1976 Philadelphia Phillies: Division champions
After the 1950 pennant season, the Phillies wouldn’t reach the postseason again until MLB’s landscape had changed drastically.
In the 1950s, several teams moved to new cities, including the Athletics, who left Philadelphia all to the Phillies and headed to Kansas City in 1954. In the early 1960s, the American League added the Los Angeles Angels and a new Washington Senators (the original Senators had become the Minnesota Twins), and the National League added the Houston Colt .45s (quickly renamed the Astros) and New York Mets.
In 1969, the NL divided into two divisions, East and West – the NL Central was still decades away – and the Phillies became an NL East team. The creation of divisional play was good news for the Phils, as they’d had six consecutive >.500 seasons in the mid-60s, including a second-place 92-win finish in 1964, but never enough to take home the pennant or return to the World Series.
1976 was the Phillies’ first season in franchise history in which they won 100+ games. This new level of success was due in large part to Mike Schmidt, who hit 12 home runs in the team’s first 15 games, including a four-homer game against the Chicago Cubs. It was only Schmidt’s fifth year in the majors, but already his second All-Star season, and he won his first of 10 Gold Gloves, and led MLB in home runs for the third consecutive season in only five years in the majors.
That year’s squad was stacked: Bob Boone, Dick Allen, Larry Bowa, Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Steve Carlton, Jim Kaat, and Tug McGraw were among their many talents.
Each of the Phillies’ first three postseason appearances took place decades apart, and in different ballparks. Veterans Stadium, so named for the country’s many veterans of war, had taken over three years to build, and cost a whopping $60M, including the most expensive scoreboard set-up in all of pro sports at the time. After decades of playing in the A’s dilapidated old Shibe Park, on April 10, 1971 – almost exactly 62 years to the day the A’s had played their inaugural game at Shibe (April 12, 1909) – the Phillies finally had a modern ballpark of their own.
Unfortunately, the Vet, which hosted that year’s All-Star Game, wouldn’t see postseason success just yet. The Phillies finished 101-61 to take home their first division title easily (no other NL East team won more than 92 games) but got swept in the postseason once again, this time by the Cincinnati Reds, who won the NLCS in three games.