This article was written by Rich Westcott
This article was published in The National Pastime: From Swampoodle to South Philly (Philadelphia, 2013)
As a franchise that began 130 years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies have made an indelible mark not only on the city where they play but also on the whole sport of baseball.
This is a team that has maintained the same name longer than any other team in professional sports. And with some of the game’s finest players—from Ed Delahanty to Chuck Klein to Richie Ashburn to Mike Schmidt, from Grover Cleveland Alexander to Robin Roberts to Steve Carlton to Roy Halladay—the Phillies can lay claim to a vibrant history.
Although their recent seasons have produced the greatest era in team history with five straight trips to the playoffs and back-to-back appearances in the World Series, the Phillies have experienced the highs and lows, the ups and downs, and the good and the bad as much as any baseball team ever did. While they have not always been successful, the Phillies are undeniably one of baseball’s most colorful franchises: one that has often been last, but seldom dull.
For more than 13 years, the Phillies had a left-handed catcher named Jack Clements. Around that time, the team’s shortstop, Bill Hulen, was also left-handed. Third baseman Hans Lobert once raced a horse around the bases. Outfielder Sherry Magee kayoed an umpire with a punch after being called out on strikes. Later, Magee became an umpire.
Once, Mike Schmidt tried to escape the wrath of the fans by wearing a wig onto the field. John Kruk rebelled when a woman called him “an athlete,” saying, “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player.” For his rookie initiation, Scott Rolen was forced to wear skimpy women’s clothes when he left the ballpark. And Ryan Howard claimed that he first knew he was an exceptional power hitter when his mother told him as much at eight years of age.
Richie Ashburn once hit the same woman twice with foul balls during the same at-bat. And when first called up to the Phillies while on a road trip with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, Chase Utley was put off the bus and had to sit for nearly an hour on a curb in a parking lot along an interstate highway in upstate New York, waiting for a car to pick him up and transport him to Philadelphia.
World-famous evangelist Billy Sunday played briefly with the Phillies. So did Pro Football Hall of Famer Earle “Greasy” Neale, the greatest coach in Philadelphia Eagles history. Future manager Casey Stengel also played with the Phils. Stan Baumgartner pitched for the Phillies’ 1915 pennant-winner and covered the club’s next National League champs in 1950 for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Jimmie Foxx pitched in nine games with the Phillies. Five professional basketball players—Frankie Baumholtz, Howie Schultz, Dick Groat, Gene Conley, and Ron Reed—wore the uniform of the Phillies.
The Phillies have been guided by 51 managers. One (Harry Wright) is called the Father of Professional Baseball on his tombstone. The group also includes a one-time ticket-taker who later became the team’s president (Billy Shettsline), a former medical student (George Stallings), a practicing dentist (Doc Prothro), a college professor (Eddie Sawyer), a future vaudeville singer (Red Dooin), and the owner of major league baseball’s highest single-season batting average of .440 (Hugh Duffy). Fourteen Phils pilots held the job for four years or more, 16 skippered the team for one year or less, 22 played with the Phillies, 38 had no prior big-league experience, and 33 never managed in the big leagues again after leaving the Phillies. Charlie Manuel was the winningest manager in Phillies history with 727 victories (569 losses) by Opening Day 2013, which far surpassed the marks of the previous leaders, Gene Mauch (645), Wright (636), and Danny Ozark (594).
Woodrow Wilson was the first sitting US President ever to attend a World Series when he came to Philadelphia in 1915 to watch the Phillies play the Boston Red Sox in Game 2. In 1921, at Pittsburgh, the Phillies took part in the first major-league game broadcast on the radio. They also participated in the first big-league night game, which was played in 1935 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Pitcher Hugh Mulcahy was the first major-league player drafted into World War II. In 1946, the Phillies hired Edith Houghton as baseball’s first full-time female scout.
