Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1977 Philadelphia Phillies

The 1977 Philadelphia Phillies season was the 95th season in the history of the franchise. The Phillies won their second if 3 consecutive National League East division title with a record of 101-61, five games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers, three games to 1.  They dropped the NLCS to the Reds the previous season and would lose once again to the Dodgers in 1978.  With all the success that they had during this era people began to wonder, "why can't they win it all ?"  Personally I thought that the Phills had a great team, but the NL East was not as strong as the NL West, especially Cincy and LA.  Both franchises produced team's for the ages during this era and Philly just happened to come up a little short every time.

Almost 3 million fans came through the turnstiles to see the Phightin's play.  The team actually started slow and was barely over .500 as late as the end of June.  After a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on June 25th they were 8 1/2 games out and in 4th place.  That's when the winning started.  Some will point to the fact that they finally got their butts in gear.  Others will say they were like sharks, who smelt the blood of the fading Cubs in the water.  In my opinion the June 15th trade deadline acquisition of Bake McBride from the Cardinals made all the difference.  Over the final half of the season as their regular rightfielder McBride hit .339 with 11 homers and 27 stolen bases, while playing great in the field.  His acquisition was just the jump start the Phils needed.  Starting with June 18, when McBride saw his first action appearing as a pinch hitter, the Phils beat the Braves in 12 innings 8-5.Their record over the final 101 games was 68-33.  The Phils played at an amazing .673 clip once McBride joined the team.  No doubt the fading Cubs had a lot to do with the turnaround as well.  On Friday August 5th the Phils defeated the defending NL Champion Dodgers 8-3 to move into a tie for first place in the NL East.  After completing a 3 game sweep of the Dodgers 2 days later they had sole possession of 1st place and never looked back.  That sweep of LA gave them a lot of confidence.  It was also part of a stretch where they won 13 in a row and and 21 out of 23.  During that stretch the Phillies went from saving their season to a 7 1/2 game lead in the NL East.


Statwise the offense finished #1 in batting average and number 2 in homers.  Mike Schmidt had 28 roundtrippers with 101 RBI's, while batting .274.  His running mate, "the Bull", Greg Luzinski was even better (.309-39-130).  How he finished 2nd in the MVP voting can be explained in three words:  fifty two homers.  That's the incredible amount that George Foster hit that season.  Their awesome hitting overshadowed their great defensive play.  Schmidt and Bowa were gold glovers in the infield and Garry Maddox was the best defensive centerfielder in the game.  As the saying goes, "2/3 of the earth is covered by water and the other third is covered by Maddox".  You don't get a nickname like "The secretary of defense" by accident.  Maddox won 8 gold gloves in his 15 years in the big leagues.  Veterans Tim McCarver and Davey Johnson (returning from Japan) hit in the .320's off the bench and in part time rolls.  Tommy Hutton hit .309 as a clutch pinch hitter.  Jerry Martin hit .260 as a part time outfielder, and we haven't even touched on gold glove catch Bob Boone who also hit .284.  An embarrassment of riches for sure.

The pitching was much maligned, but that's only because it got compared to the hitting and fielding.  Their team ERA (3.71) was good for 4th in a league of 12 teams, so the complaining should stop immediately.  Steve Carlton's 23-10 season earned him is 2nd of 4 Cy Young Awards.  "Lefty" had 17 complete games and tossed 283 innings, while striking out 198.  Larry Chrstenson won 19 and Jim Lonborg, who was battling injuries, won 11 (lost only 4).  Sure the rest of the rotation had elevated ERA's and they didn't go deep into games, but they didn't have to.  Philly had the best bullpen in the league.  Gene Garber (8-6, 2.35, 19 Sv) shared the closing duties with Ron Reed (7-5, 2.75, 15 SV) with Tug McGraw (7-3, 2.62, 9 sv) waiting in the wings to do his magic if needed.  Factor in youngster Warren Brusstar (7-2, 2.65, 3 SV) and all you need to do is get 6 or 7 innings out of your starters and you are home free.

Why didn't this team win it all ?  If you fast forward to 1980 when they did win it all their core of veteran players to a man said that they were missing that one key ingredient, "grit".  When they signed Pete Rose in 1979 they got that "Grit", which turned a perennial top contender into a World Champion.


