It used to be one of the best in the game.
Today, many fans don’t even know it existed. But it did. And at one point, it was huge.
Both teams were around before 1900, but the rivalry really didn’t begin to form until the 1970s, a time when both teams were big-time competitors in the National League. Nine of the 10 NL East titles in the decade went to either the Philles or the Pirates. Those titles led to three pennants, two for the Bucs, one for the Phillies, all of which resulted in World Series championships.
The rivalry has featured several brawls, fights, and skirmishes over its history.
Former Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa recalls the rivalry being enormously intense.
“Every game had a playoff atmosphere. Every year there was going to be a bench-clearing brawl,” he said. “There were never any warnings from umpires in those days; you just took care of those things yourself. They had old school guys and we did, too.”
One of the most memorable brawls occurred in 1980, after multiple hit batsmen from both sides. Former manager Dallas Green called it “one of the best fight’s I’ve ever seen.”
Other notable moments in the rivalry include Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run in Pittsburgh and the Phillies ten-run comeback in 1989, in which Pirates broadcaster Jim Rooker vowed to “walk home” if his team lost the game. Rooker had to make good on his vow, making the 300-mile walk from Philly to Pittsburgh after the season was over.
The re-alignment of the divisions pushed the Pirates to the NL Central in 1994, effectively ending what was left of the rivalry.
Perhaps someday, the Pirates can return to the Eastern Division. Pirates President Frank Coonelly says he wants it. Phillies chairman Bill Giles has said he believes the Pirates belong in the East as well. If they do end up returning in the future, one of the best rivalries of all time will have a chance to be reborn. That’s undoubtedly a win-win for the Phillies, the Pirates, and baseball itself.