The history of Philadelphia and Brooklyn/Los Angeles battling is almost entirely old as the teams themselves. The Philadelphia Phillies have tread the diamond since 1883, while Brooklyn started the following year of 1884. That’s good enough for 2,102 games, and the Boys in Blue hold the head-to-head edge decisively at 1,169-918. Given the decades of lean years the Phillies have endured, it’s surprising it isn’t even bigger. After all, they became the first pro sports franchise to reach 10,000 all-time losses in 2007.
However, in the midst of that slew of futility, the Phillies did manage a major regular season victory over the Dodgers in 1950. Brooklyn were the defending National League champions, and favorites to go back to the World Series. But the Phillies, dubbed the “Whiz Kids” for their youthful roster, took the league (and first place) by storm instead.
The Dodgers managed to catch up in September, leading to a season-ending showdown at Ebbets Field. Hall of Famer Robin Roberts and Dodgers ace Don Newcombe pitched brilliantly frame for frame. With the scored tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth and two runners on, Duke Snider laced what seemed to be a legendary walk-off hit. But outfielder Richie Ashburn cut down the lead runner at home, helping to snuff out the rally. Dick Sisler then launched a three-run shot off Newcombe in the 10th, and Roberts closed it out for Philadelphia’s first pennant since 1915.
The Dodgers and Phillies playing against one another even made its way into the movies. In the final scene of 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers wakes up to a broadcast of a Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies game played on May 25, 1941. He recognizes it, thus setting up a big twist. But it’s no made-up contrivance: it was an actual game that happened.
There have been many no-hitters in Dodgers franchise history, and five of them have come against the Phillies. The first was by Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance at home in 1925, the only Dodger no-hitter in which an opposing run was allowed. The second was tossed by Sal Maglie in 1956, the last no-hitter for the Brooklyn half of the franchise (appropriately at Ebbets Field).
After the move to Los Angeles, Dodger pitchers continued to no-hit the Phillies. Sandy Koufax did it in Philadelphia in June of 1964, one of four in his career. The next was courtesy of Bill Singer at Dodger Stadium in July 1970, in which he issued no walks but hit a batter and committed two errors. The most recent was Josh Beckett’s redemptive no-no at Citizens Bank Park just over five years ago in May 2014.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have no-hit the Dodgers only once. And you have to go waaaaayyyy back for it. That’s when Johnny Lush stymied Brooklyn on May 1, 1906.
Chase Utley and Other Trades
Just as they’ve played against each other time and again, the franchises have traded consistently since 1885. Many of the key figures that helped the Phillies beat the Dodgers in the 2008/09 NLCS (detailed below) were traded to L.A. as part of Philadelphia’s subsequent rebuild, including Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz.
Without a doubt, the greatest transaction between them was in August 2015. After 12 years of revered play and more Philly kids named after him than one can count, Chase Utley was traded to Los Angeles. While primarily a legend of the Quaker City, the trade nonetheless reconnected Utley with his Los Angeles roots. A native of Pasadena who grew up a fan, he was drafted right out of high school by the Dodgers in 1997, but elected instead to play at UCLA. Thus, his acquisition in 2015 brought everything full circle.
It was a trade that paid off in dividends. Utley became the ultimate team leader (and Dad), mentoring young players like Corey Seager, crashing into Ruben Tejada, bailing them out in game four of the 2016 NLDS, and providing veteran leadership for two World Series teams. When he returned to Philadelphia in 2016, he was as loved as ever.
This is where the bulk of Dodgers/Phillies history resides. They’ve met each other a grand total of five times in the playoffs, each one in the National League Championship Series. Almost every one remains an eternal source of agony for the loser.
The first was 1977, when both clubs were powerhouses. The Dodgers, with “The Infield” as their foundation, won 98 games. They were also the first team in MLB history with four players (Reggie Smith, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Dusty Baker) who hit 30 or more homers in a season. The Phillies, meanwhile, had Mike Schmidt (arguably the best 3B in the game’s history), slugger Greg Luzinski, defensive wizard Larry Bowa, untouchable lefty ace Steve Carlton, and other stars who led them to 101 wins for the second year in a row.
