- The Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies baseball club, notwithstanding the past decade and the period from 1976 to 1984, has floundered, for the most part, in futility. Since its inception as the Philadelphia Quakers in 1883, the Phillies finished last twenty-six times, and in 2007 they attained the ignominious distinction of becoming the first professional sports franchise to lose 10,000 games. Long-time Phillies' fans continually have had to bolster patience and perseverance with heart and hope.
Against that backdrop, sportswriters Lieb and Baumgartner present a historical analysis of Phillies baseball during the seventy-year period from 1883 to 1952. Lieb, a native Philadelphian who worked for several New York City newspapers and The Sporting News, and Baumgartner, who pitched for the Phils and Athletics before moving into journalism with the Philadelphia Inquirer, provide the reader with eyewitness accounts of the Phillies' ineptitude and triumphs throughout most of that time period.
Only twice in seventy years did the Phillies win the National League pennant. The Phillies faced the Red Sox in the 1915 World Series behind the great hurling of Grover Cleveland Alexander, who compiled a 31-10 record with twelve shutouts and a league-leading earned run average of 1.22, coupled with the slugging of Gavvy Cravath who led the majors with twenty-four home runs. With Alexander on the mound, the Phillies won the first game but then lost the next four, all by one run, and the Series to the Sox. They fared no better thirty-five years later when the famed "Whiz Kids" of Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Granny Hamner, and "Puddin' Head" Jones, to name a few, lost the 1950 World Series in four straight games to Casey Stengel's Yankees. The Korean War dealt an insurmountable blow to their pitching staff, already depleted with injuries to Bob Miller and Bubba Church, when the Pennsylvania National Guard Unit of seenteen-game-winner Curt Simmons was activated two weeks prior to the Series. Without Simmons in the rotation, the Phils were forced to start reliever and National League MVP Jim Konstanty. Despite those hardships, Phils pitchers held their own in losing each of the four games by a single run.
The Phillies were also highly competitive and respectable during the 1890s. Led by Big Ed Delehanty, the 1894 squad fielded one of the best major league outfields of all time. Joining Delahanty who hit .400 were Sam Thompson at .403 and Billy Hamilton at .398 with ninety-nine stolen bases and 196 runs scored. Reserve outfielder Tuck Turner had 147 hits and batted .423. The Sporting News Register, however, ranked the 1899 team as the best Phillies team of all-time. In winning ninety-four games, it posted a 618 winning percentage but finished third behind Brooklyn and Pittsburgh in the twelve-team National League. Nevertheless, Delahanty had a banner year, winning the batting title with a .408 average. Roy Thomas and Elmer Flick rounded out the outfield that matched [End Page 474] the 1894 trio. Napoleon Lajoie was superb in the infield while Chuck "Chic" Fraser and Bill Bernard anchored the pitching staff.
Over the years, the Phillies have been blessed with excellent players, but management's persistent desire to minimize costs kept them mired in mediocrity or even worse. From 1918 to 1948, they were a perpetual second division club, finishing in last place seventeen times and only once cracking the first division in 1932. Chiefly responsible for the Phillies plight were Bill Baker, former New York City police commissioner who owned the team from 1913 to 1930, and Gerry Nugent who acquired control of the club for a decade beginning in 1933. Together these two owners acquired and traded away Grover Alexander, Dave Bancroft, Irish Meusel, Chuck Klein, Dick Bartell, Lefty O'Doul, Casey Stengel, Bucky Walters, Dolph Camilli, and dozens of...