Almost a Dynasty

Almost A Dynasty details the rise and fall of the World Champion 1980 Phillies. Based on personal interviews, newspaper accounts, and the keen insight of a veteran baseball writer, the book convincingly explains how a losing team was finally able to win its first world championship.

Almost a Dynasty
The Rise and Fall of the 1980 Phillies

William C. Kashatus

2008 | 392 pages | Cloth $37.50 | Paper $24.95
American History | Recreation/Leisure
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction
Chapter 1: Legacy of Losing
Chapter 2: Down on the Farm
Chapter 3: The Vet
Chapter 4: Lefty
Chapter 5: "Yes We Can"
Chapter 6: Contenders
Chapter 7: Charlie Hustle Comes to Town
Chapter 8: "We, not I"
Chapter 9: Same 'Ol Schmidt
Chapter 10: Tugging at the Heart
Chapter 11: We Win!
Chapter 12: Dynasty Denied
Chapter 13: Wheeze Kids
Chapter 14: Organization Adrift
Conclusion

Appendices
A: What Happened to the 1980 Phillies
B: Individual Statistics for the 1980 Phillies
C: 1980 National League Championship Series Box Scores
D: 1980 World Series Box Scores
E: Team Standings, 1971-1989

Selected Bibliography


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]

Introduction

Those who lived and died with the Philadelphia Phillies during their glory years of 1976 to 1983 will never forget the evening of Tuesday, October 21, 1980. Game Six of the World Series was being played at Veterans' Stadium in South Philadelphia. The Phillies held a three-to-two game lead over the American League champion Kansas City Royals. Perennial losers who had reached the Fall Classic just twice before in their ninety-seven-year history, the Phils had pinned their hopes for their first world championship on the left arm of their pitching ace, Steve Carlton.

Through seven innings on that cool, crisp autumn evening, Carlton was un-hittable. He alternated between a 90-m.p.h. fastball, a wicked curve, and a devastating slider, limiting the Royals to a single run on 4 hits while striking out 7 before he was pulled from the game in the eighth inning. Mike Schmidt, who would later be named the Most Valuable Player of the Series and one of the most feared power hitters in the game, gave Carlton all the support he needed in the third inning when he singled to left to drive in two runs. The Phils added another two runs in the sixth for a 4-0 lead.

Tug McGraw, the Phillies' colorful reliever, entered the game in the eighth with two runners on base and no outs. After walking the bases loaded, he managed to retire the side allowing just one run. Ever the showman, Tugger provided more drama in the top of the ninth when, with one out and the Fightins' clinging to a 4-1 lead, he loaded the bases again. Curiously, Philadelphia's infamous fans, the so-called "Boo-birds," held their tongues. They had grown accustomed to disappointment after the Phillies won three straight division titles in 1976, '77, and '78, only to lose in the playoffs each year. Somehow they knew tonight would be different.

Kansas City's second baseman Frank White came to bat and swung at McGraw's first delivery, popping a high foul ball near the Phillies' dugout. Catcher Bob Boone leaped from behind home plate in pursuit of the ball as Pete Rose, the team's spark plug, converged from first base. Boone expected "Charlie Hustle" to call him off, but he heard nothing.

"Where is he?! Where the hell is he?!" Boone panicked, as he neared the edge of the dugout. Normally, the Phillies catcher would simply let the ball fall to him, but now, not knowing where Rose was, he felt he would have to fight his teammate for the ball. Rose stopped short as Boone reached out to make the catch, but the ball glanced off the heel of his mitt. Ever alert, Rose snatched the ball for the second out of the inning. "We can't lose now," thought Larry Bowa, the Phillies' fiery shortstop who had been with the team since the hard luck days of the early 1970s. "Not even if fuckin' Babe Ruth himself comes up."

