The Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals each had been through their share of trials to get the World Series. The Phils and Royals made the League Championship Series each year from 1976-78, and lost all three times. They both broke through together and it was the Phillies who took the final step in the 1980 World Series.
You can read more about the paths the Phillies and Royals took to reach the World Series, and the seasons enjoyed by their key players, at the links below. This article will focus strictly on the games of the 1980 World Series.
Homefield advantage for the World Series belonged to Philadelphia, as the National League was on the right side of the rotation system this year. It would also be the first all-artificial turf World Series.
Kansas City had swept the ALCS so their rotation was fresh, with aces Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura set to go for the first two games. Philadelphia played a draining NLCS with the Houston Astros were the last four games went extra innings, and they sent lightly regarded Bob Walk to the mound.
The Royals took advantage early as veteran Royal centerfielder Amos Otis hit a two-run homer and first baseman Willie Mays Aikens hit another as Kansas City built a 4-0 lead. Aikens would not have a long career in baseball, but he was a tough out in this series, as this early home run indicated.
The Phils’ comeback capacity was already becoming a national story though, and they did it in Game 1. In the bottom of the third, Larry Bowa singled with one out, stole second and scored on a double from Bob Boone. Lonnie Smith drove in Boone and the lead was quickly cut in half. Even though Smith was out trying to stretch a hit into a double, the rally continued. Pete Rose was hit by a pitch, Mike Schmidt drew a walk and Bake McBride homered to right. Philadelphia was suddenly ahead 5-4.
Leonard couldn’t recover and he gave way early to Renie Martin. The Phillies added runs in the fourth, on a two-out RBI double from Boone, and in the fifth, McBride singled and eventually came around on a sac fly from Garry Maddox.
Kansas City tried to get back in it—George Brett doubled and Aikens homered again to cut the lead to 7-6, but Philadelphia closer Tug McGraw came on and closed the door on the Game 1 win.
It was the battle of lefthanders for Game 2, as the Phils sent their ace, Steve Carlton to the mound, with his nasty slider. The Royals countered with 18-game winner Larry Gura, a finesse pitcher who could get groundball outs as well as anyone. Both pitchers controlled the game early, before Trillo delivered a key hit that gave the Phils a 2-0 lead in the fifth.
What Trillo, the MVP of the NLCS had given with his bat, he quickly gave back with his glove. An error on a ball hit by Aikens created an unearned run for KC. In the seventh, the Royals got a bases-loaded double from Otis, scored three times and turned the game over to their excellent submarine-throwing closer Dan Quisenberry.
The closer would be no mystery to Philadelphia throughout this series though, and consecutive doubles from McBride and Schmidt keyed a four-run eighth. The game ended 6-4 and Philly had held serve at the Vet.
One of the more amusing stories in this series was that Brett was suffering from a case of hemorrhoids and it was wondered if he would be able to play. He had to leave in the sixth inning of Game 2 due to the pain. The third baseman said he would be in the lineup and joined the national chorus of jokes by saying “All my troubles are behind me.”
Brett proved it with a home run in the first inning of Game 3 in Royals Stadium, but Philadelphia immediately answered in the second inning with singles from Trillo and Bowa, with Smith ultimately tying the game with an RBI groundout.
The punch-counterpunch dynamic stayed all the way through the game. Aikens tripled and scored in the fifth to put the Royals up 2-1. Schmidt homered to lead off the fifth and tie it. Otis hit a solo home in the seventh. Bowa singled with one out in the eighth, and with two outs, stole second and scored on a base hit by Rose. The game went to extra innings tied 3-3.
U.L. Washington led off the home half of the tenth inning with a single off McGraw. Willie Wilson drew a walk, but Washington was quickly wiped out trying to steal third. The inning was going to get away from Kansas City when Wilson stole second with two outs. Aikens singled to score the winning run and this time the rules prevented the Phils from immediately tying it back up.
The sun splashed over Kansas City for Game 4, as prior to 1985, Games 4 & 5 were day games on Saturday/Sunday, in the early afternoon and late afternoon respectively. For Royal fans, the start to Game 4 added to the sunshine.
