Amazing '77 season ended on sour note

Amazing '77 season ended on sour note

Fresh from their first postseason appearance since the 1950 Whiz Kids, the 1977 Phillies season had a rough start and a painful ending. In between, an awesome season.

Many considered that club to be the deepest and best of the era, especially after Bake McBride was acquired in a midseason trade. He hit .339 in 85 games with his new team.

Danny Ozark's bench included Davey Johnson, Ollie Brown and Jerry Martin from the right side, Jay Johnstone, Tim McCarver and Tommy Hutton from left side. Starters Steve Carlton, Larry Christenson, Randy Lerch, Jim Lonborg and Jim Kaat combined for 69 wins. The bullpen of Tug McGraw, Ron Reed, Gene Garber and Warren Brusstar, 32 wins and 47 saves. Only three others pitched for them: Wayne Twitchell (0-5), Manny Seoane (0-0) and Dan Warthen (0-1).

Phillies' alumni page

Greg Luzinski had a monster year (39 homers, 130 RBIs, .309) and finished second in the National League MVP Award race. Mike Schmidt, .274, 38 HR, 101 RBIs, club-high 104 walks and 11 triples. Lefty (23-10, 2.64 ERA) won his second Cy Young Award. He lost his first home game in April and won his next 16 at the Vet.

Defense was anchored by Gold Glove winners, CF Garry Maddox (third straight), 3B Schmidt (two in a row), P Kaat and the ever-steady C Bob Boone and SS Larry Bowa. NL All-Stars were Carlton, Schmidt and Luzinski.

Yet, it wasn't an easy ride to their second consecutive 101-win season that included a club-record 16-game winning streak. On June 29, a 39-32 record had them 8 1/2 games out of first place.  

Between Aug. 3 to Aug. 23, they went 19-1, including a club-record 13-game winning streak to take a 7 1/2-game lead. They ended August with a club-record 22-7 record.

The NL East was clinched with a 15-9 romp in Chicago, Game No. 157, on Sept. 27, with Christenson starting, winning and hitting a home run. It was LC's 18th win and 14th in his last 15 decisions.

NL Championship Series
This time the Los Angeles Dodgers stood in the way of a trip to the World Series, a best-of-five NLCS. A split of two games in Los Angeles sent the series to the Vet, where the Phils were almost unbeatable, 60-21. Five of those losses came at the start of the season.

Black Friday
Game 3 turned out to be a game like no other in club history. Dodger starter Burt Hooton began to struggle with his control in the second inning, sending the Vet crowd into a tizzy. With each ball out of the strike zone, the crowd got louder and louder -- 61,719 literally hooted Burt out of the game that inning when he walked three consecutive batters, forcing in three runs and giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. LA tied it in their fourth.

Two runs in the eighth put the Phils up, 5-3, and had the Vet shaking. All that was needed were three more outs. All the glee turned sour in just five batters in the top of the ninth. Gene Garber was in his third inning of relief. He had retired eight straight Dodgers on ground outs and was one out away from a save.

Pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo laid down a bunt for a base hit. Pinch-hitter Manny Mota hit an 0-2 pitch to left field. Luzinski went back to the fence, leaped, had the ball in his glove but couldn't hold it. The relay throw got away, putting Mota on third with the tying run. Davey Lopes hit a hot smash to third. The ball went off Schmidt's glove but the ever-alert Bowa grabbed it bare handed and fired to first for an apparent game-ending out. Umpire Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe. An errant pick-off throw from Garber moved Lopes to second, from where he scored the winning run on a Bill Russell grounder up the middle.

Instead of a 2-1 lead in the playoffs, the Phillies trailed, 1-2. Playing in a steady the rain the next night, the Dodgers advanced to the World Series. Rain or shine, it didn't matter. Black Friday had unofficially ended the season.

Garber, when talking about his fondest postseason memory, once said, "My fondest postseason memory was a game that also turned into my greatest nightmare." TV replays showed Lopes was out but Froemming had the call wrong. To his credit, Garber never pointed the finger at Bruce. Everyone else in Philadelphia did. If only instant replay existed in the rules then.

Numbers
The Phillies began the season with four losses ... Longest winning streak (13 games) and losing streak (five games) each came in August ... Team was 22-23 in one-run games ... Walk-off decisions, 8-11 ... Largest attendance ever: 2,700,070.

Regular lineup
C -- Boone
1B -- Hebner
2B -- Sizemore
SS -- Bowa
3B -- Schmidt
LF-- Luzinski
CF -- Maddox
RF -- McBride

Larry Shenk is editor/author of the Phillies Alumni page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.