There is something about baseball that can make one feel exceptionally old. It seems that each time the new season dawns, we are reminded of how much we have aged when analyzing the rosters around the league. We’re getting closer and closer to having more people born after the 9/11 terrorist attacks being represented on the rosters around the league. Maybe it’s the fact that baseball games were probably the first professional sporting event we were taken to as a small child, maybe it’s because baseball is the one we were first introduced to playing at a young age. Whatever the reason, baseball continues to be the leading candidate to force us into a crotchety shell of our former selves, wishing the game went back to the days of yore.
This season marks the 40th anniversary of the 1983 National League pennant winning Phillies. Lovably dubbed as the “Wheeze Kids” thanks to the advanced age of several players on the roster, the team might go down as one of the least remembered winners in the team’s history. They had the distinction of not being able to win the World Series a mere three years after the inaugural championship in team history, while also being a little less colorful than the version a decade later than reached the exact same conclusion to their season: bitter disappointment in the Fall Classic. If you’re anything like me, the 1983 Phillies don’t really stick out in your mind as anything more than, “Oh yeah, they won the pennant that year.”
There were still the big names, of course. Mike Schmidt putting up another MVP-caliber season at third base, Steve Carlton still showing top of the rotation stuff for the pitching staff. But many of the heroes of the 1980 team - Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Manny Trillo - they were all gone, moved on to a different team as the Phillies tried to keep their championship window open as long as possible. Some of those same players, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose and Garry Maddox, were reduced to lesser versions of the player that helped the city experience a parade down Broad Street three years prior. New names like Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Ivan de Jesus were populating the infield. Young players like Von Hayes, Bob Dernier and Joe Lefebvre were beginning to take on more prominent roles with the team. Even Carlton saw his place atop the rotation usurped a bit by John Denny, the pitcher who would go on to win the Cy Young Award that year. Yet they were all brought together by a midseason managerial change that set them on a course to do battle with the mighty Baltimore Orioles in the World Series that October.
What the aim is here for this weekly series is to take a look at what was happening during that season at the same time on the calendar this year. Starting with the spring training reports and relying on the writings at the time as well as things published since, we’re going to take a look at how it all went down for the Phillies that season. The goal is to use Monday as a look back at what happened the previous week during that season. Hopefully, this will be a trip down memory lane for many of you, while for some, you learn something about that team that maybe you didn’t know before. It should be fun!