Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies experienced five consecutive National League East titles from 2007 until 2011, including two pennants and the 2008 World Series crown. While Danny Ozark had been manager of the Phillies, he guided them to three straight division titles from 1976 to 1978. In 1977, Philadelphia qualified for postseason play in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.
At first, the 1977 Phillies looked anything but a team that won 101 games the previous season. Early in the campaign, the Phillies trailed by as many as eight and one-half games behind the Chicago Cubs. In fact, Philadelphia didn’t take over the division top spot until Aug. 5 during the midst of a 13-game winning streak.
On Sept. 27, 1977, the Phillies visited the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Philadelphia defeated the Cubs, 15-9, in front of 4,606 spectators to clinch the division. The Phillies participated in a champagne party in the visitor clubhouse after the game.
Rich Hebner led-off the top of the second with a walk and Garry Maddox grounded-out, advancing Hebner to second. Bob Boone lined a single to centerfield as Hebner came around to score (1-0 Phillies). Ted Sizemore singled to left field and Boone moved to third (he was on second from a through when he singled). Starting pitcher Larry Christenson laid a one-three sacrifice bunt to plate Boone for a 2-0 lead. The Phillies’ offensive half of the second inning ended on a Bake McBride flyout to left field.
Chicago went down in order during the bottom of the second and the Phillies had been retired in order in the top of the third. However, the Cubs trimmed the deficit in half, 2-1, when Chicago starting pitcher Bill Bonham scored from third on an error by Greg Luzinski in the bottom of the third with one out. Bonham started the bottom of the third with his third double of the season and reached third base on a bunt groundout.
No one posted runs in the fourth or fifth as the Phillies still held a 2-1 lead. In the top of the sixth, Phillies knocked-in two runs for a 4-1 advantage. Christenson couldn’t get a shutdown inning by allowing an RBI to Gene Clines (4-2 Phillies after six innings).
Well, the Phillies basically put this one to rest with seven runs in the top of the seventh (11-2 Phillies). The Phillies were intentionally walked twice and posted three singles, a Boone ground-rule double, and Christenson’s third home run of the season (a grand slam).
Okay, the Cubs wouldn’t give in during the bottom of the seventh. Ivan DeJesus singled before Greg Gross lined a triple to centerfield to drive-in DeJesus with no one out (11-3 Phillies). Christenson then induced two flyouts, the second being a sacrifice fly (11-4 Phillies). Steve Ontiveros grounded-out to end the frame.
The top of the eighth featured Mike Schmidt’s 38th sayonara, a one-out solo shot off Chicago reliever Dennis Camp to put the Phillies ahead by eight (12-4). However, the Cubs got within three (12-9) thanks to five runs in the bottom of the eighth. Chicago recorded six singles, one double, two strikeouts, and a flyout of Christenson and Philadelphia reliever Tug McGraw.
Alright, the Phillies safely crossed home plate three times in the top of the ninth. The frame included a groundout, walk to McGraw, and then four consecutive singles before a double play on a grounder. Entering the last of the ninth, the Phillies led, 15-9.
McGraw returned to the hill to attempt the final three outs. Manny Trillo grounded a single to centerfield. Mike Gordon lofted a popfly to right field for the first out. Then, Dave Rosello pinch-hit for reliever Donnie Moore and grounded into a one-six-three double play to end the game. Phillies players congregated into an area on a field to celebrate their second straight NL East title.
Ozark guided the Phillies to their second consecutive 101-61 regular-season showing, this time winning the division by five games. The Phillies faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series but lost in four games (three-games-to-one).
*Information about the 1977 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.