moment in the stretch drive will deserve space in the Hall of Fame, but collectively the Comeback Kids topped them all.
The team that once felt it wasn’t cool to show emotion came in from the cold with a hot streak that carried it all the way to the championship.
DESPITE INJURIES AND subpar play, the talented Phillies never dropped out of the 1980 race. They never were more than six games off the pace.
But after losing four games to Pittsburgh in early August, the team was all but legally dead. Even the players admit now they thought it was over.
But a Dallas Green pep talk and a hot streak by Mike Schmidt lifted the team to seven wins in eight games against the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.
The long comeback may have started there, but it sputtered badly in San Diego with consecutive losses to the Padres. This time it was a blistering pep talk by Paul Owens, the general manager, which got the team winning.
LARRY BOWA and Garry Maddox were criticized and Owens reminded the veterans this was their last chance together. “Win it for Rudy and win it for me,” Owens pleaded, and the Phillies went out and won 23 of the next 33 regular-season games.
Bob Boone, who went on to deliver many clutch hits down the stretch, singled home the winning run as the Phillies defeated the San Francisco Giants the day of Owens’ tirade.
But it was the next night, Sept. 2, that the first back-to-the-wall comeback occurred. Warren Brusstar got careless and let the Giants load the bases with none out in the 11th, then got tough and pitched out of the jam.
Manny Trillo doubled in the 13th and scored the winning run on a Keith Moreland sacrifice fly and the Phillies had the first of many comeback victories.
THE TEAM limped back from the coast with three losses to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first of two games Sept. 8. The first game went into the books as a victory when the Phillies rallied for four runs in the eighth with Bake McBride, Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Larry Bowa delivering the key hits.
The next night, the Comeback Kids rallied for two in the eighth to tie as Moreland hit a pinch double, Schmidt tripled and Luzinski singled.
Then, in the 14th, Garry Maddox doubled and scored the winning run on Boone’s squeeze bunt. The Pirates never recovered and dropped out of the race.
But Montreal stayed hot and the Phillies needed every win. Del Unser doubled as the team rallied to beat the Mets in New York on Sept. 11, then singled in the winning run in the 11th against the Pirates on the 17th.
MORELAND’S pinch double enabled the Phillies to overtake the Cardinals, 3-2, in St. Louis on Sept. 22. Then came two dramatic rallies against the Mets.
Unser’s pinch single in the 10th won the first one. Manny Trillo’s triple featured the second one, a 2-1 victory that moved the team into first place.
Then came the first weekend showdown with the Expos, this one in Veterans Stadium.
McBride won the Friday game with a dramatic home run in the ninth, but the Phillies missed a chance to put Montreal out of it by losing on Saturday and Sunday.
MANAGER GREEN benched Maddox and Luzinski and accused some of his players of not trying. Bowa lashed out at Green publicly and called the Philadelphia fans the “worst in baseball.”
The fans responded by booing Bowa the rest of the season and the 36-year-old shortstop went on a hitting tear. “I started hitting when they started booing,” Bowa admitted after the World Series. “I guess maybe they thought it motivated me, and maybe it did.”
Montreal left town back in first place and the Phillies went into the final week knowing they had to win. Chicago came in on Monday and the two teams battled even for 14 innings.
Then the Cubs scored two in the top of the 15th and the situation looked hopeless. But Unser, Moreland and Trillo delivered must-singles in the bottom of the inning and the Phillies won 6-5.
“THAT WAS the one that got us started,” Green says. “Montreal already had beaten St. Louis and we were looking at a two-game deficit. That was as important as any win all year.”
Two days later the team rallied for two in the eighth while beating the Cubs 4-2 and it was on to Montreal, where the Phillies had to win two of three to become division champions.
Considering what was coming, the Phillies’ 2-1 victory in the first game was lack-lustre. Schmidt homered and Tug McGraw struck out five of six batters to save it.
The first step on the ladder to the world title was reached the next day when the Phillies came back from certain defeat to whip the Expos on a Schmidt home run in the 11th.