To complete the 1977 Topps set for the Phightin's I needed to create 15 cards and locate one O Pee Chee card.

As I stated before I believe that the trade deadline acquisition of McBride sparked the team and filled a big void.  The numbers bare this out.  McBride, who won the 1974 Rookie of the Year award by hitting .309 for the cardinals was a 4 tool player.  In his peak season he only hit 15 homers, but he hit bullet line drives and played a great right field.  He would hit .299 in an 11 year career that ended way too soon.  McBride hit .291 in his final season and turned down free agent offers to retire.  Most greedy players of today would have taken the money and ran.  McBride lost interest and decided to move on.  He hit over .300 in 7 of his 11 seasons.  He was an All-Star in 1976.  If I put together an "all underrated team" I would vote him on in a second.  The photo used here came from a Cub fans's Flickr page.  I thought it would be cool to create a card using this unique action shot of McBride sliding into third with Steve Ontiveros waiting for the ball to arrive.

A more traditional shot of McBride where you can see his face in a staged action shot.  I leave it up to the Phillies manager to choose which card view he likes best.

After losing his starting catcher's role to Gary Carter the Expos couldn't wait to ship Foote out of town.  He arrived in Philly and immediately claimed the role of 3rd string catcher.  With All-Star Bob Boone and former All-Star Tim McCarver playing in front of him Foote would only get in 18 games and hit .219 win 32 AB's.  He would only get into 39 games and hit .159 the following season, which earned him a 1 way ticket to Wrigley and a starting spot for the Cubs.  Foote would finish his career up in Pinstripes where he was Rick Cerone's backup in 1981 and again in 1982.  I found this autographed photo on Google.

Warthen burst on the scene as a 22 year old lefty with electric stuff in 1975 for the Montreal Expos.  He went 8-6 with a 3.11 ERA splitting time between the pen and the rotation.  He struck out 167 batter in 128 innings.  Things looked oh, so promising, but those promises never were fulfilled.  He suffered through the sophomore jink in 1976 going 2-10 with a 5.30 ERA on an Expo team that lost 107 games.  He started the '77 season going 2-3 (7.97) before the Expos send him and Foote packing to Philly, where he would pitch in just 3 2/3 innings.  He got into 5 games the following season in Houston and just like that he was gone.  To his credit he didn't quit.  He wound up in the Pirate chain in 1979 and 1980 and pitched at Portland (AAA).  He was demoted to Buffalo (AA) and then in 1982 down to Alexandria (A), where he worked as a player coach.  Coaching would be his true calling.  Today he is in his 4th season as the Mets pitching coaching.

How valuable could a 27 year old rookie who hit .167 in 12 games be to a franchise ?  Very valuable if you were one of the players bundled in a trade that brought Bake McBride to the franchise.  Iorg was one of those late bloomers who actually got better each year as he moved up the ladder in the minors.  He hit his stride by batting .326 in Oklahoma City (AAA) in 1976 and .371 in Springfield in 1978.  When he got to St. Louis he cobbled together a 10 year career as a .276 hitting utility man.  He was the Cardinals DH in the 1982 World Series vs the Brewers.  He won his second ring in 1985 against the Cardinals while playing for the KC Royals.  He owns a .522 career post season batting average (12 for 25) and hit .529 in the '82 series.

During Johnson's first 8 years in baseball he was a gold glove / All-Star second baseman for an Orioles team that won 4 pennants and 2 World Championships.  After a dismal '72 season where he hit just .221 the Orioles gave his starting job to Bobby Grich and traded him to Atlanta where he responded by hitting 43 homers to tie a record for second baseman.  In fact he, Darrell Evans and the immortal Hank Aaron were the first set of teammates to eclipse the 40 homer mark in the same season.  The following season his batting average dropped 19 points and he hit 28 less homers.  He was eventually cut and wound up spending 2 years playing in Japan before returning to major league baseball as a part time utility guy for the Phillies.  Johnson hit .321 in 156 AB's off the bench for the Phills.  In 1978 he would drop to .191 and get traded to the Cubs midway through the season where he hit .306 and decided to call it a career while finishing on a high note.  His managerial exploits are legendary.  His strong willed personality has led to him resigning from many jobs where he couldn't get along with clueless owners.  At the age of 69 he will return to the bench as the Washington Nationals manager for the 2012 season.  In 1986 he guided the Mets to 108 wins and a world title.  His career .561 winning percentage as a manager ranks right up there with the all time greats.  The photo I used here came from a Phillies' fan site.  It definitely looks like a home photo with the umpire in a regular jacket in the background.

Andrews played parts of 2 seasons (1976 and 1977) for the Phillies as a fill in at second base.  In 4 games he hit .667 (4 for 6) during the '76 season and in 12 games he hit .174 (4 for 23) during the '77 season.  He had some good numbers in the minors.  After being dealt to the Mets he hit .273 with 12 homers at Tidewater (AAA), but was cut anyway.  That marked the end of a career that started in 1970 in the rookie instructional league.  The photo here came from his Venezuelan Winter League card.  I copied and pasted a Phillie cap to replace the cap he was wearing, which was blue.  Those mutton chops and those dark aviator glasses makes him look like one cool dude.  Maybe not in Clyde Frazier's category, but definitely cool.

If you said I was going to make and cheap "Doors" jokes at Morrison's expense, guess again.  I'll leave those to Chris Berman, because it would be too easy to call him the "Leather King" or something like that.  Seriously, Morrison really did give his leather a lot of action.  In a 12 year career that featured stops in 5 different cities he played every position except catcher (he even pitched).  In 1977 he saw 5 games worth of action at third base and hit .429 (3 for 7).  In 1978 hit a blistering .157 in 108 at bats.  He would move over to the Chisox and forge a career as a sometime starter sometime utility guy.  At the age of 33 he hit 23 homers and batted .275 for the Pirates.  His .260 career average and flexibility in the field made him a valuable commodity.

How does a guy forge a 10 year career when he hit just .161 lifetime ?  Answer: Have a super gold glove at third base and be an all around good teammate.  Vuke actually batted 217 times in 1971 as the Phillies starting thirdbaseman yet hit only .166.  That tells you just what type of glove he had.  He started the '75 season as the Reds starting third baseman and was actually hitting over .200 for the first time in his career, but Sparky Anderson decided to move Pete Rose to 3rd and put George Foster in the outfield.  That move spelled he end of his career in Cincy.  He was traded back to the Phillies and spent most of the next 6 seasons in the minors or with the big club as a spot starter / defensive replacement.  He got into just 2 games in '77 going 0 for 2.  In 1980 he would work as a key defensive replacement on the Phillies first ever championship team.  Upon retirement he became a fixture in the Phillie organization and died tragically of brain tumors in 2007 at the age of 59.  I found this photo on a Phillies fan tribute site.  "Vuke" was apparently a beloved figure in the Phillie organization.  Fans mourned his sad passing in 2007.  The team work a black patch saying "VUKE" on their jerseys for the rest of the season.

Seoane's biography can be summed up in one sentence:  He was a bad pitcher and an even worse criminal.  In parts of two seasons in the majors he was 1-0 with a 5.65 ERA over 9 games.  In one criminal action he was caught along with his former teammate Mark Lemongello trying to kidnap and extort money from one of Lemongello's relatives.  His 6 innings of pitching for the Phightins during the '77 season resulted in no decisions and a 6.00 ERA.  I took this photo from a minor league card and changed the hat color and the collar collar to match the Phillies team colors.  I pasted a "P" on the jersey, so it could resemble the Phillie logo.

Buskey slowly but surely made his way up through the minors hitting in the .240's.  This leads me to believe he was a smooth fielding shortstop.  The Phils called him up for a cup of coffee and he responded by hitting .286 (2 for 7) in 6 games.  He was sent back down to the minors and when his average dropped below .200 he was given his release.  I was lucky enough to find one black and white spring training photo of him.  I colorized it and added a Phillie cap and added a blue tinge to his jersey to reflect the color of Philadelphia's road uniform during the era.  I pasted the "P" logo on the upper left side of the jersey.

