Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks



It's all over. The computer has rendered its results.

Mike Schmidt, you are the man!

The greatest player in club history was the best player on the field throughout our virtual matchup between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, the only two World Series championship teams in club history.

Schmidt began the series with a home run in the top of the first inning of Game 1 and he closed it with a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth to fuel a series-clinching, 8-5 win for the '80 Phillies in Game 6 at Citizens Bank Park.

Steve Carlton, who took the loss in Game 1, came back with a vengeance and pitched 7⅓ innings of three-run ball for the win.

With the baseball world shut down by the coronavirus health crisis, we were looking for ways to satisfy our baseball cravings. The good folks at Strat-O-Matic graciously agreed to run a best-of-seven computer simulation between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, using the actual statistics from those seasons. The '80 Phillies lost Game 1 but came back to win four of the next five with Bob Walk, Dick Ruthven, Larry Christenson and Carlton all delivering strong efforts on the mound against an '08 club that just did not hit.

Schmidt, the National League MVP and home run king in 1980, was the star of the series. (Oh, what the heck, clear a spot in the garage, Mike, we've crowned you MVP of this series.) Schmidt hit .435 (10 for 23) with two doubles, a triple and three homers. He drove in eight runs.

Three of those RBIs came with one swing in the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 after the 2008 club began to stir in the bottom of the eighth. The '80 club had taken a 4-0 lead into that frame before Ryan Howard clubbed a three-run homer against Carlton to make it a one-run game.

Charlie Manuel, the 2008 skipper, went to his bullpen ace, Brad Lidge, to keep the game close in the top of the ninth. The right-hander got the first two outs of the frame then struggled against the top part of the '80 team's batting order. He gave up an RBI single to Pete Rose before serving up the three-run homer to Schmidt as the '80 club went up, 8-3.

With closer Tug McGraw still reeling after giving up a grand slam to '08 hero Matt Stairs in Game 4, '80 skipper Dallas Green gave the ball to Warren Brusstar in the ninth. Stairs did it again, clouting a two-run pinch-hit homer to make it a three-run game, but Green stuck with Brusstar and he closed out the game as fireworks filled the air beyond the left-field wall, over the parking lot that once was Veterans Stadium, the 1980 club's home park.

While champagne flew in the visiting clubhouse, the home clubhouse was quiet. In real life, the World "bleeping" Champion 2008 Phillies had some thunderous bats. But in this computer simulation, they were quiet. Chase Utley hit .316 with four doubles a homer and four RBIs, but Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Howard and Shane Victorino all hit well under .200. In fact, Burrell had the highest batting average of that group at .167. (Sorry, guys, the computer just wasn't with you.)

As a team, the 2008 club hit just .187 while the 1980 club hit .305.

Game 5 was a big turnaround game. The 2008 club needed to build on the momentum it had gained from Stairs' dramatic ninth-inning grand slam in Game 4, but the 1980 club extinguished that momentum with Christenson pitching a three-hitter and Rose driving in three runs in Game 5.

In addition to Schmidt, the '80 club got big offensive performances from Manny Trillo, Larry Bowa, Bake McBride and Lonnie Smith. 

So that's our Spring Classic. We could play it all out again and the results might be completely different. Thanks to John Garcia of Strat-O-Matic for making it happen. It was a lot of fun to write about these great Phillies names of the past. Thanks to everyone who followed along.

"Those were two great teams going at each other," Bowa, an '80 star, said in real life. "For the most part, our pitching shut them down. It was fun to follow this series and the city should be very proud of both of these teams.

"Now, it's time to have a glass of champagne."

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