Phillies, Dodgers set for another clash
NLCS opponents to add a chapter to long history
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and Phillies are separated by 2,393 miles and compete in distinctly different divisions, but when October rolls around, they're baseball's version of the Hatfields and McCoys.
The Dodgers and Phillies are going at it once again in the National League Championship Series. Just the thought of these two teams battling each other for the right to go to the World Series is like a long-running serial.
This is pure Hollywood. I'm not sure whether the Dodgers are the Phillies' No. 1 nemesis or vice-versa.
I can tell you this: In all but one of Philadelphia's postseason jousts for the NL pennant they've had to get past the Dodgers. They lost the NLCS to them in a classic series in 1977 and fell again in '78, but they reversed the trend in '83 and 2008. Only in '93, when the Phils ousted the Braves, were the Dodgers not involved. And here Los Angeles is again, determined to keep Philadelphia from getting back to the World Series it won a year ago.
The spin on this saga is even more intriguing when you consider the uncanny cross-pollination between the two franchises.
A sampling? Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was a young reporter and covered the Phillies on occasion in the early 1980s for the now defunct Philadelphia Journal. When Phillies manager Dallas Green left after 1981 to run the Chicago Cubs baseball operations, he took Colletti with him, taught him about the front office and the rest is history. Colletti is one of the most successful GMs in the business.
Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa grew up with the Phillies, was one of the most popular players in the team's history and was its manager for several seasons.
Pitchers Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla, now mainstays on the Dodgers' starting staff, were with the Phillies for years. Mariano Duncan, a Dodgers coach, played for the Phillies in 1993, and Jim Thome, a recent addition to Los Angeles manager Joe Torre's juggernaut, was a celebrated Phillies free-agent acquisition and played for them three seasons (2003-05).
The Thome connection is even greater because Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was his hitting mentor when both were with the Indians.
"He taught me more than any other hitting instructor I've had," Thome told me. "I owe everything to Charlie Manuel."
On the Phillies' side, first-base coach Davey Lopes was a Dodgers All-Star during his playing days.
Phils outfielder Jayson Werth was cast off by the Dodgers after spending three seasons with them, beginning in 2004. A wrist injury hampered his career with Los Angeles, but Philadelphia took a chance on him, and he's having a career year as the team's right fielder.
So, it only figures the Dodgers and Phillies are meeting again to determine which NL team goes to the World Series.
Even in 1950, when the Phillies' Whiz Kids went to the World Series, they had to get past the Dodgers to do it.
The Phillies squandered a big lead and entered the final game of the season leading the Dodgers by just one game. Playing the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, the Phillies won, 4-1, in 10 innings on Dick Sisler's dramatic three-run homer off Don Newcombe.
"I've heard about the Dodgers' battles with the Phillies in the 1970s," said Wolf. "For a four-year period, the Dodgers were really good and the Phillies were, too."
Bowa agrees the history of these teams is incredible.
"Yeah, we had wars with Tommy Lasorda when he was managing," Bowa said. "It's always been like that. The Phillies and Dodgers, when I was playing, were the elite teams in baseball. We used to have battles, and this is another one. Hopefully, we'll win this one."
I mentioned some of those games to Lasorda. He laughed, but that didn't last long.
"We had some great, great games," he said. "That series in 1977 was a classic."
The Phillies, except for their near-miss in 1964, hadn't come close to going to the postseason until the mid-1970s. They won their division in 1976, but they were swept in the LCS by the Cincinnati Reds.
The 1977 team probably was the best of that era until 1980, when the Phillies won the World Series.
The third game of that '77 best-of-five series, which was tied 1-1, still is being talked about. It now comes up every time the two teams meet in the postseason.
The Phillies held a 5-3 lead after eight innings at Veterans Stadium, but the Dodgers scored three runs in the ninth. The key hit was a drive to left field by pinch-hitter Manny Mota. The ball bounced off Greg Luzinski's glove.
Also in that inning Lopes was called safe at first base on a controversial call by umpire Bruce Froemming.
In most close games, Philadelphia manager Danny Ozark sent in defensive replacement Jerry Martin for Luzinski, but as Bowa said, "For some reason he didn't pull Bull [Luzinski], which he'd done all year."
The Phillies and Steve Carlton lost the next night. The Dodgers went off to the World Series and lost to the Yankees. The result, losing to the Yankees, was the same in '78 after eliminating the Phillies.
In 1983, the Phillies clobbered the Dodgers in the NLCS, and they won four of five games last October.
And now another chapter is about to be written.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.