All sports franchises have their rivalries that all fans want to see. Here are the top rivals of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Part of what makes sports great are the intense rival games each season. From the Yankees/Red Sox, Celtics/Lakers, Cowboys/Eagles, Packers/Bears, and many others, the rival games are marked off on the calendar as the “must-see” games of the season. Who are the top rivals of the Phillies, both now and historically? Let’s run down the top five.
No. 5: Pittsburgh Pirates
While the rivalry has cooled since the Pirates moved to the NL Central in 1994, the cross-state rivalry was at its peak from 1970 through 1980. The two franchises dominated the NL East during the period. Pittsburgh won the division from 1970-1972, 1974-1975 and 1979 while Philadelphia took home honors in 1976-1978 and 1980. The World Series stayed in Pennsylvania two consecutive season with the Pirates winning in 1979 and the Phillies in 1980.
An abundance of star players came to the forefront in this rivalry, including, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox of the Phillies to Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Bert Blyleven and Kent Tekulve of the Pirates. Not only were the games heated, but the teams also appeared to have a genuine dislike for each other. A prime example fo this was the infamous fight between Bruce Kison and Schmidt on July 8, 1977, when Kison drilled Schmidt in the back with a pitch two batters after Garry Maddox homered.
A top moment in franchise history and Mike Schmidt’s career came against the Pirates on April 18, 1987. On the road, Philadelphia held the lead late in the game before closer Steve Bedrosian (who later won the NL Cy Young Award for the season) blew the lead. Schmidt came up with two outs in the ninth and drilled a 3-0 pitch from Don Robinson to left field for a no doubt about it home run, his 500th, to give his team the lead and ultimate victory.
Another notable moment from the rivalry was on June 8, 1989. After the Pirates took a 10-run lead over the Phillies, Pirates announcer and former pitcher Jim Rooker said he’d walk home from Philadelphia if the Pirates lost the game. Sure enough, they came back to win, and months later Rooker made the 320-mile walk over 13 days, raising money for charity.
Although the rivalry isn’t what it once was, the Pirates-Phillies rivalry deserves a spot on this list.