How The 1983 Philadelphia Phillies Got Their Nickname The 'Wheeze Kids'

On Sunday, October 23, 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series for the first time since 2009, after defeating the San Diego Padres 4-3 in Game 5 of the 2022 National League Championship Series (via MLB). The last time the Phillies won it all was in 2008, according to CBS Sports. Another season the Phillies took the NL pennant (as in 2022, 2009, and 2008) was in 1983 —  though that team would go on to lose to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series four games to one, per Baseball-Reference.

It was also that year, in '83, that the Phillies team took on a new nickname: the "Wheeze Kids," a name coined by the Philadelphia Daily News writer Stan Hochman (via MLB). As reported by The Morning Call, even though Philadelphia would lose the championship that season, the success that 1983 team had to win the National League title — and to get to the postseason at all — led some sportswriters to call the '83 Philly "Wheeze Kids" underrated. But why were they called the "Wheeze Kids" in the first place?

The `83 Phillies looked a lot like the Cincinnati Reds

On that 1983 Phillies team were three familiar names to anyone who follows baseball, but particularly fans of the champion Cincinnati Reds teams known as the Big Red Machine (via MLB). Joining Philadelphia from those mid-`70s Reds teams were third baseman Pete Rose, first baseman Joe Morgan (pictured), and first and third baseman Tony Pérez, per Sports Illustrated.

That season, the Phillies needed help and management called in veterans Rose, Morgan, and Pérez to do just that. Fittingly, they would play at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium (which opened in 1971) — a name suiting the former Reds' experience and longevity in the game. Their veteran ages, of course, would also lead to their eventual nickname, the "Wheeze Kids."

As for the three Reds players coming back together, despite their previous time spent as teammates, Morgan was all business once he was reunited with Rose and Pérez in Philadelphia. Morgan said (via Sports Illustrated), "I did not come here for a reunion ... The Phillies got me to help win them a world championship."

The Big Gray Machine

If not called the "Wheeze Kids," then the 1983 Phillies team could have just as easily been called the Big Gray Machine. That's because only one player in the Phillies' starting lineup was under the age of 30: right fielder Von Hayes. Clearly, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Tony Pérez were not the only old-timers on the team that year, as reported by MLB. (Morgan was 39, Pérez [pictured] was 40, and pre-betting scandal Pete Rose was 41, per Sports Illustrated.)

Despite the long-in-the-tooth nature of that Phillies team, they made it back to the World Series, returning for the first time since 1980, according to Baseball-Reference, thanks in no small part to Morgan's hot hitting. On their way to the Fall Classic, that team also got past the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, a team the Phillies had faced and lost to three times in the league championship series the previous six years.

The widely adopted moniker "Wheeze Kids" was also a play on the nickname of the 1950 Phillies — the "Whiz Kids" — who were given their name for the exact opposite reason of the veteran "Wheeze Kids": their youth, per Phillies Nation.