After splitting the first two games at Dodger Stadium, the series was effectively decided in a highly controversial game three at Veterans Stadium. With the Phillies on the verge of a 2-1 series lead in the 9th, ahead 5-3, the Dodgers started to rally. Manny Mota hit an RBI double that scored Vic Davalillo, advancing to third on an error. Then Davey Lopes stepped up and hit a grounder that bounced off Mike Schmidt. Larry Bowa valiantly picked it up and fired it to first, and seemed to get Lopes in time.
However, in a virtual tie, Lopes was dubbed safe, allowing Mota to score the tying run. The Phillies protested vociferously, but to no avail. The Dodgers completed the rally for a 6-5 win, and clinched the pennant the next game. The play that decided game four, forever etched in Philadelphia sports lore as “Black Friday,” still haunts many in the Delaware Valley to this day.
The rematch came right the next year, albeit with neither one exceeding 100 wins in the regular season. This time, the Dodgers won in four without controversy, and on a walk-off no less. In the bottom of the 10th in game four, Bill Russell dropped a perfect single to score Ron Cey and send Chavez Ravine into delirium. It was a joyous moment in Dodger history, but one quickly supplanted by tragedy when coach and franchise legend Jim Gilliam passed away the following day.
Round three came five years later in 1983, in which Philadelphia turned the tables. Carlton held the Dodgers’ bats in check for two wins, while Gary Matthews’ hot bat earned him NLCS MVP honors. Jerry Reuss was saddled with two losses for Los Angeles.
It would be a quarter-century before Philly Red and Dodger Blue clashed again for a ticket to the World Series. The 2008 NLCS, while short, proved to be one of great drama and on-field bitterness. The Dodgers, brought to life by the blockbuster Manny Ramirez trade, won only 84 games that year but dominated the World Series-favorite Cubs in an NLDS sweep.
Still, the Phillies won eight more games in the regular season, and showed why by taking the first two contests at Citizens Bank Park. Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and former Dodgers minor league flameout Shane Victorino did the damage offensively. Cole Hamels pitched like an ace in game one, while Brett Myers racked up three RBI to help his own win in game two.
It was when things shifted to Hollywood, though, that the bad blood really kicked in. Los Angeles won game three easily 7-2, with Hiroki Kuroda hurling six solid innings. But the action was defined by a series of throwdowns, the first coming when Jamie Moyer hit Russell Martin in the first and Clay Condrey nearly hit him in the second. Kuroda retaliated with some head-hunting of Victorino in the third, leading to a weird finger-pointing routine from the Flyin’ Hawaiian and the benches to clear.
In game four, the Dodgers seemed to have a stranglehold on series momentum. They led 5-3 in the eighth thanks to offense from Casey Blake, James Loney, Russell Martin, and Manny Ramirez. A series tie would give them a chance to go up 3-2 the next game going back to Philadelphia. They would be one step closer to their first pennant in two whole decades.
It all disappeared in a torturous inning. Victorino, already anointed as the series villain, stroked an expedient game-tying home run off Cory Wade. After another hit and recording the second out, Wade was lifted for closer Jonathan Broxton. The first batter he faced was pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, who worked the count 3-1. Broxton then threw a pitch right down the middle to the man with the most pinch-hit home runs in MLB history. You know what happens next.
After that 7-5 comeback win, it was essentially over. In game five, Cole Hamels stifled Dodger bats en route to a pennant-clinching 5-1 win. The Phillies made good on it by taking down Tampa Bay for their first World Series title in 28 years. The worst part: the Dodgers’ elimination happened 20 years to the day of Kirk Gibson’s home run. Ouch.
Just like in ‘77/’78, the two would meet again in 2009. This time, the Dodgers weren’t upstarts, but winners of 95 games, two more than the Phillies. This gave them home field advantage. After losing a slugfest in game one, they took game two thanks to a key error by Utley. However, the Phillies destroyed them at Citizens Bank in game three for a 2-1 series lead.
As it was in 2008, game four looked like the Dodgers were going to tie the series up. Randy Wolf and the bullpen held a fragile 4-3 lead, leaving it to Broxton to save it in the ninth. After an out, the specter of Matt Stairs emerged again. No doubt shaken by their last encounter, Broxton walked him. After hitting Carlos Ruiz, he retired Greg Dobbs.
The Phils were down to their last out, with catalyst Jimmy Rollins at the plate. Broxton needed just one out to ensure the series would return to Los Angeles. It wouldn’t.
Might we see a sixth installment this October, with Cody Bellinger and Bryce Harper going head-to-head? Given the history between the Dodgers and Phillies, it’d only be fitting.