As a fan of a particular franchise I have to face it, for most of their history, their records have been underwhelming. Also as a fan of my chosen team, I have come to expect mediocrity, and anything better than that I view as a gift. If you haven’t figured it out, I am of course talking about my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. They have had some incredible talent grace the field throughout their long and inglorious history. Hall of Famers and Superstars line their history books, but they were never able to put together any long run of success. Until 1980, when the finally won their first World Series after 97 years, they had nothing to show for their efforts. Today’s book takes a look at that World Series team and its success, and what could have truly been.
The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies is a probably the most beloved team in all of Philadelphia sports history. Despite their best efforts off the field to self destruct, the 1980 team was a success on the field and finally won a World Series. After a run of Division Championships, and a string of losses in the NLCS, the Phillies finally figured it all out in 1980.
William Kashatus takes on a Phillies journey that shows the reader how it all came together. He walks the reader through the years leading up to the Phillies move into the new and modern for the time Veterans Stadium. You get all the details of what the team had waiting in the wings in the farm system, and see the progression that each of the players made in working their ways to Philadelphia. It gives you a very strong background of what the Phillies had up and coming, and who they had planed to rely on as the building blocks of their Dynasty.
Starting in 1976, through 1978 the Phillies won the Eastern Division in the National League. The only problem was they could never get past the NLCS each year to make it to the World Series. With some new faces in the dugout, and a less than personable manager, you get to see how the Phils finally brought it together and got over that hump. I really like that fact that this book did not sugar coat the teams rise to success. The author gives you all the information, warts and all, that helped form the team and its management structure.
Another interesting fact about this book is the way it looks at the teams decline and ultimate demise after 1983. After they won the World Series the team was sold to its new ownership group, who which yet again are going through a rebuilding phase. It shows the initial ineptness of the new ownership group and the mistakes made along the way to build what the thought was a quality team. Both player transactions and off field personnel moves are addressed and give an honest perspective of what a majority of the world would consider bone head moves. If you consider the 1983 Phillies nicknamed the Wheez Kids, for all their over the hill players a fluke, you can see it was all down hill after 1980.
The ironic part of this book to me is its publishing date. It was published in 2008 just as the new age Phillies embarked on their first World Series Championship year since 1980. This era has been coined as the most successful in Phillies history. With winning five Division Championships, two Pennants and a World Series Championship, people think this was the greatest time ever to be a Phillies fan. The parallel between the two eras is remarkable and something I never noticed before. The first era team had the same number of Divisions, Pennants and World Series wins during its run, as the newer era team. It’s interesting how that happened, but not so surprising that the management group headed by Bill Giles, screwed up both eras. Maybe Phillies fans are never meant to be part of a Dynasty after all.
Fans should really enjoy this book. It has great detail and does not sugar coat the truth. For Phillies fans it may be more salt in the wounds, but still an enjoyable read to take a look back at some success.
You can get this book at the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press