Fortunately for Phillies fans, Ruth's playing days were long over. But Kansas City did have one more threat, Willie Wilson, a dangerous leadoff man, who had a reputation for hitting in the clutch. When Wilson stepped to the plate, the "Vet," the Phils' sterile concrete stadium, rocked with anticipation as more than 65,000 screaming fans took to their feet.

City policemen on horseback lined the warning tracks down the left and right field foul lines. Attack dogs had also been brought onto the field to discourage fans from rushing the players.

McGraw, so exhausted that he considered asking Manager Dallas Green to lift him if he couldn't get Wilson, eyed his surroundings, desperately searching for inspiration to face one more hitter. "Anything," he thought. "Let me find anything to get through this last hitter." Just then, the comic reliever noticed a horse over by the warning track in foul territory. The steed was in the process of dropping a big, brown mud pie right there on the Astroturf . "Hmm, if I don't get out of this inning," McGraw mused, "that's what I'm going to be in this city. Nothing but a pile of horse shit." In Philadelphia, such negative motivation often produces the desired result.

McGraw worked a 1-2 count on the Royals' left fielder and looked for another sign; not from the catcher, but from his surroundings. Staring at a German shepherd seated next to the Phillies' dugout, the reliever thought, "K-9." "This is the ninth inning and I need a K—the baseball score sheet mark for strikeout," he later explained.

Confident that supernatural forces were behind him, McGraw, at 11:29 p.m., toed the rubber and drew a deep breath, preparing to deliver the pitch that would unlock nearly a century's worth of pent-up frustration for the City of Brotherly Love. He fired the ball towards home plate. It was, as he would say later, "the slowest fastball I ever threw" because "it took ninety-seven hard years to get there."

Wilson swung and missed.

For a solitary moment, time seemed to stop. All the years of losing, the decades of last-place finishes, the eternal frustration that had been passed down from one generation of fans to the next now belonged to the history books. Amidst all the tears, laughter and sheer jubilation was the realization that a miracle had happened—the Phillies had finally won their very first world championship. McGraw raised his arms and jumped skyward.

Schmidt dashed in from third base as Phillies converged on the mound from every conceivable direction. Just before the players could close ranks to embrace each other, Michael Jack, in a rare display of emotion, dove onto his teammates. Photographers freeze-framed the scene for posterity, indisputable proof that the Phillies really did capture a world championship. The celebration had begun.

More than a million fans turned out for the parade down Broad Street the following day and to hear McGraw deliver one of the city's most memorable quips. "All through baseball history, Philadelphia has taken a back seat to New York City," said the comic reliever, whipping the crowd into a wild frenzy. "Well, New York City can take this world championship and stick it!" he roared, thrusting a copy of the "We Win!" Philadelphia Daily News skyward.

Sound unprofessional? Perhaps. But the remark also resonated deeply with Phillies' fans, who had always taken a back seat to the Big Apple and that city's historically successful sports teams. Philadelphians, having long suffered the reputation of perennial losers, had finally been given reason to believe in something bigger than a baseball game. They could now bask in the national spotlight that had eluded them for nearly a century.

"The world is different today," wrote Gil Spencer of the Philadelphia Daily News, "because a Philadelphia baseball team is on top of it." Between 1980 and 1983 the Philadelphia Phillies captured two pennants (1980 and '83) and a world championship. The team was even stronger in 1981. The experience of a pennant race and winning both the National League Championship Series and World Series prepared the club for a return to the fall classic. The previous year's rookies had a season of major league experience to their credit. All of the veterans returned with the exception of Greg Luzinski, who was sold to the Chicago White Sox. There were also some important additions, including outfielder Gary Matthews, a dependable .300 hitter, and infielder Ryne Sandberg, a future Hall-of-Famer whose presence improved an already strong bench. Accordingly, the Phils, barring injuries, were odds-on favorites to repeat as World Champions in '81.

