During the late 1970s, Philadelphia sports fans knew all four major teams were good, but none could have expected what happened in 1980. The Flyers, 76ers, Phillies and Eagles put together perhaps the greatest professional sports year ever for a single city.
After back to back 2nd place finishes in the Patrick Division in 1977-1978 and 1978-1979, the Philadelphia Flyers complied a record of 48 wins, 12 losses and 20 ties for 116 points, the second highest in franchise history. The team was lead by 21 year old Ken Linesman (22, goals, 57 assists, 79 points), 29 year old Reggie Leach (50 goals, 26 assists, 76 points), and 20 year old Brian Propp (34 goals, 41 assists, 75 points). The Flyers had a deep team with key contributions from veterans Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish, and Paul Holmgren. Goalies Pete Peeters and Phil Myre were very solid. The team won 11 of 13 games in the conference playoffs to easily advanced to the finals. The season ended with an overtime loss in game six of the Stanley Cup finals against the New York Islanders.
The 1978-1979 Philadelphia 76ers finished second in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the NBA. The team lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Entering the 1979-1980 season, the team was confident with a roster lead by superstar Julius Erving. The team had other key players such as Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Darryl Dawkins, Steve Mix, Henry Bibby and Caldwell Jones.
Lead by Julius Erving and his 27 points per game average, the 76ers won 59 games and finished two games behind the Boston Celtics in the division. The team easily defeated the Washington Bullets and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The real test was against perennial powerhouse and rival, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were lead by rookie Larry Bird, and veterans Tiny Archibald and Cedric Maxwell. The 76ers surprised much of the basketball world with a decisive 4 games to 1 victory of the Celtics to advance to the NBA Championship.
In the championship series, the 76ers met the fierce Los Angeles Lakers lead by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes, and rookie Magic Johnson. Without a dominant center, the Lakers got off to a 3 games to 2 lead in the series. Magic Johnson, normally a point guard, filled in for center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in game six. Johnson dominated the game and the Lakers defeated the 76ers 4 games to 2 to win the NBA Championship.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the National League Eastern Division in 1976, 1977 and 1978, only to lose in the National League Championship Series each season. After a down year in 1979, the Phillies won the division in 1980 behind MVP Mike Schmidt and Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton. Other stars and key contributors on that team included Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski, Tug McGraw, Bob Boone, Bake McBride, and Manny Trillo.
The Phillies made an improbable comeback in game five of the playoffs against future Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. They trailed Ryan and the Astros, 5 – 2 in the 7th inning and it appeared the Phillies would fall short once again. A remarkable comeback lead to an extra inning win and a World Series appearance against the Kansas City Royals.
The Phillies dominated the Royals in the World Series behind World Series MVP Mike Schmidt, Carlton and closer Tug McGraw, who struck out Willie Wilson to end game six. The strikeout gave the Phillies their first World Series championship in franchise history.
The Philadelphia Eagles were a poor team throughout most of the 1970s. But head coach Dick Vermeil lead the team to the playoffs in 1978 and 1979. The team lost in the first round of the playoffs following the 1978 season and won a single playoff game following the 1979 season. Clearly the team was heading in the right direction.
The 1980 team was lead on offense by quarterback Ron Jaworski, running back Wilbert Montgomery, and wide receiver Harold Carmichael. The defense lead by coach Marion Campbell had key contributors such as Bill Bergey, Jerry Robinson, Brenard Wilson, Roynell Young, John Bunting, Carl Hairston, Herman Edwards and Charlie Johnson.
The Eagles won 12 games during the regular season and won the NFC Eastern Division. Ron Jaworksi threw for over 3,500 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Eagles dominated the Minnesota Vikings 31-16 in the divisional playoff round, then faced their rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
Wilbert Montgomery provided the play of the game against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. On the second play from scrimmage, Montgomery ran to the right through a big hole and went 42 yards for a touchdown. The crowd erupted as the Eagles took a 7-0 lead. Although the Cowboys tied the game at 7-7, the Eagles clearly had momentum throughout the game and won, 20-7.
The Eagles lost Super Bowl XV to the Raiders 27-10, after what appeared to be a letdown after an emotional victory against the Cowboys.
Philadelphia sports saw all four professional teams reach the championship in 1980. Although only the Phillies won the championship, I don’t think we’ll ever see another city have all professional sports teams make it to the championship in a single season. It was a remarkable accomplishment for those four franchises.