And then there was one. Bob Miller passed away this weekend at the age of 94, leaving rotation mate Curt Simmons as the sole surviving member of the Phillies' 1950 NL Championship team. The Detroit, Michigan native spent his entire 10 year with the Phillies and was a member of the 1950 Whiz Kids starting rotation.
Born on June 16, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan, Miller was a three sport athlete at St. Mary's of Redford High school. His skills as a pitcher attracted the attention of the local Detroit Tigers while his escapades on the basketball court earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Detroit. But baseball and basketball had to wait because upon graduation Miller was drafted into the Army in 1944, where he saw combat action in the Philippines. After finishing his two year Army commitment in Japan, Miller enrolled at the University of Detroit in 1947 where he played baseball. Miller declined offers from the Reds, Cardinals, White Sox, Tigers, and Phillies but the Phils had an ace up their sleeve. Scout Ed Krajnik played with Miller during their American Legion days as kids. Krajnik made a good impression on Miller as the pitcher signed for the Phils in January 1948 for a $25,000 bonus. He spent two seasons in the minors before being called up to the big club in September 1949.
Miller's pitching arsenal was comprised of a deceiving fastball, a devastating curveball, and a sinker that dropped off the table. It separated him the pack during spring training in 1950 as he earned one of the coveted rotation spots for season. He opened the season with eight straight victories before losing his first game on July 16 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Despite a back injury he sustained while boarding a train for Boston, Miller went 11-6 in 35 games (21 starts) with a 3.57 ERA. He was second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1950, behind Sam Jethroe of the Boston Braves. Manager Eddie Sawyer started Miller as the Game 4 starter in the 1950 World Series. Said Sawyer, “I have to just go along with the kid because he has done everything I have asked him to do this year. I’m sure he’ll continue to give us good pitching — so now if my hitters get going and we lose our fielding jitters maybe we can show the folks today how good a ballclub we really are.” Miller was opposed by the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Edward "Whitey" Ford. After three straight one run defeats, the Phils lost the fourth and final game 5-2, ending a miracle run that served as the franchie's lone World Series appearance between the Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan administrations.
Miller retired from baseball during the 1959 season, compiling a 42-42 record with a career 3.96 ERA. He returned to the University of Detroit in 1963 where he served as assistant baseball coach. In 1965, after head baseball coach Lloyd Brazil died as the result of a car accident, Miller ascended to the head coach's position. Over 36 seasons as head coach of the University of Detroit baseball team, Miller compiled a record of 896-78-2. He was elected to the school's hall of fame in 1979 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
All but two Whiz Kids have passed on in the 70 years since their improbable run to the 1950 NL Pennant. Miller and Cut Simmons spoke to one another on the telephone often. Despite their being separated by some 600 miles, the two made it a point to check in on one another and discuss the old days. The Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick wrote in an August 2020 piece that "These conversations are much-anticipated rituals, two old men happily summoning sepia-toned reflections on places they visited, hitters they faced, teammates they lost. (Paul Stuffel, who relieved in three 1950 games, was the last, in September 2018.)" Simmons told Fitzpatrick that Miller "remembers everything".
As the Whiz Kids fade into the sands of time, their memory will live on. Miller's son, Bob Jr., is currently writing a children's book titled Life Lessons From a Whiz Kid".
Rule changes make baseball traditionalists sqwuak an hiss. In recent years, Major League Baseball's willingness to contemplate significant alterations to the game has traditionalists mad - the Buster Posey rule, pitch clocks, relief pitcher's minimum batter rule, and, of course, the designated hitter. For some, it's common knowledge that Abner Doubleday invented baseball way back in Cooperstown, New York in 1839, and while the game has changed some since then, the game has pretty much remained the same for well over one hundred years. They say that's what makes baseball so timeless. Of course, this couldn't be further from the truth, as Doubleday myth has been disproven repeatedly over the past one hundred years and baseball has never remained the same. The one constant through all the years, reader, has been that baseball continued to evolve each and every year. MLB now tests some of its more radical ideas, such as the computerized strike zone, in the independent leagues. Baseball is prepared to enact radical rule changes in an effort to balance the "boredom" conundrum - action vs. inaction combined with the amount of time it takes to complete a game.
The National League and American League have operated under significantly different rule structures twice. The first was between 1901-1902 when the National League approved the "foul strike rule", where a foul counts as a strike until there are two strikes. After serious deliberation, the American League relented and adopted the rule for play beginning in 1903. The leagues operated under the same rules, by and large, until 1973 when the American League adopted the designated hitter for a three-year trial run. No rule change/proposition has received more attention or opinion for so long. It's a bar room discussion/debate. I've debated the rule with a friend at the ballpark through the middle innings. It's great. It's horrible. It's divisive. And It's coming to a National League park near you sooner than you think.
Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures offensive value in relation to league average (100).
Since the American League adopted the designated hitter for a trial run in 1973, the American League has outscored the National League by 28,437 runs. Last season, the American League scored 11,859 runs while the National League scored 11,608 runs. The American League could cease play for roughly two and a half season before the National League evens the run total. And since 1973, the National League has scored more runs than the American League only 17 times over the past 46 seasons (1974, 1998-2012). The National League's "rein of run terror" coincided with the steroid era. Home run hitters like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield were often tied to steroid use, whether proven or hearsay. That National League power surge helped decrease the gap but the numbers don't lie. The American League scores more runs because the pitcher doesn't have to hit.
In August 1980, National League owners met in Detroit to discuss financial stability. In 1979, only 11 of the 26 clubs made money. In 1978, only eight made money. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn opined "On the one hand, baseball's popularity has never been higher. But in the gloomy science of economics, we don't do so well. We really don't...the biggest problems of the 1980s in my mind are economics, which are not good, and player relations, which are not as good as they should be." Why was this? Free agency officially began after the 1976 season. Owners were concerned player contract demands would ruin the game and kill profits. Nobody knew how free agency would affect the industry long term. This is possibly why NL owners took a vote on the DH in Detroit in 1980. Baseball was popular, profits are down, and exploding offense generates more interest. Seems logical.
The play was championed by St. Louis' young GM John Claiborne, whom owner August A. Busch Jr. hired away from Boston for his forward thinking ideas. Passage required seven votes. Ruly Carpenter, then-Phillies owner, told then-Vice President Bill Giles to vote for the DH. The club had Greg Luzinski and Keith Moreland and wanted to get both of their bats in the lineup. Unfortunately, both were poor defensively so the DH seemed a logical solution. But prior to the vote, it was announced that if passed, the DH would not go into effect until 1982. The reason was because the players union would need to approve the measure. Giles tried to call Carpenter, who was on a fishing trip, but did not get a hold of him. Unsure of what to do, Giles abstained. Meanwhile, the Pirates were directed to vote as the Phillies voted. Giles explained in his book that this was due to the interstate rivalry between the clubs. Nevertheless, both clubs abstained as did Houston. The final vote was four clubs in favor (Atlanta, New York, St. Louis, and San Diego), five against (Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Montreal, and San Francisco, and three abstentions. Commissioner Kuhn was disappointed in the result, given his support of the DH and desire to have both leagues operate under the same rules.
The club brass were not unified in their desire for the DH. Manager Dallas Green was staunchly against it. "I'm not a DH man...I just don't think it's good for the game of baseball...tell me why it's good for the game." Vice President Paul Owens favored it and said that Ruly Carpenter was neutral. Bill Giles, meanwhile, said in his book that he was not a DH advocate. Regardless, the issue was expected to come up again at the winter meetings. It didn't, however. St. Louis GM John Claiborne, who got the measure on the August docket, was fired a week after the meetings concluded in Detroit and the measure was never taken up again.
In an alternate universe, ponder these scenarios: Pete Incaviglia or Milt Thompson as the DH in 1993, Jim Thome or Ryan Howard as the DH in 2005, Rhys Hoskins or Jay Bruce, or Alec Bohm as the DH in 2020.
The Athletics franchise moved away from Philadelphia 65 years ago after the 1954 season but their occasional return to Philadelphia always excites hardcore Philadelphia baseball history buffs. Although the A's have been away from Philadelphia longer than they called it home (1901-1954), their tenure in this city is still celebrated. A statue of A's manager and owner Connie Mack sits outside Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies inducted an Athletic into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame ever year from 1978-2003. A few niche Philadelphia clothiers stock Philadelphia Athletics shirts and hats. The name Athletic is the oldest nickname still used in American professional sports, dating back to 1859 when a group of men from the Handel and Hayden Society decided to create a "baseball" team. Simply put, the Athletics are still a point of pride for Philadelphians and remain a part of the city's historical fabric.
The 1900 Phillies, from the 1901 Spalding Base Ball Guide. Pearce Chiles is seated second from the left in the second row
A baseball scandal has once again captured sporting headlines nationwide as the depth of the 2017 Houston Astros sign stealing process continues to unwrap like an onion. MLB investigated the situation and delivered a harsh reprimand of the organization, banning GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a full year, while stripping the club's first and second round amateur draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts. A $5 million fine was also levied against the organization. Twitter sleuths then uncovered, they believe, to be players wearing wires, a more technically savvy way of tipping pitches than the officially documented trash can banging method. The Houston scandal reverberated around the league and resulted in the firing of former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who managed the Boston Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title and former player Carlos Beltran, who this offseason was named the New York Mets manager. Both are now unemployed. Suggestions of similar schemes have been been brought forth, including techniques used by Tony La Russa while manager of the White Sox in the 1980s. The depth and truth of these other allegations is unknown, but one thing is for certain - baseball has a history of clubs stealing signs to gain an upper hand. Some schemes might be rudimentary. I remember sitting in Citizen Bank Park's section 145 on April 10, 2018 when I noticed Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera moving his arms in the direction of upcoming pitches while he was on second base with Rhys Hoskins at the plate. Is that a scheme, per se? No, and it's really probably that Herrera did that on his own accord. But the Astros' scandal shows how deep and ingenious some schemes can be. Complex schemes likely require some sort of technological involvement, which was the case with the Phillies' sign stealing scheme at the turn of the 20th century.
The Phillies employed a not-so-good backup catcher named Morgan Murphy who was near the end of his career. He joined the Phillies in 1898 but for unknown reasons did not play the following season. His sister died in March so it's possible he returned home to take care of family business instead of playing baseball. However, his name surfaces in the October 21, 1899 Sporting Life which provided an account of a sign stealing scheme with Murphy at its core. Bill Magee pitched nine unremarkable games for the Phillies in 1899 before being released by the club. He was subsequently picked up by the Senators later in the year and became a whistleblower when he detailed the scheme to the Washington Post. (The Post story is reprinted in the Sporting Life).
