Mike Schmidt

The great number debate: Who wore No. 20 best in Philadelphia?

The great number debate: Who wore No. 20 best in Philadelphia?

When starting your athletic journey, the number you choose to wear and represent your city with becomes a part of your identity. It’s forever embedded into the career and legacy that is left behind. Oftentimes, upon hearing a certain number, one athlete associated with it comes to mind. 

Philadelphia has had a fair amount of star players that have shared the same number throughout history. 

And I bet you already had No. 20 in your head — didn’t you? 

Dave Poulin, Mike Schmidt and Brian Dawkins are some of the biggest names for their respective sports that have worn this number. 

But which of these athletes is ultimately the best to wear No. 20? Let’s take a look: 

Dave Poulin 

The Flyers have had quite a list of well-respected captains. While it’s hard to beat the legendary Bobby Clarke, and Claude Giroux is certainly leaving his mark, no other captain has made an impact like Poulin. 

After a crazy route to get to the NHL, Poulin took the franchise by storm once he arrived on April 2, 1983. In his first shift as a Flyer against the Maple Leafs, he scored the first goal of the game and of his professional career.

While the Flyers came up short that season, the emergence of Poulin became a silver lining. He had a strong foundation as a player, but some of the top athletes to ever represent the club noticed the potential in him. Clarke, Bill Barber, Brad Marsh and Mark Howe were all factors in molding his game.

Poulin quickly became one of the best players on the team. With just about one year of experience in the NHL, Poulin was the next in line to add the coveted “C” on his sweater. 

Poulin was a captain for the players. He advocated for his teammates and supported them as a way to make the locker room a more comfortable environment. 

The combination of his leadership and skill made for one of the strongest players the organization had ever seen. With two All-Star appearances (1986 and 1988) and a Selke Trophy in 1986-87, Poulin was eventually named to the Flyers Hall of Fame. 

Mike Schmidt

In the history of the Phillies, no player is more universally known and loved than Schmidt. 

A rocky rookie season was quickly buried among some of the best baseball the city would ever see. Schmidt led the National League in home runs eight different times throughout his career and officially entered the 500 home run club on April 18, 1987, becoming the 14th member. 

Schmidt holds a handful of records within the organization, including most games played (2,404), runs (1,506), home runs (548) and runs batted in (1,595). 

The third baseman had 12 All-Star appearances, collected 10 Gold Glove Awards and six Silver Slugger Awards, was the National League’s MVP three times (1980, 1981 and 1986) and, of course, led the Phillies to their first World Series win in 1980 — also being named MVP of that series. 

No. 20 was retired by the Phillies on May 26, 1990 and within the same season, he was inducted as a member of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. These accolades earned him a permanent place in MLB history as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. 

Brian Dawkins

For an athlete that finished his career outside of Philadelphia, Dawkins was permanently etched on the short list of players to never be booed. It was impossible, considering the legacy he created with the Eagles. 

As a member of the organization for 13 seasons, No. 20 is known to be one of the greatest safeties of all time. He was a natural born leader on defense and among the entire squad, an athlete that other teams feared playing against. 

During his time in Philadelphia, the Eagles won five NFC East titles, went to four NFC Championship games consecutively and appeared in Super Bowl XXXIX. 

With the Eagles, Dawkins made the Pro Bowl seven times, was a four-time First-team All-Pro and made the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team. His success landed him in the Eagles Hall of Fame and the team officially retired his number on Sept. 30, 2012. 

Years passed and he remained one of the top athletes in the city to never receive a glorious Super Bowl ring — but thanks to the special 2017 run and his time in the Eagles front office, Weapon X was finally able to cross that off his list. This was a moment that both he and fans were waiting years for. 

Just a few months after earning his ring, Dawkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, 2018. 

Really? Did you think we were actually going to pin these incredible athletes against one another? That’s comparing apples to oranges and makes absolutely no sense. Philadelphia has been one lucky city when it comes to having generational players — they just so happen to have worn the same number. 

But, if you feel inclined to personally select one, you can do so below: 

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Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks

Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks

BOX SCORE

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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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.

READ GAME 1

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READ GAME 3

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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