50 in 50: The Best Phillies TV and Radio Calls of the Last Half Century (21-30)

via YouTube

This is a continued list of the top 50 Phillies TV and Radio calls of the last half century, a list I compiled after the great calls on both TV and radio last Sunday during the Phillies dramatic comeback to sweep the Los Angeles Angels.

We will be running 10 moments per day through today and then resuming next week, as we count down to No. 1.

My criteria for ranking these calls was outlined in the initial post. In case you missed it (it also includes Nos. 41-50) you can read it here.

To access Nos. 31-40, go here. 

And now, without further ado, here are Nos. 21-30.

 

30. Pirates Broadcaster Jim Rooker has to walk home from Philadelphia

It wasn’t so much a great call, but definitely something that was said on air that was forever memorable.

On June 8, 1989, The Pittsburgh Pirates were visiting the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The Pirates burst out of the gates in a huge way, scoring 10 runs in the top of the first inning.

In the bottom of the first, Phillies leadoff hitter Randy Ready hit a double down the left field line. As he was cruising in to second, Rooker made a definitive declaration.

“I’ll tell you something right now,” he said. “If we lose this game, I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh.”

What happened over the course of the next nine innings was pretty remarkable.

Some great notes from this game:

  • In Steve Jeltz’s eight-year major league career, he hit a total of five home runs. Two, were in this game.
  • Jeltz was the first Phillie to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. It has since been done by Tomas Perez, Jimmy Rollins (twice) and Freddy Galvis.
  • Only 18 times in the history of the majors has a team come back from a deficit of 10 runs or more to win the game. At the time, the Phillies were only the 11th team to do it.
  • Ironically, of the 18 times it’s happened in baseball history, half of them of been by three teams. The Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Guardians and, yep, the Phillies. Their first one was an 11-run deficit in Chicago in 1976 when Mike Schmidt hit four home runs and helped the Phillies overcome a 13-2 deficit in the fifth inning to win 18-16 in 10. The game vs. the Pirates was the second, and the third was on yesterday’s list when they came back to beat the Dodgers on ESPN with that wild ninth inning (they were down 11-1 in the top of the 8th inning). That comeback was the last time a team overcame a 10-run deficit in the eighth inning or later and won, and it’s only happened two other times previously in the history of the sport – 1925 and 1901.
  • John Kruk led both teams in hits in the game with four. It was just his sixth game with the Phillies after being acquired in a trade the week prior along with Randy Ready in exchange for Chris James. Great trade for the Phillies.
  • Finally, as you saw in the video, Rooker did walk from Philly to Pittsburgh. He did it for charity and raised $100,000 for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Bob Prince Charities.

 

29. Bob Dernier walks it off inside the park

Why is it that so many of these Phillies calls seem to come against San Francisco?

Anyway, here was another early-season game, on May 15, 1989, and the Phillies and Giants again slinked into extra innings in a low-scoring affair, this time, it was 0-0.

Although the 1989 Phillies would go on to lose 95 games and cost manager Nick Leyva his job, at this point, they were only four games out of first place. Scott Garrelts and Don Carman each went nine shutout innings (Carman threw 166 pitches in those nine innings, by the way), before turning things over to the bullpen.

In the top of the 12th, Phillies closer Steve Bedrosian gave up back-to-back homers to Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell to put the Phillies in a hole, especially with Giants closer Craig Lefferts on the hill.

Lefferts struck out Von Hayes to start the bottom of the 12th but gave up singles to Dickie Thon and backup catcher Steve Lake before getting Steve Jeltz to pop up. With two outs, Bob Dernier stepped to the plate and this happened:

Harry and Whitey had a way of making even a bad team sound good. Once the ball kicked past Mitchell Harry knew there was a chance for Dernier. Whitey started his yelling in the background even sooner than usual, which adds a lengthier underscore to Harry’s call. I’m sure that Kalas used the word “bedlam” to describe fan reaction at the Vet prior to this, but this was my earliest recollection of it’s use.