The Phillies have a reputation for often acquiring the wrong brother. These signings included Irish Meusel, Vince DiMaggio, Ken Brett, Mike Maddux, Frank Torre, Juan Bell, and Mark Leiter. Of course, the Phillies did sign Delahanty, Granny Hamner, and Allen in addition to their less-successful siblings. But they also did themselves no favors by trading away future Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg. Yet, with Bob Boone and David Bell they had two of the three players in baseball history who were members of three-generation baseball families who performed in the big leagues.
Since they were formed, the Phillies have played in seven World Series, winning two, and have appeared in postseason play in 14 years. More than 30 people connected with the club as players, managers, or executives are members of the Hall of Fame. Phillies players have won or tied for 28 home-run crowns, eight batting titles, seven Most Valuable Player awards, seven Cy Young awards, four Rookie of the Year awards, and 47 Gold Gloves.
Conversely, the Phillies have finished in last place 31 times and sixth or below 50 times. The Phils are the only team in American professional sports to have lost 10,000 or more games representing a single city (other than the Washington Generals). They have lost 100 or more games in a season 14 times. It has indeed been a highly varied run for a club that has been in existence far longer than any other professional team in Philadelphia.
The Phillies joined the National League in 1883, taking the spot previously held by the Troy club.
NL president Colonel A. G. Mills realized he was in charge of a league with no teams in the nation’s two biggest cities, New York and Philadelphia. He contacted an old friend, Al Reach. Would he be interested in a team in Philadelphia?
Since his playing days had ended in 1875, Reach, a left-handed second baseman born in England, and one of baseball’s first professional players, had become a highly successful businessman. Originally, he had operated a cigar store. Then, noticing the increasing demand for baseballs, bats, and other sports equipment, he opened a sporting goods store. Soon, Reach decided to launch a sporting goods manufacturing company, and took in a partner named Benjamin F. Shibe, a leather expert and a manufacturer of horse whips. The business was soon flourishing, and with many clients, including professional baseball teams, Reach and Shibe (later the first owner of the Philadelphia Athletics) were becoming exceedingly wealthy.
Mills had no trouble convincing Reach to start a baseball team. Enlisting Colonel John I. Rogers, a lawyer and member of the governor of Pennsylvania’s staff, as his partner, Reach entered the team in the National League. The Phillies name was said to identify the team with the city in which it played. Although over the years the team would sometimes be called by other nicknames, the name was officially always the Phillies, and more than a century later, it would rank as the longest continuous, one-city nickname in professional sports history.
Reach received no players from the defunct Worcester franchise. He recruited almost an entirely new squad, including local players and some from other pro teams. He also had to find a ballpark. Reach located an old ball field in North Philadelphia that had previously been called Recreation Park. Although it had been used by numerous Philadelphia baseball teams and served as an encampment for Union soldiers during the Civil War, it had become neglected and rundown, with overgrown weeds and deteriorating grandstands blighting the landscape. Some of the park had even been used as a horse market.
The new owner had to restore the ballpark, leveling and re-sodding the playing surface, building wooden grandstands, and generally rebuilding the ballpark into a 6,500-capacity stadium with up-to-date accouterments.
The Phillies held their first spring training at Recreation Park. In their first game there, they beat a semipro team from Manayunk called the Ashland Club with John Coleman pitching a no-hitter. The Phillies’ first NL game was played on May 1, 1883, at Recreation Park against the Providence Grays. Facing Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourne, who would go on to win 48 games that year, the Phillies took an early 3–0 lead, but a four-run Grays rally in the eighth inning gave the visitors a 4–3 victory.
The Phillies would go on to lose games by scores of 29–4 to Boston and 28–0 to Providence. Manager Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson was fired after the team lost 13 of its first 17 games, and the Phillies went on to finish their first season with a 17–81 record, with Coleman losing 48 games, an all-time major-league record.
Better days, though, were just around the corner. In 1884, Reach hired Harry Wright as the team’s manager. Wright, who had piloted the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869 when they became baseball’s first openly all-professional team and was the skipper of four Boston Red Stockings National Association championship teams, quickly turned the franchise around. From 1885 through 1895, the Phillies finished in the first division every season.
