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TN poll picks Mets as Phils’ biggest rival

Which team is the greatest Phillies’ rival?

In the 1950s, the Phils’ top rival could have been the Pittsburgh Pirates, and there was also the “Whiz Kids” 1950 series with the Yankees.

During the ‘60s, the Phillies and the Mets began to have some intense series that also took precedent in the ‘80s and beyond as the teams battled for division titles in the early 2000s.

In the ‘70s, the Phillies and Pirates battled for the NL East and had some memorable battles. One could include the Dodgers in the mix from the classic playoff battles in the late ‘70s.

Don’t forget the Atlanta Braves, who surfaced in the ‘90s and have been a thorn in the Phils’ side ever since.

In this week’s version of my Behind the Plate column, I’ll take a look at some of these rivalries, and reveal the results of our Facebook poll.

Also, former Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel is battling complications from a stroke, and was one of the game’s last gut-decision managers. I’ll also look back at some of the game’s famous old-school skippers.

The Mets Win It ... In the newspaper’s Facebook poll, the Mets gained the most votes as the Phillies’ all-time rival. They were followed by the Braves, Yankees, Dodgers, and Pirates. The Expos, Marlins, and Giants didn’t receive any votes.

Take 95 and the Bridges ... One of the closest series in distance and in actual game action involves the Phillies and the Mets. Through their first six games of the season, the Phillies held a slim advantage of 543-517. It has been referred to as the “Battle of the Broad,” noting New York’s Broadway and Philly’s Broad Street.

One interesting fact is that the two teams never met in the postseason.

Some of the highlights have been Jim Bunning’s Father’s Day no-hitter in 1964, Tug McGraw’s run with both teams in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, some heated player battles throughout the ‘80s, the Juan Samuel-Lenny Dykstra 1989 trade, and Dwight Gooden’s beaning incident in the early ‘90s.

The competition again surfaced in 2007 after both teams experienced their share of ups and downs. Jimmy Rollins predicted the Phils would win the division, and they did. The Mets’ Carlos Beltran played the same card before the 2008 season, but the Phillies won the World Series.

For me and probably many of you, it was great to watch the Mets’ games on Channel 9, especially the Phillies’ broadcasts that always had a different camera look. And how about “Kiner’s Korner?’’

A Brave New World ... Atlanta had its share of success in the 1950’s (the Milwaukee braves back then) and ‘60s through the help of Hank Aaron, Lew Burdette, Rico Carty, Eddie Mathews, and Orlando Cepeda to name a handful.

The rivalry between the two teams didn’t surface until the 1993 season when there would be an eventual showdown in the postseason in which the Phils won that memorable ’93 NLCS.

Atlanta won 14 straight divisional titles between 1991 and 2005, and have ruled the division in recent times too, recently clinching their sixth straight division title.

The two teams haven’t experienced as many contested encounters as the Phillies-Mets, but they both have vied each other for the division. Philly has managed to claim its share of titles over the past 32 years.

Still, both teams know they likely have to get past each other to get to the Big Dance.

Bucco Blast ... During the ‘70s, Pittsburgh was the team to beat. The Buccos won the 1970 and ‘79 World Series, and they also won the NL East six times. Since the ‘50s, their meetings were always billed as a “Battle of Pennsylvania.”

Pittsburgh had a solid lineup with Willie Stargell at first, Dave Cash/Rennie Stennett/Bill Mazeroski at second, Gene Alley at short, and Richie Hebner at third. Roberto Clemente, Al Oliver, and Gene Clines/Matty Alou manned the outfield. Manny Sanguillen was an underrated catcher.

There were plenty of beatings the Bucs laid on the Phillies in the early ‘70s, and the teams always seemed to meet on July 4. Remember Tim McCarver’s “grand-slam single,” when he passed Garry Maddox on the bases in ’76?

The factor that turned the tide for the Phillies was the Cash for Ken Brett before the start of the ’74 season. The Pirates tragically lost Clemente, but they didn’t lose any ground with a budding outfielder named Dave Parker. Pittsburgh’s reign in the ‘70s ended after they won the ’79 championship behind their “We Are Family” mantra.

The intensity between the two teams cooled in the ‘80s, but there was plenty of intensity in the ‘70s.

L.A. Logs ... The Phillies-Dodgers rivalry can go back to the ’60s with the likes of Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, and Maury Wills.

I also remember Will Davis and Wes Parker. And watching games from L.A. – for whatever reason – was unique. There always was something special about watching a West Coast game growing up.

In the ‘70s, it was fueled by Norristown native Tommy Lasorda, who had his battles with the Phillie Phanatic. Lasorda once attacked him after the Phanatic beat up a Lasorda dummy.

Some flashbacks that will always stay with Phillies’ fans are the “Black Friday” game, Burt Hooten’s blowup, Steve Carlton pitching and losing a game in a driving rain, and Garry Maddox dropping a fly ball.

Garry Matthews redeemed the Phils in the 1983 NL Championship Series when he hit three homers to gain MVP honors.

There weren’t many highlights until Shane Victorino’s eight-inning homer in Game 4 of the 2008 playoffs, Jimmy Rollins’ two-out, two-run double, and Matt Stairs’ pinch-hit, two-run homer in Game 4 of the playoffs.

In the Big City ... When you think about the Yanks-Phillies, it’s easy to recall the 2009 World Series and the Yankees with A-Rod. However, it seems the biggest rivalry may have been in our own households, depending on who is a Phillies or Yankee fan.

Interleague play certainly has heightened the series, and the two teams have met only 51 times, with the Yankees holding a 29-22 advantage.

When I think of this matchup, former Phillies first baseman and Yankees broadcaster Bill White always comes to mind. I enjoyed listening to White, who was also also was the NL president for a time. There also was former Yankees’ outfielder Roy White, who was the consummate player.

Gut Instinct ... Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was fortunate to see some of the game’s more colorful managers, ones that didn’t make decisions based on analytics. Instead, they managed from experience and instinct.

Those that fell into that category were Danny Murtaugh, Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver, Gil Hodges, Red Schoendienst, Ralph Houk, Joe Torre, and Dallas Green to name a few.

You can also go back to Casey Stengel and Gene Mauch – both before my time – who defended their decisions, good or bad.

Joe Girardi was an old-school skipper, whose methods cost him his Yankees’ job.

They will all go down in the annals of the game as being among the best at their craft.

Readers Write ... Lehighton’s Tom Maloney noted on the rivalries: “Phils biggest rival…, not even close - the (Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, where next?) Braves. The NL NY team may be closer, but, you have to respect a worthy opponent.”

Northern Lehigh grad and Bangor resident Jim Bechtel likes the Mets “because of the proximity, it’s a natural rivalry.”

Bethlehem native Mitch Thomas stated “it has changed over the years, but the Mets are their biggest rival. They have had a lot of big moments with each other, and usually seem to be competing for the division.”

Feedback ... Your comments, ideas, and thoughts are welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com