The 1980 World Series matched the Philadelphia Phillies against the Kansas City Royals, with the Phillies winning in six games to capture the first of two World Series titles in franchise history to date. The series concluded after Game 6, which ended with Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson at 11:29 pm on October 21, 1980. Wilson set a World Series record by striking out twelve times (after getting 230 hits in the regular season) in the six-game set.
Game 6 is also significant because it stands as the "most-watched game in World Series history" with a television audience of 54.9 million viewers.
The Kansas City Royals became the second expansion team, and the first American League expansion team, to appear in the World Series. The AL would have to wait until 1985 before one of their expansion teams—the Royals themselves—would win a World Series.
This was the first World Series played entirely on artificial turf. This was also the first World Series since 1920, and the last to date, in which neither team had won a World Series before. With their victory, the Phillies became the final team out of the original sixteen MLB teams to win a World Series. However, a Philadelphia team had won a World Series before, the last being the Philadelphia Athletics in 1930, exactly a half-century before this Series; in a twist of fate, the Athletics would play thirteen years in Kansas City before eventually settling in Oakland.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the National League East division by one game over the Montreal Expos then defeated the Houston Astros, three games to two, to win the National League Championship Series. The Kansas City Royals won the American League West division by fourteen games over the Oakland Athletics then swept the New York Yankees for the American League pennant.
Two first-year managers, Dallas Green of the Phillies and Jim Frey of the Royals, found themselves with an opportunity to do what no other manager had done before them, win a first World Championship for their respective clubs. This was the first appearance for the Phillies since losing to the New York Yankees in the 1950 Series and just their third overall, having lost also to the Boston Red Sox in 1915.
The Royals entered the league as an expansion team in 1969. They had early success under the leadership of Whitey Herzog, winning their division from 1976 to 1978, but each year they would lose to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, exacting revenge with a sweep of the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS. The Phillies had a strikingly similar run entering this Series, as they were also divisional winners from 1976 to 1978, losing to the Cincinnati Reds in 1976 NLCS and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 and 1978, before regrouping in 1980 and triumphing over the Houston Astros in the League Championship Series.
The Phillies seemed to have it all, including eventual 1980 Most Valuable Player, third-baseman Mike Schmidt (48 HR, 121 RBI, .286 BA) and Cy Young Award winner, lefty Steve Carlton (24–9, 2.34 ERA). This mostly veteran club finished between first and third in almost all offensive categories in the National League. Thirty-nine-year-old Pete Rose led the club in hits (185) and doubles (42), while speedsters center fielder Garry Maddox and utility outfielder Lonnie Smith combined for 68 steals. The pitching staff was just good enough, led by Carlton and 17-game-winner Dick Ruthven. In the bullpen was the ever enthusiastic screwballer Tug McGraw, who was making his third trip to the Series, having ridden the bench with the New York Mets, winning in 1969 and losing in 1973. Third time was the charm for both the cheerleading McGraw and the bad-luck Phillies.
The Royals had a Most Valuable Player of their own in the indomitable superstar, third-baseman George Brett, who flirted with the sacred .400 mark all summer with an average above .400 as late as September 19, before settling for a .390 batting average. The unquestioned heart and soul of the Royals was surrounded by a solid corps including veteran Royals, Amos Otis, super-designated-hitter, Hal McRae, solid second-baseman, Frank White and switch-hitter Willie Wilson who finished the season with 230 hits and 79 stolen bases. The pitching staff had six players with ten or more wins, led by twenty-game-winner Dennis Leonard (20–11, 3.79) and left-hander Larry Gura (18–10, 2.95). Submariner Dan Quisenberry won twelve games out of the bullpen and accumulated 33 saves, tied for best in the American League with Rich Gossage.