If they had accomplished that feat, the Phillies would have established a dynasty, a team that captures two or more world championships and three or more pennants in five years or less. They would have joined the illustrious ranks of the Philadelphia Athletics clubs of 1910-14 and 1929-31, the 1926-28 New York Yankees, the 1969-71 Baltimore Orioles, and the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics— baseball teams among the greatest in history because of their ability to win consistently over a prolonged period of time. But a Phillies dynasty never occurred because of a players' strike that resulted in a sixty-day work stoppage. The Phils, who had been in first place before the strike, were unable to regain their winning ways after play resumed in the split season. They lost a best-of-five-game playoff against the Montreal Expos, who became division champions.

Nineteen-eighty-one was a watershed not only for the Phillies but for the national pastime itself. Afterward, labor relations between an increasingly powerful Players' Association and owners who were equally inflexible became more acrimonious than ever before. While labor conflict had resulted in a series of work stoppages during the previous decade, never had there been a split season with a mini-playoff to determine divisional championships. Although free agency, established in 1975, spelled the end of the reserve clause binding a player to one team unless he was traded, sold or released, it affected only an elite group of performers. After 1981 player salaries skyrocketed and many others followed the money trail, leaving the club that originally signed them. Old loyalties were forgotten and the notion of a homegrown team, like the 1980 Phillies, was a thing of the past. Family-operated teams, like the Carpenters who had owned the Phillies since 1943, became frustrated with the ongoing labor conflict and sold to new, corporate owners who were more concerned about profits than winning.

Fan interest in the game also waned after 1981. Cable television increased the number of viewer outlets, bringing the game into people's homes and delivering a sharp blow to attendance. More fans chose to stay at home or watch professional football, a more action-packed alternative to baseball. Further eroding the fan base was the growing publication of kiss-and-tell books, which revealed the seedier side of the ballplayers' lives, their infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse. Together with the exorbitant salaries players were demanding and the constant threat of a strike, the sordid revelations destroyed player reputations among fans who turned elsewhere for role models. Only by examining the 1980 Phillies in the context of these dramatic changes can we understand why the team failed to repeat as world champions in 1981, and why they would become one of the last homegrown teams in baseball history.

Caught in the growing chasm that divided a more stable era of the past from the uncertainties of the future, were four Phillies who distinguished themselves as the talented cornerstone of the 1980 World Champions: Tug McGraw, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and Pete Rose. McGraw, the Phils' comical relief pitcher, was the emotional soul of the team. Passionate, funny, and quintessentially Philadelphia, Tug, entertained the fans with his humorous quips, irreverent personality, and heart-stopping performances in the late innings. Acquired from the New York Mets in 1975, the left-handed screwball specialist proved to be an immediate success, saving 14 games and winning 9 while posting a 2.97 earned run average that year. He also brought a much-needed presence in the clubhouse, keeping the Phillies loose when they almost lost the National League's Eastern Division championship after building a huge lead in 1976.

In 1980, McGraw compiled a 5-4 record, 1.47 earned run average, and 20 saves in 57 appearances. He was even more impressive during the pennant race. After coming off the disabled list on July 17th, the screwball specialist posted five victories and five saves in a three-week period. McGraw pitched in all five playoff games against the Houston Astros, saving the first and fourth contests. In the World Series, he pitched in four of the six games against Kansas City, winning Game Five and saving the opener and the final contest. During the strike-abbreviated season of 1981, McGraw saved 10 games for the Phillies and continued to be among the league leaders in appearances with 34 for each of the next two seasons. But when the Phillies reached the post-season in 1983, the Tugger was relegated to the bench, having relinquished his role as closer to Al Holland. He retired after the 1984 season.

While McGraw may have forged his impressive career with the Miracle Mets of '69 and their pennant-winning successors of '73, he will always be remembered by Phillies' fans as the "Tugger," the colorful pitcher who sealed the team's one and only world championship. Both a "showhorse" and "workhorse," he gave creative names to all the pitches in his repertoire. The "John Jameson," for example, was a fastball that was "straight"—the way McGraw "liked his whiskey." Other pitches were named for Peggy Lee ("Is that all there is?"), Bo Derek ("It has a nice little tail on it"), and Frank Sinatra ("Fly me to the moon").

