August 12 will forever be known as the anniversary of one of baseball’s darkest days. In 1994, Major League players went on strike which resulted in unresolved pennant races as well as the cancellation of the World Series. But, that’s not the topic for this weeks version of This Week in Baseball History, a post where I attempt to bring up some offbeat and interesting facts from baseball history.
On August 12, 1978 Marty Bystrom of Peninsula in the Carolina League threw a perfect game against Winstom Salem. While not much is known about the actual game, Bystrom has an interesting story. He made his Major League debut for Philadelphia on September 7, 1980. Just over a month later, he was assigned one of the most important starts in Phillies’ history.
Bystrom was signed by the Phillies in 1976 as an amateur free agent and worked his way up to the big club, progressing with winning records every year as a starter. He was called up to the Phillies in September of 1980 and went an amazing 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six games and five starts. Without his pitching, the Phillies likely would not have beat out the Montreal Expos and won the National League Eastern Division. Without his pitching, they may not have knocked off the Houston Astros in the NLCS as well.
The 1980 NLCS was a classic. Four of the five games (the LCS was a best of five in those days) went into extra innings. For the deciding Game Five, Phillie manager Dallas Green made the curious decision to go with the untested rookie Bystrom instead of a veteran like Dick Ruthven who had started Game Two.
The 22 year-old was poised as he took the mound in Houston’s Astrodome that night, with his hat hardly containing his red afro. He was matched up against the great Nolan Ryan and he pitched well, allowing only two runs (one earned) in 5.1 innings. After he exited, the game took crazy turn and after crazy turn. Ultimately, the Phillies prevailed 8-7 in 10 innings to take the series.
Bystrom started Game Five of the World Series as well and again pitched well enough for the Phillies to win. Two nights later, the Phillies won their first World Series. While his future looked very bright, unfortunately for Bystrom, his career never did take off. September 1980 marked the best season of his major league career as he was out of the majors by age 26 in 1985.