NL Philadelphia Phillies (4) vs. AL Kansas City Royals (2)
The Royals jumped on Phillies rookie starter Bob Walk (who became the first rookie to start the first game of a World Series since Joe Black of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952) early with a pair of two-run bombs, one by Amos Otis in the second and another by Willie Aikens in the third. In their half of the third, the Phils rallied to take the lead, with the key blow coming on a three-run homer by Bake McBride. They would add two more runs late to extend their lead. Despite Aikens' hitting another two-run homer to cut the lead to one, Tug McGraw was able to hold on for a 7–6 Phillies victory. Prior to 1980, the Phillies had not won a World Series game since Game 1 of the 1915 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Game 2 was a pitchers' duel between left-handers Larry Gura and Steve Carlton. Carlton looked in control up 2–1 until, acting on a complaint from Kansas City manager Jim Frey that Carlton was using a foreign substance on the ball, the umpires made Carlton wash his hands. Carlton then loaded the bases on three walks and Amos Otis ripped a double into the left-field corner to drive in two, setting up a third score. Down 4–2, the Phillies rallied to go up on the Royals in the eighth. The big hits in this inning came on an RBI double by Del Unser and a game-tying RBI single by Bake McBride past the drawn-in infield. Mike Schmidt drove in the go-ahead run with a double off the right-center-field wall and Keith Moreland added an insurance run. Ron Reed picked up the save in the ninth as Philadelphia went up 2–0 heading to Kansas City.
George Brett had to have minor surgery after Game 2. In Game 3, a fully recovered Brett hit a home run as his Royals wound up winning in ten innings by the score of 4–3.
K.C. got back in the series with a thrilling extra inning victory in Game 3. George Brett began the scoring with a blast into the right-field stands in the first. Amos Otis gave the Royals a 3–2 lead in the seventh with a home run but Mike Schmidt tied it with a homer of his own in the eighth. The game headed into extra innings and in the bottom of the tenth, Willie Aikens drove in Willie Wilson with a double to left-center for the game-winning run.
A beautiful Saturday afternoon was the setting for Game 4. The Royals jumped all over Phillies starter Larry Christenson in the bottom of the first. Willie Wilson doubled, George Brett tripled him in, and Willie Aikens smashed his third homer of the series. The onslaught continued when Amos Otis doubled in Hal McRae to give the Royals a 4–0 lead right out of the gate. Aikens would add another blast an inning later and despite the Phils' attempt at another comeback, the Royals would triumph 5–3. Aikens became the first player in World Series history to have a pair of two-homer games. Despite the Royals victory, Game 4 is best remembered for Dickie Noles' fourth-inning brushback pitch under Brett's chin that ultimately prompted the umpires to issue warnings to each team. Brett told Baseball Digest in March 1998 that he had "no idea if that [brushback pitch by Noles] turned the Series around. All I know is we lost." Mike Schmidt, in his book Clearing The Bases, called it "the greatest brushback in World Series history." Aikens later said that he had been expecting it to happen to him, in retaliation for his two home runs.
Game 5 would be the pivotal game as the Phillies went up 3 games to 2. The game was scoreless until the fourth when Mike Schmidt hit a two-run bomb to right-center. The red-hot Amos Otis led the Royals back with another homer, and by the sixth, K.C. was in front 3–2. After the Phillies threw out a K.C. runner at the plate to keep the game a one-run affair, they marched to victory by coming back in the ninth. Schmidt led off the inning with a single, and Del Unser drove him home all the way from first with a double down the right-field line. After a bunt moved Unser to third, Manny Trillo drove in the go-ahead run with a line shot that ricocheted off pitcher Dan Quisenberry for an infield hit. In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals threatened by loading the bases with two out. The Royals Stadium crowd were standing hoping for a dramatic K.C. win. But Tug McGraw silenced the crowd by striking out José Cardenal with a high fastball to end the game.