McGraw was different from the vast majority of Philadelphia's professional athletes because he genuinely cared about the fans. Once, when asked by baseball writer Roger Angell how he managed to survive such a tough crowd pitching in Philly, Tug replied: "I love them. Whenever I need something extra, I look up in the stands and there it is." His trademark "Ya gotta believe!" was more than a late season rally cry; it was a citywide inspiration for the little guy who was down on his luck, the senior citizen who was struggling with the infirmities of old age, the impressionable adolescent who had given up hope, and those who were fighting for their lives against a terminal illness. McGraw encouraged Phillies' fans to believe in the community and in the missions of its many charitable organizations. Most important, he inspired fans to believe that if they chased after their dreams—no matter what they might be—those dreams would come true.

If McGraw was the emotional soul of the team, Steve Carlton gave the Phillies an air of quiet professionalism. He was the team's ace, a power pitcher for most of his 14-year career in the City of Brotherly Love. Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972, Carlton quickly won over the fans going 27-10 for a Phillies club that won only 57 games that season. "Lefty," as he was dubbed by teammates and fans alike, won 20 or more games in 1976 and '77, but emerged as one of the National League's most dominant pitchers in 1980 when he posted a 24-9 record with 286 strikeouts and a 2.34 ERA. His brilliant performance earned him the third of four Cy Young Awards he garnered over the course of a twenty-three year career in the majors. During the post-season, Carlton defeated Houston 3-1 in the opener and, in the World Series against Kansas City, emerged as the winning pitcher in the second and sixth games.

During the strike-shortened season of '81, Carlton still managed to win 13 games in 24 starts and notched his 3,000th strikeout as well as his first Gold Glove. In '82, the tall left-hander was ever better. Not only was he the National League's only 20-game winner but led the league in strikeouts (286), complete games (19), and shutouts (6) earning him his fourth Cy Young Award. Although a nagging back injury limited Carlton to just 15 victories in 1983, when the Phils captured another pennant, he still led the league in strikeouts (275) and innings pitched (284). Carlton also defeated the Dodgers twice to clinch the pennant in postseason play.

Lefty posted a 13-7 record in 1984, his last effective year for the Phillies. Plagued by injuries over the next two years, the Phillies released the 43-year-old hurler in July 1986. Convinced he could still pitch in the majors, Carlton attempted comebacks with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins before retiring in 1989. Carlton possessed a special blend of power and finesse that allowed him to win a total of 329 games during his years in Phillies pinstripes as well as a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was fanatical about conditioning, working out nearly two hours a day with a personal fitness coach. But his was not an easy-going personality.

Believing that the mental aspect of the game was every bit as important as the physical, Carlton eliminated all outside influences. On game days he rarely talked with teammates and stuffed cotton in his ears when he pitched. He consistently avoided the press and by 1978 refused to give interviews altogether. Throughout his career, Carlton remained an intense competitor and a seemingly unemotional person, though teammates knew a more supportive and humorous side.

Mike Schmidt, one of baseball's premier power hitters during the 1970s and '80s, anchored the Phillies lineup for a remarkable seventeen-year career. Signed by Phillies in June 1971, Schmidt's greatest achievement was his ability to survive in the major leagues on two bad knees. He was the most talented member of a group of highly rated prospects that came up through the Phillies farm system and played together for eight years in the majors. Although the 18 home runs and 52 RBI Schmidt compiled in his rookie year of 1973 were overshadowed by his .196 batting average and 136 strikeouts, he would rebound to lead the National League in home runs for the next three seasons.

Nineteen-eighty was a career year for the power-hitting third baseman. He was singularly responsible for the Phillies' good fortune at various times throughout the season, including 4 game-winning RBI in the Phillies last five regular season victories.

