BY STEVE KRAH
J. Daniel was just shy of 13 when the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series for the first time in 1980.
Even though he was in southwestern Ohio, he followed the Phils from “Mike Schmidt to Ramon Aviles.”
Growing up when he did, Daniel appreciates baseball and pop culture in the 1980’s.
He is a big fan of Dan Epstein — author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s — and his style.
So much so that the Brownsburg, Ind., resident decided to write a book about baseball and more in the decade he knows so well.
“I’m a total stat geek,” says Daniel, who recalls devouring the box scores in the Cincinnati Enquirer during his youth. “Everything’s interesting to me.”
With so much material, it became books — plural.
Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t (McFarland & Company) was published in 2019.
It was 1980 that gave us ….
The primetime TV drama “Dallas” and the cliffhanger summer question of “Who Shot J.R.?”
Movie-goers saw comedy in the “The Blue Brothers” and “Airplane!” and horror in “The Shining” and “Friday The 13th.”
In one scene from “The Shining,” Shelley Duvall wields a Carl Yastrzemski model Louisville Slugger.
Basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was cast as the co-pilot in “Airplane!” If not for filming during the baseball season, it might have been Pete Rose.
A former weatherman — David Letterman — also read for a part but did not land one.
Roberto Duran topped “Sugar Ray” Leonard in a 15-round bout in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
Free agent Nolan Ryan became the first baseball player to sign for $1 million a season, signing with the Houston Astros.
Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was about to make his clients a lot of money.
The average minimum salary at the time was $20,000.
In the spring of ’80, they went on a mini-strike that wiped out 92 spring training games.
Elias Sports Bureau introduces Game-Winning RBI as a statistic in the spring. The first one credited in a game went to the Cincinnati Reds’ George Foster in the first inning of a 9-0 Opening Day romp against Phil Niekro and the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta would get off to a 1-9 start and owner Ted Turner (who launched CNN in 1980) benched Gary Matthews and sent Bob Horner to the minors.
It was also on Opening Day, that “Kiteman” hang-glided his way onto the field at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium.
Ken Landreaux of the Minnesota Twins enjoyed a 31-game hit streak — the longest in the American League since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 in 1949. A few seasons’s prior to Landreaux’s feat, Aqua Velva gave $1,000 per game to the hitter with the streak. But that changed in 1980. Things were worked out for Landreaux to give the money to charity.
San Diego Padres shortstop Ozzie Smith wasn’t looking for charity, but extra income. He took out a newspaper ad. He had many offers, including one from Joan Kroc, wife of Padres owner Ray Kroc, to assist her gardner. He eventually got supplemental pay from a company on Los Angeles.
There were many bench-clearing brawls and knockdown pitches in 1980.
Fergie Jenkins of the Texas Rangers joined Cy Young, Jim Bunning and Gaylord Perry as pitchers with 100 wins in both leagues.
Freddie Patek of the California Angels hit five home runs on the season and 41 for his career, but he popped three in one game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Left-hander Jerry Reuss did not begin the season in the starting rotation for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but tossed a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants.
On his way to a 25-7 record and the AL Cy Young Award, Baltimore Orioles right-hander Steve Stone started the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium and worked three inning in just 24 pitches.
The game also featured the debut of the massive Diamond Vision video boards.
Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench passed Yogi Berra for the all-time lead in home runs by a catcher.
Houston fireballer J.R. Richard suffered a stroke.
The Chicago Cubs fired manager Preston Gomez and replaced him with Joey Amalfitano.
“Super Joe” Charbonneau became an icon for the Cleveland Indians.
A white-hot George Brett was hitting .401 on Aug. 17 and finished with a .390 average. The Kansas City Royals third baseman’s back side was likely warm during the end of the season and the postseason. He finally had to have surgery for hemorrhoids prior to Game 3 of the World Series.
Maverick owners Charlie Finley (Oakland Athletics) and Bill Veeck (Chicago White Sox) announced the sale of their teams.
The White Sox did the unusual when they used the left-handed Mike Squires as a catcher.
Montreal Expos right-hander Bill Gullickson set a rookie-record with 18 strikeouts against the Cubs.
Oakland’s Rick Langford tossed 28 complete games, including a modern-record 23 straight. The Athletics staff completed 94 starts.
Three of the four division races were not settled until the season’s final week. Kansas City rapped the AL West up early. The Philadelphia Phillies edged out Montreal in the NL East. Houston topped the Dodgers in the NL West. The Yankees bested Baltimore in the AL East.
Games 2-5 in the National League Championship Series went extra innings before the Phillies prevailed over the Astros.
New Jersey’s Army staff sergeant Craig Burns took a three-day pass and flew from Germany to see his Phils play the Royals in the first game of the World Series. With Schmidt and Tug McGraw among the heroes, Philly won its first title.
Daniel is shopping his next volume about the 1982 season. The working title is Suds Series: The Brewers, the Cardinals and the year the ’80s became the ‘80s. He is grateful to author and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis journalism professor Chris Lamb for his help and encouragement.
That era is also kept alive on social media by Daniel with his website (80sbaseball.com), Facebook (Facebook.com/80sbaseball) and Twitter (@80sbaseball) pages.
Daniel, a graduate of Talawanda High School in Oxford, Ohio, and Ohio University, is now employed in communication for IUPUI parking services. More than 20 years of his working life was spent in sports television, including four years as the producer/director of “Rays Magazine” on Fox Sports Florida.
J. and wife Sue were engaged at Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, a place where he spent two seasons at official scorer for the Clearwater Phillies. The couple has two seasons — Brady (19) and Michael (16). Brady played travel baseball with the Indiana Outlaws and Indiana Hurricanes. Michael played at Brownsburg Little League.
Daniel is an assistant coach this summer for the 17U Indiana Expos with Kevin Barnhart (father of Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart) as head coach and Tim Hampton as another assistant.
J. Daniel, a Brownsburg, Ind., resident, has written Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t and has other books planned about the 1980s.
Phinally!: The Phillies, the Royals and the 1980 Baseball Season That Almost Wasn’t by J. Daniel chronicles not only what happened on the diamond pop culture. The author resides in Brownsburg, Ind. (McFarland & Sons Image)