Two cool little bonus nuggets for you:

  1. Dernier threw out Will Clark at the plate in the 10th inning with a beautiful throw (another great call by Harry) which you can find if you rewind the video back to the beginning and not where I started it for you.
  2. At the closing of the Vet, when they brought back all the former players, Dernier was there and he reenacted his slide, which shows how memorable the moment was to him, and to the fans who cheered loudly remembering it some 14+ years later.

 

28. George Vukovich plays the hero in the first “Division Series”

There was a players’ strike in the middle of the 1981 baseball season. It cost the MLB more than two months of action. But, rather than just pick up where things left off in the first half of the season, before the strike, MLB concocted a cockamamie playoff setup that would create a best-of-5 “Division Series” Between the team that had the best record in the first half of the season and the team with the best record in the second half of the season in each division.

The Phillies were the first half champs of the N.L. East, so they knew they were going to the Division series and had very little to play for in the second half of 1981.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Expos were chasing a pennant and played very hard and very well down the stretch, winning the second half crown.

So, the two teams squared off but the Phillies were no match for the Expos in the first two games in Montreal, and the Expos took a 2-0 series lead back to Veterans Stadium. The Phillies easily won Game 3, but Game 4, on Oct. 10, 1981, wouldn’t be so easy.

The Phillies jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but the Expos clawed back to tie it. Gary Matthews hit a homer to put the Phils ahead 5-4, but again, the Expos tied it in the seventh.

From there, both teams turned to their closers, and Jeff Reardon and Tug McGraw matched each other pitch for pitch. The game moved to extra innings, when McGraw’s spot came up in the lineup. Dallas Green called on little used reserve outfielder George Vukovich to pinch hit. Vukovich had only 26 plate appearances all season. But, 12 of them were as a pinch hitter, and he had five hits, a walk and a home run. Needing a spark, the Phillies hoped their late season bench weapon could ignite it and Vukovich delivered a moment that begat another legendary Harry Kalas call:

It’s unique because the homer sort of caught Harry off guard. We didn’t get an “Outta here,” from Harry. Instead we got an “It’s all over!” You could tell Harry thought, like many of us did, that this would catapult the defending World Champs forward to face the Dodgers in the NLCS. After all, Steve Carlton was on the hill for Game 5 against the Expos at the Vet. It was a surefire win.

Except the Expos and Steve Rogers blanked the Phillies 5-0, ending a follow-up season to the World Series that had such high hopes in miserable fashion.

Nevertheless, for one fleeting afternoon and evening, the magic of 1980 was back in the ballpark and broadcast booth.

 

27. Rollins to Utley to Howard for another Division title

We all know the legend of Brad Lidge in 2008. He finished a perfect season as a closer without a blown save. The closest he came to coughing one up though was on September 29, when he was trying to preserve a one-run lead against the Washington Nationals, who happened to load the bases with just one out and the dangerous Ryan Zimmerman at the plate.

Zimmerman hid a ground ball up the middle, but Jimmy Rollins dove, stopped it, flipped it to Chase Utley who fired to Ryan Howard for a double play to win the game and clinch the division.

While this likely would have been higher, had not LA upstaged Harry’s call a little bit (I never mind the excitement from LA, or any color analyst really, especially if it’s genuine or in the moment – I just felt that this one was a bit too loud into the mic), Harry was as fired up as he had been at any time in his later years. His voice was almost at a higher pitch than we are used to. It is that unbridled joy that makes this one of the last great calls of his legendary career.

 

26. Reason No. 1,496 that New York Mets fans hate Chase Utley

Chase made it a point in his career, whether he was with the Phillies or the Dodgers, to torture the New York Mets.

In his career against the Mets, Utley slashed .281/.374/.900 with 39 home runs (more than against any other team) and 116 RBI.

So, when he had an opportunity to complete a sweep of the Mets at Citizens Bank Park on August 30, 2007, and trim New York’s lead in the division from six games down to two, Utley came through with a huge hit off former teammate Billy Wagner, setting up the miracle September run a few weeks later.