Along the way, they also moved into a new ballpark. Mindful that Recreation Park could not hold the increasingly large crowds that came to watch Phillies games, Reach built a new stadium at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue at a total cost of $101,000. Called Philadelphia Base Ball Park or Huntingdon Street Grounds, the park was erected on the site of a dump with a creek running through it. When it opened in 1887, the ballpark held 12,500, although the capacity was later increased to 18,800. Originally, regarded as the finest stadium in the nation and a magnificent showplace, the ballpark was noted for its short right-field wall, which initially stood 272-feet down the line, and its clubhouses in center field.
Despite several catastrophes—one in 1894 when a destructive fire forced the Phillies to play six games at the University of Pennsylvania’s field and required much of the park to be rebuilt, and one in 1903 when 12 people were killed and 232 injured when a balcony collapsed—the Phillies played there until midway through the 1938 season.
From 1891 through 1895, Delahanty, Billy Hamilton, and Sam Thompson played together, giving the Phillies the only Hall of Fame outfield in baseball history. While playing with the Phillies, Delahanty, whose career batting average of .346 ranks as the fourth-highest in big-league history, hit over .300 for 10 years in a row while exceeding .400 three times and winning one batting crown. Hamilton led the league in hitting twice on the way to a career batting average of .344, and Thompson, who hit the second-most home runs (126) in the nineteenth century, won two home-run crowns while finishing with a .331 career batting mark. In 1894, all three hit over .400, as did reserve outfielder Tuck Turner.
Prior to the turn of the century, when the Phillies also had future Hall of Famers Nap Lajoie and Elmer Flick in the lineup, they could never quite make it to the top. They came close several times under manager Shettsline. But Reach sold the team in 1903 for $170,000, and with a succession of owners, team presidents, and managers following, the Phillies had an inglorious run topped by the 1904 season, during which they posted a 52–100 record and finished 53 1/2 games out of first place.
In 1910, Magee won the league batting title with a .331 mark. The same year, the Phillies bought the contract of Alexander for $750 from Syracuse of the New York State League. In his first season with the Phillies, Alexander posted a 28–13 record. Then in 1911, the Phillies picked up 30-year-old Gavvy Cravath from the minor-league Minneapolis club.
Also in 1912, Phillies president Horace Fogel, a former sports editor of a local newspaper, was banned for life from baseball for making derogatory comments about baseball, one in which he said that year’s pennant race was fixed. Former New York City police commissioner William Baker bought the team and gave the ballpark a new nickname: Baker Bowl. He would prove to be an ultra cheapskate, but also one with unsound baseball judgment, making some terrible trades over the years and destroying a successful franchise.
Before that happened, though, the Phillies captured their first National League pennant in 1915. With Alexander winning 31 games and Cravath leading the league in home runs (24) and RBIs (115), the Phillies finished seven games ahead of the defending world champion Boston Braves. In the World Series, however, after Alexander and the Phillies won the first game, the Boston Red Sox came on to win four straight games by one run, including three in a row by 2–1 scores. After winning their first pennant in 33 seasons, the Phils would not win another flag for 35 more years.
Alexander won 33 games, 16 of them shutouts, in 1916 and 30 games the following year, and the Phillies finished second both times. But Baker, fearing that Alexander would be drafted now that World War I was underway, traded him and catcher Bill Killefer to the Chicago Cubs for $55,000 and two players who would play a combined total of 46 games in Phillies uniforms. The deal was considered one of the worst in Phillies history.
To make matters even uglier, the Phillies soon fell into an abyss from which they wouldn’t escape for more than three decades. Starting in 1918, the Phillies went 31 seasons with just one first division finish (fourth in 1932). During those ultra-lean years, the club finished in last place 16 times and in seventh place eight times. They lost 100 or more games in 12 seasons. In one of those seasons (1930), the Phillies had a team batting average of .315—then the third-highest mark since 1900—but lost 102 games, finishing 40 games out of first. The pitching staff had a combined ERA of 6.71.
