And then, of course, there was the franchise’s first-ever big free agent signing of first baseman Pete Rose prior to the 1979 season.
All of those players, with the exception of Rose, were together and won the NL East Division crown for three consecutive years from 1976-78. However, the team was eliminated in the NLCS each time.
A BIG FREE AGENT AND A NEW MANAGER
Feeling that they just needed a proven winner to lead the way, ownership shelled out the money to sign Rose. The result? The Phillies finished in fourth place in his first season of 1979.
Many have given credit for the Phillies finally getting over the hump and actually winning that World Series in 1980 to the managerial change from the laid-back Danny Ozark to the fiery Dallas Green.
While the addition of Rose and the change to Green were certainly key pieces to the team ultimately winning it all, there is another component that is often overlooked.
In 1980, a handful of young players emerged to play pivotal roles. Without those rookies and young players, the fact is that the great veteran core does not win.
I’m not only talking about winning the Fall Classic, but even the division crown. Without these youngsters, there are no playoffs in Philly in 1980, let alone a world championship.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Lonnie Smith was a 24-year-old outfielder in the 1980 season who had received 17-game cups of coffee with the team in both 1978 and 1979.
But in 1980, Smith appeared in 100 games and was given 331 plate appearances. The speedster hit for a .339 average and produced a .397 on-base percentage. He slashed 14 doubles and four triples, scored 69 runs, and swiped 33 bases.
Keith Moreland turned 26 years old in May of 1980. The catcher had also received the same 1978 and 1979 cups of coffee as Smith, appearing in 15 total games in those seasons.
But in 1980, Moreland was given 171 plate appearances over 62 games. He hit .314 with 29 RBI, and was a legitimate weapon when Green wanted to give veteran Bob Boone a rest.
YOUNG PITCHING ALSO STANDS TALL
Bob Walk was a 23-year-old right-hander who had been strong in the Phillies minor league system over the previous three seasons.
In 1980, Walk went 11-7 and gave the Phillies 27 important starts. Longtime starter Randy Lerch had collapsed with a terrible season, while Christenson missed two and a half months with injuries.
Reliever Kevin Saucier turned 24 years old in May of 1980. He saw one game in 1978, then 29 games in the 1979 season. In 1980, the lefty appeared in 40 games. He went 7-3 with a 3.42 ERA over 50 innings.
Dickie Noles was a righty reliever who was 23 years old that summer. After his own 14-game audition in 1979, Noles became a full bullpen member in that 1980 season. He tossed 81 innings over 48 games, even registering a half-dozen saves.
A PERFECT SEPTEMBER
The final influential kid to step up for those Phillies may have been the one without whom which the playoffs never happen.
Marty Bystrom turned 22 years old at the end of August. The 6’5″ righty had a strong season with AAA Oklahoma City and got his call-up when rosters expanded in September.
In his first appearance, Bystrom came in from the bullpen and set the Los Angeles Dodgers down in order during the eighth inning of a 6-0 Phillies loss at Dodger Stadium.
Three days later he was given a starting opportunity against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Bystrom was dominant, firing a complete game shutout.
Green gave him another shot, and another, and another, and another. Bystrom won them all. He went 5-0 that month, allowing just 26 hits over 36 innings with a 1.50 ERA.
WINNING THE WORLD SERIES
Smith, Moreland, Walk, Saucier, Noles, and Bystrom all made the Phillies postseason roster. Bystrom got in thanks to a late injury to starting pitcher Nino Espinosa.
All acquitted themselves well in either the dramatic NLCS victory over the Houston Astros, that historic World Series versus the Kansas City Royals, or both.
The Phillies were indeed a veteran-laden team that finally got over the hump and ended the franchise’s 97-year championship drought in 1980. But they never do it without the pivotal contributions of those youngsters.