By: Matt Alberston, Historical Columnist
Earlier this week, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee published a piece ranking the most tortured franchises in baseball history. The rankings were based, largely, on pennant and World Series droughts with teams being divided up into tiers of futility. It's a fun article that could add some ammunition to one's bar room trivia arsenal. The Phillies weren't mentioned in a specific tier, but were ranked as the 23rd least tortured fanbase in baseball. I'd like to offer a different take on the Phillies position on the list of the most tortured fanbases in baseball history.
I personally believe, despite their recent string of success between 2007-2011, that Phillies fans are the most tortured fanbase in baseball history. The Phillies are one of five franchises with 10,000+ losses (Braves, Cubs, Reds, Phillies and Pirates), but are the only one of that illustrious group who have fewer wins than losses (9,598-10,741). Additionally, the Phillies are in the middle of the pack as far as World Series appearances are concerned, but have the third fewest appearances among franchises that have existed since the modern era began in 1901 with seven (the White Sox and Indians are tied for the fewest with six), and have the least championships among that group with two. That's a lot of losing interrupted by the occasional accident of mountain top glory.
Let's also look at complete futility during a single season. The Phillies are again the champion of single season futility. Since 1883, the Phillies have recorded 14 100-loss campaigns while only winning more than 100 games three times (1976, 1977, and 2011). In fact, between 1921 and 1945, the Phillies lost more than 100 games twelve times, including five straight 100+ loss seasons between 1938 and 1942, the longest such streak in professional baseball history. The next closest club is, ironically, the Athletics. I say ironically because the A's called Philadelphia home from 1901 through 1954. The A's have 16 100-loss campaigns, but have won more than 100 games ten times. This is sort of a double whammy for our Phillies fan ancestors because they supported awful teams while the A's racked up eight pennants and five World Series titles while in Philadelphia. Only the Braves and Orioles (formerly the St. Louis Browns) recorded double-digit 100-loss campaigns.
Now, the Mariners (founded in 1977) and Expos/Nationals (founded in 1969) fanbases certainly have a claim to most frustrated fan base in baseball history because neither club has made a World Series appearance. But I don't think that matches up to the type of despair that the Phillies have put their fans through, simply due to the extent and type of losing explained above.
Finally, the argument that the Chicago Cubs were the most beleaguered fan base in major league baseball history is also a farce. Yes, the Cubs went 108 years between World Series championships. However, what this argument fails to recognize is that during that period, the Cubs appeared in the fall classic seven times, including four trips to the World Series between 1929 and 1938 (the Cubs also never finished lower than third in the National League standings during that period).
The Phillies, on the other hand, went a total of 97 years without a major league championship (1883-1979) and appeared in the World Series only twice during that span. Talk to any gray haired die-hard Phillies fan, and they'll tell you that the cherry on top of that almost century was when the club dropped 10 of their final 12 games in 1964, spoiling a 6.5 game lead when a World Series appearance seemed all but certain. The club was so certain of a date with the Yankees that they printed World Series tickets prematurely
Moral of the story: I don't feel bad whatsoever for any other club's pennant/World Series drought. Phillies fans have few sparkling moments to remember. Hopefully over the course of the next decade the current crop of blossoming Phillies will make my argument completely irrelevant and bring a few championships to Philadelphia.