Harry is classic Harry here, but Andersen’s “Let’s Go,” is perfect in the moment. Harry’s delayed “Wow.” is also superb. Really good call of really important moment that proved to be a small stepping stone in the maturation of an eventual champion.

 

25. Joe Morgan’s World Series Home run impresses Howard

In the early 1980s, if Al Michaels and Howard Cosell were calling a sporting event, you know it had to be an important one.

They were tabbed for the 1983 World Series between the Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles. The Phillies were a really fun story, being a bunch of old, legendary ballplayers trying for one last shot at glory together, while the O’s were a machine.

Baltimore was favored, but the Phillies were sure to play them hard.

It turned out to be a mostly non-competitive series. Baltimore was too good. The Phillies couldn’t hit (they batted .195 as a team), and the Orioles won it 4-1.

However, the Phillies did try to hang around in Games 2, 3, and 4, and had opportunities to swing momentum, but couldn’t.

Still, Game 1 was thrilling. The Phillies were down a run in the sixth inning when Morgan stepped to the plate and while Cosell was bloviating about Morgan, the Phillies second baseman drove a Scott MacGregor pitch to deep right center. The whole time, Howard was impressed. “Look at that… Look at that…. There you go.” Then, after some other comments from his colleagues, Cosell returns with this gem: “That man has the upper body strength of a fullback.” Classic Howard.

 

24. Del Unser makes baseball history

For much of Del Unser’s career, he was an every day centerfielder. First with the Washington Senators in the 1960s, then after one season in Cleveland, he was the go-to guy for the Phillies in 1973 and 1974 before shifting to the Mets and eventually Montreal.

Unser started to become a platoon player with the Expos, but he didn’t become a go-to pinch hitter until he returned to the Phillies in 1979.

Unser hadn’t caught on with any team in the Spring of 1979, and finally settled on being a bench player for the Phillies, signing a free agent deal with them at the end of Spring training.

From there, Unser turned into one of the best pinch hitters in the sport.

In 1979 he slashed .304/.377/1.008 as a pinch hitter with 4 homers and 14 RBI in 53 pinch hit plate appearances. He followed that in 1980 with a .316/.386/.884 slash line in 44 pinch hit plate appearances.

But on July 10, 1979, Unser was part of a great ninth inning rally by the Phillies, and tied a major league record to boot, one that still stands today.

Down 5-1 to the San Diego Padres, the Phillies scored two runs on three straight hits against Randy Jones, to cut it to 5-3. San Diego turned to closer Rollie Fingers. With two out and two runners on, Unser was called on to pinch hit for Larry Bowa.

Unser had homered in his previous two pinch hit appearances – a win in St. Louis on June 30 and a loss at home to the Mets on July 5.

Unser connected on a 1-2 pitch, sending Harry to a thrilling call and Whitey providing his typical background music.

Unser had tied a record set by Pittsburgh’s Lee Lacy, set a year prior. No one had done it before that, and no one has done it since. A pretty impressive feat highlighted by a pretty impressive call.

 

23. Bake McBride with the first big homer to beat the Expos in September, 1980

The Phillies and the Expos were in a heated battle for first place in the N.L. East for three months. As the calendar drew shorter, the two teams would meet six times in the final 10 games to determine the division champion.

The Phillies had a half-game lead when the Expos arrived at Veterans Stadium on September 26th for the first weekend series.

Dick Ruthven and David Palmer matched wits in a classic pitcher’s duel and it was 1-1 going into the ninth. Tug McGraw shut down the Expos and Bake McBride lead off the bottom the bottom of the ninth with a chance to give the Phillies a little bit of breathing room in the division.

It was a huge home run. If the Phillies lose that game, they would have ended up getting swept in the series, and would have been 2.5 games back with seven to play and would have likely needed to sweep the Expos in Montreal in the final weekend of the season, rather than just win two, to advance to the playoffs.

Of course the Phillies would need another big homer to finally eliminate the Expos. Don’t be surprised to see that one show up on this list at some point too.

By the way, I know this is just audio, so if you want to see the video, click here, but it doesn’t have Harry and Whitey’s classic call.

