The 1980 Phillies were the first team in my sports life (I don't count before I was 5, when I didn't know much about anything) that won a championship. Not surprisingly, the Phils are also the first team I fell in love with, largely because my Dad, Charlie, loved them as well.
Charlie said when he was a teenager he went to an open tryout for the Phillies. No one was ever really sure if that was true or not. He didn't get signed that day, but he never stopped loving them. And because he loved them, I loved them just as much, maybe more.
Even at 7, I could rattle off the starting lineup from memory. Still can. Pete Rose at first, Bake McBride in right, Mike Schmidt at third, Greg Luzinski in left, Manny Trillo at second, Garry Maddox in center, Larry Bowa at short, and Bob Boone behind the plate. And it seemed like every Sunday, or at least the Sundays we went to the games, Steve Carlton on the mound.
Rose was toward the end of his career but still the table-setter the team sorely lacked in the years leading up to 1980. And much like the more recent world champion Phillies had in Jimmy Rollins, Rose was the red light player. He had the swagger. He was one of the all-time greats, and he couldn't wait to tell you. And show you.
The 1980 Phillies were as solid defensively as you could be. Schmidt won 10 Gold Gloves, and they had six regular players who won at least two. I can't imagine any other team in history can make that claim.
That year, 1980, was the first I was allowed to go to Phillies games with my dad. I have eight brothers and sisters, but Charlie would bring "The Big 4" — myself, my two older sisters and my older brother — to the Vet on Sundays for home games. We would hit the box office, then begin the run up what seemed like miles of those ramps to get to the yellow seats in the 700 Level. Many games we had the entire row, if not the entire section to ourselves.
This was long before rules that barred bringing in your own food and drink, so we were loaded for bear. Hot dogs, chips, and a stack of plastic cups we would use to split a 3-liter bottle of Tahitian Treat, which is essentially carbonated fruit punch. We were sugared up, and ready for some baseball!
My dad had a warm smile, but I felt like it was never as big as when he sat in those yellow seats to watch his team play. The sound effects guy would play the trumpet noise to get everyone to yell Charge, and we all looked to my dad, who would not only bellow out the response, but a cloud of Pall Mall smoke along with it, to our delight.
While we watched, my dad taught the game, or at least all he knew about it. I listened.
From the positioning of players to why Steve Carlton struck out 100 guys every time he pitched to keeping a scorecard, he passed down his love of the game.
The '80 Phils kept winning, taking the division in the season's final weekend over the Montreal Expos. I clipped articles and pictures out of the next day's newspaper and taped them to my wall. They beat the Astros in the NLCS in maybe the most closely-contested playoff series I've ever seen. Four of the five games went to extra innings.
I picked up a new habit. Waking up before the sun and looking out my bedroom window or listening for the slap of the newspaper on our front walk. I tore out the front door in my pajamas to see the result of each playoff game. My brothers and sisters didn't have to read the paper to learn if they won or lost. They just read my face at the breakfast table.
On this night 40 years ago, the Phillies sat just one win away from their first-ever World Series crown. I begged my parents to let me stay up to watch the whole thing. No way, not on a school night. I stayed up as long as I could, as many stall tactics as I had in my bag at 7 years old. But mom was on to me and I was sent to bed for good with the Phillies up 3-0 through five innings.
I laid in bed and listened with everything I had to hear something, anything from downstairs. A TV announcer, my dad, anything, until I finally fell asleep. It was like Christmas Eve in my head, except there was a distinct possibility of no presents in the morning this time.
Because I stayed up so late the night before, I missed my paperboy wake-up call in the morning. The first thing that stirred me was a nudge on my shoulder. "Hey," my Dad whispered. "We did it. We won." I don't remember my feet touching the ground all day. The team I loved was the World Champion.
The 1980 Phillies won the World Series, the first in the team's history, 97 years old at the time. It spoiled a 7-year-old like me. I thought, well, this should happen every year, I mean, we'll have pretty much the same roster, why shouldn't it happen again?
And even though it took another 28 years for the second title — with several near misses along the way — the love never left. You never forget your first love.
Subscribe to the Phillies Talk podcast: