1980 Phillies

Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks

Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks

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It's all over. The computer has rendered its results.

Mike Schmidt, you are the man!

The greatest player in club history was the best player on the field throughout our virtual matchup between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, the only two World Series championship teams in club history.

Schmidt began the series with a home run in the top of the first inning of Game 1 and he closed it with a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth to fuel a series-clinching, 8-5 win for the '80 Phillies in Game 6 at Citizens Bank Park.

Steve Carlton, who took the loss in Game 1, came back with a vengeance and pitched 7⅓ innings of three-run ball for the win.

With the baseball world shut down by the coronavirus health crisis, we were looking for ways to satisfy our baseball cravings. The good folks at Strat-O-Matic graciously agreed to run a best-of-seven computer simulation between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, using the actual statistics from those seasons. The '80 Phillies lost Game 1 but came back to win four of the next five with Bob Walk, Dick Ruthven, Larry Christenson and Carlton all delivering strong efforts on the mound against an '08 club that just did not hit.

Schmidt, the National League MVP and home run king in 1980, was the star of the series. (Oh, what the heck, clear a spot in the garage, Mike, we've crowned you MVP of this series.) Schmidt hit .435 (10 for 23) with two doubles, a triple and three homers. He drove in eight runs.

Three of those RBIs came with one swing in the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 after the 2008 club began to stir in the bottom of the eighth. The '80 club had taken a 4-0 lead into that frame before Ryan Howard clubbed a three-run homer against Carlton to make it a one-run game.

Charlie Manuel, the 2008 skipper, went to his bullpen ace, Brad Lidge, to keep the game close in the top of the ninth. The right-hander got the first two outs of the frame then struggled against the top part of the '80 team's batting order. He gave up an RBI single to Pete Rose before serving up the three-run homer to Schmidt as the '80 club went up, 8-3.

With closer Tug McGraw still reeling after giving up a grand slam to '08 hero Matt Stairs in Game 4, '80 skipper Dallas Green gave the ball to Warren Brusstar in the ninth. Stairs did it again, clouting a two-run pinch-hit homer to make it a three-run game, but Green stuck with Brusstar and he closed out the game as fireworks filled the air beyond the left-field wall, over the parking lot that once was Veterans Stadium, the 1980 club's home park.

While champagne flew in the visiting clubhouse, the home clubhouse was quiet. In real life, the World "bleeping" Champion 2008 Phillies had some thunderous bats. But in this computer simulation, they were quiet. Chase Utley hit .316 with four doubles a homer and four RBIs, but Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Howard and Shane Victorino all hit well under .200. In fact, Burrell had the highest batting average of that group at .167. (Sorry, guys, the computer just wasn't with you.)

As a team, the 2008 club hit just .187 while the 1980 club hit .305.

Game 5 was a big turnaround game. The 2008 club needed to build on the momentum it had gained from Stairs' dramatic ninth-inning grand slam in Game 4, but the 1980 club extinguished that momentum with Christenson pitching a three-hitter and Rose driving in three runs in Game 5.

In addition to Schmidt, the '80 club got big offensive performances from Manny Trillo, Larry Bowa, Bake McBride and Lonnie Smith. 

So that's our Spring Classic. We could play it all out again and the results might be completely different. Thanks to John Garcia of Strat-O-Matic for making it happen. It was a lot of fun to write about these great Phillies names of the past. Thanks to everyone who followed along.

"Those were two great teams going at each other," Bowa, an '80 star, said in real life. "For the most part, our pitching shut them down. It was fun to follow this series and the city should be very proud of both of these teams.

"Now, it's time to have a glass of champagne."

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Pete Rose makes his presence felt as 1980 Phillies take 3-2 series lead over 2008 Phillies

Pete Rose makes his presence felt as 1980 Phillies take 3-2 series lead over 2008 Phillies

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You just knew Pete Rose would be a factor in this series.

Even though he was 39 in 1980 and his peak years were behind him, Rose could still make an impact. He led the National League with 42 doubles — one more than Bill Buckner and Andre Dawson — that season.

So, it was rather fitting that his three-run double in the fourth inning was the big hit in Game 5 of our virtual matchup between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies teams.

Rose's bases-loaded double highlighted a four-run inning and the '80 club went on to win, 5-2, at Veterans Stadium. Larry Christenson was brilliant in pitching a complete-game three-hitter for the '80 club. He struck out nine and beat Cole Hamels, who went six innings and allowed five runs, one of which was unearned.

The series, which pits the only two World Series teams in Phillies history against each other, is being played via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation using actual statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons. Rose's virtual bat and Christenson's virtual arm have given the '80 club a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series.

The '80 club is sitting pretty with Hall of Famer and 1980 NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton ready to go in Game 6 as the series shifts back to Citizens Bank Park.

Carlton has a chip on his shoulder after being outpitched by Hamels in Game 1. He will oppose Brett Myers, who was lit up in Game 2.

Carlton might not need that chip to beat the '08ers in Game 6. The '08 team's bats have been arctic for most of the series. The three-hit performance in Game 5 left Charlie Manuel's lads with a .168 batting average for the series. 

In Game 2 of the series, Bob Walk held the '08ers to two hits as he went the route for the win. Christenson went the distance on 143 pitches. Throwing that many pitches was not uncommon in those days.

