Russell and Duenes

What Do Del Unser and Cody Ross Have in Common?

with 3 comments

“Unser” is a name we tend to affiliate with NASCAR, but Del Unser was a Phillies hero in the 1980 postseason. Talk about a journeyman, Unser played for seven different teams during his major league career, and calling him mediocre would be a compliment. I bring him up because I remember watching the 1980 World Series as a lad of 11 years old, and I also distinctly remember that there was an unsung Phillies player who put the screws to the Kansas City Royals in that Series. Yet I couldn’t even remember his name. I had to go back and look through the game stats of the ’80 Series just to find out who the scrub was who turned all-world in the playoffs. What did Unser do? According to Jon Caroulis in Baseball Digest,

In the deciding NLCS game against Houston, the Phillies entered the 8th inning trailing 5-2, facing Nolan Ryan. The team started an improbable comeback, and with the score 5-4 had runners on first and third and one out with Mike Schmidt coming to the plate. The future Hall of Famer took a called third strike from Ken Forsch, and dejectedly walked back to the dugout. Unser, however, followed with a single to tie the score. Unser said Forsch had a good sinker that broke away from left-handers, and he was at the plate looking for an outside part of the plate, when the right-hander came in on him. But Unser managed to get enough of the pitch to hit a line drive to right center for a single to tie the game. In the 10th inning, Unser faced Frank Lacorte. The Astros had reliever Dave Smith warming up “and I couldn’t hit him with a canoe paddle.” But Houston stayed with Lacorte and Unser ripped a double down the first base line. He later scored the winning run that gave the Phillies their first pennant in 30 years.

Unser followed that up by getting the key hit off all-star reliever, Dan Quisenberry, in the Phillies Game 2 win over Kansas City. The Phils were down 4-2 in the 8th, but came screaming back on Unser’s game-tying double. The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the Series, but Kansas City won the next two, and they were leading 3-2 heading into the ninth inning of Game 5. Phils star, Mike Schmidt singled and and Unser hit a double down the right field line to score him all the way from first. The Phillies eventually won the game and the Series in six games.

As I’ve watched Cody Ross in these playoffs, I couldn’t help but think back to 1980. Granted, the comparison between Unser and Ross is limited, as Ross has been a better hitter over the course of his brief career. In fact, back in 2009, Ross had 24 homers and 90 RBI’s for the Marlins, but only had 14 HR’s total this year. Not exactly Babe Ruth or Reggie Jackson. Yet those are men he’s resembled in these playoffs. No one dares throw him a pitch on the inside half of the plate. We haven’t seen such care in pitching to a guy since Barry Bonds back in 2002. In a seven year career, Ross is already with his 5th team, but the Giants would be sunk without him.

Unser and Ross are what make October baseball worth watching. It’s easy to see on paper who will do well, but every so often guys like these (or Gene Tenace and Mickey Hatcher, for that matter) decide to become a Hall-of-Famers for a few games, and we get to reminisce about it with joy – or chagrin – for generations.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Duenes, Sports

3 Responses

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  1. Don’t forget Billy Hatcher…


    October 31, 2010 at 5:02 pm

  2. Is there a “like” button on this blog?


    November 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    • Unfortunately, no. The Giants did it with pitching and clutch hitting from unsung or “washed up” players. That’s how it happens sometimes. They earned it for sure.



      November 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm

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