Schmitty's dramatic home run against the Expos at Montreal on the final day of the season clinched the division title for the Phillies and propelled them into the playoffs against Houston. Schmidt was not only named the National League's Most Valuable Player for the .286 batting average, 48 home runs, and 121 RBI he compiled that year but his remarkable performance during the World Series (.381, 2 HR, 7 RBI) earned for him the MVP of the Fall Classic.

The following year Schmidt was even better with a .316 average, 31 homers and 91 RBI in a strike-shortened season. He repeated as the National League's MVP and nearly captured the coveted Triple Crown, for leading the league in all three hitting categories. Schmitty's 40 home runs and 109 RBI vaulted the Phillies into postseason play, once again, in 1983. He continued to average 35 homers and 92 RBI for each of the next for seasons, his finest coming in 1986 when he captured a third National League MVP award for a .290 batting average, 37 home runs and 119 RBI. Schmidt retired from the game in May 1989 and was enshrined at Cooperstown five years later.

Unfortunately, Michael Jack's introspective personality and graceful, seemingly effortless play was mistaken for a "cool" approach to the game during most of his seventeen-year career in Philadelphia. He was one of the most severely criticized athletes in the city's history for not showing more emotion on the playing field, a discreet but strong commitment to his Christian faith, and failing to meet the unreasonable expectations of the fans and the media. In fact, Schmidt put more pressure on himself than either group imagined. He took failure very personally and worked harder than anyone else on the team, with the possible exception of Carlton. Sometimes Schmitty could be his own worst enemy, especially when he spoke candidly to the press about his frustrations. At the same time he took his responsibilities as a role model seriously and was widely admired among youngsters and parents alike. An active fundraiser for many local and national charities, Schmidt set a refreshing example for other professional athletes in an era when the cult of the antihero was popular. Finally, there was the legendary Pete Rose, who played first base for the Phillies from 1979 to 1983. One of the greatest performers in the history of baseball, Rose, who began his career with Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine," is often credited as the catalyst for '80 Phils. He was the experienced veteran whose unrelenting desire to win inspired his younger teammates.

Signed by the Phillies as a free agent in 1979, Rose, at age thirty-eight, went on to hit .331, score 90 runs, and steal 20 bases that year. In 1980, his average slipped to .282, but he emerged as the key figure in the Phillies' quest for a world championship. He ignited three different rallies in the division-clinching 6-4 victory over the Montreal Expos. In the League Championship Series against Houston, Rose hit .400 and scored the winning run in the Phillies 5-3 victory in Game Four when he bowled over Astro catcher Bruce Bochy. Though he hit just .261 in the World Series, Rose's never-say-die attitude inspired his teammates time and again. His penultimate contribution came in the ninth inning of Game Six when he snatched victory from defeat with a split-second catch of a pop-foul that glanced off Bob Boone's mitt.

Rose had another banner year in 1981 when he hit .325 and broke the National League's all-time record for most hits. Age began to catch up with Charlie Hustle in 1982 where his average dipped to .271. Another subpar season followed in '83 when he slipped to .251 and rode the bench for the first time in his career. But Rose bounced back in the postseason to hit .375 in the League Championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and .313 in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Shortly after the Series he was released by the Phillies and played briefly with the Montreal Expos before returning to the Cincinnati Reds as a player-manager. Suspended by Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti for betting on baseball in 1989, Rose's career came to a tragic end. Despite his lifelong ban from the game, there are still many baseball writers, former players, and fans who believe that he deserves a place in Cooperstown.

