Monday, April 18, 2011

Random Past Game: September 17, 1989 (1st Game)

Date of Game: Sunday, September 17, 1989
Location: Veterans Stadium
Opponent: St. Louis Cardinals
Final Score: Phillies 9, Cardinals 5 (12 innings)
Winning Pitcher: Dennis Cook
Losing Pitcher: Matt Kinzer
Home Runs: John Kruk, Ozzie Smith

Phillies Starting Lineup

Lenny Dykstra, cf
Tom Herr, 2b
Randy Ready, lf
Ricky Jordan, 1b
John Kruk, rf
Dickie Thon, ss
Charlie Hayes, 3b
Tom Nieto, c
Don Carman, p

Cardinals Starting Lineup

Vince Coleman, lf
Ozzie Smith, ss
Pedro Guerrero, 1b
Tom Brunansky, rf
Terry Pendleton, 3b
Tony Pena, c
Milt Thompson, cf
Jose Oquendo, 2b
Joe Magrane, p

About This Game: The events that took place at Veterans Stadium on Sunday, September 17, 1989 have pretty much been forgotten in the annals of Philadelphia sports. The main reason for that is because about 140 miles to the south, the Eagles were rallying from a 20-point deficit to pull out a stunning 42-37 victory over the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. The Phillies, meanwhile, had long since been playing out the string in what was another lost season. Still, with every game there's the possibility of seeing something special regardless of its significance in the standings. This is true of all sports, but especially in the 162-game grind that is the Major League Baseball season. The first game of a doubleheader between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals on this day provides such an example.

The Phillies entered the 1989 season in a bit of a conundrum. They'd finished in last place with a 66-95 record in 1988 and didn't figure to be any better in '89. Lee Thomas had taken over as general manager during the '88 season with an eye on building for the future. However, the ballclub still had one glorious link to its past in Mike Schmidt, who by this point was actually four years older than his manager, Nick Leyva. The organization didn't want to push Schmidt out the door, yet there was the growing feeling that his presence was holding the club back in a way. Instead of going forward with a youth movement, the Phillies instead patched holes with low-priced veterans in hopes of giving the franchise's all-time greatest player one last shot at going out a winner. It didn't take long to see that things weren't going to work out that way, though. On Memorial Day, May 29, the Phils had fallen to last place in the National League East with a record of 18-28. Schmidt had faded badly after a hot start and was hitting just .203 while losing considerable range at third base. Feeling as though he could no longer play up to his standards, Schmidt announced his retirement in an emotional press conference prior to that night's game against the Padres in San Diego.

While Schmidt's departure brought great sadness, it did finally allow the Phillies to clean house. Within three weeks of Michael Jack's retirement, Chris James (Padres), Steve Bedrosian (Giants), and Juan Samuel (Mets) were traded. It wasn't easy for Lee Thomas to sell these deals to the masses, as James was assumed to be Schmidt's heir apparent at third base while Bedrosian and Samuel were extremely popular players among fans. As it turned out, the Phillies got the better of all three trades. John Kruk and Randy Ready were acquired from San Diego for James. The Bedrosian deal netted Terry Mulholland, Dennis Cook, and Charlie Hayes from San Francisco while the Samuel trade brought Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell over from New York.

The new arrivals also helped to liven up what many observers felt was a dead clubhouse. Though the moves had an overall positive impact, it did not immediately translate as far as winning is concerned. By the time September 17 rolled around, the Phillies were still in last place with a 60-87 record, 23 games behind the East-leading Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals sat in second at 79-70, five games behind the eventual division champion Cubs. When the 1989 schedule was originally released, this Sunday afternoon tilt was to be the conclusion of a three-game weekend series. However, a June 21 rainout was made up as part of a doubleheader on September 15. The Phils took the opener of that twinbill, 2-0, as rookie Pat Combs twirled a four-hit shutout. St. Louis rallied for a 7-6 win in the nightcap, scoring twice in the ninth off Roger McDowell. Rain washed away Saturday's game, forcing the clubs to play a second doubleheader in three days on Sunday.

Don Carman got the start for the Phillies in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, though that wasn't supposed to be the case. More on that later. Carman had been in and out of the rotation during a miserable 1989 season, having gone 4-15 with a 5.19 ERA to that point. Getting a last-minute start, he held the Cardinals scoreless over the first two innings. The Phils got on the board in the bottom of the second when John Kruk scampered home on a wild pitch by Joe Magrane, but St. Louis responded with three in the third thanks to a sacrifice fly by Pedro Guerrero and RBI singles by Tom Brunansky and Milt Thompson. In the fourth, Ozzie Smith gave the Cards a 4-1 lead with a solo homer, one of just 28 roundtrippers hit by the Wizard during his 19-year career. Randy O'Neal replaced Carman on the mound in the fifth, and the Cardinals greeted him with another run on a Tony Pena RBI single to lead 5-1.