Morgan's 1899 scheme goes like this. He bought a $75 pair of binoculars and sat in Manager Shettsline's suite, which was situated above the clubhouses in deep center field. It typically took two innings before he matched the signs to pitches. "Whenever the catcher signaled his pitcher for a curveball Murphy pulled the rope of the left side of the awning outside of the window. When the signal was given for a straight ball the foxy Morgan would yank the rope on the other side." Ingenious and rudimentary. While the article in the Post and Sporting Life marked the first time the scheme was publicized, the scheme was evidently known throughout the league as both Louisville and Baltimore, at least, knew of Morgan's plot. They attempted to switch up their typical signs but to no avail. The most interesting part might be that Morgan carried on the scheme when the club was on the road. During a series in Brooklyn, Morgan rented a room across the street from the right field fences. No awnings were available, so instead, he waved a newspaper with his left hand for a fastball and on the right hand for a breaking ball. The most damning allegation in the story is that Morgan cleared his plot with Phillies co-owner John Rogers.
A turn of the century picture of Philadelphia Ballpark. The clubhouses are located in deep center field
There were no consequences for neither Murphy nor the Phillies for what was evidently a season-long endeavor. Nothing is mentioned at the National League meeting at the end of the year. So what happens when you tip the scales without repercussion? Do it again, of course.
In 1900, Murphy included his teammate Pearce Chiles in an ingenious new and improved scheme. Chiles is a baseball enigma, which is not a surprise considering he was a mediocre player of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He bounced around from minor league club to minor club until finally landing a major league roster spot with the Phillies in 1899. He carried with him a rough-and-tumble, lawless reputation. A poster child of 1890's baseball.. He left home likely in his teen years and appears on minor league rosters throughout the country. Mention of his lawless extracurricular exploits were not uncommon and help trace his path through baseball and to the Phillies. Chiles SABR bio helps explain how such a man would be desired by a major league club.
"Although seven out of nine players on the diamond might have felt like calling him a jackass on a good day, Chiles’ lawlessness on the field was considered leadership in those days. Thus, Chiles served a stint as the player-manager of the 1898 Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League — a money-losing team, but a winner with a record of 82-50 — before going to New Orleans for the winter. (The year before, he had played for Scranton, and in 1897 back in Texas for the Denison-Sherman Twins/Waco Tigers.)
So it was that the Philadelphia Phillies probably thought they had someone who was future coaching material coming when Pearce "What’s the Use" Chiles joined the Phillies’ camp in Charlotte, North Carolina as a 33-year-old rookie during the spring of 1899."
Unfortunately for Chiles, the 1899 Phillies were very good. The team bolstered three future Hall of Famers - Ed Delahanty, Elmer Flick, and Nap Lajoie - and lead the National League in numerous offensive categories such as runs, hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. The team finished the season with 94-58 (.618) record which was only good enough for third place. To this day, the 1899 Phillies have the fifth highest winning percentage in club history. Chiles slashed .320/.352/.462 in only 356 plate appearances (he was a bench player thanks to Nap Lajoie being the regular second baseman.) The Phillies led the 12 team league in attendance in 1899 and fans hoped the club might win the league in 1900, when the National League contracted from 12 to 8 teams.
The Phillies faced the Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Ball Park in the midst of a 17 game home stand, where the Phils racked up an 8-4-1 record to that point. On September 17, 1900 the two clubs played a Monday doubleheader (brutal). Chiles, a bench player, commonly acted as third base coach during home games when he wasn't playing. The Sporting Life published an interview with Reds manager Bob Allen the following week where Allen explained that they were tipped off to a sign stealing scheme in Philadelphia. During the second inning of game one, Reds player Tommy Corcoran walked over to the third bases coaches box and started to dig in a muddy puddle with his cleats. The Sporting Life narrated what happened next. "In fact, [Corcoran's] actions caused consternation on the bench which is held down by the genial Shettsline, for, while Corcoran was in the midst of his energetic endeavors, Groundkeeper Schroeder, accompanied by a sergeant of police, swooped down upon the Cincinnati generalissimo, but not before he had lifted a board, disclosing a nicely prepared hole, in which was snugly fitted an electric apparatus." Umpire Tim Hurst walked down the third baseline to see what all the commotion was about. After looking at what Corcoran uncovered, he told everyone to return to their positions and play ball. The game resumed and Phillies swept both games of the double header.
But how did the buzzer scheme work?
Morgan Murphy again posted himself on battery watch duty in manager Shettsline's suite above the centerfield clubhouse. With a pair of binoculars, Murphy decoded the catcher's signal and pressed a button that was in the suite. The button was connected to wires that ran down the outside of the suite and clubhouse to the 3rd base coaches box where they were connected to a battery inside a wooden box. The exposed wires protruded from the ground but were "hidden" by a puddle. Chiles kept his foot in the puddle and waited for a shock before each pitch. When he received the shock, he'd relay the signal to the batter. Pretty ingenious!
Chiles then took it upon himself to play a practical joke on Reds by burying a wooden plank in the first base coaches box. Newspapers for months noticed that Chiles foot jerked randomly during games when he coached third base but thought nothing of it. On September 20, Chiles coached first base and faked his unmistakable jerking motion. A few Reds players charged won to first place, started digging around, and found the empty plank which he buried earlier that morning to their confused dismay.
Newspaper reports on the scandal chilled until September 27 when the Inquirer printed a postgame conversation between Phillies manager Shettlsine and Brooklyn manager Hanlon. Hanlon accused Shettsline's club sign stealing after the buzzer scheme was uncovered. While in Brooklyn, Murphy rented a room across the street from the Dodgers' Washington Park and employed a sign stealing system similar to the one he conducted in 1899. Hanlon prevented Murphy from accessing the apartment during the game on September 26 and the Dodgers won the game decidedly 12-0.
