The Phightin' Phills made a huge splash in the free agent market signing Pete Rose away from the Cincinnati Reds in the hopes that he would be the final piece to a championship puzzle. For 3 consecutive seasons the Phillies captured the NL East flag only to lose to the Reds and Dodgers in the LCS. Despite get a .331 season from Rose, the Phightin's took a huge step back in the standings dropping from 1st to 4th. Fans on Broad St. began to believe that maybe their window of opportunity was beginning to close on them with some of their core players (Boone, Bowa, Carlton, McGraw, Reed and McBride) all on the dark side of 30. The biggest concern was the power outage in South Philly. Despite a 45 homer season from Michael Jack Schmidt the team finished 8th in that category totaling just 119. The rest of the team combined hit just 30 more homers than Schmidt. The biggest worry was the bullpen, which found new ways each game to blow leads. Not one reliever (McGraw, Reed, Eastwick, Saucier, Bird) posted an ERA under 4.00. The lack of bullpen prowess robbed another 20 win season from Lefty Carlton (18-11, 3.62). Philadelphia held tight until late July, when they slowly but surely began to drop out of the race. On July 20th they were just 2 games out of first. A month later, August 20th, they were almost 9 games out and dropping faster than the Hindenburg. When all the dust cleared the team favored to win their 4th consecutive NL East crown finished 14 games behind Pittsburgh. On a positive note they drew 2.7 million fans, which put them number 2 in the league in attendance. Little did everyone know just how well they would rebound in 1980.
Editor’s Notes: I couldn’t wait to get home from my meetings, so I could start scanning photos from the 1979 Phillies Yearbook, that arrived yesterday. The “white whale” from this set, Rudy Meoli had a full page color photo in the book. When I saw it I felt like I scratched off the winning lottery ticket (or at least what I perceived that to be). Finding a photo of John Poff was also quite rewarding. The Dan Larson is a mediocre airbrushing of a minor league card. Curiously their minor league affiliate’s (OKC) uniform looked more like a Red Sox uni, not a Philly one. I colorized the Jack Kucek photo and had a lot of fun doing it. After spending over a half hour working on it I decided not to mess with the B&W background. Photos that came from the aforementioned yearbook are: Meoli, Aviles, Rose, Espinosa, Trillo, Smith, Saucier, Poff, Gross Unser & Rader.