WITH TWO OUT and two strikes on him in the ninth, Boone lined a single to center to send the game into extra innings. That one caught 50,795 Montreal fans by surprise and put the Phillies into the playoffs.
Down 1-0, the Phillies took command in Game 1 when unlikely hero Luzinski blasted a home run after a single by Rose.
Houston won the next game and for the second straight weekend the Phillies had to win two of three on the road. This time, the World Series was the prize and the Phillies did it the hard way, losing the first and winning the next two – in extra innings!
After the Astros scored a run in the 10th to win Game 3 of the Playoffs, 1-0, everything hinged on the left arm of Steve Carlton. And when the big guy was chased in the sixth inning, losing 2-0, the season appeared over and the Phillies were declared dead once again.
BUT THE Phillies jumped on Vern Ruhle for singles by pinch-hitter Greg Gross, Lonnie Smith, Rose and Schmidt to score three runs in the eighth.
They had to come back a second time after Houston scored in the ninth. In the 10th, Luzinski delivered a pinch-hit double to highlight the winning rally in a 5-3 victory.
Sunday’s fifth game was another classic. Four the fourth straight time the teams went into extra innings. But it certainly looked bleak for the Phillies when Houston scored three times in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.
But Bowa singled to open the eighth, Boone singled and Gross caught the Astros flat-footed with a bunt single. Before it was over, Unser tied it with a pinch-single, and Trillo made it 7-5 with a triple.
HOUSTON fought back again and this time the Phillies used doubles by Unser and Maddox and some solid relief work by Dick Ruthven to win the game 8-7 and the National League pennant, three games to two.
After the final out, the 44,802 fans jammed into the Astrodome stood and gave both teams a standing ovation. The two National League heavyweights had slugged it out round after round and the fans let them know it was appreciated.
The World Series got underway and the Comeback Kids were down 4-0 after just two innings. Fans and sports writers began thinking of the 1950 disaster when the Phillies caught fire, scoring five times in the third around a three-run homer by McBride.
In Game 2, Kansas City had a 4-2 lead when the Phillies came to bat in the eighth inning. Unser hit a pinch-double, McBride and Moreland hit singles and Schmidt doubled to feature a four-run inning and the Phillies led the Series 2-0.
THE MAGIC seemed to run out in Kansas City, at least until the Royals tied the Series. Then the Comeback Kids went to work again. They trailed Game 5 by 3-2 going into the final inning.
But Schmidt singled, Unser hit another pinch-double and Trillo singled to give the Phillies a 4-3 win.
This time it was the other team with its back to the wall and the Phillies never let up. Schmidt put the team in front for a change and McGraw staggered through the last six outs.
And the Phillies won the World Series!
Green made the Phillies a 25-man team
By Rusty Pray, Courier-Post
The Philadelphia Phillies were always eight guys and a pitcher.
For years, the Phillies won – and lost – with essentially the same faces: Bob Boone catching, Larry Bowa at shortstop, Mike Schmidt at third base, Greg Luzinski in left field, Garry Maddox in center and Bake McBride in right.
First baseman Pete Rose and second baseman Manny Trillo came later. But, once they arrived, they, too, were fixtures. Barring injuries, you could predict on opening day the Phils’ starting lineup for game No. 162.
THE PHILS’ starters were as stable as a share of AT&T preferred. During his tenure as manager, the only things Danny Ozark juggled were his post-game comments.
Some managers determine their lineups according to the opposing pitcher, or the weather, or even a hunch. Ozark used to determine his by rote. Ozark didn’t make out his lineup by the game – he did it by the month.
There’s even a rumor that the lineup card he presented to the umpires in Atlanta the day he was fired, was the same on he used on his first day on the job.
“And that,” said Dallas Green, “is what beat us. What I tried to do was change the face of the bench. We couldn’t do it through trades so we had to do it from within.”
THIS SEASON, the Phillies were much more than eight regulars and a pitcher. This year, because of Green, they were a 25-man team. And, it’s no coincidence that this was the year the Phillies shed their past failures and won a world championship.
Green began his facelift of the Philly bench by keeping rookies Keith Moreland and Lonnie Smith. The Phils had a capable backup catcher in Dave Rader, but Green let Rader go to make room for Moreland.
