The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies featured an aging group of superstars who came together to win a Wolrd Series championship despite having the weakest regular-season record among baseball’s four division winners.
Along the way, they squeak past the Montreal Expos in the NL East and then took five games to knock off the Houston Astros in the best-of-five NLCS. Finally, they upended the favored Kansas City Royals, four games to two, in the Series.
But the Phils were loaded with other big contributors, too, many of whom filled up their own trophy cases with baseball awards.
Secretary of Defense
Take centerfielder Garry Maddox, for example, who played 15 years in the Major Leagues and nabbed eight Gold Gloves for his work in center. He won seven of those consecutively, from 1976-82, all with Philadelphia.
Few could hold a candle to Maddox in the field during his prime, and that stellar glove had him in the conversation for MVP on more than one occasion.
It also earned him the nickname of “Secretary of Defense.”
Aside from his fleet feet and amazing leather, Maddox was also known for his outstanding full beard, which made him instantly recognizable even from a distance.
As it turns out, that facial hair stemmed from Maddox’s stint in the US Army.
After his debut for the San Francisco Giants in 1968, Maddox entered the armed forces and was sent to Vietnam during the heart of that war. While deployed, he was exposed to chemicals that left his skin sensitive to contact and made it painful to shave. To combat this discomfort, Maddox began working on his beard and had it perfected by the middle of the 1970s.
How fitting is it, then, that this Vietnam veteran who was forever altered by his experiences overseas would be one of the heroes of the Phillies’ Memorial Day game during perhaps their greatest season?
Running for First
Whether patriotism or pennant hopes fueled Maddox that day, or whether he just got hot at the right time, there’s no denying that he was even more of a superstar than usual on May 26, 1980 — Memorial Day.
That night, the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates visited the second-place Phillies for a game that would help set the stage for a summer-long pennant race.
Both clubs had their bats working that night, and Maddox helped the Phils keep pace with the Willie Stargell-led Bucs by knocking a 2-run, 2-out homer off Bert Blyleven in the third inning and scoring after stealing second in the eighth.
By the bottom of the ninth, Kent Tekulve was on the mound for the Pirates, and Pittsburgh held a 5-4 lead.
The Phils had pulled into a virtual tie for first place, and they had their cast of stars to thank, as usual.
No one shone more brightly in their firmament that night, though, than 30-year-old Vietnam vet Garry Maddox, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs.
Truly a Memorial Day to remember.