Even on a superstar-laden team like the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies you are likely to find legitimate representatives for this ‘Phillies 50’ series.
The first Phillies team to ever win a World Series championship gave the first and only four big-league appearances on the mound to a 21-year-old right-hander in April and May of that season.
Scott Munninghoff had been the Phillies first round choice at 22nd overall in the 1977 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He would then pitch more than 180 innings in both the 1978 and 1979 seasons spent at High-A Spartanburg and Double-A Reading respectively.
Pitching well in spring training, Munninghoff somewhat surprisingly made the Phillies Opening Day roster in 1980. Phillies pitchers Nino Espinosa and Warren Brusstar were suffering from shoulder trouble that would delay their seasons, and both GM Paul Owens and manager Dallas Green wanted to see some fresh, young faces on the club.
Munninghoff would be called on by Green for his first appearance in Major League Baseball in the season’s third game. On April 13, 1980 at Veterans Stadium against the visiting Montreal Expos with the Phillies trailing 4-1 he was inserted into the game in the top of the 8th inning to face the heart of a talented Expos batting order.
After retiring the first two batters he faced, Larry Parrish and Gary Carter, on ground outs he walked Warren Cromartie and gave up a single to Bill Almon. Munninghoff then got opposing pitcher Stan Bahnsen to ground out to end the inning. The Phillies would rally to tie the game with three runs in the bottom of the 9th with Munninghoff lifted for pinch-hitter Greg Gross, but eventually would lose it in 10 innings.
His next appearance was easily his most memorable. On April 22, 1980 the visiting New York Mets knocked Phillies starter Dick Ruthven out of the game in the 2nd inning with six hits and a walk, scoring four runs. Munninghoff was brought in by Green to provide relief. He failed to slow the Mets attack, surrendering RBI singles to the first two batters he faced before getting out of the inning with New York having taken a 6-2 lead.
The pitchers slot was scheduled to lead off for the Phillies in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Green decided to just leave Munninghoff in the game, setting up his first-ever big-league plate appearance. Rewarding his skipper, Munninghoff ripped a pitch from Mets starter Tom Hausman into the right field corner and raced around the bases to leg out a triple. Pete Rose would follow with a sacrifice fly, and Munninghoff raced home with his first run scored.
Munninghoff would eat up 3.1 innings on that Tuesday night, surrendering two more runs. In the bottom of the 5th, Green had George Vukovich pinch-hit for the pitcher. Vukovich equaled Munninghoff’s earlier performance with his own leadoff triple, starting a four-run Phillies rally to tie the game at 8-8. They would later score six runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to win 14-8.
Green would give the youngster two more opportunities, both at home at The Vet, with mixed results. After Munninghoff failed to get an out in the top of the 6th inning during a wild 12-10 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon May 4, 1980 he was returned to the minor leagues.
Pitching the rest of that season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Munninghoff was hit hard and continued to exhibit major control problems. Following a nearly identical season in 1981 the Phillies finally gave up on him.
On December 9, 1981 he was sent to the Cleveland Indians to complete a trade made three weeks earlier between the two teams. In that three-way deal the Phillies had obtained catcher Bo Diaz, sending outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Saint Louis Cardinals, with the Cards shipping pitchers Lary Sorensen and Silvio Martinez to Cleveland.
Munninghoff did not benefit from the change of scenery at all, struggling through the 1982 season split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Indians farm system.
After retirement, Munninghoff reportedly coached baseball for a time at his high school alma mater of Purcell Marian Catholic and now 61-years-old is said to have owned a roofing company as of 2016 and living with his family in Cincinnati.