General Manager Paul Owens was ready to deal Smith to Baltimore for utility infielder Billy Smith during spring training. But Green vetoed the deal and, later, Baltimore waived its Smith. He now is in the Phillies system.
Green also kept rookie George Vukovich as a pinch hitter. Spending a year on the Phillies’ bench instead of plahing every day in the minor leagues probably hurt Vukovich. But Green wanted to keep his kids and Vukovich the right with a fine spring training.
ANOTHER ROOKIE, Luis Aguayo, began the season with the Phillies. He was later sent to Oklahoma City. Veterans John Vukovich, Greg Gross, Ramon Aviles and Del Unser made up the rest of the reserve force.
Dispatched were guys like Mike Anderson and Bud Harrelson. Tim McCarver had already moved to the broadcasting booth, Jose Cardenal was in New York and Pete Mackanin and Rudy Meoli were long gone.
“I picked the kids with guts – and talent,” Green said. “As a result, the eight guys were no long the eight guys. If one of then couldn’t do it, someone else would.”
All of Green’s changes would have meant nothing had he not put his bench to use. In the past, the Philly bench was always populated by specialists, guys who did one thing well. Jay Johnstone and Ollie Brown could hit. Harrelson could field. Rader could catch.
THIS SEASON, however, there was an added dimension to the bnch. The younger players, the Morelands and Smiths, pushed the veterans for fulltime jobs.
“That spirit of competition is what changed it,” said Green. “Before, our bench was just a bench, guys who could do specific jobs.
“This year, we had some guys pushing for jobs. And, we had guys who showed enthusiasm, emotion. We’d get in the late innings of a game, and the guys on the bench would start screaming and hollering. The other guys responded.
“It wasn’t only Tug McGraw slapping his thigh. It wasn’t only Pete Rose sliding on his belly. It was the Ramon Avileses, the Nino Espinosas… they got juiced and their emotions carried us.”
OF COURSE, IT took more than emotion to win a World Series. The “everyday eight” played some exceptional baseball over the last five weeks of the season. Schmidt, McBride and Trillo had their best seasons ever. Boone and Bowa had great post-seasons.
“The guys who had to come through came through,” said Green. “The Larry Bowas, the Bob Boones, statistically didn’t have good years. But at the end, they were there.”
“I’m sure I had some sinking spells from time to time. I honestly felt this team could win from spring training. But I also told them they’d have to do it my way.
“The thing that took so long was the veterans. The kids always believed in the way I did things. The veterans were skeptical. Some key veterans were on my side… Tug, Lefty (Steve Carlton)… Boonie understood… I think Schmitty deep down understood, although he didn’t always shot it.”
WHAT TOOK some of the Phillies so long to understand was really something quite straightforward. Green wanted to win. He didn’t care who – or how many – it took to accomplish that.
He just wanted to win.
It wasn’t easy growing up with the Phils
By Rusty Pray, Courier-Post
It wasn’t easy growing up with the Phillies.
Those of us who were born too late to experience the 1950 World Series – abbreviated as it was – had to endure a childhood filled with frustrated daydreams.
If you happened to have the misfortune of having been born in March of 1850 – a spring training baby – then you probably weren’t even aware of the Whiz Kids or their brief encounter with the Yankees.
THAT THE Phils won the 1950 National League pennant was something we knew only through the faith we had in the tales our fathers told us. It was conferred upon us in confidential tones, man to man, father to son; a grim fairy tale to be repeated only among the initiated.
We were charter members of perhaps the most exclusive sports fraternity of the ‘50s – the Society of Advanced baseball Doldrums (SAD). By the time we were old enough to fully grasp the significance of the Whiz Kids’ accomplishment, it was already too late.
We were reared on failure. Every year our hopes were renewed by the coming of April. And every year our hopes were crushed by the coming of June. Kids lucky enough to live somewhere else spent their summers bragging. We spent ours alibiing.
By the time October rolled around, most of us had been reduced to baseball zombies and were only vaguely aware that the Yankees or the Dodgers were in a World Series.
WE NEVER CHECKED the boxscores to see if the Phillies won. We only wanted to know if it was close.
Early on, we should have known we would be in for a long wait, that we would grow well into adulthood before the Phillies finally got another shot at a Series. Really, how much credibility can a franchise have when two of the more famous names of its past are George Burns and E. Hemingway?
When a kid from out of the area would move into your neighborhood, he’d always ask, “Who’s your favorite team?” We’d hem and haw, cough and sputter, then finally mumble, “The Phillies.”
The new kid would nod knowingly and not bother you again.
GROWING UP with the Phillies was not easy. Throughout our formative years, we were forced to emulate players such as Pancho Herrera, John Boozer, Joe Koppe, Jim Greengrass, Bobby Gene Smith and Harry (the Horse) Anderson.
Some kids grew up with Mickey Mantle as their hero. We had Ed Bouchee.
No wonder we were generally unhappy, insecure children. We were victims of a mass identity crisis. Even today, most of us think the only person in this country worthy of our admiration is Woody Allen.
All of our problems could have been solved in 1964. That could have been the year when the yoke of following a losing baseball team was lifted from an entire generation.
IT WAS THE year of the Phillies. Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day. So what if it was against the New York Mets? Until Bunning did it, we thought perfect games were restricted to bowling and Sandy Koufax. Johnny Callison won the All-Star game with a dramatic home run. Richie Allen was on his way to becoming Rookie of the Year.
Nothing could possibly go wrong. We were, at last, confident of something other than losing. As the season wound down, the Phillies held a 6½-game lead with a dozen to play.
There was no way they could lose. Of course, we had no way of knowing the Phils would invoke the Peter Principle. Guys who needed public transportation to get around the bases suddenly began stealing home on the Phillies. Gene Mauch went bananas, lost track of his pitching staff and kept throwing Bunning and Chris Short to the wolves.
The dream turned into a nightmare. The Phillies, continuing a tradition begun decades before, blew their lead – and the pennant.
We should have known.
THAT YEAR had an incredible impact on our psyches. We became a rebellious, hardbitten, cynical group. Sort of like the 1980 Phillies.
Having been taught the lesson 1964, we were not at all surprised by the playoff failures of 1976, ’77 and ’78. We shrugged them all off with a quick “Same old Phillies” and set about the task of rooting the Eagles on to oblivion.
And that’s part of the reason why the events of the past few weeks are so difficult to digest. We didn’t really believe the Phillies would win the National League Eastern Division. But they did. We were afraid to believe they would win the pennant. But they did, with a series of improbable… victories. We refused to accept the fact that a world championship was coming to Philadelphia – until it arrived.
Those of us who grew up with the Phillies were so used to them doing the impossible to lose, we found it hard to believe it when they did the impossible to win.
John Vukovich: An all-purpose player for Phillies
“I’m a world champion now. We’re all world champions!”
The statement was proudly voiced by John Vukovich, whom most fans would have difficulty picking out of a crowd of Phillies.
But he bragged with justification and there wouldn’t be a Phillie who would deny John Vukovich his equal share of the glory that goes with the World Series conquest.
The 33-year-old utility infielder stands 6-1 and weighs 190 pounds, but his lifetime batting average is .161.
However, Vukovich played an integral part of the Phillies’ League and World Series championships.
He was the constant cheerleader and one of the guys on the bench who kept things alive. But John was much more.
He is certainly one of the smoothest fielding third basemen in baseball and he can handle the other infield positions in a pinch.
Considered an organization man and a plus in the dugout and clubhouse, Vukovich will probably take a coaching or management position in the near future.
World Champion A’s: Mach’s masterpiece
By Doug Frambes, Courier-Post
Tug McGraw delivered the fastball, Willie Wilson missed it, and the Phillies had expunged the ghosts which had ridden perversely on their collective shoulders since 1976.
It is possible, however, that the mighty roar of the Vet Stadium crowd of 65,000 stirred some life into other ghosts, which had remained dormant for fifty long years.
