Pete Mackanin 1981 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 21, 2017

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Often I wonder about people who do not get a shot or are constantly passed over for those with more experience.

In the entertainment world, I’ve seen that left and right. A wonderful actor, singer, comedian or writer is up for a big break but in the end, the powers that be take someone who has done it before. The paradox ensues: They would get hired if they get more experience but how can they get more experience if nobody hires them?

The best answer is “survive.” Pete Mackanin is a survivor who recently got his big break.

The Chicago native was drafted by the Senators in 1969 as an infielder. He bounced around Single A ball for the next few years, not exactly lighting the world on fire with his bat. A promotion to Double A and a cameo in Triple A in 1972 showed no evidence that a trip to the majors was on the horizon. But after finding his stroke with Triple A Spokane, he earned his first promotion to the parent team, now the Texas Rangers.

After two brief big league stints, he got his chance to start with the 1975 Montreal Expos after being a toss in for the Don Stanhouse for Willie Davis deal. He posted career highs in homers (12) and stolen bases) while accumulating 495 plate appearances. He tripled home 3 runs in a September 23 win over the Cardinals and played solid defense.

But as the Expos were forming an impressive team with the likes of Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine on the roster, Mackanin was not part of the long term plan.

He battled injuries and minor league demotions in 1978 and 1979 in the Phillies organization before, as this card illustrates, got a new chance with Minnesota.

Mackanin started both of those seasons, but seemed more like a place holder. By 1982, he was a 30 year old in Triple A. He did not get the call back to the majors in 1982 nor 1983 with the Rangers. In 1984, he was in Triple A for the Cubs. As the parent team went to the post season, Mackanin was playing his final games.

When his playing days ended, Mackanin’s survival days began. He became a minor league coach and manager. The Hickory Crawdad and Lynchburg Hillcats called him “skip.”

He coached on the big league level with several organizations, constantly finding himself on staffs but not on the shortlist to manage a team.

While on the Pirates coaching staff, he stepped in to replace manager Lloyd McClendon after he was fired towards the end of the 2005 season. But when a permanent manager was picked, the Pirates went with experience and brought in Jim Tracy.

Mackanin survived, managing in the Florida State League in 2006, awaiting his next big break.

In 2007, he moved to the Reds organization and again took over a big league team as manager when Jerry Narron was fired. Once again, a man with decades of coaching and managerial experience was passed over when the season ended as the Reds opted to hire the experienced Dusty Baker.

He survived, finding himself with the Phillies on their coaching staff when they went to the 2009 World Series. When Charlie Manuel was let go, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg took over the managerial reins. But Sandberg resigned suddenly in 2015 and Mackanin once again became the seat filler.

This time, however, the Phillies did not seek a more experienced name. They removed the “interim” label from Mackanin’s title and he has been the Phillies manager ever since. With the team rebuilding and slowly putting together a new product, it remains to see if Mackanin will remain manager when Philadelphia is a contender again.

But at least a true baseball lifer was able to survive long enough to manage at the highest level and stay there for more than a few months.

He’s earned it.

Now he has experience.

Sully Baseball Podcast – The First Weekly Show – April 6, 2017


Did you miss me?

How could you? I was only gone 3 days! In the first edition of the new weekly version of the podcast, I reminded us how important the early games of the season can be.

Plus in the Teams That Should Have Won segment, I honor the 2011 Phillies, who should have made history. Instead they fell in a heap.

It may not be daily anymore, but it still feels good to float down the River Sully in this episode of Sully Baseball.

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Dick Ruthven 1981 Donruss – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 5, 2017


In 1980, the Phillies as a franchise were at a very frustrating crossroads. By that year, the franchise had not won a single World Series. In fact they had only won one World Series GAME.

And despite wonderful teams that made the post season in 1976, 1977 and 1978, they could not win a pennant. In fact the compounding losses in October and the lack of World Series appearances made the great collapse of 1964 hurt more and more.

1980 looked like more of the same in Philadelphia. Then they participated in one of the great October series in baseball history and turned the ball over to Dick Ruthven.

Ruthven was from northern California and was drafted by the Orioles in 1969 and the Twins in 1972 before being selected and signed by the Phillies in 1973 out of Cal State Fresno.

He made the major league squad that same year and in 1974, threw 212 2/3 innings for the Phillies.

In 1976, he was shipped off to Atlanta and missed the Phillies Division title during the Bicentennial. He did get selected to his first All Star team that year, establishing himself as one of the top pitchers on a non contending Braves squad.

After an injury plagued 1977 season in Georgia, Ruthven was traded back to the Phillies during the 1978 season. He won 13 games for the NL East champs. In his lone playoff start in 1978, he didn’t make it out of the 5th as the Phillies lost the game and eventually the pennant to Los Angeles.

In 1979, Ruthven began the season 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA but saw injuries derail his season. 1980 started in a rocky fashion.

He finished April with a 9.77 ERA and still saw it hovering at 5.71 by mid May. But he threw a complete game shutout against Houston on May 16th that helped turn his season around.

It would not be the last time he would be linked to Houston in 1980.

As the Phillies fought tooth and nail with the Expos for the 1980 NL East crown, Ruthven was a key contributor to Philadelphia.

He even threw a 12 inning complete game victory over his former team, the Braves. He would finish the season with 17 wins and a 3.55 ERA.

In the NLCS with the Astros, both franchises locked up in an all time battle. In Game 2 of the NLCS, Ruthven allowed 3 hits and 2 runs over 7 innings. But the Astros would take the game in 10 innings, winning with a 4 run extra inning rally.

Games 3 and 4 were also extra inning affairs, with the Phillies holding off elimination in Game 4 on the road, 5-3 in 10.

Phillies pitcher Marty Bystrom would get the start versus Houston legend Nolan Ryan. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 7th, the Astros rallied to take a 5-2 lead. But the Phillies bombed Ryan in the 8th. Capped by Manny Trillo’s RBI triple, Philadelphia took a 7-5 lead into the 8th, with ace reliever Tug McGraw pitching and the Phillies 6 outs from the World Series. With 2 outs, the Astros slapped back to back RBI singles to tie the game.

When George Vukovich pinch hit for McGraw with a grounder, Phillies manager Dallas Green turned to Ruthven.

With the pennant on the line with every pitch, Ruthven got the Astros 1-2-3 in the 9th. A 2 out double by Garry Maddox gave the Phillies the lead going into the bottom of the 10th. It was Ruthven on the mound, trying to close it out.

He retired pinch hitter Danny Heep and then Terry Puhl to start of the inning. Then on a 3-2 count, Enos Cabell hit a fly ball to Maddox to win the pennant. Ruthven got the final out and the Phillies won their first pennant since 1950, shedding the loser label once and for all.

He would get a start in the World Series that the Phillies would lose in extra innings. But eventually they won their first title ever.

Ruthven made the 1981 All Star team and eventually joined the Phillies exodus to the Cubs in the mid 1980’s where he was part of the 1984 NL East winner.

His career ended during the 1986 season after 14 seasons.

No moment in his career will outshine the 2 innings of relief in 1980 which gave great relief to Phillies fans everywhere.