In real life, Christenson was one of the core members of those great Phillies teams of the late-70s. He was the third overall pick in the 1972 draft and debuted in the majors as a 19-year-old. He was a 19-game winner in 1977 and a year later recorded a career-best 3.24 ERA in 228 innings.

Christenson was sidelined by an elbow injury for a good chunk of the 1980 season but came back and pitched well down the stretch and in the NL Championship Series for Dallas Green's club. He was hit hard by Kansas City in his only World Series start in 1980, but all these years later has found redemption thanks to our handy-dandy computer simulation.

The Phillies, pushed by front office executive Bill Giles, signed Rose as a free agent before the 1979 season. Giles believed Rose's intangibles could help the Phillies reach the World Series after painful playoff eliminations in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Rose indeed helped the Phillies get to the Series and win it in 1980 and he was part of another Phillies World Series team in 1983, his last season with the club.

For Phillies fans, those were great memories, and like this virtual Spring Classic, are helping fill our baseball cravings while the game is shut down because of the coronavirus health crisis. Will the '80 Phillies wrap it up behind Carlton in Game 6? Or will the '08 team's bats finally come alive and force a Game 7 in South Philadelphia?

We know you can't wait.

See you Monday.

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Matt Stairs swings hard, rescues 2008 Phillies with a heart-stopping blast

Matt Stairs swings hard, rescues 2008 Phillies with a heart-stopping blast

Finally, some drama in our showdown between the only two World Series championship teams in Phillies history.

And it comes compliments of a man who has done it before.

With the 2008 Phillies down to their last out and staring at a gaping series deficit, Matt Stairs came off the bench and clubbed a heart-stopping, pinch-hit grand slam in the top of the ninth inning to rescue his team from a two-run deficit and propel it to a 7-5 win over the 1980 club in a Game 4 thriller at Veterans Stadium.

The best-of-seven series, being played out via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation, based on real-life statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons, is now tied at two games apiece.

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Stairs’ dramatic Game 4 blast came against Tug McGraw, the ’80 club’s bullpen ace. McGraw enjoyed a brilliant season in 1980 — he had a 1.46 ERA in 57 games and finished fifth in the National League Cy Young voting — and images of him striking out Willie Wilson to clinch the franchise’s first World Series title that season will forever be etched in the minds of Phillies fans. But on this night, in this computer simulation, Tugger could not lock it down.

Both teams received solid efforts from their respective starters, Joe Blanton and Marty Bystrom. 

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, the NL MVP in 1980, continued his strong series with a three-run homer in the first inning and his club took a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning.

The ’08 team hit just .165 in the first three games of the series and it had just four hits through the first eight innings, but the bats began to rumble in the top of the ninth. Pat Burrell started the rally with a one-out single against Dickie Noles and Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz kept the game alive with a pair of two-out singles.

Needing one out to end the game and take a commanding two-game lead in the series, ’80 skipper Dallas Green waved McGraw in from the bullpen. Charlie Manuel, the 2008 team’s skipper, sent up Stairs to pinch-hit for Ryan Madson.

Stairs, of course, was a real-life hero in the Phillies’ run to the World Series in 2008 and his go-ahead, pinch-hit, two-run blast against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton in Game  4 of the NL Championship Series that year will always be the stuff of legend, one of the biggest and most important homers in Phillies history.

Stairs hit 13 homers in 2008 but only one against a lefty. However, in this matchup, his lefty power stroke figured to be a good match for McGraw’s vaunted left-handed screwball.

BOOM!

Suddenly, the ’08 Phillies had the lead and a few moments later, sure-thing Brad Lidge was locking down a most improbable but highly dramatic win.

Once we saw the result of this Game 4 cross the computer screen, we just had to call Stairs and tell him what happened. 

“Oh, Lord,” he said. “That’s crazy.”

Stairs is living back home in Canada, in his native New Brunswick. He and his wife are volunteering their time delivering prescriptions to elderly residents during the coronavirus health crisis. They are due to become grandparents in a week or so.

We gave Stairs the lowdown on what we were doing, simulating a series between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies. 

“Those were two tremendous teams,” he said.

Yes, we told him, and fans are riveted.

Stairs said he knew all about the greatness of Tug McGraw and regretted that he never met the man.

“I wish I would have,” he said. “I heard so many great things about him. He was a great man, a character and a great competitor. He was a great pitcher.”

Stairs played along with the fantasy of it all.

His approach against McGraw?

“Swing hard, like you live,” he said.

Then he asked a question.

“Did Schmitty give me a high-five when I was rounding third base?” he asked.

Stairs hit 265 regular-season homers in his long career and 24 were pinch-hits. He twice hit pinch-hit grand slams, one for the Phillies in 2009.

Now he has a virtual grand slam in his book and it was a big one, perhaps a series saver for the 2008 Phillies.

We asked Stairs where it ranked in his personal memory bank.

“Just below Jon Broxton,” he said, being a good sport.

The series stays at Veterans Stadium for Game 5. The '80 Phillies need to put the difficult loss behind them quickly. Green used five different starting pitchers in the actual World Series against Kansas City in 1980 and that's what we're doing here. So, Larry Christenson gets the start against '08 ace Cole Hamels. The '08 club, hitting just .183 in four games, needs a good one because '80 Cy Young-winner Steve Carlton is set for Game 6 and he'll surely have a chip on his shoulder after taking the loss in Game 1.

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