It was a half-century ago that the last world series flag flew over Philadelphia. The year was 1930, the depression was at its depth, but the last great team assembled by Connie Mack was at its peak.
WHEN THE calendar year has been turned the next half-hundred times, historians will reflect on the glories of 1980. Oldtimers of that day will recall the gold gloves won by Garry Maddox, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Manny Trillo and Mike Schmidt. Glasses will be raised in honor of Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Pete Rose for their places in the Hall of Fame.
The heroics of McGraw, Del Unser and the splendid rookie class of ’80 will be recalled by those vets who thrilled to the October victories over Montreal, Houston and Kansas City.
But, the time is certainly appropriate for the dwindling group of old Philadephia Athletics fans to rekindle the memories of those heroes who dominated the diamond back in 1930.
There are more than a few venerable baseball followers who feel that there never was a greater team to take the field. And, somewhat like Paul Owens, Mack created his masterpiece from what had been a few short years before had been ashes.
AFTER WINNING four pennants between 1910 and 1914, Connie, caught between the Scylia and Charbydis of the Federal League and declining patronage, deliberately dismantled his magnificent unit. For the next seven years the Athletics never left the cellar.
Then the resurrection began. The team moved up a notch in 1923 as third baseman Jimmie Dykes, ourfielder Bing Miller and pitcher Eddie Rommel began to show big-league class. The next season saw the franchise move to sixth place as the same trio performed well.
Before the season of 1924, Mack purchased a keen-eyed second sacker from Baltimore of the International League named Max Bishop and an outfielder destined for greatness named Al Simmons, who came from Milwaukee of the American Association. At year’s end the Mackmen resided at the top of the second division.
Three more of the key building blocks were added before 1925 began. To make sure he could acquire a subperb catching prospect named Mickey Cochrane, Connie bought the Portland, Ore., franchise outright. The then astronomical sum of $100,600 was sent to Baltimore for a southpaw fireballer named Lefty Grove, and another gifted lefty named Rube Walberg also was annexed. Simmons his .384, and rookie Cochrane .331 as the Philadelphia entry rose all the way to second place.
EXPECTATIONS were high for 1926, but the Yankees, who had floundered the years before, regained the touch and the A’s actually dropped one position. Another Baltimore acquisition, Joe Boley, came along to play shortstop in 1927, and Connie also found room to give a little playing time to an apple-cheeked 19-year-old farm boy named Jimmie Foxx. That was the year of the greatest of Yankee teams, though, and the A’s had to settle for second place.
The building process was almost complete in 1928. Grove, who had taken a time to mature, blazed his way to 24 victories. George Earnshaw came along to back up Grove, Walberg and the veterans Rommel and Jack Quinn on the mound. Simmons, Cochrane and Foxx slugged away, as did Miller, who had been traded away but regained. Mule Haas took over as the regular in centerfield. The strong team turned in 98 triumphs, but still trailed the Yankees by three games.
By 1929 it was all there. The first of three successive pennants was garnered as Foxx, Miller, Haas, Simmons, Cochrane and Dykes all broke the .300 barrier, and Grove and Earnshaw were 20-game winners. The World Series was won over the Chicago Cubs as surprise starter Howard Ehmke captured the first game, and the A’s unleashed a 10-run seventh inning to defeat the National Leaguers in the fourth contest.
There is a theory that any three-year dynasty is at its best in the middle season. True or not, the Philadelphia Athletics of 1930 were truly an imposing team. Foxx slammed 37 homers and hit .335. Simmons’ marks were 36 circuit-clouts and a league-leading batting average of .381. Cochrane averaged .357 and led the league’s receivers in fielding. Dykes and Miller were over .300, and Haas missed that mark by a single point. Grove’s mighty left arm produced a mark of 28-5, while Earnshaw was a not-too-shabby 22-13.
BEFORE TAKING a look at the World Series of 1930, it should be proper to briefly analyze the careers of the four regulars of that day who were almost automatic selections for enshrinement at Cooperstown.
Gordon Stanley Cochrane was discovered at Boston University where he was a collegiate boxing champion and considered the greatest football player the institution had produced.
