The Phillies are not in the playoffs this year, and probably won’t be for at least another couple years. And yet, because they are on TV (if you can find them hidden among the many cable channels that are airing the Division Series this year), I watch them.
I love postseason baseball. There’s something about the crisp, autumnal air, the early-fall shadows, people dressed warmly in the stands and pitchers blowing on their hands, with each pitch a do-or-die struggle, that I really love.
But I miss that the Phils aren’t in it, and haven’t been since 2011. So it gets me reminiscing sometimes.
Sure, we all remember the big moments. We remember Matt Stairs’ home run, we remember Utley’s deke-to-first, throw-to-home, we remember Victorino’s grand slam and we remember Lenny Dykstra’s many huge dingers in 1993. We remember Ryan Howard’s bombs in the 2008 World Series, we remember Bruntlett’s mad dash for home on Chooch’s dribbler, we remember Roy Halladay’s no-hitter and we remember Chase Utley’s five homers in the 2009 Fall Classic.
But there have been other great, less heralded moments that we have all forgotten. And they are forgotten for a number of reasons.
The home runs in question either occurred in series in which the Phils eventually lost, or were obscured by other, larger moments.
Below are the five Phils postseason home runs that time has forgotten.
5. Ryan Howard, Game 1, 2011 NLDS vs. St. Louis.
This was before everything went to well, and it was Ryan Howard’s last great postseason moment.
The 102-win Phils had fallen behind St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse 3-1, but had something going in the bottom of the 6th. With two men on and one out, Lohse faced Howard as the go-ahead run.
Now, this was a bad match-up for Lohse. He should have been removed from the game at this point. Tony LaRussa cost his team the game here. There’s no way Lohse should have been allowed to face the Big Piece, especially since in 32 career ABs Howard had hit .375/.444/.625 with an OPS of 1.069 against him, including a homer and 5 RBIs at the time.
But face Howard he did, and Ryan deposited a three-run jack into the right field seats to give the Phils a 4-3 lead. Raul Ibanez followed it up with a forgotten two-run jack of his own, and the Phils overcame a shaky start from Halladay to win 11-6.
Of course, this moment was lost in the annals of great Phils moments because of what happened in Game 5. And this isn’t the only great Phillies moment from this series on the list, either.
4. Ben Francisco, Game 3, 2011 NLDS vs. Cardinals
Immediately after it happened, when I assumed the Phils would go on to win the series, I referred to this as “The Ben Francisco Game,” because I was certain we would remember it forever.
With Jaime Garcia (a long-time Phils nemesis) and Cole Hamels locked up in a spectacular pitcher’s duel, Francisco came to the plate with one of the team’s few chances to score some runs against a very stingy Garcia.
With runners on first and second and two out, Francisco delivered the biggest blast of his life, launching a three-run shot into the left-field bullpen, giving the Phils a 3-0 lead in the 7th inning.
The Cardinals would make it hairy, but the Phils held on for a 3-2 win and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. One more win with Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay left. What could go wrong?
3. Pedro Feliz, Game 4, 2009 World Series vs. Yankees
You’re going to have to click over to the 2:26:10 mark to see this one, as it is so forgotten, no one has bothered to make a highlight of it on its own on YouTube or MLB.com.
The Phils were down 2-games-to-1 in the Fall Classic to the Yankees, and were trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. They were staring down the barrel of a 3-1 series hole, and were one strike away from being down by at least a run heading into the 9th against the greatest relief pitcher the game has ever seen, Mariano Rivera.
So it was Feliz against Joba Chamberlain, who at that time was no stiff either. No one felt confident the Phils were going to pull this one out. It seemed like a forgone conclusion Feliz would strike out and the game would essentially be over.
Except, Feliz turned around a 95 mph full count fastball right down the middle and slammed it into the left field seats, tying the game at 4.
Of course, a half-inning later, Brad Lidge, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez made this one of the most forgettable late-game postseason homers in team history by scoring three in the top of the 9th, with that crazy two-bag steal playing a huge role in the defeat.
The Phils would go on to lose in six games, and Chase Utley’s five-homer World Series helped push the Feliz tater into the back recesses of our minds.
2. Bake McBride, Game 1, 1980 World Series vs. Royals
The Phils were down 4-0 to the Royals in Game 1 of the 1980 World Series. It had been an awful start for Bob Walk, and Kansas City was all over him.
But in the bottom of the third, the Phils got something going. They had scored a run to make it 4-2 and had two men on for Bake McBride, who was batting cleanup that night.
He was an interesting choice to hit fourth that night. The 31-year-old had batted .309/.342/.453 in 137 games that year, with 33 doubles and 10 triples. So even though he only had 9 regular season homers, he had knocked in 87 runs that season. It wasn’t a bad choice, despite the low homer total.
Still, McBride (at the 1:10:08 mark) took a Dennis Leonard offering and smoked it into the right-field bullpen, scoring three runs and giving the Phils a 5-4 lead. The Phils would hang on for a 7-6 win and take the first game of the best-of-seven series.
And even though the Phils went on to win the World Series, their first ever, that homer, and the comeback itself, doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as it should.
1. George Vukovich, Game 4, 1981 NLDS vs. Expos
There has been only one walk-off home run in Philadelphia Phillies history. And this was it.
(This call, by the way, may have been one of Harry Kalas’ finest. I challenge you to find a better home run call, including Mike Schmidt’s 500th. It was that good.)
This was a weird series, because in those days, you didn’t have League Division Series. But because of the baseball strike that interrupted the 1981 season, the league decided to split the season into two halves. The Phils won one half, the Expos the other, and so the two teams met in a five-game playoff.
The Phillies were looking for their second straight world championship, and Montreal was looking for revenge after they were ousted on the penultimate game of the season the year before.
The game was tied at 5 in the bottom of the 10th, when Vukovich stepped to the plate against Montreal’s outstanding reliever Jeff Reardon. Vukovich, who was a 24-year-old rookie and had just 64 PAs for the team that season, batting .224/.297/.276, became one of the unlikeliest playoff heroes in team history with his solo blast that sent the series to a deciding Game 5.
Of course, that Game 5 ultimately overshadowed Vuke’s heroics, when Steve Carlton was out-dueled by Steve Rogers, who shut the Phils down 3-0 in the clinching game. But it is a dinger that should be remembered more, just like the rest of the home runs mentioned on this list.
It just occurred to me that this whole thing might have been a bit depressing to read. My apologies if it is. I just like listening to that Vukovich call over and over and over again.
Are there any homers I forgot? Add them below in the comments section!