Game 6 would be the culmination of the first Phillies championship ever. Philadelphia scored two in the third on a Mike Schmidt single. It was all that Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw would need for the 4–1 win. Kansas City threatened by loading the bases in the eighth and the ninth. However, in the final frame, a foul popup by Frank White near the first base dugout came out of Phillies catcher Bob Boone's glove only to be caught by Pete Rose, who came right by Boone's side. Then McGraw struck out Willie Wilson for the third and final out. It was the 12th time Wilson struck out in this Series, setting a new World Series record. The previous mark had been eleven, jointly held by Eddie Mathews and Wayne Garrett in 1958 and 1973, respectively. Ryan Howard would break Wilson's record by striking out 13 times in the 2009 World Series, ironically on a Phillies team which lost to the New York Yankees.
Boone's knees were so sore by the end of the World Series that he could barely make it to the mound after the final out was recorded.
When the modern-day World Series began in 1903, the National and American Leagues each had eight teams. With their victory in the 1980 World Series, the Phillies became the last of the "Original Sixteen" franchises to win a Series (although it should be noted that the St. Louis Browns never won a Series in St. Louis, having to wait until 1966, twelve years after they had become the Baltimore Orioles).
While Mike Schmidt was the official MVP of the 1980 World Series, the Babe Ruth Award (another World Series MVP) was given to Tug McGraw.
1980 World Series (4–2): Philadelphia Phillies (N.L.) over Kansas City Royals (A.L.)
NBC broadcast the Series on television, with play-by-play announcer Joe Garagiola, color commentators Tony Kubek and Tom Seaver, and field reporter Merle Harmon. Bryant Gumbel anchored the pre- and post-game shows, while former pitching great Bob Gibson and umpire Ron Luciano also contributed to NBC's coverage.
CBS Radio also carried the Series nationally, with Vin Scully handling the play-by-play and Sparky Anderson the color commentary. Win Elliot anchored the pre- and post-game shows for the network.
At this time CBS Radio held total broadcast exclusivity for the World Series, including in each team's market. Thousands of Phillies fans were outraged that they could not hear local team announcers Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn call the games. They deluged the team, the networks, and the Commissioner's office with angry letters and petitions. The following year Major League Baseball changed its broadcast contract to allow the flagship radio stations for participating World Series teams to produce and air their own local Series broadcasts. The CBS Radio feed could potentially be heard in those markets on another station which held CBS's rights. When the Phillies next won a World Series, in 2008, Kalas was able to make the call of the final out.
This Series is tied with the 1978 World Series for the highest overall television ratings to date, with the six games averaging a Nielsen rating of 32.8 and a share of 56.
Minutes after the final out, Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh issued a proclamation declaring the next day "Philadelphia Phillies Day" in the state. That day, a parade down Broad Street celebrated the Phillies win. About half a million attended the parade, the first ticker-tape parade down Broad Street since the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1975, as it made its way to John F. Kennedy Stadium. Another 800,000 gathered around the stadium. The parade was part of a day of statewide celebrations throughout Pennsylvania, per Thornburgh's proclamation.
In 1980, all four of Philadelphia's major professional sports teams played for the championship of their respective sports, but only the Phillies were victorious. The Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in mid-May, eight days later the Flyers lost to the New York Islanders, and the Eagles would lose to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV in January 1981.
Soon after the World Series, members of both teams played for a week on Family Feud with host Richard Dawson. The week of shows was billed as a World Series Rematch Week. The Phillies won three out of the five games played, with all the money going to charity.
The 1980 World Series was the first of numerous World Series that journeyman outfielder Lonnie Smith (then with the Phillies) participated in. He was also a part of the 1982 World Series (as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals), 1985 World Series (as a member of the Kansas City Royals), and the 1991 and 1992 World Series as a member of the Atlanta Braves. The two Braves seasons were the only years in which he played for the losing team in the Series.
Three men who played in the 1980 Series (John Vukovich, Dan Quisenberry, and Tug McGraw) have died of brain cancer. (Bobby Murcer and Johnny Oates, who played for the New York Yankees against the Royals in that year's ALCS, also succumbed to the disease, as did 1980 Yankees manager Dick Howser, who also managed the Royals to the 1985 World Series title, and Ken Brett, who pitched for Kansas City in the 1980–81 regular seasons.) Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff died of melanoma and oral cancer May 25, 2011.