There was little he could not do exceptionally well on the diamond. The one early flaw, a weakness in catching foul balls, was eliminated by plain hard work. Extremely fast, Mickey batted second or third much of the time, hitting for a career average of .320. Although primarily a line-drive hitter, he had enough power to reach double-figures in homers six times.
Combative and aggressive, he showed the qualities of leadership when he was traded to Detroit in 1934, and immediately led the Tigers to two pennants as playing manager.
STILL A top-flight performer, Cochrane’s career, and nearly his life, ended on a May day in 1937. On a dark afternoon in Yankee Stadium, a Bump Hadley fastball sailed up and in and struck him on the temple and, for the next week, the fiery Mickey hovered between life and death.
James Emory Foxx hailed from the farm community of Sudlersville, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Perhaps someday a researcher will uncover what is in the air or water of that region that produces home-run hitters. Bill Nicholson, Charlie Keller and Frank Baker were just a few sluggers who grew up in that environment where lush farmland touches the Chesapeake Bay.
It was Baker, known as “Home Run” during his days of stardom with Mack’s early Athletics, who found Foxx and recommended him to his old manager. Fondly called “The Beast,” “The Maryland Broadback,” or “Old Double-X,” Jimmie could and did hit the ball prodigious distances.
He was originally a catcher, but with Cochrane around, Mack eventually made him into a first baseman. Besided winning three MVP awards, Foxx ended his career with 534 homers and an average of .325.
THERE WAS NO doubt that he could have excelled at any position. With Lou Gehrig also in the league, he was switched to third base in All-Star games so both big bats could be in the lineup. Great running speed was a part of his game which sometimes was overlooked. Few players had a stronger arm. In fact, his career ended as a pitcher with the Phillies in 1945, when he posted a 5-3 record for a team which finished 52 games out of first place.
Another Marylander was Robert Moses Grove, but he came from the mining town of Lonaconing in the western part of the state. A long, whip-like left arm dangled from a sinewy body and, very early, independent players from the area paled when the word was out that the wild southpaw was scheduled to pitch.
The reigning power in minor league baseball at the time was the Baltimore Orioles, owned by Jack Dunn. The Orioles consistently had teams more than the equal of several major league clubs, and Dunn regularly would sell his top prospects for huge sums. Grove brought the highest sum of all.
Plagued by wildness the first couple of years, he finally learned to throw the ball over the plate, and before it was over, there were 300 victories lodged next to his name.
GROVE’S ERA was sandwiched between Walter Johnson and Bob Feller, but there were batters who faced them all who said that nobody’s ball reached the batter as fast as Lefty’s. Cursed with an uncontrollable temper during his playing days, he mellowed in later life, and became a regular visitor at Old Timer’s functions. During the A’s three pennant years, Grove’s combined record was 79-15.
Born Aloysius Harry Syzmanski in Milwaukee in 1902, he took the baseball name of Al Simmons. In two decades of play he averaged .334, slammed 307 homers and was rated one of the finest defensive outfielders of his day.
Somewhat surly by nature, he took this attitude into the batter’s box. Pitchers were his sworn enemy, and the “Duke of Milwaukee,” as the sportswriters of the day called him, batted over .380 on four different occasions.
Later life was not kind to the marvelous quartet. Foxx died in near poverty, and Simmons and Cochrane had to struggle to keep food on the table. Grove, the stormiest, although all but Foxx were notes for their churlishness, seemed to spend his closing days in the most peace.
IN THE FIRST game of the series, Grove downed the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, as Simmons and Cochrane homered. Earnshaw won the second game, 6-1, as Cochrane homered again.
The Cards captured the next two, but in the ninth inning of the fifth game, Foxx slammed a two-run homer off Burleigh Grimes to give the A’s a 2-0 victory. Grove, the loser the day before, relieved Earnshaw in the eighth and shut the door. Back in Philadelphia, Earnshaw, aided by homers by Simmons and Dykes, defeated St. Louis, 7-1, and gave Philadelphia its second successive World Championship.
Now, at long last, there is another Philadelphia baseball team which will give future historians an opportunity to chronicle its deeds.