Wednesday, July 29, 2015

1981, The Strike That Derailed the Phillies' Dynasty

The 1981 work stoppage severely hurt the Phillies.

1981, The Strike That Derailed the Phillies' Dynasty

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Thirty years ago, baseball was about to begin the second-half of its ill-fated strike-shortened season. And it would be safe to say no team suffered more from that labor strife than the Phillies.

Consider the Phils, before the stoppage, had won five in a row and nine of 11 and were atop the NL East with a 34-21 record. They were 70-40 in regular season games dating back exactly one calendar year.

In the last game before the stoppage, they had overcome a 4-0 deficit with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning against Nolan Ryan to beat the Astros, 5-4, on a three-run home run by Garry Maddox.

Pete Rose had just tied Stan Musial for the NL hits record. Rose, Bake McBride (who had suffered a knee injury) and Gary Matthews were all hitting over .300. Steve Carlton was 9-1 and Dick Ruthven was 8-3.

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At one point in early May, eventual MVP Mike Schmidt was on a 62-home run pace.

But then the strike happened and, more importantly, came the decision after it was settled to split the season in two, giving the Phillies the first-half division “title,” clinching them a spot in the playoffs and rendering their second half meaningless.

Manager Dallas Green, probably the greatest motivator in team history, had nothing to motivate them for ... and they never recovered. Schmidt, Rose (shown above after breaking Musial's record in the first game back) and Carlton kept up their numbers, but few others did.

They struggled to extend the Expos to five games in the division series and could not solve Steve Rogers in Game 5.

One wonders, if baseball had simply elected to continue with the season as is, whether the Phillies would have had a better shot to defend their World Series title.

Que sera sera.

Anyway ... Here are how some of the Phillies team and individual stats broke down in 1981’s two halves:

  First Half Second Half
Phillies Record        34-21 (.618) 25-27 (.481)
   Batting Avg. .279 .268
   ERA 3.78 4.33
Bake McBride .366 (18 games) .227 (40 games)
Pete Rose .330 (55 games)         .319 (52 games)
Gary Matthews .317 (51 games) .283 (50 games)
Mike Schmidt .284 (52 games) .356 (50 games)
Garry Maddox .292 (51 games) .225 (43 games)
Steve Carlton 9-1, 2.80 4-3, 1.93
Dick Ruthven 8-3, 4.05 4-4, 6.75
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About this blog

Boop – who goes by Bob Vetrone Jr. when he is undercover or paying bills – has been at the Daily News since 1982, after working for five years at the Philadelphia Bulletin up to its closing. Along with helping to build the sports scoreboards most nights, he has had great input into the papers’ special sports pullouts – March Madness, Broad Street Run, Record Breakers, Greatest Moments – as well as its day-to-day, award-winning event coverage.

A 1980 graduate of North Catholic, he took some evening college courses. Those lasted right up until the first conflict with a Big 5 doubleheader.

His favorite books growing up were the NBA Guide and the Baseball Encyclopedia, which was, for all intents and purposes, the Internet before there was an Internet.

He has been immersed in sports statistics since the early 70s, when his father (long-time sports writer, broadcaster and the Daily News’ Buck The Bartender), would take him into the Bulletin newsroom overnight in the summer and let him update the Phillies statistics in a little, black spiral notebook. But things have changed tremendously in the decades since … He now uses a big, black spiral notebook.

To listen to Boop on 94WIP, click here.

Reach Bob at vetronb@phillynews.com.

Bob Vetrone Jr.
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