By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Bob Walk only spent one season in Philadelphia, but it was the right season to be here.
Of course, Walk was a rookie right-hander for the 1980 Phillies, the team that won the first World Series in franchise history. For the past nearly twenty years, since his playing days ended, Walk has served as a broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Pirates which meant he was in town for the just completed series with the Phillies and he sat down to reminisce about his career.
Walk went 11-7 for the Phillies in ’80, but he is probably best remembered for being tabbed to start Game #1 of the World Series that year against the Royals. He says he learned he would start things off in the Fall Classic, shortly after the Phils won the pennant in that wild NLCS against Houston.
“For whatever reason, I guess looking back on it now it was a planned thing, those last couple of days (against the Astros) I didn’t get used,” Walk tells KYW Newsradio. “I got up to throw in the pen a couple of times and didn’t get used. All those games were very tough, hard fought and so basically what it came down to was I was the last man standing. There was nobody that had anything close to a fresh arm that could’ve pitched Game #1. What happened was during the champagne (after winning the pennant), I’m pretty sure it was (manager) Dallas (Green), came over to me and said, ‘Hey kid, come here. Get ready, you’re going to have Game #1. Don’t be nervous but there’s no one else, it’s got to be you and you’re going to do a good job. Just go out and do like you did all year.’ So that’s kind of how that all came about. That’s when I learned I was going to be the Game #1 guy, within twenty minutes after the last out in Houston.”
Pretty heady stuff for a rookie, but Walk says at 23-years old, he really didn’t have an appreciation for how big the moment he was stepping into was.
“I was too young and dumb to realize the importance of going out there for a Game #1 of a World Series, for an organization that had never won a world championship. It was very special.”
“Here’s how my mindset was and how I wasn’t all that impressed by everything that was going on. I can remember warming up in the bullpen during the introductions. When they introduced me, I’m the only guy that’s not out on the foul line, ‘Warming up in the bullpen, Bob Walk.’ I can see the camera, the red light come on, and it’s pointing at me. And of all the things to be thinking about, I’m just thinking about, ‘Hey, all my buddies at home are looking at me right now!’ That’s my thought, minutes before the World Series is about to start. I just wasn’t all that nervous. Like I said I think I was too young and dumb to be as nervous as I should’ve been.”
Walk battled in Game #1 against Kansas City, pitching into the 8th inning, allowing six runs and picking up the win as the Phils held off the Royals 7-6. Of course, the Phillies would go on to win the series in six games.
This would prove to be the last game Walk pitched as a Phillie. In the offseason he was traded to Atlanta for current Phillies TV broadcaster Gary “Sarge” Matthews. He would pitch three seasons with the Braves organization and then really find his stride in Pittsburgh. Walk pitched ten seasons with the Pirates, winning 82 games. He would appear in the postseason four more times (once in Atlanta, three times in Pittsburgh) but never again make it to the World Series.
Even with just one season in Philadelphia on his resume, his part on that World Championship team has made him unforgettable to the diehard Phillies fans.
“I explained this to some of my buddies, my announcer buddies, because they are amazed. We’ll go out and we’ll be sitting in some place – like the other day, it was one o’clock in the morning we’re just walking down the street and somebody passes me and goes, ‘Hey Bob Walk, nice job in ’80!’ And they like look at me and they go, ‘How do people know you?’ The only way I’ve explained it is that 1980 was such a special team to this city that I think when we won that, everybody on that team became like sports gods around here. Everybody, I’m sure, gets treated like that in this city if you were a member of that 1980 Phillie team.”
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.