The Phillies finished the year in 3rd place again but this time with a 75-63 record. Their home and road splits are like night and day. They were 45-23 (.662) at home but just 30-40 (429) on the road. They scored 434 runs at home compared to just 376 on the road. Some researchers have taken these splits as proof that the sign stealing scheme was the reason why the Phillies had a successful season. However, consider that the club gave up 353 runs at home compared to 438 at home. Remember that the Phillies were proven to use a sign stealing method during one away contest and a previous one was suggested in June against the Cubs. Given Murphy's proficiency at sign stealing during away games in 1899, we might assume that he continued the scheme in 1900. While sign stealing may have assisted the Phillies on the road, it certainly did nothing to help their pitching staff.
There are similarities between the 2017 Astros scandal and the 1899-1900 Phillies scheme. In both cases, hitters were notified by very basic signals, the Astros with banging trash cans and the Phillies by either newspaper waving or signs from the third base coach. Technology also played a part, the Astros using their video room and televisions and the Phillies using a buzzer system at home. Unconfirmed rumors exist that Astros players wore buzzers that notified them about incoming pitches, as well. Both were also successful in that the schemes helped the respective teams win games. While the Astros led the majors in nearly every offensive category, the Phillies only led the league in hits but they were in the top 3 in many other categories.
A glaring difference between the 2017 Astros scandal and the 1899-1900 Phillies scandal was how the teams and league responded to the evidence. The Astros were heavily penalized by the league and took internal action by firing the General Manager and the Manager. Phillies owner John I. Rogers finally broke his silence about the scandal a week after the season ended. Rogers wrote a four page letter about the allegations levied against his club by Brooklyn's Ned Hanlon but only briefly touched on the buzzer scheme from the Cincinnati series. Rogers explained that the buzzer was not active, that a circus that used the grounds earlier in the year had buried wires for their electric lights and forgot to remove them. "This was known at first only to our groundskeeper, but the players finally 'got on to' it and gave out, as a joke, that it was to give Chiles, our usual coacher, electric shocks through his feet as signals from Murphy...it is absolutely too silly to further discuss the subject, and I therefore dismiss it." This defense is absolutely preposterous and it is likely that Rogers knew of the 1900 scheme as he had the 1899 scheme. No mention of the scandal - home or away - was made at the league's winter meetings that December. The scandal was wiped under the rug and business continued as usual.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Philadelphia Phillies return to South Philly for a crucial series against the division leading Atlanta Braves this evening. The Braves are 4-6 in their last 10 games and were just swept in Atlanta by the rebuilding Kansas City Royals. On the other hand, the Phillies are 7-3 in their last 10 games and just completed a road trip where they recorded four wins and only one loss. The Braves lead over the Phillies in the division was at a season-high 9.5 games on July 15 but is now down to 5.5 games.
The Washington Nationals are one game ahead of the Phillies in the standings and are in a three way tie for the two wild card spots, along with the Cubs and Cardinals.
The Phillies must win two games to keep pace in the division race but can make the race really interesting with a sweep of the Braves this weekend. It seems that the Phillies are catching the Braves at an opportune time, too. Not only are the Braves scuffling over the past ten days, but rookie pitching sensation Mike Soroka has been mediocre over his last seven starts. During that span, the young righty has posted a .318 BAA, a 4.38 ERA, and a 3.63 FIP. Overall, Soroka has been excellent in his nine road starts, sporting a 6-0 record with a 1.13 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. The Braves are 13-4 in Soroka's starts this season.
The Phillies will counter with veteran right hander Jake Arrieta. Since announcing that he had a marble-sized bone spur in his right elbow, he has allowed just two earned runs over his last 10 2/3 innings. Arrieta needs a continuation performance for the Phillies to win tonight. It will also be interesting to see what Arrieta's pitch selection will be against the Braves. Arrieta's slider usage has almost completely stopped since he announced his injury so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. The Braves have stacked the lineup with left handed batters tonight, with only Acuna Jr., Donaldson, and Soroka the only dedicated right handers. Arrieta's opponents slash line against lefties this season is .319/.391/.529 with 11 home runs surrendered and 30 runs earned. In 2015 when Arrieta won the Cy Young, his opponents slash was .159/.221/.228 with 3 home runs surrendered and only 17 runs earned.
Starting Pitching Matchup:
|Atlanta Braves (60-43)||PHILLIES (54-48)|
|RHP||Mike Soroka||RHP||Jake Arrieta|
|(2019 10-2, 2.46 ERA)||(2019 8-7, 4.40 ERA)|
The Phillies will wear the infamous "Saturday Night Specials" uniform ensemble this Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves will also wear period throwbacks. The all-burgundy uniforms were only worn once 40 years ago on May 19, 1979 when the Phillies lost to the Montreal Expos 10-6.
Sports nostalgia continues to boom and the Phillies are capitalizing on it with their continued use of 1970s and 1980s uniform schemes and one offs. Three years ago the team wore 1976 uniforms complete with the opening day pillbox cap. Last year the team announced it would wear the popular powder blue 1980s away uniforms at home for Thursday day games. The Phillies were the second club in major league history to wear throwback uniforms when they donned 1957 retros in 1991. But none of the uniforms since then have been as unusual and unique as the 1979 "Saturday Night Specials".
The original uniforms were the dual brain child of then club president Bill Giles and the 1970s loud uniform craze. The traditional flannel baseball uniform from the 1950s and 1960s gave way to polyester and outrageous color combinations. The team already sported burgundy batting practice jerseys so the novelty of a reverse uniform sans pinstripes (could you imagine if they had pinstripes) seemed worth a shot. But the players hated them immediately. Larry Bowa said they reminded him of uniforms worn for Sunday afternoon softball. Greg Luzinski hated the color because they looked grape. Larry Christenson, the starting pitcher who made his debut that night in 1979, said that the uniforms were dark and struck the wrong cord with the players. Reliever Tug McGraw said that the entire team hated them because they looked like softball uniforms.
The Phillies had a 4-0 lead over the visiting, sputtering Expos in the top of the 4th when Christensen beaned catcher Gary Carter. Carter made like he was going to charge the mound but trotted to first. Christenson told Inquirer reporter Matt Breen that he thought there was going to be a brawl after the benches cleared. "I thought itw as going to be a brawl in these purple-nurple uniforms. But nothing happened." The altercation fired the Expos up and they went ahead to beat the Phillies 10-6. Larry Bowa blamed the uniforms. After the game, Luzinski told owner Ruly Carpenter that he'd never wear that uniform again and the team threw the uniforms in the trash. Bill Giles told reporters after the game that the uniforms didn't match up to their exceptions; they fit right and they were too dark for TV.
The team hated the uniforms but some fans did not. The Inquirer reported on May 27 that club received numerous calls from fans across the country asking to buy the uniforms. The club agreed and sold the entire ensemble for $200 each, with proceeds benefiting intellectually disabled children in the Delaware Valley. Fans have already tweeted the New Era Clubhouse store asking if the uniforms will be available for purchase this weekend, complete with zipper front.
Part of the distaste for the all-burgundy uniforms was because they ere so dark. The lighting industry has vastly improved in the past 40 years and Citizens Bank Park's new LED lighting will literally shine new light on the old color scheme. Saturday night, we will find out whether or not the LED's superior color rendering index will have fans and players alike viewing the uniforms in a different light.
Have you ever wondered why the Phillies teams between the two world wars are rarely written or talked about? Aside from the fact that nobody alive remembers watching those teams in person, they were absolutely putrid. The Phillies first run of success in the 20th century took place between 1913 and 1917 and in that five year span the club finished last once (1914), second three times (1913, 1916, 1917) and first once (1915). Once that core was sold off, traded, or faded into obscurity the team essentially took up permanent residence at the bottom of the National League. In the 31 seasons between 1918 and 1949, the Phillies finished last an astounding 16 times, second last 7 times and posted a winning record once in 1932. The National League had to take over the club for Phillies owner Gerald Nugent because he couldn't pay the bills. The League sold the team to New York lumber executive William Cox who was banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in November for, get this, betting on the Phillies to win. Fascinating. But fortune shone on the club when they were next sold to the Carpenter family. Robert Carpenter Sr. was married to a DuPont and for the first time in decades, the club was run by an owner who could afford to put money into the team to make it a winner.
The Carpenter's first order of business was to hire Herb Pennock, the first general manager in team history. Carpenter and Pennock began to rebuild the club from the ground up with an ambitious five year plan. They outbid 15 other clubs for Curt Simmons, paying $65,000 for his services. They also unloaded a lot of money to secure Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis, Stan Lopata, Granny Hamner, Willie "Pudin' Head" Jones, Bubba Church, and Bob Miller. Manager Ben Champan was relieved in 1948 and replaced by Eddie Sawyer, who managed some of the young core in the minors at Utica. Carpenter also added key veterans to the mix for the 1949 season including Dick Sisler and Eddie Waitkus. The Phillies finished 81-73 in 1949, the club's first winning record since 1932. Sawyer corralled the team in the clubhouse after the last game of the 1949 season and told them "Come back next year ready to win the pennant."
The average age of the 1950 Phillies was 26 years old, inspiring sportswriter Harry Paxton to dub the club "the Whiz Kids". The team took over first place in early July and their lead ballooned to five games by August 12. They increased their lead to 7 1/2 games by September 20 with 11 games left in the season. Nothing comes easy for Philadelphia sports teams and the same can be said of the 1950 Phillies. Starting pitcher Curt Simmons' National Guard unit was activated for service in the Korean conflict in September and he left the club on September 10. On September 15, the Phillies opened a doubleheader with the Cincinnati Reds. Bubba Church started for the Phils. He walked Johnny Wyrostek on four pitches with two outs in the third inning, bringing up the Reds' hulking first baseman Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski. Church rifled a first pitch fastball to Klu who line the ball back to Simmons, hitting him in the face. The Whiz Kids had lost two key starting pitchers in a matter of five days. Catcher Andy Seminick broke his ankle a few days later against the Giants but continued to play through the rest of the season. To make matters worse, the Phils lost 8 of their next 10 games setting up a crucial final game with the healthy Dodgers on October 1.
The Phillies led the Dodgers by one game in the standings coming into the final contest. The Phillies would secure the pennant if they beat the Dodgers. If the Dodgers won, it would force a tie at the top of the standings, resulting in a best-of-three playoff. On two days rest, Manager Eddie Sawyer gave the ball to Robin Roberts in the club house and said "good luck". The Dodgers were used to the pressure. They were a team that finished in the second division only once during the 1940s and had been to three World Sereis in the decade (1941, 1947 and 1949). The Whiz Kids, on the other hand, were learning to deal with adversity on the fly throughout the 1950 season.
The game was played at Brooklyn's legendary Ebbets Field before 35,073 fans. Don Newcombe, Brooklyn's top pitcher, started for the Dodgers that day. Roberts recalled later that his arm was still very sore during warmups and he didn't feel like he had his best stuff that day, but he looked over at Newcombe and thought "Hell, he is just as scared as I am. I knew that Newk had pitched almost as much as I had and probably was just as tired, nervous, and anxious as I was. Once I realized that the opposing pitcher was in the same shape, I relaxed and never gave another thought to how tired or nervous I was supposed to be." Both pitchers were sharp to begin the crucial contest with only four hits and two walks being issued by both sides combined in the first five innings, but Philadelphia drew first blood in the top of the sixth. Newcombe retired the first two hitters of the inning, Eddie Waitkus and Richie Ashburn, on ground outs to first base. Dick Sisler hit a screamer between first and second base for a two out single. Next, Del Ennis dropped a lazy fly ball into center for a hit which advanced Sisler to third. Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones hit a first pitch ball to center field, scoring Sisler. In the bottom frame, also with two out, Pee Wee Reese hit a ball hit a screen and dropped onto a ledge. The ball was in play, but it was unreachable and turned into a freak inside the park home run. The game remained tied going into the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, Andy Seminick reached on a single to third base but left the game when Sawyer replaced him with pinch runner Putsy Caballero. Caballero was caught stealing and the inning ended with a lineout to center field. Stan Lopata was brought in to replace the ailing Seminick with the score still tied. Roberts walked out to the pitchers mound to face the top of the Dodgers' order in the bottom of the ninth. Roberts later recalled, "When I trudged out to face Brooklyn in the bottom of the ninth, I knew that if the Dodgers scored we would very likely lose not only the ballgame but also the pennant. My wife Mary and I had planned on taking a vacation in Florida after the season with some of my World Series money, and I remember for a brief moment thinking 'If we don't win this ballgame, we're not going to get to Florida'." Roberts walked Cal Abrams to start the inning and then surrendered a hit on a line drive to center. Two Dodgers on base with no out in a tie game and Brooklyn's big power hitter, Duke Snider, strode to the plate carrying a .321 batting average with 31 home runs and 107 RBI with him. Roberts assumed Snider would bunt in the situation given no outs with a runner on second in a tie game, so he tossed the ball in not considering Snider would try to smash the ball. Snider slashed the ball into center field where Richie Ashburn was playing shallow. Ashburn fielded the ball on a bounce and rifled a strike to Stan Lopata - Cal Abrams was dead in the water and out by about 10 feet. The Phillies intentionally walked Jackie Robinson to load the bases and Roberts was able to retire Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges in succession to end the threat and preserve a tie, forcing extra innings.
Remember that this is baseball in 1950. Robin Roberts just retired the Dodgers in the ninth and was scheduled to lead off the top of the 10th. The Phillies had the future 1950 NL MVP in relief ace Jim Konstanty in the bullpen, but Sawyer instead allowed Roberts to lead off the frame! Roberts rewarded Sawyer's trust with a leadoff single and advanced to second base when Eddie Waitkus also singled to center. Ashburn bunted down the third base line but Newcombe was able to field the ball and force out Roberts at third. Two on, one out and Dick Sisler walked to the plate. Newcombe went after Sisler after forcing Sisler to foul back the first two pitches of the at-bat. Sisler hung in the at bat and crushed a 1-2 pitch to deep left field; the three run home run proved to be the game winning hit. Roberts retired the Dodger side in order in the bottom of the 10th thus securing the Whiz Kids the 1950 NL flag and the franchises first pennant in 35 years. Roberts said that "when Eddie [Waitkus] caught that last pop foul, I had a feeling that I never experienced again in athletics. It was a feeling of relief, complete satisfaction, and exhilieration all rolled together...and my trip to Florida with mary was safe."
Good news greeted Philadelphians as the read their morning Inquirer on October 2, 1950. The headlines red "S. KOREANS 7 MILES PAST 38TH PARALLEL; REDS' REPLY ON SURRENDER AWAITED. Whiz Kids Win on Sisler Homer; Roberts Gets 20th". In Brooklyn's Daily Eagle, baseball coverage was absent from the front page, but a militaristic baseball metaphor did grace page 12 "Brooklyn's banal charge at the 1950 pennant carried to the last trench of the enemy and there the last hope of victory was shot away by an expert machine gunner named Robin Roberts."
Cartoon from Page 5 of the 10/4/1950 Sporting News.
The ensuing article talked about how R.M. Carpenter insured the club for $1,000,000 in 1950 which was ironic considering he was told the club wasn't worth 30 cents when he bought the team in 1943.
A smoke bomb explodes behind Allen the day after he announced he wanted out of Philadelphia (Source: Mark Carfagno)
I'm very excited to have Mitch Nathanson offer a compelling and thought provoking piece on Dick Allen for our readers. Mitch is a professor at Villanova University of Law and his book "God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen" was published in 2016. It is the first book-length treatment of the trials and tribulations that Allen went through during his baseball career. Be sure to purchase a copy if you get a chance. - Matt Albertson, STP Historical Contributor
On Friday, Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf held a press conference in City Hall calling for Dick Allen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s on the ballot next year. Which is downright amazing when you think about it – the white mayor of Philadelphia and white governor of Pennsylvania openly campaigning for the induction of Dick Allen – Dick Allen! -- into baseball’s shrine of immortals. This comes on the heels of the Hall’s “Golden Era” election panel in 2014 that came up just one vote shy of enshrining the controversial slugger. Which begs the question: how on Earth did all of this happen? After all, in 1983, the first year Allen was on the ballot, he received only 3.7% of the sportswriters’ votes and nobody campaigned for him, let alone anybody who counted within the Philadelphia Establishment. He sputtered on like that for the next several years, never receiving more than 18.9% of the vote and he only received that much once. After he fell off the writers’ ballot he was routinely ignored by the Hall’s veterans committee and nobody made too much of a fuss over that. When the process for electing veterans changed a few years back, he once again failed to make their ballot and there was nary a word uttered in his defense.
