Lew Freedman's Phillies1980! reminds us how great of a sports town Philadelphia is.

In-between this weekend's NFL playoffs and the beginning of spring training, Phillies1980! is a pleasant reminder just why Americans love their baseball. No other sport like our national pastime revels in its history. Freedman does an excellent job in reminding us of this.

He's a baseball authority. Among the 100 or so books he's penned, many of baseball's biggest names and important events are covered by Freedman. Hall of Famers such as Cy Young, Early Wynn, and Warren Spahn are among the biographies written by the longtime newspaper writer and editor.

Doing a deep-dive into one of the most improbable world championships in baseball history, and with the Phillies' first World Series title coming in 1980, the road to victory is right up Freedman's alley.

Being in the right town at the right town helps in telling a story accurately, and with the right level of enthusiasm for the subject. During the 1980 baseball season, Freedman was a sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was showered with champagne in the winning locker room after Game 6 in Philly, as he was working on his feature on Series MVP Mike Schmidt.

Yes, Freedman was that close to the the players, the field, and the march to the post-season between the Phillies and American League champs Kansas City Royals.

In Phillies1980!, we learn about the emergence of rookies Bob Walk and Mary Bystrom, the importance of signing Pete Rose and Manny Trillo a season earlier, the leadership of scrappy shortstop Larry Bowa and future hall of famers Steve Carlton and Schmidt.

Others that contributed to the 1980 championship who didn't grab the headlines but were vital in their roles, as super subs Greg Gross and Del Unser, tell their appreciative stories of being along for the wild ride decades back.

Book cover, Phillies 1980! by Lew Freedman (Simon & Schuster)
Book cover, Phillies 1980! by Lew Freedman (Simon & Schuster)

In telling of the World Series, perhaps as equally exciting to look back on is the National League Championship Series, when the Phillies had to go through the Houston Astros to reach their destiny. If you're of age to remember that five-game series, you don't need to be convinced that it is arguably the greatest in NLCS history.

Freedman combs through the battle staged at Philly's Veterans Stadium and Houston's Astrodome with the care of a crime scene investigator. This was a time long before a wild card entrance into the post-season scene.

The player transactions executed by Philadelphia's general manager Paul Owens and owner Ruly Carpenter worked out well for the club, and Freedman explains in great detail why.

New York Mets' fans knew all to well what a valuable arm and locker room leader reliever Tug McGraw is. He was on the mound for the Mets for their World Series triumph over the Baltimore Orioles in 1969, and their pennant winning club of 1973. Joining the Phillies for the 1975 season, a half dozen MLB campaigns later, and McGraw was on the mound for the final out of the 1980 Series.

Freedman also does a marvelous job in explaining the importance of those with brief appearances for the championship club. They were important, and it is important for Freedman to educate readers on their roles. Infielder Luis Aguayo appeared in 20 games. Outfielder Bob Drenier had 10 games under his belt. Catcher Ozzie Virgil was called in for one game.

Then, there is budding future all-star outfielder Lonnie Smith and veteran Greg 'The Bull' Luzinski's contributions to the championship drive Freedman gives details on. The popular Luzinski, a 1968 draft pick by Philadelphia, who would spend parts of 11 seasons with the club, would be gone to the Chicago White Sox after Game 6.

How did Smith and 'The Bull' fare sharing playing time? Freedman has the subject covered.

When manager Dallas Green replaced Phillies manager Danny Ozark in August of 1979, the culture of the club changed . Green was a no-nonsense, disciplinarian. His methods in running the ball club worked, but not without a few hiccups, between Green and his players. It's all divulged in Phillies1980!.

Phillies1980! is a welcomed reminder of how exciting baseball is. Drama, suspense, intrigue, and a few laughs sprinkled here and there throughout 276 pages help in getting fans through to the start of training camp next month.


Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley.  He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 


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