Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner, stripped now of hope as well as his uniform, sat in his underwear Saturday afternoon talking of pride and heart and the other things the newly defeated talk of, when Phillie Pitcher Jim Kaat popped into Tanner's office carrying two paper cups full of champagne. Kaat played for Tanner in Chicago, and they share a love of racehorses. But Tanner had not expected a social call at this melancholy juncture. The champagne belonged in the winners' dressing room. Nonetheless, Kaat proffered his old boss a cup. "Here," he said, "you deserve this as much as we do." Tanner gratefully accepted, because, though deprived of the fruits of victory, he and his Pirates richly merited a taste of the bubbly.
In fourth place, 11½ games behind the Phillies on Aug. 12, Pittsburgh had nearly made one of the most dramatic comebacks in baseball history. They had won 36 of 48 games from that day in August until the last one in September, and after sweeping the Phils in a bizarre doubleheader the night before for their 23rd and 24th straight wins at home, the championship of the National League East seemed within the Pirates' reach. Trailing by 3½ games, Pittsburgh knew it must win all four of this final four-game series with the Phillies, and then make up a rained-out game with Cincinnati on Monday to either win the division title or tie for it.
In each game of the doubleheader, Pittsburgh was apparently touched by providence. In the first, the score was 4-4 in the ninth when Pirate Ed Ott led off by hitting a fly ball to right center. Philadelphia Centerfielder Garry Maddox and Rightfielder Bake Mc-Bride stood transfixed as the ball fell between them. The stocky Ott chugged around the bases as Maddox finally retrieved the ball and tossed it wildly past third, allowing Ott to charge jubilantly home with the winning run.
The second victory was similarly a product of Philadelphia largess. This time the score was 1-1 in the ninth when Dave Parker opened with a double to center, which Maddox mishandled, Parker advancing to third. Steve Carlton, who had pitched magnificently, intentionally walked the next two hitters before Warren Brusstar replaced him. Brusstar threw one pitch to Phil Garner, and then interrupted his windup on the next as Parker, breaking off third, caught his attention. A balk was correctly called, Parker automatically scoring, and the Pirates were now 1½ back with two, maybe three, to play.
October 8, 1978
When Willie Stargell began Saturday's game with a first-inning grand slam, it seemed certain the Phillie lead would be cut to a half game. But while the Pirates failed to score in the ensuing seven innings, Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski belted a three-run homer, Richie Hebner hit a three-run double, and starting Pitcher Randy Lerch, batting better than he pitched, had two home runs. The resolute, if nervous, Phillies were leading 10-4 entering the ninth. The Pirates promptly scored four times and, with one out, had the tying run at the plate in the large person of Stargell. But the old slugger struck out this time, and Garner ended the Pirates' bifurcated season by grounding out.
"I'm glad that's over," said Hebner, gulping his champagne happily.
"It's hard to win a pennant," said Tanner, sipping his thoughtfully. "But it's harder losing one."