Rose was a seasoned veteran whose leadership was the intangible that vaulted the Phillies to their only world championship. Interestingly, he didn't have much natural ability. He was not fast by big league standards, but he demonstrated superb instincts as a base runner. He didn't have great range in the field or a strong throwing arm, but he rarely made a defensive mistake. Nor was Rose a great natural hitter. Instead, he disciplined himself to become a contact hitter in order to advance the runner or simply to get on base. Yet he took the Phillies to a higher level of competition by sacrificing himself for the team, taking media pressure off of Schmidt and Carlton, and bringing a fire that burned white-hot to a club that had failed to clinch a pennant on three previous occasions in the mid-to-late 1970s.

McGraw, Carlton, Schmidt, and Rose were the nucleus of the team. As they went, so went the Phillies. The supporting cast was solid but not nearly as talented as the core. They were a collection of homegrown veterans, castoffs from other clubs, and fairhaired rookies. Veterans like Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, and Greg Luzinski had, along with Schmidt, come up through the Phillies farm system and had been expected to clinch a pennant for Philadelphia. Since all of them were in their mid-to-late twenties when they were promoted to the majors, there was an intense rivalry among them. No one was able to emerge as the genuine leader of the team. While they managed to reach the playoffs each year from 1976 through 1978, these talented ballplayers could not clinch the National League championship and, by 1980, they realized they were running out of time.

Owner Ruly Carpenter and general manager Paul Owens brought in other veteran players to get to the World Series. Between 1974 and 1980, McGraw came from the New York Mets, Garry Maddox came from the San Francisco Giants, Bake McBride and Ron Reed from the St. Louis Cardinals, Dick Ruthven from the Atlanta Braves, Greg Gross and Manny Trillo from the Chicago Cubs, and, of course, Pete Rose from the Cincinnati Reds. Farm director Dallas Green added rookies Lonnie Smith, Marty Bystrom, Bob Walk, Dickie Noles, George Vukovich, and Keith Moreland to the mix. This was the team that would make baseball history in Philadelphia.

Only two books have been written about the 1980 Phillies and they tend towards interpretive extremes. Hal Bodley's The Team That Wouldn't Die: Philadelphia Phillies, World Champions 1980 (1981) is a celebratory treatment. Written in the wake of enthusiasm over the Phils' only world championship, the book reads more like a laudatory anthology of newspaper columns and player interviews. Bodley, a former columnist for USA Today's Sports Weekly who began his career with the Wilmington (DE) News Journal, offers some insightful vignettes of key players, management and ownership. But his writing lacks the kind of objectivity that only time and distance from the subject can give it. Nor does it place the Phillies' achievement in the broader context of baseball history, which is necessary for a critical study of the team.

Frank Fitzpatrick's You Can't Lose 'Em All: The Year the Phillies Finally Won the World Series (2001) is a much more cynical treatment. Fitzpatrick, a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, depicts a team of prima donnas, innocents, and malcontents bullied into the postseason by Dallas Green, their outspoken and physically-intimidating manager. The book offers some good, critical insight into the personalities and performances of the players as well as the management of the team and its relationship with the fans and press. But Fitzpatrick's focus on legal calamities and communications problems tend to overwhelm the shining moments of that unique season as well as the significant economic and social patterns that influenced the game at the time.

As a baseball historian, I find it necessary to write about a team in the historical context during which it performed. As a passionate Phillies fan, I have a much different memory of the 1980 team than either Bodley or Fitzpatrick because I grew up with them. The Phils were the only professional sports team I ever lived and died with. Veterans Stadium was hallowed ground for me. From the first time I set foot in it in April 1971 to the last game on September 28, 2003, the "Vet" and the red-pinstriped teams who played there served as treasured benchmarks in my own life.

My father and I sat in the nosebleeds and shared a host of memorable moments: Carlton's 20th victory in 1972; Schmidt's game-winning homer off Tug McGraw to defeat the New York Mets, 4-3, in the 1974 season opener; Dick Allen's return in 1975; Larry Bowa's grand slam against the Reds in 1976; and even the painful playoff losses of '76, '77, and '78. Those shared experiences allowed us to bond, even during my adolescence, when it seemed we didn't have much to discuss.