 

22. Aaron Rowand sacrifices his face to make a catch

Aaron Rowand may not have been a part of the championship team, but he was a big part of teaching that group how to win in his two seasons with the Phillies (2006-07).

On May 11, 2006, in a battle with the rival Mets, New York loaded the bases in the first inning off Gavin Floyd when Xavier Nady crushed a fly ball to centerfield. Rowand made an amazing catch and then crashed face-first into the fence, shattering his nose.

It kept the Mets off the scoreboard, Chase Utley hit a homer in the bottom of the first (because, it was the Mets), and then the game would be rain-shortened later and the Phillies would win 2-0.

The call is one of the best were both the play-by-play guy and the color analyst contribute.

In 2006, Harry was still great, but starting to slow up just a little bit on play recognition. In this case, Andersen comes to his rescue with his “Oh, what a catch!” It confirms for Harry that Rowand hung on, and then Harry had the wherewithal to repeat himself once to find the right words when he says, “what a great, great, perhaps game-saving catch by Aaron Rowand.”

As a bonus, and this had nothing to do with the call, but if you watch the video to the end, you get the classic line by Rowand, showing that he had done his homework on Philadelphia sports history when he said, “For who? My teammates. For what? To win a ball game,” throwing shade at former Eagles running back Ricky Watters for his infamous, “For who? For what” answer about alligator arming a pass over the middle in his first game in town some 11 years prior.

 

21. Craig Biggio breaks Philadelphia’s heart

Wait  a minute? What is this? A game in which the Phillies lost? This high on the list? Blasphemy, Anthony! Blasphemy!

Sorry, but it’s a great call. And I’ll warn you, this isn’t the only one on the list.

Setting the stage, it’s September 7, 2005. The Phillies and the Astros are battling for the NL Wild Card. When the three-game series at Citizen’s Bank Park started, the Phillies had a half-game lead on the Astros.

Despite losing the first two games, the Phillies could get back within a half game if they could win the finale of the series, they could stay within a half game and still have a good shot at a postseason berth.

Things weren’t looking great for the Phillies though, as they were down 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth. But Bobby Abreu hit a 2-run homer to tie it, and then the Phillies loaded the bases and Shane Victorino came through with a two-out single to score another run and put the Phillies up 6-5.

In the ninth, the Phillies would hand it off to their closer, Billy Wagner, to try and lock down the win.

Wagner got the first two outs, but that a David Bell error kept the Astros alive. Wagner yielded a single to Wily Tavares and then it set up a matchup with his old friend, Craig Biggio.

Just a dagger to the heart type of call from both Kalas and Andersen:

LA: Oh no.

HK: You’re kidding me.

LA: No.

HK: You. Are. Kidding me.

(pause)

HK: Home run, Craig Biggio, giving the Astros an 8-6 lead in the ninth inning. I cannot believe what I am seeing.

Now, the Phillies video cuts out there, but there was more, which cinched this call in this spot in the rankings. (You’re going to have to trust me on this one, because I couldn’t find the audio on line, but you can find a transcription.)

Harry would go on to say this line:

“All the runs are unearned, but so what?”

It was dripping with disgust.

The Phillies would lose the game and fall to 2.5 games out of the Wild Card. To their credit, they stayed up at the end of the season and finished it off by going 15-7 in their final 22 games. But in the end, they missed a playoff spot by one game. This game.

And much like it happened two years earlier when the Marlins sneaked past them to make the Wild Card and go to the World series (where they beat the Yankees), the Astros beat out the Phillies for the Wild Card by one game, and proceeded to advance to the World Series as well… only they would lose to Aaron Rowand and the Chicago White Sox.

What could have been.

We’ll see you on Monday with Nos. 11-20.

In the meantime, tune in to Mac and Mac on WIP this weekend. I’ll be on with Jody and Glen on Saturday at Noon to talk about this countdown, and on Sunday morning, they’ll have Steve Jeltz on to talk about that Pirates game, ranked No. 30 in which Jeltz hit two homers.

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