But then a group of dedicated Dick Allen supporters put on a campaign to get him on the Hall’s 2014 ballot. However even they – the diehards – understood that it was a long shot just to get him on the ballot. As for election to the Hall itself, well, that was really too much to expect. Just get him on the ballot, they pleaded. That would be accomplishment enough. A few months later the word came down -- they had succeeded. They rejoiced, as they rightly should have. This was quite a feat.
There were only six weeks between the announcement of the ballot and the election itself, though, and for much of that time, the talk of the Hall’s 2014 Golden Era ballot was of Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Tony Oliva – holdovers from the Golden Era’s previous ballot and seemingly the odds-on favorites to gain induction this time around. And, oh yeah, Dick Allen was on the ballot as well. Remember him? people asked. Great hitter, they said. Bad attitude, they recalled. Bad teammate, they had always heard. Bad dude, they had come to believe. With Allen the talk wasn’t so much about the statistics because when it came to Allen it was never about the statistics. It was always about all that other stuff pretty much everybody had by now taken as gospel: how he got his managers fired, how he couldn’t get along with anybody, how he drank to excess, how he sullied the game just by taking part in it. There’s a character clause in the Hall’s guidelines, right-thinking baseball fans and writers have admonished for years, and that eliminated Dick Allen, statistics be damned.
Except that this time it didn’t. As election day drew near, something strange happened -- the chatter surrounding the Golden Era ballot became less about Kaat, Minoso and Oliva and almost all about Allen. Turns out he wasn’t, and isn’t, such a bad guy after all, people were starting to say. In fact, more than a few people argued, you could almost call him courageous – enduring all that he, the first black man in Major League Baseball who refused to “turn the other cheek,” had to endure and achieving all that he achieved in spite of the venom and garbage spewing from the stands and in the media on a daily basis. Of course Jackie Robinson was a civil rights hero, but perhaps, when examining things more deeply, Allen, in his own way, was one as well.
For here was a man who saw injustice in the form of institutional racism and stood up to it. True, unlike Robinson he had no agenda, no broader social vision, but when he experienced the brutality of segregated spring training he spoke up against it; when he was compelled to endure the summer of 1963 in segregated Little Rock, Arkansas, he let everyone know what it was like for him; when he saw white superstars such as Mickey Mantle receive cover and coddling from the media and club management while black superstars such as himself remained fodder for public ridicule if they dared step out of line, he made sure nobody assumed that he was okay with that. As those six weeks drew to a close, even many “right-thinking” baseball people started to realize that the Dick Allen they thought they knew was a creation of their own perception more than anything else. From a different angle, he was somebody else altogether.
This surprising change of heart as it pertains to Dick Allen speaks to something larger, I believe. For out of the ugliness of decades upon decades of racial strife and confrontation, perhaps a glimmer of hope has emerged. At long last, it seems, we’re finally beginning – just beginning -- to engage in a national dialogue about race, about the power of perception, about the need of white America to take a step back for a moment and look at the world from the perspective of black America. Maybe, this dialogue suggests, white America’s assumptions about the way things work or are supposed to work are just that – assumptions. Maybe a change in perspective would change the assumptions. Maybe if we took a moment to look at the world through the eyes of somebody different from us we’d see a different world. Maybe if we took a moment to look at how the racial double standards of the baseball world of the ‘60s must have looked through Allen’s eyes we’d see something other than a bad dude. Maybe we’d see someone of the sort of character baseball’s Hall of Fame should celebrate rather than bar. Which was why, I believe, in only a few short weeks, Dick Allen went from nowhere to the doorstep of baseball immortality.
Still, he fell one vote short. There’s still work to do. But all is not lost. After all, when he comes up for consideration again next year he’ll have, at last, the Philadelphia Establishment firmly in his corner. Here’s hoping it’s enough to get him that vote.
Joe Mulvey, unknown, Jack Coleman, Charlie Ferguson, Sid Farrar, Ed Andrews, Bill McClellan, Jack Manning and Blondie Purcell pose for a picture at Recreation Park on May 16, 1884. (Source: NYPL Spalding Collection)
Two weeks ago I was privileged to spend a weekend in Cooperstown, New York at the SABR 19th Century Committee's annual Frederick-Ivor Campbell Conference. Something that came up a few times was how club's deal with and promote their origins. For example, the Cincinnati Reds currently promote that they were established in 1869, suggesting a direct tie to the infamous, undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings. Well, it's not true. The current organization was founded in 1882. Another discussion during an intermission questioned what current MLB team is the oldest; it's either the Cubs or the Braves but the details are murky. I brought up the Phillies who promote that they are the oldest one city, one name franchise in American professional sports. It is true but there are a few things I felt Phillies fans should know about the club's origins.
The Phillies celebrated the 136th anniversary of their first game on May 1. Indeed, you can find a lot of Phillies shirts and trinkets with the "est. 1883" on it somewhere. The club even celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 1983 with a special patch on their uniform. The club's true origin, however, is a bit more complex.
