The Philadelphia Phillies franchise has won exactly two World Series championships over the course of 137 seasons of play. Those two world titles came in 1980 and 2008.
As part of our season-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of that 1980 team championship, I am comparing those two great Phillies teams to see whether either can legitimately be considered as having been better than the other.
I got to enjoy each of those seasons, the first as an 18-year-old in October of 1980 and the next as a 46-year-old in October 2008. As a huge Phillies and baseball fan who has followed the club all the way back to 1971, I feel extremely qualified to hold an educated opinion on the subject.
The series began last week with a look at the starting pitching rotations, bullpens and bench groups. Those pieces can be found linked below. Once this evaluation series ends, I’ll do a final wrap-up piece in which I will give my opinion as to which – if either – of these two Phillies championship teams was the better all-around squad.
1980: BOB BOONE
Boone was the Phillies pick in the sixth round of the 1969 June MLB Amateur Draft out of Stanford University. He first broke into the big-leagues in mid-September of 1972 and immediately became the club’s starting catcher at age 24. He would finish third in the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year voting.
In 1980, Boone was 32-year-old playing in his eighth full season of Major League Baseball. He was a three-time (1976, 1978-79) NL All-Star and a two-time (1978-79) Gold Glove Award winner.
Boone appeared in 140 games during the 1980 regular season, 138 of those as a catcher with 130 starts. He produced a .229/.299/.338 slash line with nine home runs, 33 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs, 34 runs scored, and three stolen bases.
Over the course of 11 posteason games that October, Boone played all but one inning behind the plate. He slashed .314/.390/.371 with two doubles, six RBIs, and four runs scored.
In the decisive Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS vs Houston at the Astrodome, Boone produced two hits. His second inning two-run single off Nolan Ryan gave the Phillies an early 2-1 lead. Then in the dramatic top of the eighth, Boone’s infield smash off Ryan’s leg was part of the incredible Phillies rally from a 5-2 deficit against the Hall of Famer.
In Game 1 of the 1980 World Series vs Kansas City at Veteran’s Stadium, Boone had a three-hit night. Trailing 4-0, his double to left field off Dennis Leonard scored Larry Bowa with the club’s first run of the Fall Classic. He would later score on a Lonnie Smith single. In the home 4th inning, his RBI double off Leonard scored Manny Trillo to put the Phillies ahead 5-4.
His most iconic moment of the postseason may have actually been a near disastrous gaffe, though he did hustle on the play. The Phillies led 3-2 in games and 4-1 on the scoreboard. The Royals loaded the bases off Tug McGraw in the top of the 9th inning of Game 6, trying to stay alive as the crowd at The Vet grew more anxious and nervous with each pitch.
Frank White then popped a ball into foul territory and Boone raced towards the Phillies dugout and reached for the ball, but it popped out of his glove. Fortunately, Pete Rose had famously hustled over as well from his position at first base. As the ball popped out, Rose snatched it out of the air for the second out. McGraw would then strike out Willie Wilson, and the Phillies had the first world championship in franchise history.
2008: CARLOS RUIZ
Ruiz is a native of Panama who was signed by the Phillies as a 19-year-old amateur free agent out of their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic in December 1998. He made his big-league debut in 2006 and would become the club’s primary catcher for the next eight seasons.
In 2008, “Chooch” was a 29-year-old playing in just his second full season of Major League Baseball. He appeared in 118 games during the regular season, 110 of those as a catcher with 92 starts. He also appeared in one game at third base. Ruiz produced a .219/.320/.300 slash line with four home runs, 18 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 47 runs scored, and one stolen base.
Over the Phillies 14 posteason games, Ruiz played all but two innings behind the plate. He slashed .261/.346/.391 with one homer, three doubles, four RBIs, and six runs scored.
In Game 2 of the 2008 NLCS vs the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park, Ruiz’ two-out RBI double off Chad Billingsley scored Greg Dobbs to tie the contest at 1-1. It opened the door to a four-run rally enroute to an 8-5 victory and a 2-0 series lead. He had two hits in the Phillies’ dramatic Game 4 victory at Dodger Stadium, singling with two outs and then scoring ahead of Matt Stairs‘ thrilling “into the night” go-ahead home run.
During the World Series vs Tampa Bay, Ruiz went 2-2 with two doubles, two walks, and a run scored during the Phillies’ 4-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field in Game 2.
It was at the end of Game 3 that Ruiz had his biggest moment of the Fall Classic. The series was tied at 1-1 and the game tied at 4-4 when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning against Australian fireballer Grant Balfour.
The Phillies had loaded the bases with no outs as Eric Bruntlett led off the inning getting hit by a pitch, then rolled all the way around to third base with the potential game-winning run as Balfour uncorked a wild pitch. Rays’ manager Joe Maddon had the next two hitters intentionally walked to set-up force plays at any base, bringing Ruiz to the plate.
On the sixth pitch of his at-bat with the count 2-2, Ruiz got a piece of a high fastball from Balfour, chopping it down the third base line towards a charging Evan Longoria. Bruntlett took off towards home plate at the crack of the bat and easily slid home ahead of Longoria’s desperate throw. The Phillies had a 5-4 walkoff victory and a 2-1 series lead. They would capture the next two games at Citizens Bank Park for the second World Series crown in franchise history.
Neither catcher delivered much in the way of offensive production during the regular season prior to their respective team’s October run to a world championship. Boone was much more of an iron man defensively. His backup, Keith Moreland, started just 31 times behind the plate.
Phillies manager Dallas Green also gave one start to rookie Ozzie Virgil Jr, that on the final day of the season after the club had clinched the NL East crown the prior night. Rookie Don McCormack appeared in two games, both in September 9th inning mop-up spots including in that season finale.
Ruiz’ backup Chris Coste made 69 starts in the 2008 regular season. In fact, “The 34-Year-Old Rookie” was more productive offensively than the Phillies’ starter. Coste slashed .263/.325/.423 that year with nine homers, 36 RBIs, 26 extra-base hits, and 28 runs scored in 68 fewer plate appearances than Ruiz received from manager Charlie Manuel.
The pick here goes to the more veteran Boone. He slightly out-hit Ruiz during their respective regular seasons and their postseason offensive production was a virtual push. As good as Ruiz was defensively, Boone was as good a defensive catcher as there was at that time in the National League during a time when future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Gary Carter were starters behind the plate.
Later this week the positional comparison between these two beloved Phillies teams will move out into the infield, beginning with a comparison of the third basemen. It might seem like a cakewalk at that position, but both clubs were actually strong at the hot corner.
1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE
3.24.20 – BENCH GROUPS
3.20.20 – RELIEF PITCHING
3.18.20 – STARTING PITCHING