The Phillies won 90 games in 1978 to capture their third straight division title. And for the third straight season, their campaign ended with a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The franchise's pursuit of its elusive first World Series title needed a final piece.
The Phillies signed Pete Rose that December and two seasons later they were baseball's best for the first time. Rose, who has been banned by baseball since 1989, will finally return to the Phils on Aug. 12 when he is added to the team's Wall of Fame.
"Before he got here, we had a good team. But he was like the missing ingredient," said Larry Bowa, who played three seasons with Rose and is now the team's bench coach. "When he came over here, he told everyone that when teams came to play us that we were an intimidating team. A lot of people on our team didn't believe that, so he just kept saying it and saying it and we started believing in it. And obviously the way he played the game, with reckless abandon … I saw him play through a hamstring pull, stuff like that. When other guys watch guys go through injuries and don't get off the field, that means a lot."
Rose's ban kept him away from past Phillies ceremonies and off the Wall of Fame ballot. He was banned after it was learned that he had bet on baseball during the last seasons of his career with Cincinnati. He applied two years ago for reinstatement, but commissioner Rob Manfred turned Rose down after an investigation.
Manfred said Rose could take part in ceremonies as long as the team received approval from the league office. The Reds added him last summer to their Wall of Fame, opening the door for the Phillies to follow suit.
"I am very honored to be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame. My baseball years in Philadelphia were amazing, not just because we won it all in 1980 and came close in 1983, but also because the fans welcomed me from day one," Rose said in a statement. "The team's great ownership and talented roster attracted me to Philadelphia as a free agent. I knew we could experience great success."
Rose played five seasons with the Phillies after joining them as the franchise's first major free-agent signing. He is the 39th inductee to the Wall of Fame and was selected through fan voting on the team's website. The Phillies will give out a Rose bobblehead on Aug. 11, the night before he is honored.
The Phillies made Rose baseball's highest-paid player for what was considered a shocking $800,000 per season. He was a four-time all-star with the Phillies, set the National League's hit record in 1981 at Veterans Stadium, and helped the team reach the World Series twice. It is Rose's attitude that is remembered most.
"I didn't lay down a bunt and he said, 'You've got to get that ball down.' I said, 'You're right,' " Bowa said. "Back then, you could get on guys and they didn't take it personally, they took it like you were out trying to help them, they took it as constructive criticism. You probably couldn't do that now because some guys would probably call their agents. … That's how he was, he wasn't afraid, and if he didn't do a job he'd be the first one to say, 'That was a bad at-bat by me.' He didn't just pick out individuals, he even blamed himself out when he didn't have a good at-bat."