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Mike Schmidt delivers key RBI double during the 8th inning of Game 2 in the 1980 World Series

 

The 1980 World Series holds a special place in the hearts of all Philadelphia Phillies fans, and none more so than myself.

First of all, it is the only world championship the Phillies have won thus far in their 125-year history. It is also special to me because I got to see it in person, having attended Game #2 at Veteran’s Stadium with my Uncle Frank LoBiondo.

How it was that my Uncle Frank and I attended a World Series game together is a part of the story.

It’s not that we were ever particularly close, though he is a great guy and someone who I have always liked and enjoyed being in the company of at family events and such. He is my father’s sister’s husband, so my uncle through marriage.

At the age of 18, I had plenty of friends and family who would normally have been ahead of Uncle Frank in the pecking order for my extra ticket. In fact, that I even had an extra ticket is it’s own story.

Back in those days which may seem somewhat ancient now, there was no internet, and few of the types of ticket brokers that you find today. Most tickets to events were purchased either by standing in line at the box office or by procuring them at the venue on the day of the event from a scalper.

When the Phillies won the 1980 National League pennant by defeating the Houston Astros in one of the most dramatic pennant battles ever, I knew that I just had to attend what would be the first Philadelphia Phillies appearance in the World Series in my lifetime.

I was a huge baseball and Phillies fan, as I remain today, and I went out to Veteran’s Stadium in order to stand on line waiting for tickets. I got up to the box office and there was a maximum limit of eight (8) tickets which each individual could purchase at $20 per seat. So, I bought my allotted maximum, shelling out $160 in the process.

Believe me, that sounds like chump change to most of you here in 2008, and the fact is that it would cost you ten times that amount to get into Citizen’s Bank Park for this years Fall Classic. Well back then it was a lot of money to me and my young family.

As I mentioned already, I was only 18-years-old at the time. But I already was married with an eight-month old baby. I worked for First Pennsylvania Bank as a messenger clerk, a job that I had just begun a year earlier right out of high school. Needless to say, it barely paid the rent and other necessities.

But I had a plan in buying those eight tickets, and it worked wonderfully. At the bank, I put out word that I had extra seats. As anticipated, I was quickly besieged with offers for my tickets. I sold two for $100 apiece, and another two for $50 each.

Happy at having done so well, I sold the next pair on the cheap on the day of the game for $25 each just to get rid of them. I had sold six of the tickets, with a face value of $120, for a total of $360, putting a couple of hundred needed dollars into my family pocketebook. And I still had two remaining seats to enjoy the game for myself.

My ex-wife, with whom I was supposed to attend the game, couldn’t get off from work. So, I was left to scramble at the last minute for someone to go with me.

You wouldn’t think it would be a problem, but remember, it was 1980. No cell phones, texting, or personal computers. The only way to get in touch with anyone was in person or by land-line phones.

With little time before I should be leaving for the game, I began to make some phone calls. No luck. No one was answering their phones, or those friends whose homes that I reached were still not home from work or school.

Unbelievably, my brother, father, grandfather, and my closest friends were all out-of-pocket in that short time that I had to find a game partner.

After trying about a dozen or so people, I thought of my cousins, and I started out by calling the house of my cousin Donna LoBiondo (now Mooney), who lived just a few blocks away. Donna and I were the same age, and I had always gotten along well with her.

When I phoned, my Uncle Frank, her father, answered the call. Much as everyone else that I tried, Donna was not yet home from work. Sensing an opportunity, Uncle Frank volunteered that he would go with me if I wanted. Well, there you have it.

I walked over to their home, and Uncle Frank and I then walked to the route 79 bus on Snyder Avenue, took it westbound to the Broad Street Subway, and took the subway down to The Vet.

What excitement there was in what was then still a showplace venue of a stadium. The Phillies had held off George Brett and the Kansas City Royals the previous day for a thrilling 7-6 win, and so took a 1-0 series lead into our game.

For this Game 2 of the 1980 World Series, the Phillies manager Dallas Green would send their future Hall of Fame ace, Steve Carlton, to the mound.

Carlton was cruising along, and the Phillies took a narrow 2-1 lead into the 7th inning when suddenly there was some type of ruckus down on the field. It seems that the Royals manager believed that Carlton had a foreign substance on his hands. The umpires went out and checked, and whatever they found, they made Carlton stop and wash his hands. That may have rattled Lefty, as he proceeded to walk three batters.

The Royals’ star outfielder Amos Otis then ripped a two-run double. Kansas City added another run, and thus took a 4-2 lead in the game into the bottom of the 8th inning.

The Phils started to put their own rally together, and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Del Unser eventually tied it at 4-4. Then up came outfielder Bake McBride

The man known as ‘Shake-n-Bake’ rapped a go-ahead single through a drawn-in infield to put the Phillies back on top. The crowd of more than 60,000 roared, including Uncle Frank and I from our seats way up in the 700 level, the highest point in The Vet, directly behind home plate.

Then up to the plate stepped the Phillies MVP, superstar third baseman Mike Schmidt. The future Hall of Famer drove a double off the wall to score McBride with an insurance run, and The Vet was literally rocking from all of the fans jumping up and down and the roar of the crowd.

With normal closer Tug McGraw unavailable, tall veteran right-hander Ron Reed came in for the save situation in the top of the 9th inning. He set down the Royals, and the Phillies along with we fans celebrated a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

That lead would evaporate quickly. Kansas City won the next two games back at their home park to tie the Series at two games apiece. But the Phillies won a dramatic Game 5, and came back to The Vet exactly 28 years ago tonight.

On October 21st, 1980, the hopes and dreams of all Phillies fans were finally realized when the Tugger slipped a fastball past Willie Wilson with the tying run at the plate, and the Phils took the 6th game by a 4-1 final score.

No one who was around this town back then will ever forget that season, team, victory, and the ensuing parade. And in particular, I will never forget my first and only visit to the World Series, with my lucky long-shot ticket winner Uncle Frank right there beside me.