The Phillies would chip away in this one, though, and got to within 5-2 on a sacrifice fly by Charlie Hayes in the sixth. The deficit was cut to 5-4 in the seventh on an RBI single by Ricky Jordan and groundout RBI by Dickie Thon before Tom Herr's RBI single tied it in the eighth. The Phils had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the eighth as they loaded the bases with one out, but Dan Quisenberry got Von Hayes to pop out and Kruk to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning. It wouldn't be the last time Kruk got a chance to be the hero with the bases loaded.

The Phillies got 1-2-3 innings from Todd Frohwirth and Dennis Cook in the ninth and tenth innings. The offense would again load the bases with one out in the bottom of the tenth, but Kruk was again unable to deliver the knockout blow as he tapped into a 3-2-3 double play. St. Louis would be held without a hit in the 11th and 12th, while the Phils went down in order in their half of the 11th. Having used five pitchers and 21 players with still another game left to play that day, Cook batted for himself to lead off the 12th and singled off Matt Kinzer, advancing to third when Herr singled one out later. With two outs, Hayes walked to load the bases, which gave Kruk a third chance with the bags full. The third time proved to be the charm, as the Krukker sent a screaming opposite-field line drive just over the wall in left for a walkoff grand slam and a 9-5 Phillies victory. It was a nice comeback win for the Phils and a damaging blow for the Cardinals in their attempt to catch the Cubs atop the NL East.

The second game of the doubleheader went to the Cardinals by a score of 2-0 as Cris Carpenter (not to be confused with current Cards pitcher Chris Carpenter), Frank DiPino, and John Costello combined on a five-hit shutout. Ken Howell, who was originally scheduled to start the opener, allowed two runs in eight innings, but took a hard-luck loss in the nightcap. The reason Howell didn't start the first game was because he didn't show up on time. The Phillies decided to start the doubleheader at 12:05 P.M., but Howell was unaware of this and showed up as he would for a normal 1:35 Sunday game. By the time he got to the stadium, it was too late to warm up, so Don Carman got the ball instead.

The 1989 season would come to a close two weeks later. The Phillies ended the campaign at 67-95 and in last place for the second straight year, though they did win one more game in 1989 than they did in 1988. The Cardinals finished in third place at 86-76, seven games behind the Cubs and one game behind the second-place Mets.

Personal Recollection: I was at the Vet in our usual section 344 on the Sunday plan. Even though the Phillies were way out of it by that point of the season, I remember being excited about seeing a doubleheader. What's not to love about free baseball? Nobody who was there really thought anything of Ken Howell not starting the first game, it was just assumed the Phils decided to start him in the second game instead. Sports coverage was obviously a lot different then, and I don't think Howell not showing up on time was even reported until it appeared in the next day's papers. Can you imagine that being the case now? Like a lot of extra inning games, a lot of what happened in this one was a blur. Ozzie Smith's homer created a bit of a buzz, since he hardly ever hit home runs. As you can imagine, the crowd wasn't exactly receptive to John Kruk's first two at-bats with the bases loaded, but he won everyone over the third time.

The crazy thing about Kruk's grand slam is I almost missed it. It was a long game and as it went on, I was fighting a losing battle with my bladder. I was trying my best to hold off using the men's room until between games, but by the time the Cardinals were retired in the 12th inning, I just couldn't wait anymore. This normally wouldn't have been a big deal, but for some reason the nearest men's room was closed, so I had to use another one. By the time I got back to the concourse, Kruk was stepping to the plate. I wasn't back in my seat yet when he connected, but I did at least get to see it. I would have been pretty upset with myself if I'd missed it. I think that's the main reason why I rarely ever leave my seat during a game. To this day, it's the only walkoff grand slam I've ever seen in person. In fact, the Phillies have only hit two walkoff slams since then: Dale Murphy against the Cubs in 1991 and Kim Batiste against the Mets in 1993.

After the second game of the doubleheader, the Phillies had their Youngtimers Game. That was an exhibition game featuring the organization's minor league prospects that the Phils held for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s. I only got to see a little bit of this game since it was getting late and I had school the next day, but I do remember Jeff Jackson playing. Of course, it turned out that was the only way you could ever see him play at the Vet. Frank Thomas on the other hand...

That's my story on September 17, 1989. Do you remember this game or games? If so, feel free to share your own recollections!


  1. Box score and text play-by-play for this game:

    Box score and text play-by-play for the second game:

  2. Man, those yellow cards were great. Also the wooden ones were gems as well.

  3. I couldn't find an existing picture of that game or of one with Kruk in a home uniform wearing number 11, which is what he wore with the Phils in '89. The best I could do was the yellow Fleer card. That was certainly an eye catching set

  4. Interesting that Fleer used a picture of Kruk taken in 1989 for their 1991 set. Kruk wore number 19 in 1990, then switched to 28 at the beginning of 1991 before trading it to Mitch Williams in exchange for number 29 and a couple cases of beer a week into the season