Back then, what made baseball so special for me was the continuity of the game. There were only two divisions in the National League and you could count on seeing the Cubs, Reds, and Dodgers more than once a season. Aside from the organ music, an animated scoreboard, and some of the wackiest promotions—"Kiteman," cash scrambles, the "Human Cannonball," and the "Great Wallenda's" tightrope walk—the game was still pretty pure. Many fans came to watch a promising young team play, rather than for the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounded them. The platoon system and free agency had not yet become commonplace, and fans could follow the same lineup just about every night, each season.

Like every other baseball-playing adolescent reared in Philadelphia, I idolized Mike Schmidt, going so far as to switch my uniform number to 20, change positions from catcher to third base, and grow a mustache. His chiseled physique and seemingly laid-back approach to the game made him "cool." But his prowess as a home run hitter who had the moral courage to live by a strong set of values made him my hero. Along with Steve Carlton, Schmitty carried the Phillies to postseason berths for three straight years between 1976 and '78.

By 1980, the Vet had become a dating ground. Like my unconditional loyalty to the Phillies, I gave my heart to just one girl. Initially she tolerated baseball, but eventually looked forward to going to games with me. She admired centerfielder Garry Maddox, reveled in Pete Rose's gutsy headfirst slides, and went crazy during McGraw's nerve-wracking performances. She quickly learned not to disturb me when Michael Jack was at the plate vying for yet another of the 548 home runs he would hit during his career. I threatened to propose to her over "Phan-o-vision," but she swore that if I did, she'd not only turn me down but never go to another game. We've been married now for 20 years.

In the blink of an eye, the promising young team of my boyhood became the "Wheeze Kids" of my adulthood, seasoned veterans who managed to eke out another pennant in 1983 before they went into a free fall and faded away. What I bring to this book then, is nothing less than a passionate love for my hometown baseball team and nothing more than a historian's speculation of what might have been.

Based on personal interviews, team histories, player biographies, and newspaper accounts, Almost A Dynasty details the careful cultivation, successes, failures, and eventual breakup of the 1980 Phillies. Chapter one describes the foiled heroism, generations-long mismanagement, occasional glory, and plain bad luck that characterized the history of the Philadelphia Phillies from their establishment in 1883 to 1971 when a new, more promising era began. Chapter two examines the cultivation of a group of young talented players in the Phils' minor league system, including Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, and Mike Schmidt. These players would become the nucleus of the 1980 world championship team under the tutelage of farm director Paul Owens and his protégé, future club president, Ruly Carpenter.

The building of Veterans Stadium and the marketing of the hapless Phillies under executive vice president Bill Giles is the subject of chapter three. Taking advantage of the multipurpose stadium craze that gripped baseball in the 1970s, the Phillies built their own concrete coliseum in South Philadelphia and hired Giles to attract a broader fan base. He responded by creating a carnival-like atmosphere that appealed to families, young couples, and other spectators with little interest in the game. In the process, attendance jumped from 425,000 in 1970, the team's last year at old Connie Mack Stadium, to 1.5 million the following year when the Vet opened. Giles' promotional events and giveaways continued to draw 1.5 million fans on average each season for the next three years—in spite of the fact that the team finished in last place—and continued to rise through the late 1970s when the club was winning regularly.

Chapter four examines Steve Carlton's arrival and early years in Philadelphia. Pitching for a wretched team, Carlton went 27-10 winning 46 percent of the Phillies 59 victories in 1972. His Cy Young award-winning performance still stands as one of the most remarkable feats in baseball history. Carlton also brought an air of respectability and quiet professionalism to a franchise sorely lacking in confidence and leadership.

The arrival of veteran players Dave Cash, Tug McGraw, and Dick Allen are discussed in chapter five. Each of these individuals provided the inspiration and confidence for a young team to succeed. General manager Paul Owens and farm director Dallas Green were just as instrumental in the achievement by providing the additional talent and leadership the team needed through trades and ongoing player development.

