Exactly 64 years, 364 days later, the Phillies have won their second postseason game in Philadelphia. In the World Series of 1915, they beat the Red Sox once, 3-1. Tonight they beat the Houston Astros by the same score in the first game of the 1980 National League playoffs.
In the meantime, they lost four World Series and six league playoff games on the supposedly friendly turf of the home field.
This was a game they had to win, a must game for their psyches. The Phillies of 1976, 1977 and 1978 had turned the playoffs into personal tragedies. They knew what it took to get here but never knew what to do once they had arrived. Tonight, they figured it out.
Greg Luzinski's two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth won it for Steve Carlton and relieved the collective suffering of most of the 65,277 spectators in Veterans Stadium, the largest crowd ever for a League Championship Series game. Luzinski was asked about the Phillies' troubles at home in the playoffs.
"We have trouble, period," he said. He paused before adding, "In the past."
Perhaps this is what the Phillies needed to put those troubles behind them.
It was a game in which, according to Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green, the Phillies were sluggish, even though it was the Astros who got no sleep. It was a game in which "Lefty (Carlton) wasn't Lefty," according to Green -- although, with a lifetime record of 29-9 against the Astros, Carlton owns them so completely he could sell shares in the franchise.
It was a game that the Phillies engered "overanxious, and all trying to do it ourselves," according to Luzinski, and finished still fielding questions about why they were being booed on the field.
If the Phillies are sick and tired of those questions, the Astros were tired, period. They had a hard time getting here. It took 19 years, an unexpected playoff against the Dodgers Monday and a refueling stop in St. Louis to get them to their first playoff game ever. When they arrived at Veterans Stadium at 5:30 in the afternoon, just as Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's helicopter was landing, the bus left them stranded in the middle of the avenue, a portent of the nine men they left stranded on the basepaths tonight.
They scored their only run of the night in the third inning when Jose Cruz led off by lining a ball off Carlton's shoulder. But Carlton, who lives by the rule that silence is golden, did not bother to confer with the trainer. "It probably dented the ball," Green said later.
Cesar Cedeno singled to center, moving Cruz to third. And tomorrow's hero, Gary Woods, who has hit .365 since coming up from the farm club in Tucson, singled home the Astros' first postseason run ever. It was the biggest bang in Astro history. And that includes their years as the Colt 45s.
The Phillies were supposed to have the advantage in this pitching duel. But Houston starter and loser Ken Forsch did not allow a run until the sixth inning. Leading off for the third time, Pete Rose beat out a single to deep short when Houston shortstop Craig Reynolds hurried the long throw and made 6-foot-1 first baseman Art Howe jump seven feet to reach it.
Rose, who was two for four, is baseballhs answer to Moses. He came to Philadelphia last year, having signed a covenant to lead the Phillies into the promised land of playoff immortality. Rose always plays like the burning bush. But when Bake McBride struck out, it appeared he might be stranded in the wilderness.
Then Luzinski, who resembles Mighty Casey if anyone does, stepped to the plate. This has been a bad year for Luzinski -- he hit .228, was benched and heard all sorts of trade rumors about himself. He was a man badly in need of redemption. And he found it on a 3-2 pitch.
Luzinski's fifth playoff home run -- trying him for second place with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando and Johnny Bench behind Steve Garvey (six) -- landed just below the bullring (the part of the stadium where he buys tickets for underprivileged children) in left field. But as far as the Bull was concerned, it might just as well have been heaven. The Phillies took the lead, 2-1.
"I couldn't tell you what the pitch was, to be honest," he said. "It was a 3-2 pitch, and I was just trying to pick it up. The next inning, Jerry Engel, the home plate umpire, told Bob Boone that the pitch was a foot inside. I knew it was gone the moment I hit it.
"This year, I only hit 19 home runs. This was my 20th and almost all have been with two strikes, which shows I'm still quick . . . I know the fans have been on me, but they've been on other guys, too. I know there has been talk about me being traded. But my only goal is to get us to the World Series."
The Phillies added another run in the seventh, and this time they did it to the Astros the Astros' way, with a single, a sacrifice bunt by Larry Bowa (the only time he wasn't booed all night), a stolen base and a bloop single by Greg Gross, pinch-hitting for Carlton.
Carlton was replaced by the ineffable Tug McGraw. (Before the game, McGraw was interviewed by the ineffable Howard Cosell. "I remember when you were a youngster," Cosell said. "I remember when your hair was your own," replied McGraw.)
"We had the chief down there in the bullpen," said Green. "There was no sense in wasting him."
McGraw, who pitched in three of the four games against Montreal last weekend, is seemingly tireless. "I do get a little stiff," he said, "but it's a common problem among lefthanded Irishmen who drink a lot."