If you follow your Phillies baseball history, you would understand the impact of that run of baseball from the years of 1976-1983. Winning a World Series, two NL Pennants and five and a half division titles in eight years will never be mistaken for a dynasty. But prior to 1976, the Phillies epitomized what it meant to be a second division ball club. Since their NL inception in 1883, the team had only been part of only two postseasons before 1976. In fact, it took the franchise 32 years to win their first NL Pennant in 1915 (where they lost in five games to the Boston Red Sox) in spite of having some of the better players to play in their respective generations (Ed Delahanty, Pete Alexander, Billy Hamilton, Dummy Hoy, Gavvy Cravath, Sherry McGee, among others). It would take them another 35 years before the Whiz Kid bunch made it to the series in 1950 when they may have beaten the mighty New York Yankees if Curt Simmons (a guest on the Passed Ball Show- www.johnpielli.com) had been allowed to pitch in the WS. 26 years passed before the Phillies made another postseason appearance.
It was the combination of Owens, Ozark and Green who allowed for the team to regain its form. The 1972 season saw the hapless Phillies finish off a 59-97 season in spite of having the best pitcher in the sport. Steve Carlton (27-10, 1.97) pitched to a .730 winning percentage. The Phillies, at 32-87, had a .368 WP in games in which Carlton did not get a decision in. It was June of that season where the Phillies made a change, relieving GM Jack Quinn and (later on) manager Frank Lucchesi of their duties. The fate of the team changed when Owens was promoted to General Manager. Owens had been in the Phillies organization as early as 1955 as a minor league manager and was the farm director of the team when the change was made. Owens named himself manager for the rest of the season so he could see for himself what the root of the Phillies problem was.
Completely deserved, most of the praise of the Phillies success from 1976-1983 has been given to Owens. He started his rebuilding of the franchise in 1973 when he named Green the Director of Scouting and Ozark the manager. Ozark led the ball club in 1973 to a 71-91 record. 1974 saw the team grow to 80 wins, a 9 game improvement. The following season, the Phillies were 86-76. They went from 6th place to 3rd place to 2nd place in the first three seasons under Ozark. Finally, the 1976 Phillies erupted for 101 wins, just one less than the mighty Big Red Machine. Of course, the Phillies that season were a flea on the back of a Reds team poised for a second consecutive World Series title. But finally, all the hard work by Owens, Green and Ozark had paid off. In 1977, the Phillies had a little harder to work but managed to win the same 101 games and hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates by 5 games to take the NL East.
The LA Dodgers finished the regular season three wins less than the Philadelphia Phillies. However, the Dodgers beat the Phillies 3 games to 1 in the NLCS. The following season saw the Phillies drop to 90-72. They were able to hold off the Pirates by 1.5 games to take their third straight division title. It seemed like a repeat of the season before when the Phillies lost in the NLCS to the Dodgers in 4 games and the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
Owens thought of a plan to help an underachieving offense. See, with power hitters like Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, in spite of the home runs and runs driven in, the team hit .258 for the 1978 season. For a perennial playoff team, thought was they could improve on the batting average and .328 on base percentage. They added the future all time hits leader Pete Rose and he hit .331 for the 1979 Phillies. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing season for Philadelphia as they finished 4th in the NL East with an 84-78 record. And the decision was made to relieve Ozark of his duties after 132 games and replace him with Green.
As the Phillies were on their way to their first World Series Championship in 1980, the mood in the clubhouse was suspect at best. Green challenged his players to a point where there was a lot of dissension among the players. Green was a leader, but wanted to lead his way. He was not looking to make friends- was not interested in camaraderie. When the Phillies beat the Houston Astros in the best played, most evenly matched five game series the game had ever seen, Green was one of the first out of the dugout and was jumping up and down with the players on the field. As they finished off the Royals in game 6 of the WS, the job had been completed. Owens had guided the team to the championship and Green had run the scouting department since the start and was behind the bench for the last two plus seasons. The only one not to bask in the glory was Ozark, who by that time was coaching under Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda (PBS guest- www.johnpielli.com).
The Phillies remained competitive throughout the early part of the 1980s, with Green leading the team to the postseason in 1981 and Owens leading the team to the 1983 World Series. No doubt that it was Owens who deserves most of the credit, but Green was part of the front office for many years that helped develop the players that turned the Phillies around. And the 1970s was a time where a manager really did matter- unlike in the game today. It is no coincidence that managers had a tendency for staying around with a respective club much longer then than they do now. Ozark had a pulse of the team and most liked to play for him. It truly was the combination of the three that led the Philadelphia Phillies to their best stretch in the history of the franchise. And that includes the most recent 2007-2011 teams.