1980 Philadelphia Phillies: World Series champions
The Phillies took a break from the postseason in 1979 but came back with a vengeance in 1980. It was their sixth consecutive winning season and everything that had been percolating since their first division title in 1976 was about to come to a head.
It was a year of playoff disappointment for Philadelphia, as the Flyers and 76ers had already reached the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals, and lost both. In January 1981, the Eagles would lose the 1980-81 season’s Super Bowl. The city’s hopes and dreams rested on the Phillies.
And by 1980, the Phillies were the only one of the original sixteen MLB franchises without a World Series championship, a statistic made all the more embarrassing by how much older they were than many of the other ball clubs.
The Phillies hadn’t played in the World Series since 1950 and hadn’t won a World Series game since their very first postseason run in 1915. But with the additions of Pete Rose and Manny Trillo the year before, and the continued dominance of Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, and Tug McGraw, to name a few, the Phillies were finally built to win.
Speaking of Schmidt, he led MLB with a career-high 48 home runs and 342 total bases, and led the NL in RBI, slugging, and OPS to win his first MVP award and Silver Slugger, and fifth consecutive Gold Glove.
For the first time since the pre-divisional era, the Phillies won the pennant, defeating the Houston Astros in the NLCS. In the World Series, they met the Kansas City Royals, the expansion team that had replaced the Kansas City Athletics in 1969, after the A’s moved to Oakland two years prior. Ironically, the Royals beat the Yankees – who had swept the Phillies in their last World Series appearance – in order to face the Phillies in the World Series.
Between the Vet and Royals Stadium, the 1980 World Series was the first played entirely on artificial turf. It was also a matchup of eventual MVPs, as Schmidt would win the NL MVP and Royals star George Brett would take home the AL MVP.
Phillies rookie Bob Walk started Game 1 of the World Series, only the third rookie to have the honor at that point in MLB history. The Phillies won the first two games, then dropped the next two letting the Royals tie it.
Ultimately, the series took six games, with Game 6 setting a record tv audience of nearly 55 million viewers, a number unmatched in World Series history to this day. That night at the Vet, Carlton got the start, Schmidt put the Phils on the board with a two-run single, and in the eighth inning, Carlton turned it over to McGraw, who would earn the save and cement the first championship in franchise history by striking out Willie Wilson.
Trillo won NLCS MVP, Schmidt won NL MVP and World Series MVP, Carlton won the NL Cy Young, and McGraw won the Babe Ruth Award.
In typical Phillies fashion, even their first championship season was fraught with close games, leading to the team being nicknamed “The Cardiac Kids.” But all’s well that ends well, and after 97 years, the Phillies were finally champions of the world.