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'Wheeze Kids' take Phillies back to World Series

Philadelphia Phillies

There have been some bizarre seasons in Phillies history, and 1983 sure was one. That team was inconsistent most of the season and bickered among each other.

The roster was filled with veteran players. Right fielder Von Hayes was the only one in the starting eight under 30 years of age, prompting Stan Hochman of the Daily News to label the team the "Wheeze Kids."

Included were Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, three players from the Big Red Machine that dominated the National League with Cincinnati in the 1970s. Rose was in his final season with the Phillies, Morgan came in a trade with the Giants and Perez was signed as a free agent.

Incidentally, it was the last season that trio was together. After the season, Rose and Morgan were released and Perez was sold back to the Reds.

From Opening Day through Aug. 31, 40 players appeared in games for the Phillies. With the team in first place (43-42) on July 18, manager Pat Corrales was fired and replaced by Paul Owens -- the second time "the Pope" had left the front office for the dugout. In the end, the Phillies reached the postseason for the sixth time in eight years, but it wasn't easy.

Owens took a page out of Dallas Green's book, unafraid of ruffling feathers and benching big-name players. In September, Len Matuszek played more games at first base than Rose.

Twelve pitchers made starts, including rookies Charles Hudson and Kevin Gross, who combined for 12 wins.

The 40-year-old Perez was hitting .391 with 17 RBIs in 19 games on May 1, fitting as it was the 100th anniversary of the Phillies' first game. When Sept. 1 rolled around, the Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Expos were separated by two games in the National League East. The next day, the Pope used Ozzie Virgil to pinch-hit for Morgan. Ozzie hit a game-winning grand slam. Wonder how many times Morgan was lifted for a pinch-hitter in his Hall of Fame career?

On Sept. 5, the Phillies were 67-65 and in third place. On Sept. 14, we took over first place for good. With Morgan swinging a hot bat, the Phils won a club-record 22 games in the final month. Included was an 11-game winning streak, a modern club record. Steve Carlton's historic 300th win came during the streak.

The clincher came 14 days later in a 13-6 win in Wrigley Field, the 700th in club history. The Phillies finished six games ahead of Pirates.

Under Owens, the Phillies finished the year 47-30 in their last 77 games. John Denny became the ace, as Carlton had a losing season. Denny went 13-1 after the All-Star Game to finish with 19 wins. At the end of the season, he won the NL Cy Young Award.

Closer Al Holland, who came from the Giants in the Morgan deal, won another pitching award, the Rolaids Relief Man Award, by recording a then club-record 25 saves.

National League Championship Series
For the third time since 1977, the Los Angeles Dodgers stood between the Phillies and a World Series appearance.

During the regular season, the Dodgers completely dominated the Phillies, winning 11 of 12. That's not all. In those 12 games, we scored a total of 15 runs (13 earned). Our team batting average was .187, and their team ERA was 1.09. That's completely dominating.

Opening the best-of-five set in Dodger Stadium, the Phillies got a split, winning the first, 1-0, on a first-inning Mike Schmidt home run and shutout pitching by Carlton and Holland. Gary Matthews, nicknamed "the Sarge" by Rose, hit a homer in Game 2, our only run in a 4-1 loss.

The Sarge, who had 10 homers during the season, was just warming up. Homering in each of the next two wins and driving in seven runs, he walked off with the NLCS MVP Award in leading the Phillies to the NL Pennant. He keyed an offense that scored 14 runs in the final 15 innings. Remember, during the season we scored 15 runs against the Dodgers in 12 games.

World Series
The I-95 World Series followed between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

We won the first game at Memorial Stadium and headed home with a split, just as we had done in the NLCS. A bid for a second World Series title went down the drain as the Orioles won the next three games at the Vet.

Where Are They?


Andersen, Larry: Phillies broadcaster
Bystrom, Marty: Lives in suburban Philadelphia; WPHL TV analyst
Carlton, Steve: Lives in Colorado; owns and operates Game Winner Sports, Inc.
Denny, John: Lives Orlando, Fla.; instructor in camp
Gross, Kevin: Lives in Claremont, Calif.; artist, hunter, fisherman, baseball coach
Hernandez, Willie: Lives in Carolina, P.R.
Holland, Al: Lives in Roanoke, Va.
Hudson, Charles: Lives in Dallas
McGraw, Tug: Deceased
Reed, Ron: Lives in Georgia; supervisor, Marketing Event Partners

Diaz, Bo: Deceased
Virgil, Ozzie Jr.: Lives in Phoenix

DeJesus, Ivan: Lives in Orlando
Garcia, Kiko: Lives in Martinez, Calif.
Morgan, Joe: Lives in the San Francisco Bay area
Perez, Tony: Lives in Florida; special assistant to Marlins' president
Rose, Pete: Lives in Las Vegas; partner in Dreams, Inc.
Samuel, Juan: Phillies coach
Schmidt, Mike: Lives in Florida; president of Michael Jack, Inc.

Dernier, Bob: Lives in Lee's Summit, Mo.
Gross, Greg: Lives in suburban Philadelphia; coach with AAA Reno (D-backs)
Hayes, Von: Alexandria, La.; manager of independent team; partner in FirstSource HR
Lefebvre, Joe: Lives in Connecticut; assistant hitting coach, San Francisco Giants
Lezcano, Sixto: Lives on Orlando Maddox, Garry: Lives in Philadelphia; president/CEO, A. Pomerantz & Co.; pres., World Wide Concessions
Matthews, Gary: Phillies broadcaster

Owens, Paul: Deceased

Bristol, Dave: Lives in Andrews, N.C.
Felske, John: Lives in Chicago
Johnson, Deron: Deceased
Osteen, Claude: Lives in Washington, D.C.
Ryan, Mike: Lives in New Hampshire

Larry Shenk is the vice president of Alumni Relations for the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies