The greatest moment of Pensacola native Kevin Saucier’s baseball career had a delayed celebration.
Horses needed to pass.
Yes, this actually happened.
Saucier was in the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, loosening up in case he was needed, when fellow Phillies reliever Tug McGraw recorded the final out in Game 6 of the 1980 World Series at the team’s former Veterans Stadium. McGraw had just delivered the first World Series title in the Phillies history.
“So, knowing how crazy these Phillies’ fans were going to be, you had all these horses with police and I saw them all coming,” said Saucier said, a 1974 Escambia High graduate, laughing at this memory. “So, all of us in the bullpen, we had to wait for the police horses to go on the field before we could get out.”
“That is the reason a lot of us were not in the initial pileup on the pitcher’s mound. I can remember running out and thinking, ‘Hey, how am I going to get around all these horses to get to my teammates!’ Oh man, that was something, but it was an incredible feeling.”
The memory and hilarity of that night on October 21, 1980 will be shared and cherished on Sunday when Saucier, who is part of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos gameday staff, joins his 1980 Phillies teammates on the field to be honored for that historic feat.
The teammates will include baseball legend Pete Rose, 81, who will make his first appearance at a Phillies game since being banned from Major League Baseball in August 1989, following an investigation that he placed bets on games, including while manager of the Cincinnati Reds during 1985-87.
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The reunion will include two Phillies players from that team — third baseman Mike Schmidt and left-handed pitcher Steve Carlton, who have since been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame among the sport’s greatest.
“It will be so special,” said Saucier, who rose from youth baseball in Pensacola to the sport’s pinnacle feat. “ I’m not going to say it will the same feeling I had when we won it, but I think it will be pretty darn close. Getting all the former teammates together and I know a lot of them are getting excited like I am.”
The Sunday event is part of a four-day, Toyota Phillies Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies home stadium since 2004. Friday night, Saucier and his teammates from 1980 will be guests of Phillies owner John S. Middleton at his home.
Saturday, two players from that team, outfielder Bake McBride and reliever Ron Reed, will be honored on the Phillies Wall of Fame with the 1980 teammates joining. McBride was the 1974 National League Rookie of the Year. He batted .299 in 1,071 games for 11 seasons.
Reed is first among Phillies relievers in all time wins (54) and innings pitched (763), second in strikeouts (519) all-time among Phillies relievers.
“Covid pushed it back in 2020 and I thought they were going to do it last year, but I think it became too late to plan by the time they had the announcement to start the season,” said Saucier, who works every Blue Wahoos home Game as a liaison with professional baseball scouts working the games and mingles with season-ticket holders.
“I know we’re going to be announced one at a time. I’m going to be most curious to see how these Phillies’ fans react with Pete (Rose). I don’t know, I think they’ll go crazy. I’m so glad he’s going to be there. In my opinion, he was one of the greatest players in the game and should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Saucier wants to be joined by his wife Cindy. The couple have been married the last 12 years.
“I told her, you will see something you have never seen before,” he said.
Unfortunately, a void will exist with Tug McGraw, who passed away in 2004. His son, Tim McGraw, became one of the most famous country music singers in history.
“I know when everyone now hears the name McGraw, they naturally think of Tim. But I gotta tell you, Tug McGraw was one heck of a pitcher. I think even people in baseball forget how good he was.
“He was a great pitcher. When he came off the disabled list in August that year, he picked up the load. He was amazing.”
Saucier, 65, completed an incredible rise from boyhood to World Series champion. He is another of Pensacola’s famous athletes, a baseball star from yesteryear, who went from this community to the sport’s highest stage.
Saucier, nicknamed “Hot Sauce” for his sometimes varied temperament, had his finest MLB season in 1980, going 7-3 as a middle reliever. The Phillies held off the Montreal Expos on the final weekend to win the division title, then beat the Houston Astros in the deciding fifth game of the 1980 National League Championship Series. Four of those games were decided in extra innings.
He made two appearances in the NLCS, then pitched in relief in Game 4 of the World Series. During the World Series, Saucier did a daily diary for the Pensacola News Journal. He called the PNJ office each night to give his thoughts about the day and the game.
“I loved it,” he said. “This team we had was great, of course, but it wasn’t easy to pull this off. We were really tested all the way through. When we won it, I remember thinking, ‘Hey, I’m one of 25 (players) on the best team in the world.’ There have been a lot of great players in baseball that have never won a World Series.”
Saucier (pronounced So-Shay) grew up from humble beginnings, playing in Myrtle Grove and Warrington youth baseball leagues. He graduated from Escambia High in 1974, after helping lead the school to state championships in 1972 and his senior year.
He was chosen in the second round by the Phillies in the 1974 draft. At age 17, he was in the minor leagues, making his debut that summer for the Pulaski (Virginia) Phillies in the former Appalachian League. Saucier then rose through each level of Minor League Baseball to make his MLB debut with the Phillies in 1978.
He played five seasons in the big leagues, before a shoulder injury was bad enough to end his career in 1982 while with the Detroit Tigers. He then went into professional baseball scouting. He rose to become a MLB Scouting Bureau regional director.
Now in retirement, Saucier has cherished his new role working with pro scouts attending Blue Wahoos games, passing out information about the Pensacola community and being a goodwill ambassador for the Blue Wahoos.
This weekend’s reunion in Philadelphia will be Saucier’s first time back at a Phillies game in quite awhile. He has stayed in close contact with Dickie Noles, a fellow pitcher on the 1980 team. The two attended a game many years back at Citizens Bank Park.
The night the Phillies won the World Series, Saucier remembers the party when on all night. It went from the clubhouse to the home of star slugger Greg Luzinski.
“Bull (his nickname) wanted to keep on going,” said Saucier, laughing. “We stayed there until the next morning, then headed back downtown for the parade.”
The Phillies that year opted for an immediate parade the next morning with a stop at the former John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia that could hold 100,000 plus people – still a fraction of the throngs on the parade route.
“I think they said more than 2 million people attended our parade,” Saucier said. “It was more people than I had ever seen in my life. You can imagine how tickled those fans were.”
He knows the reaction will be good on Sunday, too.
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and now senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Kevin Saucier File
Born: Aug. 9, 1956
Playing Height Weight: 6-1, 190
high school: Escambia, 1974 graduate.
MLB Draft: Second round, 1974
Minor League Debut: 1974 Pulaski (Va.) Phillies Rookie League
MLB debut: october 1 1978 vs Pittsburgh Pirates (Age 22)
Last MLB Game: July 25, 1982 Detroit Tigers
MLB ERA: 3.31.
MLB Stats: 94 strikeouts, 19 saves, 203.2 innings pitched