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Police dogs were led along the foul lines to guard posts opposite the lower box seats. Helmeted riot-squad cops crouched taut and ready behind the dugouts. Stadium security police roamed the stands in search of incipient stampeders. And in the bullpens beyond the outfield fences, mounted patrolmen girded themselves to ride to the rescue of players and turf. Tug McGraw took in the unfolding spectacle from his vantage point atop the Veterans Stadium mound and said to himself, "This is a helluva show. I better not ruin it."
The forces of law and order in Philadelphia were preparing themselves for the riot that would signal the end of the 1980 World Series. It was a riot that, mostly because of their intimidating presence, never occurred. But McGraw faced real danger. There were two outs in the ninth inning and his team was leading the Kansas City Royals 4-1, but he had given up a walk and two hits and the bases were now loaded, with the potential winning run—in the person of Willie Wilson—at bat.
In crises such as these, McGraw looks beyond the playing field for solace and inspiration. "I look for a way to muster up some gusto" is the way he puts it. In a similarly critical juncture during the last series of the season with Montreal, he espied a man in the stands yawning. The incongruity of a fan fighting off sleep while his team was fighting for a pennant so amused and enraged McGraw that he quickly retired the side.
He needed something equally inspirational now as Wilson stepped in. This was McGraw's fourth appearance in the Series and his ninth in 11 postseason games, and he was exhausted. "My arm felt like it was going south on me," he said later. "It started to feel like when you bump your elbow on a corner and your hand gets numb."
As he watched the German shepherds advance along the foul lines, McGraw found his theme. "What I am," he said to himself, chuckling, "is dog tired." He recalled the K-9 Corps of military history and laughed again. "I could really use a 'K' [the symbol for strikeout] right now," he thought. "This is no time to dog it." He was ready for Wilson.
McGraw is wrongly considered to be strictly a screwball pitcher. In fact, he has mastered the curve and the slider, and he has six different fastballs, each of which has its own name—the Bo Derek, for example, has "a nice little tail on it." "I'm a craftsman and an artist," McGraw says. "You have to be creative and crafty in pitching. I use all the tools."
He started Wilson off with a screwball, which was taken for a called strike. "I wanted to show Wilson I wasn't afraid to throw a breaking ball in that condition." His next pitch was a hard slider that broke in on Wilson, a switch hitter batting righthanded. "I was thinking he might be diving for the ball so I jammed him," McGraw explained. Wilson fouled the pitch back into the stands.
McGraw figured that Wilson would next expect him to waste a pitch. In the fifth game of the Series, McGraw had caught George Brett unawares in the same no-ball, two-strike situation and had struck him out looking at a John Jameson ("straight, the way I like my Irish whiskey") fastball on the outside corner. Against Wilson, McGraw said, "I reached back for my best fastball, but my arm dropped too much and the pitch ended up high for ball one."
The count was now one and two, so McGraw and his catcher. Bob Boone, decided to wage a war of confusion on the hitter. Boone gave the sign for the screwball and McGraw shook him off. "In this situation, we'll go straight through the whole sequence of pitches," he said. "It's like a nickel slot machine—you watch it all roll by, then stop it. I stopped Boone on fastball. The chances were that Wilson would be looking for a breaking pitch, so I purposely slowed my motion in the beginning, then popped it at the finish. It all sounds so simple, and when it works, it almost is. Against [Willie] Ai-kens in the third game, it didn't work and he won the game for them [by hitting a 10th-inning single]. The pitch just wasn't where I wanted it. The picture was almost complete, and then the artist spilled paint on it."
The last pitch of the 1980 baseball season was a "slightly up" Jameson fastball on the inside part of the plate. Wilson swung at it and missed, and 65,838 Philadelphia baseball zealots shattered the pleasant night air with shrieks of joy and relief. The Phillies had won their first World Series after 98 years of trying. The dogs, horses and cops paced nervously below, but the fans stayed put and cheered. McGraw, whose victory dances had become as much a part of the Series as his postgame quips, jumped dutifully up and down, but he was facing third base, not home plate. "I was looking for Schmitty [Third Baseman Mike Schmidt]," he explained. "He told me to watch out because he was going to spread himself all over that pileup. I had to be ready for him. If you're not ready, you go down. But this time everyone arrived together. It was beautiful."