Monday, February 28, 2011

Random Past Game: July 17, 1988

Ricky Jordan Fan Club is pleased to bring you the debut of a new feature, Random Past Games!

Date of Game: Sunday, July 17, 1988
Location: Veterans Stadium
Opponent: Houston Astros
Final Score: Phillies 10, Astros 4
Winning Pitcher: Kent Tekulve
Losing Pitcher: Bob Knepper
Home Runs: Mike Schmidt, Ricky Jordan, Bill Doran, Glenn Davis

Phillies Starting Lineup:

Juan Samuel, 2b
Phil Bradley, lf
Mike Schmidt, 3b
Chris James, cf
Mike Young, rf
John Russell, c
Ricky Jordan, 1b
Jackie Gutierrez, ss
Mike Maddux, p

Astros Starting Lineup:

Gerald Young, cf
Bill Doran, 2b
Terry Puhl, lf
Glenn Davis, 1b
Buddy Bell, 3b
Kevin Bass, rf
Rafael Ramirez, ss
Craig Biggio, c
Bob Knepper, p

About This Game: The 1988 Philadelphia Phillies season was a memorable one for myself, as it was the first year in which I followed the ballclub from start to finish. I turned eight that summer and the understanding and appreciation of the game that had started to develop the previous summer had begun to evolve into the obsession that still exists to this day. Unfortunately for the ballclub itself, the 1988 season was an absolute disaster. The Phillies finished dead last in the National League East with a 66-95 record. Injuries, ineptitude, incoherence, and general incompetence plagued the team for pretty much the entire season. Woody Woodward had been hired to be the club's general manager (replacing the infamous Bill Giles-led "Gang of Six") the previous offseason, but was fired in June and replaced by Lee Thomas, who had been Director of Player Development for the St. Louis Cardinals. Lee Elia, who had taken over as manager after John Felske was fired in June of 1987, would himself be relieved of his duties with nine games left in the season. John Vukovich would finish out the remainder of the campaign as interim manager, with Nick Leyva taking over for 1989.

The Phillies entered play on July 17, 1988 in the NL East basement with a record of 37-51, while the Astros sat at 46-44, third in the NL West at the time. The teams would be wrapping up a four-game weekend series at Veterans Stadium on this Sunday afternoon. Houston had won the first two games of the series, but the Phils had taken the previous night's contest by a score of 10-6. Chris James delivered the big blow in that game, hitting what turned out to be the club's only grand slam of the season off Dave Smith in the eighth inning. The Phillies were also busy off the field coming into this game. First baseman Von Hayes was placed on the disabled list with bone chips in his elbow. His spot on the roster would be filled by Ricky Jordan, who had been the organization's first round pick in the 1983 Draft and would be making his MLB debut on this day. The Phils also swung a trade, sending infielder Luis Aguayo to the New York Yankees for minor league relief pitcher Amalio Carreno. To replace Aguayo, the Phillies called up Jackie Gutierrez, an infielder who had previously played for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

Mike Maddux would be on the mound for the Phillies on this day, with the Astros sending out crafty lefty Bob Knepper. Both teams went down in order in the first, but Glenn Davis opened the scoring with a home run leading off the second. Bill Doran would add a solo shot off Maddux in the third to make it 2-0 and it looked as though the Phillies were in for yet another listless loss in a season chock full of listlessness. Things would turn around in the fourth inning, as Mike Schmidt opened the frame with a homer off Knepper. James followed with a walk and Mike Young would single to put runners at first and third with no outs. John Russell was called out on strikes for the first out, which set the stage for Ricky Jordan's date with history. After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, Jordan connected for a three-run homer in his first official Major League at-bat to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. The Astros wouldn't stay down very long, as they'd tie the game in the fifth thanks to doubles by Craig Biggio, Gerald Young, and Doran. On this day, however, the Phils had another big inning left in them as they put five runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Keith Miller drove in the first run of the big inning with a single, which was followed by another RBI single off the bat of Juan Samuel. Schmidt (who'd also doubled in addition his earlier homer) drove in two more runs with a triple, while James singled home the final run of the frame to make it 9-4. Phil Bradley would cap the scoring with an RBI single in the seventh. The last remaining bit of drama occurred in the seventh as Schmidt came to the plate having already doubled, tripled, and homered in the game. A cycle was not meant to be for Michael Jack, as he went down swinging against Larry Andersen. It was pretty much the only disappointment on the day for the Phillies, who cruised to a 10-4 victory. Kent Tekulve relieved Maddux in the sixth and got the win, with Knepper taking the loss after allowing eight runs in five and one-third innings.

The ten runs were quite an aberration for the light-hitting Phillies of 1988, as the July 17 game marked the last of just six times over the course of the entire season in which they scored in double figures. Interestingly, the Phillies reached double figures in consecutive games one other time in '88, as they notched 10-7 and 10-2 victories over the New York Mets on April 18 and 19. The two other double figure scoring games also came over a very short time span, as the Phils picked up a 10-5 win over the Montreal Expos on June 7, then outslugged the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 12-10 two nights later. Jordan's memorable debut was part of a sizzling first week in the big leagues that produced three home runs and nine RBI over his first five games. He'd hit .308 with 11 homers and 43 RBI in 69 games for the Phils that season. Schmidt would be lost for the season with a torn rotator cuff a little less than a month later and retired on Memorial Day of 1989. Michael Jack never did hit for the cycle, but his 548 career homers were the seventh-most in MLB history at the time of his retirement.

Personal Recollection: I'm fairly certain I've mentioned on here before that my family has had partial Phillies season tickets since 1979, which is the year before I was born. We had the Sunday plan from 1979-2001 before switching over to our current 17-game package. This game occurred on a Sunday and as you can probably imagine, I was there. It was an absolutely miserable season for the Phillies, but this game produced arguably the brightest moment of 1988 for the club. I was a little over a month away from my eighth birthday, very impressionable. Ricky Jordan wasted no time making an impact, and you could probably say Ricky Jordan Fan Club was born at the moment he sent a hanging curve from Bob Knepper to the seats in left-center for a three-run home run. It actually should've been a grand slam, as John Russell was rung up on a highly questionable 3-2 pitch with Jordan on deck. In an instant, Jordan became my favorite Phillie. When I was playing ball growing up, I always tried to get his number 17. Later on, people thought I wore number 17 because of Scott Rolen and had a good laugh when I told them it was for Jordan. I even tried to emulate Jordan's batting stance for a while, with the bat held way up over my head. Didn't work so well.

A cycle would've been a nice footnote for Mike Schmidt's great career. Looking at some other box scores, I came to realize that Schmitty's homer in this game was the last one I ever saw him hit in person. When you add that to the origin of Ricky Jordan Fan Club, it's pretty easy to see why this game holds a special significance for me.

That's my story on July 17, 1988. Do you remember this game? If so, feel free to share your own recollections!


  1. Box score for this game:

  2. I do remember that game. Afterwards, someone on the team taped over Von Hayes' nameplate above his locker. On it they wrote, "Wally Pipp."

  3. Great stuff. I was at this game as well, I remember it being flip-up sunglasses day for us 14-and-unders at the time.

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