Lerch was one of those lefties who stuck around for a long time despite not have really good stuff.  His 3rd trip to the majors in 1977 was the one that ensured he would stick.  He moved into the rotation as a 22 year old rookie and went 10-6 with a 5.07 ERA.  He would remain in the rotation for the next 4 years despite less than stellar numbers.  He earned a ring with the 1980 Phills despite going 4-14 (5.16) in 22 starts.  H bounced over to the Brewers in '81 and was on a pennant winner in '82.  Stops in Montreal, San Fran and final go-round in Philly in 1986 marked the end of a mediocre 11 year career (60-65, 4.53).  On September 30, 1978, Lerch achieved a rare bit of notoriety for a pitcher by hitting two home runs in a 10-8 win that clinched the National League East Division championship for the Phillies.  The photo used here came from a Google search and was taken at Wrigley.

Hebner's another one of those guys who you never thought much of then you look at his career numbers and career length and you think, "he was really good, wasn't he?"  Over 18 seasons he hit .276 with 203 homers.  Not too shabby at all.  Hebner had the good fortune of arriving in Pittsburgh just in time for the Pirates to become the dominating team in the NL East.  From 1969-1976 he hit .277 and hit 121 homers as the Bucs won 1 World Championship and 5 division titles.  Due to his erratic arm the Pirates were constantly looking for an upgrade at third base.  This led to him signing as a free agent with the Phillies at the conclusion of the 1976 season.  In 118 games during the '77 season Hebner hit .285 with 18 homers while playing mostly first base.  In '78 he had virtually identical numbers, yet the Phillies traded him to the Mets in order to get much needed pitching help (Nino Espinosa).  The card you are seeing here is his 1977 O Pee Chee card.  Apparently the lazy folks at Topps created his card with him still on the Pirates, even though he was clearly a free agent.  O Pee Chee did an ok airbrush job on his warm up jacket and cap.

Sizemore grounded into a league-leading 25 double plays in 1977 which tied the Phillies single season record set by Del Ennis in 1950.  He was also the Phillies starting second baseman after arriving in an off season trade that sent backup catcher Johnny Oates to the Dodgers.  Sizemore hit .281 in 152 games and formed a nice DP combo with Larry Bowa.  The following season he saw a reduced role due to his average dipping to .219.  He played the final 2 seasons with the Cubs and Red Sox.  In 1969 he was the NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and was traded to the Cardinals for the enigmatic Richie Allen straight up.  I used his 1978 Topps photo for this updated card.

Blackwell was a well traveled backup catcher who appeared in just 1 game and scored 1 run with out any official at bats for the Phillies in 1977.  He started off in Boston as Carlton Fisk's backup and after hitting .197 in 1975 was sold to the Phillies.  In 4 games during the '76 season he hit .250 (2 for 8) for the Phills.  After being traded to the Expos in '77 he hit .091.  When he got to the Cubs he put together 4 up and down seasons as a platoon catcher.  His high water mark was 1980 where he hit .272 with 5 homers and 30 RBI's in 103 games.  I took his 1976 SSPC card photo and airbrushed his Red Sox cap into a Phillies cap.  It's pretty obvious that the cap brim was colorized from dark blue to a burgundy red, but I figured that we didn't need perfection for a guy who saw action in just 1 game.

On May 6, 1977, at the age of 25, Brusstar made his major league debut with the Phillies when he was called up to replace Tug McGraw on the team's roster after McGraw suffered an elbow injury.  He would never start a game in his career, because he was used primarily as a middle reliever. Only 3 times did he ever appear in over 50 games in a season, because Brusstar, a sinker-slider pitcher, was constantly hampered by shoulder problems.  Brusstar would go an impressive 7-2 (2.65) in 46 games out of the pen for the Phillies.  In '78 he would go 6-3 (2.33) in 58 games.  Thing looked good for him and a long and successful career in South Philly was being predicted until arm trouble began to limit his time and effectiveness.  He stuck around long enough to earn a ring on the 1980 team where he got into 26 games and post a 2-2 (3.72) record.  In his 340 major league appearances he never once started a game.  I found this out of focus autographed photo on ebay.

4 comments:

  1. Really nice work on Fred Andrews, Manny Seaone, and Mike Buskey.

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  2. Thanks for you comments. I really enjoy the cards where I have to do colorization, airbrushing and a lot of cut/paste.

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  3. Just discovered your blog. I love the cards you've created, especially the Phillies cards. It's about time Bake McBride had a proper 1977 Topps Phillies card!

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  4. Did you know that you can create short urls with Shortest and get dollars for every click on your short links.

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