Philadelphia starter Larry Christenson had nothing and only got one out, after Wilson singled to start the bottom of the first. After that, Brett tripled and Aikens homered for a 3-0 lead. Hal McRae and Otis hit back-to-back doubles and Kansas City had staked Leonard to a 4-0 lead.
One pattern didn’t stop, it was the inability of Royal pitchers to have a shutdown inning Philadelphia got a run back in the second. A throwing error on a double play attempt moved Trillo to scoring position and Bowa singled him in with two outs. But Aikens homered again in the bottom of the second and Leonard settled in.
To the credit of Phillies’ long reliever Dickie Noles, the game stayed at 5-1 into the seventh. The Phils picked up a run in the seventh, when Trillo doubled and came around on a sac fly from Boone. In the eighth, Rose doubled and Quisenberry came in for Leonard. The run scored thanks to productive outs, but Quisenberry closed the door on the 5-3 win without further incident. It set the stage for a pivotal Game 5 on Sunday.
Marty Bystrom pitched for Philadelphia, while Gura followed Leonard in taking the ball on short rest. The Royals missed a chance in the third inning, when they had runners on first and second, no outs and the top of the order up. But Wilson, Frank White and Brett couldn’t get the job done. In the top of the fourth, a defensive miscue by Kansas City was costly—Aikens made an error at first and Schmidt hit a two-run shot the other way for a 2-0 Philly lead.
The Royals manufactured a run in the fifth, with singles from Washington and Wilson, a sac bunt from White and an RBI groundout from Brett. KC tied it an inning later the easy way—a home run from Otis. Then they took the lead when Clint Hurdle and Darrell Porter singled and Washington hit a sac fly. But another Kansas City mistake came when Wilson doubled to right and Porter was thrown out at the plate.
Quisenberry came on early, with one out in the seventh inning. Schmidt beat out an infield hit, and then Del Unser ripped a double into the rightfield corner that tied the game. He was bunted over to third. With two outs, Trillo then beat out an infield hit. With only one ball hit into the outfield, the Phils had scored two runs and taken a 4-3 lead.
McGraw was on for the save and he made sure it got interesting. He went walk/out/walk/out/walk, to give Jose Cardenal a chance to be a hero for Kansas City. McGraw struck him out and the Phils were going home with two chances to clinch the World Series.
Game 6 shaped up as Philadelphia’s best shot—Carlton was pitching on full rest against Kansas City’s Rich Gale, a decent starter who had done well in Game 3, but certainly not in Carlton’s class. The Royals would turn to Leonard in Game 7 and could probably squeeze a couple innings out of Gura if they needed. The Phillies had to see Tuesday night as their moment.
Carlton was razor sharp and for seven innings, the Royals never seriously threatened scoring. Schmidt delivered a two-run single in the third for the game’s first runs. In the fifth, Smith doubled and scored on a successive productive outs. In the sixth, with Gale out and lefty Paul Splitorff in, Bowa doubled and scored on a single from Boone.
Kansas City started to make headway in the eighth. John Wathan walked and Cardenal singled. Carlton was removed for McGraw. White fouled out, but Wilson walked to load the bases and Washington picked up the first KC run with a sac fly. In a key moment, Brett singled, but Cardenal had to stop at third. Consequently, McGraw was able to get McRae and keep the game 4-1.
In the top of the ninth, Aikens worked a walk with one out. Wathan singled, ensuring Kansas City had two chances with the tying run at the plate. Cardenal singled. The security police were lined up around Veterans Stadium on horses to keep the crowd from celebrating. Was it really possible that Kansas City would do the work for Philly’s finest?
White was at the plate and he popped up behind home plate. Boone moved behind it. The ball popped out of his mitt. This is normally the kind of moment that haunts a franchise. But not when an alert player likes Rose in effect “backs up” his catcher. Rose was near the play and he snagged the ball before it hit the ground. McGraw struck out Wilson, the record 12th strikeout for the Royal leadoff hitter and the Phillies were champions.
It was a long wait fulfilled for the Phillie Faithful, the first title in their long history. The Royals would eventually reward their own fans as well—five years later, in 1985, Kansas City won the first, and to date only, World Series championship in franchise history.