There were a few bright spots. Cravath became baseball’s premier home-run hitter in the years leading up to Babe Ruth, with six home-run crowns over a seven-year period. In late 1917, the Phillies made a trade that landed Cy Williams, who collected three home-run titles, including one that set a National League record of 41 in 1923. Klein came to the Phils in 1928, and on his way to the Hall of Fame won four home run championships, one batting title, a triple crown, and one MVP Award. Klein in right field and Dick Bartell at shortstop were both starters in the first All-Star Game in 1933.
But the bad days far outnumbered the good. The Phillies lost a 26–23 decision to the Chicago Cubs in 1922, an all-time major-league record for most runs in one game. They had pitchers with nicknames such as Boom Boom (Beck), Losing Pitcher (Mulcahy), and Weeping Willie (Willoughy). Hurler Hal Kelleher once allowed 12 runs in one inning. Once, after losing 11 straight games, the Phils had to wear Brooklyn Dodgers away uniforms in a game at Ebbets Field because theirs had been lost. They won the game, then proceeded to lose 12 in a row.
The Phillies traded key players, including future Hall of Famers Dave Bancroft and Eppa Rixey, and in the 1930s, star players such as Bartell, Klein, Ethan Allen, Claude Passeau, and future MVPs Bucky Walters and Dolph Camilli, in most cases getting very little in return. In the 1930s, after outfielder Johnny Moore hit over .300 in four straight seasons, he was sold to the highest bidder—a minor-league team.
The 1930s deals were the work of Gerry Nugent, a former Phillies business manager and chief aid to Baker during the 1920s. After Baker’s death in 1930, Nugent and his wife Mae, an executive with the club, wound up owning 51 percent of the club’s stock in 1936. Nugent became president in 1932, taking over a team that was in dire financial straits.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Phillies drew single-season crowds of more than 300,000 only three times. Four times they attracted less than 200,000 fans for a season. Games often drew as few as 1,500. Baker Bowl had deteriorated to such a low point that it had become the laughing stock of baseball, called names such as the “toilet bowl” and “a bandbox.” At one point, the Phillies finances had dropped so precipitously that, in the absence of groundskeepers, they had to hire three sheep to trim the grass on the field.
Midway through the 1938 season, the Phillies finally accepted Connie Mack’s long-standing offer and relocated to Shibe Park, the home of the Athletics, which had been built in 1909 and stood at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue, just seven blocks from Baker Bowl. While escaping the deplorable conditions of Baker Bowl eventually helped at the gate, Phillies teams remained terrible. They lost more than 100 games in each season from 1938–42, including a club-record 111 in 1941. Second baseman Danny Murtaugh said that “if the Phillies ever won two games in a row, it might be grounds for a Congressional investigation.”
The Phillies reached the bottom of the barrel in 1942, when National League commissioner Ford Frick forced Nugent out of the league and took over management of the penniless team. That season, there was one highlight, however, as Danny Litwhiler became the first major leaguer to play 150 or more games in the outfield without making an error.
Later that year, Frick found a new owner in New York lumber dealer, William Cox. The inexperienced Cox headed a 30-member syndicate. His term, however, lasted less than one year as, toward the end of 1943, he was found to have bet on Phillies games and was banned for life from baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Landis.
Subsequently, the wealthy Carpenter family, which had ties to the DuPont Company in Delaware, bought the team for a reported $400,000 and installed 28-year-old Bob as president. The youngest club president in National League history quickly named former pitching standout and Boston Red Sox farm director Herb Pennock as the team’s general manager.
Like his predecessors—Fogel, who wanted to change the team’s nickname to “Live Wires” and Lobert, who thought “Phils” would sound better—Carpenter was convinced that the team needed a new image to erase the scars caused by the “Phillies” moniker. He ran a contest in local newspapers asking fans to submit suggestions. There were 5,064 entries, with Blue Jays declared the winner. But, despite the use of a Blue Jay logo on caps, pennants, stationery, and other team items, the club never officially changed its name, and after several years, Blue Jays was dropped as a nickname.
Almost immediately after Carpenter took the reins, the Phillies began signing young players. While they already had Del Ennis and Andy Seminick in the system, they added youngsters such as Roberts, Ashburn, Curt Simmons, Granny Hamner, and Willie Jones. Eventually joining this group were veterans including Dick Sisler, Jim Konstanty, Bill Nicholson, and Eddie Waitkus, who would be shot in a Chicago hotel room by a deranged woman. With this mixture of young players and veterans, the Phillies were on the way up, and in 1949 finished in third place.
Nicknamed the Whiz Kids, the team followed that by winning the pennant in 1950. Although holding a six-game lead at the end of August, the Phillies went into a tailspin and had to go to the final game of the season to clinch the flag, winning it when Sisler’s three-run, 10th-inning home run defeated the second-place Brooklyn Dodgers, 4–1. Making his third start in the last five days, Roberts went the distance to get his 20th win, the Phils’ first 20-game winner since 1917.
The Whiz Kids, who were sometimes called The Fightin’ Phils, met the New York Yankees in the World Series, but with the exhausted Roberts unable to pitch, Manager Sawyer named reliever Konstanty as the club’s starter in the first game. Konstanty had won 16 games and saved 22, all in relief, but he lost the opener, 1–0. The Phillies then dropped the next three games, losing two more by one run and dropping Game 4, 5–2.
That year, Konstanty, who often worked out with an undertaker during the offseason, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, the first reliever ever to win the honor. Meanwhile, the Phillies became the favorite team of Philadelphia baseball fans, replacing the Athletics, who had ruled for many years, but had become largely ignored and in 1954 would move to Kansas City.
The Phillies were expected to rank among the league’s elite teams in the 1950s, but it never happened. They tumbled all the way to fifth place in 1951, and were never a contender for the rest of the decade, despite six straight seasons with 20 or more wins by Roberts, including a 28–7 mark in 1952 and a record 28 straight complete games, batting championships in 1955 and 1958 by Ashburn, and the yearly performances of Ennis as one of the league’s premier power hitters.
Although they had been signing African American players since 1952, the Phillies became the last National League team to put a black player in a major-league game when infielder John Kennedy made a few appearances with the team in 1957. That same year, shortstop Chico Fernandez, a medium-dark-skinned Cuban, was incorrectly described as the first black player to appear in the Phillies’ regular lineup.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Phillies roster featured some young and talented players such as pitchers Jack Sanford and Dick Farrell, first baseman Ed Bouchee, and outfielder Harry Anderson. Future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson was the second baseman in 1959, his only year as a major-league player. Sawyer, who had been fired in 1952, returned in 1958, in the midst of four straight last-place teams.
When Sawyer quit after the first game of the 1960 season, saying, “I’m 49 years old and I want to live to be 50,” Gene Mauch was hired as manager. But the Phillies remained at the bottom of the league, hitting an all-time low in 1961 when they lost 23 consecutive games. In the following years, though, bolstered by the presence of young stars who were products of the team’s farm system, such as Allen and pitchers Chris Short, Art Mahaffey, and Jack Baldschun, plus players who came to the club in trades, like Jim Bunning, Tony Taylor, Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and Cookie Rojas, the Phillies’ fortunes were seemingly considerably increased.
Then disaster struck. In one of the most catastrophic collapses in sports history, the Phillies blew a six-and-a-half game lead with 12 games left to play, losing 10 straight and sending a whole city into mourning. Despite Bunning’s perfect game—the first in Phillies history—Callison’s game-winning three-run homer in the All-Star Game, and Allen’s sparkling rookie season, the 1964 debacle was one that has forever encumbered the minds of all those who were around at the time.
It took the Phillies a decade to recover, as mediocre teams cluttered the landscape. In 1970, the team played its last game at Connie Mack Stadium (Shibe Park until the name was changed in 1953), and the following year moved into Veterans Stadium, a multi-purpose venue that was built at a cost of $52 million and had a capacity of 56,371 for baseball. In 1972, Ruly Carpenter replaced his dad, Bob, as team president.
By then, the Phillies had again plunged heavily into the practice of signing young players. Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Dick Ruthven, and Larry Christenson were among the best of the lot. They were joined by a former switch-hitting shortstop who had planned to become an architect, and whose favorite sport was basketball. Little did anyone know at the time that Mike Schmidt would some day win seven home-run titles and tie for another, capture three MVP awards, win 10 Gold Gloves, and be named to 12 All-Star teams while becoming the greatest all-around third baseman in history and a member of the Hall of Fame.
In addition to the home-grown players, the Phillies landed Steve Carlton in 1972 in the last trade engineered by general manager John Quinn. Controversial at the time because the Phils gave up popular star pitcher Rick Wise, the trade was justified when Carlton posted a 27–10 record with 15 straight wins for a last place team that won only 59 games. He would go on to win four Cy Youngs while recording five seasons of 20 or more wins. It was said that hitting against Carlton “was like drinking coffee with a pitchfork.”
The Phillies also acquired other outstanding players like Dave Cash, Richie Hebner, Garry Maddox, Jay Johnstone, Bake McBride, Manny Trillo, Tug McGraw, and Jim Lonborg. These trades were executed by general manager Paul “The Pope” Owens, a brilliant and fearless wheeler-dealer who had previously been a minor-league manager and farm system director with the Phillies.
Once they began bringing in top players again, the Phillies headed back up the ladder. In 1974, under manager Danny Ozark, the team finished third in the Eastern Division. The following year, they were second and the team’s most successful era up to that point was underway.
The Phillies won East Division titles in 1976, 1977, and 1978, posting identical 101–61 records in the first two years. Each time, however, they were defeated in the League Championship Series, getting swept in three games in 1976 by the Cincinnati Reds and losing in each of the next two years, three games to one to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The ’77 series was particularly distressing. The Phils lost the third game after a controversial call by umpire Bruce Froemming, who ruled Davey Lopes safe at first in what would have been the last out of the game. Replays showed he was out. Lopes then scored the winning run. The next night, in a game played almost entirely in a steady rain, the Phils lost the series.
In 1979, the Phillies were out of contention, and during the season Dallas Green replaced Ozark as manager. The high point of the year had been when the team signed Pete Rose as a free agent. Rose would become the club’s sparkplug, driving the Phillies in 1980 to their first pennant in 35 years.
With Schmidt leading the league in home runs (48) and RBIs (121), and Carlton posting 24 victories, the Phillies had won 19 of 26 games when they clinched the East Division title in the next-to-last game of the season, with a 6–4 win over the Montreal Expos.
The Phillies captured the pennant in a storied five-game series with the Houston Astros, with four of the games going extra innings. In the deciding game, the Phils overcame a 5–2 eighth-inning deficit against Nolan Ryan to win it in the 10th, with Maddox’s double driving home the winning run. Trillo was the series MVP.
Then, facing the Kansas City Royals, the Phillies won their first World Series, triumphing in six games. Only the final game was decided by more than two runs as the Phils clinched the Series with a 4–1 victory behind the pitching of Carlton and McGraw. Carlton won two games in the series, while McGraw posted a 1–1 mark with two saves. Schmidt was named World Series MVP after hitting .381 with two homers and seven RBIs. Two days after the Series ended, more than two-million fans lined Broad Street to watch the Phillies victory parade.
The team returned to postseason play in the strike-shortened 1981 campaign after being declared the first-half champion of the East Division. In the opening series, the Phils lost to the Expos, the second-half winner, three games to two. After the season, Green resigned and became general manager of the Chicago Cubs, and the Carpenter family sold the team for $30 million to a syndicate led by the highly creative vice president Bill Giles, who was named team president.
Two years later, Owens stepped down from the GM post at midseason to become manager. The Phillies—with a team that included former Cincinnati stars Rose, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez—and was called the Wheeze Kids because of the advanced age of many members of the roster—won the East Division title with Schmidt lashing 40 homers, then beat the Dodgers in four games in the NLCS as Carlton won two. Gary Matthews was named the series MVP after lacing three home runs and driving in eight. The Phillies then bowed to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series in five games with Cy Young Award winner John Denny capturing his club’s only victory.
The Series ended what had been a glittering run for the Phillies. They had posted a 791–612 (.564) regular-season record from 1975 through 1983 and appeared in six postseason playoffs and two World Series. It would be 10 years before the team returned to postseason play, even though many fine players, such as Juan Samuel, Von Hayes, Glenn Wilson, Mickey Morandini, Shane Rawley, and 1987 Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian, dotted the roster.
In 1993, the Phils went from last place the previous year to the World Series with an exciting team led by Darren Daulton, John Kruk, and Lenny Dykstra in the field, and Curt Schilling, Tommy Greene, Terry Mulholland, and Mitch Williams on the mound. Called “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves,” by Daulton because the team was largely composed of players traded away by other teams, the Phils were led by veteran manager Jim Fregosi.
The Phillies captured the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, coming from a two games to one deficit that included a 14–3 loss to win the best-of-seven series in six games. In the finale, the Phils beat Greg Maddux, 6–3, with Dave Hollins lacing a two-run homer and Greene getting the win. Williams saved two games and won two, and Schilling was voted MVP of the series.
It was a vastly different story in the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Phils won Game 2 on Jim Eisenreich’s three-run homer, but trailed in the Series as the fourth game unfolded. In an incredible game, the Blue Jays overcame a five-run eighth-inning deficit to capture a 15–14 win. Dykstra hit two homers and drove in four runs as the teams combined for a Series record 32 hits. The following day, Schilling hurled a five-hitter to give the Phillies a 2–0 win.
But two days later, in one of the most infamous games in Phillies history, Joe Carter’s three-run ninth-inning home run off Williams gave Toronto a stunning 8–6 victory and the world championship.
The loss was followed by another bleak period during which the Phillies dropped out of contention while fashioning seven straight losing seasons, including three with more than 90 losses. But at the start of the twenty-first century, with the team now under the leadership of president David Montgomery, the picture brightened considerably. General manager Ed Wade laid the groundwork, and his successor Pat Gillick applied the finishing touches. The Phils had some stars in Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen, and Jim Thome, who won a home run title in 2003.
Guided by new manager Bowa, the team posted two second- and two third-place finishes. And in 2004, it moved into Citizens Bank Park, a sparkling, strictly baseball stadium that cost $345 million to build and had a seating capacity of 43,651. Over the years, the ballpark would cater mostly to large crowds, which at one point reached 257 straight sellouts.
In 2005, the Phillies hired Manuel as their new manager. He would guide a team led by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Utley, and first baseman Howard, each one of the best players at his position in Phillies history. Howard (2006) and Rollins (2007) won MVP awards with Howard claiming two home-run crowns, including 2006 when his 58 four-baggers set an all-time Phillies record. Joining this trio during at least part of the run were outfielders Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Pat Burrell, and catcher Carlos Ruiz. During all or parts of the era, the pitching staff was anchored by a group of outstanding starters in Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee, and reliever Brad Lidge.
After three straight second-place finishes, the Phillies returned to the playoffs in 2007 for the first time in 14 years, winning the first of what would become five straight East Division titles as Howard smashed 47 home runs and Hamels posted a 15–5 record. The Phils overcame a seven-game Mets lead, winning 23 of their last 34 games while the New Yorkers lost 12 of their final 17. The Phils, however, were swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS.
In 2008, with Howard clouting 48 homers, the Phillies overcame a 3 1/2-game lead by the Mets in mid-September, winning 13 of their last 16 games (while New York lost nine of its final 15) to finish first in the East Division. The Phillies won the NLDS, three games to one, over the Milwaukee Brewers with Burrell blasting two homers and Joe Blanton getting the win in the clinching game. The team then won four out of five over the Dodgers in the NLCS, as Hamels got two wins and Lidge three saves. During the season and throughout the postseason, Lidge had been virtually unstoppable, saving 48 games in 48 opportunities.
The Phillies laced the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the World Series. Hamels was named the Series MVP, after also getting the NLCS MVP, with a combined total of three wins. Howard’s two homers and five RBIs in a 10–2 win in Game 4 proved to be the biggest offensive performance of the fall classic. The Series clincher was a 4–3 victory that took three days to complete. Heavy rain had halted play on the first night of the game. Then, after another day of rain, the game was finally completed with reliever J.C. Romero getting his second win of the Series. Once again, a crowd of more than two million was jammed along Broad Street to watch the Phillies victory parade.
In 2009, Ruben Amaro Jr., became the Phils general manager. With Howard belting 45 homers, Raul Ibanez 34, and Utley 31, the club finished first during the regular season, six games ahead of the second-place Florida Marlins. They beat Colorado in the NLDS, 3–1, and the Dodgers in five games in the NLCS behind three homers from Werth. This time in the World Series, though, the Phillies lost in six games to the Yankees, despite two wins by Lee and two homers by Utley in a 8–6 Phils win in Game 5.
The Phillies returned to postseason play in 2010, garnering 97 wins during the regular season for their highest total since 1993. During the offseason, they had acquired Halladay in a trade with the Blue Jays. The ace right-hander went on to pitch a perfect game against the Marlins, and posted a 21–10 record to win the Cy Young Award. In the playoffs, Halladay twirled a no-hitter in the first game of the NLDS against the Reds, and the Phillies swept the series in three games. The Phils, however, were downed by the San Francisco Giants, four games to two, in the NLCS.
But they were back again in 2011. With Halladay, Hamels, Lee, and Roy Oswalt forming a starting rotation that was labeled “The Four Aces,” the Phillies led the division for all but one day during the regular season and finished the campaign with a team-record 102 wins and a 13-game lead over the Braves. Halladay won 19 and Hunter Pence batted .324 with the Phils after his midseason arrival. The postseason, however, was short as the Phillies lost the NLDS, three games to two, against the Cardinals.
From 2004 through 2011, the Phillies posted a 732–564 (.565) record while finishing second three times in a row, then winning five straight division titles, and appearing in two consecutive World Series, winning one. It was unquestionably the greatest era in Phillies history.
There would be halt to the run in 2012, when, plagued by injuries to Howard, Utley, and Halladay, the Phillies fell to third place. During the season, they traded away key players Victorino, Pence, and Blanton. Standout hitting by Ruiz and the pitching of Hamels and free-agent signee Jonathan Papelbon were the top performances of the season.
In 2013, the Phillies took the field with a vastly different team. The starting lineup still featured Rollins, Utley, and Howard, the best players at their positions in the club’s history. Halladay, Hamels, and Lee led a starting rotation that was among the finest in the league on paper. But many changes had been made to the roster, producing a degree of uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome of the season, though, one thing was certain: Now in their 132nd year, the Phillies have been a team with an extraordinary history.
RICH WESTCOTT is a former newspaper and magazine editor and writer, and is the author of 23 books, including the recently published “Philadelphia’s Top 50 Baseball Players.” Considered the leading authority on Phillies and Philadelphia baseball history, his books include eight on the Phillies, three on Philadelphia’s old ballparks, and a history of Philadelphia sports in the twentieth century. Among his other books are collections of interviews with former baseball players, plus books on no-hitters, 300-game winners, home run hitters, Mickey Vernon, and Eddie Gottlieb. He is the immediate past president of the Philadelphia Sports Writers’ Association.