The Phillies' three straight National League Eastern division titles under manager Danny Ozark between 1976 and 1978 is examined in chapter six. Perennial contenders, the '77 Phillies were even stronger than the team that went on to win the World Series three years later. They had better pitching, defense, and an awesome offense that routinely assured victory sometimes as early as the third or fourth inning of a game. Success was not without controversy, though. The specter of racism that haunted the Phillies resurfaced once again revolving around the behavior of veteran Dick Allen. The Philadelphia press scrutinized Ozark's management style and his players' performances throughout these years. In addition, the painful playoff losses between 1976 and 1978 are discussed, including Ozark's failure to replace Greg Luzinski with Jerry Martin, a better defensive outfielder, in left field in the ninth inning of game three of the 1977 League Championship Series.

Chapter seven examines the history of labor conflict between the Players' Association and the owners as well as the emergence of free agency that brought Pete Rose to Philadelphia in 1979. The addition of "Charlie Hustle" to a team with a growing number of Born Again Christians created an interesting dynamic in the clubhouse. Rose's leadership was the springboard the Phillies needed to vault them into the postseason the following year, though his cheerleading style and chronic boasting were not always appreciated by some of his teammates. Manager Danny Ozark's firing and the decision to name Dallas Green as his replacement was even less popular among the players, but set the tone for the more team-oriented approach that was necessary to reach the postseason the following year.

The Phillies' 1980 championship season is the subject of chapters eight through eleven. Dallas Green created ongoing controversy between himself and the players by imposing a strict set of team rules, criticizing some of his athletes in the press, and benching seasoned veterans in favor of less experienced rookies. Adding to the tension was the press's revelation of a drug scandal involving a Reading, Pennsylvania, physician who was being investigated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for prescribing amphetamines to five of the Phillies' star players. By the end of the season, some players refused to talk with the media, while others bad-mouthed management and the fans. Despite the controversy—or perhaps because of it—the Phillies bonded as a team. From the final weeks of the regular season through the playoffs against the Houston Astros and the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, the Phillies refused to be denied a championship. All 25 players contributed to the team effort, though the individual performances of Mike Schmidt and Tug McGraw were especially impressive.

What distinguished the 1980 season most, however, was the bonding between the City of Philadelphia and the team. Having suffered nearly a century of losing, the fans embraced the Phillies in a memorable parade down Broad Street and an emotional rally at the old JFK Stadium in South Philadelphia. Both players and fans discuss the special significance of the championship in these chapters.

Chapter twelve, "Dynasty Denied," explores the strike-abbreviated 1981 season and explains why it served as a watershed for both the Phillies' organization and baseball itself. At the end of that season the Carpenter family sold the club to a group headed by Bill Giles. Family-owned and -operated teams throughout baseball were yielding to a new, corporate ownership tied more to the bottom line than to a love of the game. The Giles group mortgaged the club's future by trading away younger prospects, including Ryne Sandberg, a future Hall of Famer, in order to clinch another pennant. That pennant-winning season of 1983, compliments of a veteran club called the "Wheeze Kids," is the subject of chapter thirteen.

Chapter fourteen examines the decline of the Phillies between 1984 and 1989. Poor trades, unsuccessful free agent signings, and the decimation of a farm system that was once the crown jewel of baseball set the organization adrift. An "old buddy" scouting system that had become lazy in its evaluation of prospects ignored a growing pool of talented players from the Caribbean. Absentee owners forfeited the daily operation of the club to a minority shareholder who, despite good intentions, presided over the decline of the organization.

Nevertheless, 1980 will forever remain a special season for Philadelphia baseball. A talented team of homegrown players, intensely competitive veterans from other clubs, and enthusiastic rookies finally achieved the goal that had eluded the fans for nearly a century—winning a world championship. In the process, the Phillies were embraced by an entire city that learned to believe in itself and its heroes.