Kids Snatch a Flag
This article was published in the 2013 The National Pastime.
Scouts and managers extoll as a kernel of truth:
“Experience will trump the value of youth”;
That theory is touted at the most crucial times,
When pressure is greatest, with so much on the line.
One team turned that thought on its ear
With a measure of fame that lasts to this year;
In baseball’s annals, the “Whiz Kids” are unique
Despite a closing act that was just a bit weak.
In the spring of ’50, enthusiasm was tepid at Shibe Park
The Phils’ ambitions were accompanied by a question mark;
Most writers picked them for fourth place
With the Dodgers given the nod in the pennant chase.
Hopes were dim for the club’s pursuit of a flag
Because most players were young, a potential snag;
The men who assumed the eight everyday slots
Averaged 26 years—they could be green in tight spots.
The key pitchers were younger, with two graybeards thrown in,
Konstanty and Heintzelman, at least, had “hair on the chin”;
The rest of the staff averaged a mere 24 years,
And was considered to be “wet behind the ears.”
The starters are framed by position in the mind,
Waitkus at first base, no longer medically confined;
Goliat and Hamner around second base
Turned double plays with style and grace.
The hot corner was covered by Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones,
25 homers and 88 ribbies were career milestones;
An outfield patrolled by Ennis, Ashburn, and Sisler, from left to right,
Exhibited various attributes that gave fans delight.
Andy Seminick served as the normal backstop,
And with 24 homers contributed pop;
To handle each hurler and his precious flipper,
He conferred with Eddie Sawyer, the amiable skipper.
There was surely enough talent on the mound,
Robin Roberts and Konstanty were the most renowned;
Robin won 20, Jim made 74 trips from the ’pen,
Russ Meyer did well when nothing was under his skin!
Curt Simmons won 17 from the left side, Bob Miller was steady,
Easing the burden of “Manager Eddie”;
And solid performances by Bubba Church
Helped lift the Phillies to their high perch.
They jumped ahead of the Dodgers by July Fourth’s play
And led Brooklyn by seven games on Labor Day;
The margin was then cut but not erased
’Til Sisler’s tenth-inning homer ended the race.
Facing Bombers in the Series was a challenge too steep
The result was a quick and not unexpected sweep;
But three games were decided by a single run—
With a clutch hit or two, the Yanks might have been done.
So let us recall this team and its season so grand,
Its lasting attraction reflected by the “Whiz Kids” brand;
No wonder Gene Kelly’s listeners raised so many cheers,
On the path to a pennant after 35 long years!
When that letdown came at the hands of Casey’s crew,
Fans were disappointed but not terribly blue;
For the youngsters had gone to the finish line
And hoisted their city onto cloud nine.
FRANCIS KINLAW has contributed to 13 SABR convention publications (the number of shutouts registered by the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff in 1950) and attended 17 SABR conventions (the number of plate appearances by Richie Ashburn in the 1950 World Series). A member of SABR since 1983, he resides in Greensboro, North Carolina and writes extensively about baseball, football, and college basketball.