- June 18, 2004

Matchup with Royals recalls 1980 World Series


By Jennifer Wielgus 


PHILADELPHIA - To a 15-year-old batboy who could look around his own clubhouse and see Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose up close, the Kansas City Royals seemed about as far away as that galaxy in the newly released Star Wars movie.


The American League champions had come to Veterans Stadium, to Ruben Amaro Jr.'s own backyard, for the 1980 World Series. But those Royals didn't even register on his teen-aged radar.


"They were like the other team from the other end of the world," Amaro recalls.
Plenty has changed in the last two-plus decades of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. Amaro, now 39, went from toting lumber to helping run the show (he currently serves as the Phils' assistant general manager). The Phillies moved from the Vet, a disco-era dinosaur, to ultra-modern Citizens Bank Park (the $458 million facility opened this spring).


But here come the Royals again, and it's the same old deal. They'll visit Philadelphia today for the first time since falling to the Phillies, four games to two, in that 1980 World Series and yielding this franchise's only Major League Baseball championship.


Ready for a heated rematch? Hardly, say holdovers from that Phillies championship team. The Royals didn't really register back then, and they don't now.


"I don't think it's, 'Wow! This is a reunion of the 1980 meeting for all the marbles,' " says Harry Kalas, the Phillies' Hall of Fame broadcaster who joined the club in 1971. "I think the fans are going to come out and see this team and the new ballpark, not to see the Kansas City Royals."


Don't get Kalas wrong. He loves to reminisce about 1980.


For every former player and staffer from the World Series team that still remains with the Phillies organization - there are at least 12 guys between the major and minor league levels - the glorious image of Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson to end Game 6 is a source of constant joy.


The memory of that foul pop-up down the first-base line that catcher Bob Boone tipped to Rose - and Rose just barely caught - still inspires goosebumps.


And Dickie Noles' Game 4 brush-back pitch to Royals great George Brett sparks debate - was it intentional? Did it sway the Series momentum? - to this very day.


But you see, that 1980 World Series really was a self-centered affair. Both teams were playing for their first world championship, but to the Phillies, the Royals were just there as a formality.


The Phillies had just survived an intense five-game National League Championship Series with the Houston Astros. All except the first game went into extra innings. The last three games took place at the Astrodome.


Kalas calls that NLCS "one of the most gut-wrenching series I've ever seen." 


Once the Phillies got through, they had little doubt that they'd go all the way.


"We thought the [NL] playoffs were the most critical part, because we had never been National League champions before," says Dallas Green, the Phillies' field manager in 1980. Green, 69, now works as a special assistant to Phils GM Ed Wade. "To do that and get in the World Series - that was our goal. Pete Rose told me, 'Dallas, if we win the Houston series, whoever we play will be a piece of cake.'


"We were just ready to play. We knew we were on a roll and we were going to win this thing, and it didn't matter if it was the Yankees or Kansas City."


The Royals felt the same way.


They had to beat their old nemeses, the New York Yankees, to win the 1980 American League pennant. They'd lost to the Yankees in three consecutive ALCS from 1976 to 1978. And they needed every ounce of determination left after a 161-game season to finally clear that hurdle and reach the World Series.
"We were so pumped up after beating the Yankees that we considered that our World Series," says John Wathan, a catcher with the 1980 Royals who now scouts for his former club.


Adds Denny Matthews, a Royals broadcaster: "Funny as it may sound, the World Series was almost anticlimactic."


Not that the matchup completely lacked intrigue. The Royals played NL-style baseball, using speed as well as strength to score runs, so the teams were pretty evenly matched. On the outside, at least, there was no clear favorite.


Brett, Kansas City's brightest star and one of best clutch hitters in history, created a stir when he underwent surgery for hemorrhoids. Brett returned to the lineup in Game 3 but couldn't play his 'A' game the rest of the way.


The Phillies - with a nucleus of Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox and Steve Carlton - had repeatedly failed to reach the World Series despite NLCS appearances in 1976-78. They saw 1980 as their final shot at glory before the front office dismantled the team.


"We were basically told, 'If you guys don't get this done, this thing is going to be torn apart,'" Bowa, now the Phils' manager, remembers.


Of course, they got it done. That championship remains the high point for a franchise that, in the years since 1980, has made the playoffs only three times and lost in both of its subsequent World Series tries (1983 and '93).


The Royals won a World Series in 1985 but haven't glimpsed postseason since. They currently are tied for the most losses in the AL with 38.


These teams last met on the grandest stage in baseball, but they played for another generation - a generation that, for example, saw "The Empire Strikes Back" as the pinnacle of special effects.


And if the 1980 Phillies didn't even get caught up in their own World Series rivalry, holdovers from the old club say they can't expect young, present-day fans to get overly jazzed about a rematch.


"Yes, it's the Royals, but it's a different era," Amaro says. "It's a different group of fans. ...I think some people think about [rematch of 1980], but I don't think it registers as much as you would think."


After all, as Green points out, "It was a long [darned] time ago."




Dates: Oct. 14-21, 1980


Result: Phillies beat Kansas City Royals, four games to two


Locations: Veterans Stadium (Games 1, 2 and 6) and Royals Stadium


Avg. attendance: 54,086


MVP: Mike Schmidt


Standout performances: Bob Boone hit .412 (7-for-17) with 4 RBIs for the Phillies; Amos Otis and Willie Aikens combined for 7 home runs and 15 RBIs for the Royals; Steve Carlton gave up 4 earned runs and struck out 17 in 15 innings and Tug McGraw saved two games for the Phils; Larry Gura gave up 3 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings for the Royals.


Miscellaneous: Both the Phils and Royals were playing for their first World Series championship. ... In Game 4, the Royals' Willie Aikens became the first player in World Series history to record a pair of two-home runs games. ... Phils pitcher Tug McGraw won the Babe Ruth Award, an alternate MVP citation, after providing the Series' most enduring image - his strikeout of Willie Wilson to end Game 6.




Position Then

Position Now

Ruben Amaro, Sr.



Ruben Amaro, Jr.


Assistant GM

Bob Boone


Special Assignment Scout

Larry Bowa



Warren Brusstar


Minor league coach

Dallas Green


GM adviser

Greg Gross


Hitting coach

Greg Luzinski


Helps to run "Bull's Barbecue"

Dickie Noles


Community outreach

Mike Schmidt


Minor league manager

Del Unser



John Vukovich


3rd-base coach