The Athletics fired manager Horace B. Phillips in 1881 and he eventually joined forces with sporting goods magnate Al Reach to obtain a major league franchise in the upstart American Association. In 1876, the Athletics refused to go on a western road trip at the end of the season and were subsequently booted from the National League, starting a drought of major league baseball in the Quaker City. The American Association was set to begin its first season in 1882 and wanted teams in big markets, with Philadelphia being a key city. To oversimplify the situation, Phillips and Reach's problem was they did not have players nor a major league-ready stadium and the Association instead chose Sharsig's Athletics, which had both players and a ballpark. So Phillips and Reach did the next best thing and joined the League Alliance.
The League Alliance is a confusing entity so I won't dive into the details here, but for Phillips and Reach's club, it meant that their players were protected from confiscation by other National League clubs and they would play National League teams throughout the year, as exhibitions. National League teams would attract a crowd and playing all National League teams in Philadelphia only was a benefit because the team did not have to go on lengthy road trips to cities like Chicago and Detroit. The League Alliance club was required to pay between $50 to $150 to the League club. Despite this, the club reported a $16,000 profit at the end of the season. The only reason for joining the Alliance as opposed to the League is because the League had an unwritten cap on the number of clubs, making the Alliance a perfect place for clubs with players almost or of major league talent who did not want their players poached by the League.
Reach's club, officially known as the Philadelphia Ball Club and Sporting Association gains admission to the League Alliance on December 7, 1881 at the National League's annual winter meeting. The club existed on paper only. They did not have a home field yet and were in the process of filling out a roster. And how better to fill out a roster of near-major league talent in the 1880's? Advertise in the newspaper, of course. The address listed was for Reach's sporting goods emporium.
While Reach completed the roster, he also secured a lease for the Horse Market at 24th and Ridge Avenue; the grounds once used as the home field for the National Association's Philadelphia Centennial's in 1875 . The Times announced in January that "every vestige of...the horse "Horse Market" will be removed and new suitable fences, buildings, open seats and large, covered pavilion will be erected in the spring. The pavilion will have a number of reserved chairs for season ticket holders and ladies." Not for nothing, but those plans sound awfully spartan. They were clarified in early March, but still sounded basic. Construction was to be completed April 1 with the first game on April 8. Oh, the ball park also included a bath tub and "shower-bath" in the players' clubhouse. Not bad! The grandstand was situated at the corner of 24th and Columbia Ave (in the picture below, the bottom right).
The site of Recreation Park from 1882 G. M. Hopkins city atlas, plate H. Courtesy Ed Morton (Source: Free Library of Philadelphia)
The 1882 season did not bode well for the Phillies. In 65 games played against National League opponents, they were 16-44-5. Against the only other League Alliance club, the New York Metropolitans, they were 12-20-1 in 33 games. However, against "outside clubs", the Phils went 44-2-0 in 46 games. The level of competition that separated the major leagues from the amateur level was astounding even in 1882. The Phils and Mets were certainly the best two professional clubs in the country who were not then in a major league. At the 1882 winter meetings, the Phillies were admitted into the National League after the League pushed the Worcester and Troy clubs out.
It's a common misconception that the Worcester Brown Stockings moved to Philadelphia and became the Phillies. As has been explained above, the Phillies played a full season in the League Alliance while Worcester floundered to an 18-66 record and finished last in the National League. Troy and Worcester were the two smallest market teams in the National League and the League wanted to replace them with two larger markets in 1883, especially considering the American Association's successful first year. Reach reorganized the club on November 1, 1882 and changed the club's name from the "Philadelphia Ball Club and Exhibition Company" to the "Philadelphia Ball Club Limited". The club was formally admitted to the National League a month later on December 7, 1882.
Rendering of the 1883 Phillies uniform. Courtesy of threadsofourgame.com
The club's reoganizaton was actually a formal chartering which is why the Phillies recognize 1883 as their founding year. The club was chartered as a limited partnership due to Pennsylvania's prohibition of incorporation of sporting clubs for profit. Al Reach, who was the sole proprietor of the club after Phillips' departure in January 1882, was named chairman and held only 20 of the 150 issued shares. John I Rogers was named secretary and treasurer while Thomas J. Pratt and Stephen Farrelly were shareholders, Farrelly being the majority shareholder with 100 of 150 shares owned. The original charter's current location is unknown, if it even exists any longer. But fortunately the Inquirer published the full charter in its pages on March 29, 1901. I've included this 1901 reprint at the end of the article.
And what of the team's nickname? There's a misconception that the team's nickname was the Quakers in 1883 and baseball-reference identifies the club's nickname as such from 1883-1889. First, nicknames were not official monikers used by major league teams until the 20th century. In the 19th century, nicknames were created and used by newspapers. In 1883 alone, the Philadelphia Baseball Club Limited was identified as "Philadelphias", "Phillies", "Quakers", and even "Athletics". The nickname "Phillies" itself is simply a shortened version "Philadelphias". Shortened nicknames, when possible, were used by newspapers because they took up less space in a column. Plus, "Phillies" rolls off the tongue easier than "Philadelphias". Like "Athletics", the "Phillies" moniker was recycled from an earlier club. In this case, the first usage in newspapers was in reference to the 1873 Philadelphia White Stockings and the nickname was used on occasion to identify at least three different teams between 1873 and 1877.
In conclusion, the present day Phillies club was formed in 1881 and first took the field in 1882. Al Reach reorganized the club and the Philadelphia Ball Club Limited was chartered in November 1882 and admitted to the National League in December 1882 for the 1883 season, which is why the organization to this day cites 1883 as their founding.
Reprinted text of the 1882 charter from the March 29, 1901 Inquirer: