Monday, October 25, 2010

What If the Phillies Had Won the 1964 Pennant? Part II

Since the Cardinals actually did beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, the Phillies could also have done it. So, if you've already read Part I, change Game 5 to an NL victory, which it was in RL, and have the Phils win Game 7 as Chris Short outduels Mel Stottlemyre...

Saturday, October 17, 1964, was the greatest day in Philadelphia since the liberation from British rule during the Revolution. The Phillies had a parade down Broad Street, from City Hall to Municipal Stadium, soon to be renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. The place was jammed, 105,000 strong, as the Phils celebrated their first World Championship in their 82 seasons of existence.

Mayor Jim Tate and Governor Bill Scranton spoke, and announced that, at this same complex, where construction would soon begin on the new arena for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers -- what became The Spectrum -- a new stadium would be built, for the Phillies and the Eagles. Opening Day was expected to be in April 1967.

For 1965, the Phillies obtained first baseman Dick Stuart from the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Dennis Bennett, and Alex Johnson became the new left fielder.

This upset Frank "Big Donkey" Thomas, and he mopes through much of the season. On July 9, before a game, Thomas swung a bat at Richie Allen. Emboldened by his performance in the 1964 season and World Series, Allen defied an order not to talk to the press about it, but managed to defuse the situation: "Frank's not a bad guy," he said, "He's just going through a rough patch. I forgive him." For this reason, Thomas was not released, as many thought he would be.

With Jim Bunning, Chris Short and Ray Culp providing good pitching, and the memory of the '64 title still close, the Phillies made a good run in 1965, but finished 3rd behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, 5 games out of 1st. They got off to a good start in 1966, but got a wakeup call on May 8, as the Giants traded first baseman Orlando Cepeda to the Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki.

Not knowing whether this trade would benefit the Giants or the Cards, or both, Phils executive Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter III -- "Ruly" -- told his father Bob that the Phils needed to make a move, too. So Bob found a team that needed Carpenter money, and had someone to part with. On June 15, 1966, the Phillies traded Frank Thomas and $50,000 to the perennially cash-poor Cleveland Indians for sensational lefthanded pitcher Sam McDowell.

That did the trick. The Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and the Giants had Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. But with Bunning, Short and McDowell, the Phils had 3 aces, and Larry Jackson developed into a strong 4th starter. The Phillies won the Pennant, their 2nd in 3 years -- only the 4th in team history. However, they lost the World Series in 5 games to the Baltimore Orioles -- formerly the St. Louis Browns, and with the Phils winning it all in '64, the last of the "Original Sixteen" franchises to have not won a World Series. Now they had.

Game 2 of the World Series, on October 6, 1966, a 6-0 Phils loss to the Orioles, was the last baseball game played at Connie Mack Stadium, formerly Shibe Park, home to the Athletics from 1909 to 1954 and the Phillies from 1938 to 1966. The last regular-season game, on October 2, 1966, was a Pennant-clincher, a 7-6 win over the Dodgers, attended by all sorts of Phillies greats from Dave Bancroft (from the 1915 Pennant winners) to Richie Ashburn (from the 1950 Whiz Kids, now a Phils broadcaster, he threw out the first ball).

On April 14, 1967, Veterans Stadium opened. The Phils beat the New York Mets, 5-1, in front of 56,371 fans. No longer having to park in the North Philadelphia ghetto, fans took to the South Philadelphia concrete palace immediately. But the Phils were already in a bit of a decline. After the 1971 season, almost no one from the '64 and '66 Pennants was left. Even Dick Allen -- for a while, he was asking people not to call him "Richie" anymore -- was gone, traded to the Chicago White Sox. Many believe his home runs in his 1972 Most Valuable Player season saved that franchise.

Dick fell out with White Sox management, though, and in 1975 returned to the Phillies. It was a new team, led by Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Dave Cash and Steve Carlton. Now a first baseman, Dick pounded Cincinnati Reds pitching in the Playoffs, and the Phillies won the 1976 Pennant. On October 23, 1976, Tug McGraw struck out Oscar Gamble for the final out of Game 6, and the Phillies won their 2nd World Series. They had now played the Yankees in 3 World Series, winning the last 2.

The Phils lost the 1977 and '78 NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and faltered in '79, but in a final burst of power from the 38-year-old Allen, swept the Houston Astros in 3 straight in the 1980 NLCS, and took the Kansas City Royals in 6 games for their 3rd title. Allen retired, and the Phils managed to take one of the split-season spots in the 1981 Playoffs, made a run in 1982, and won the Pennant in 1983 before losing another World Series to the Orioles.

In 1989, Schmidt retired, and also gave the induction speech for Allen at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Between his own 548 and Allen's 464, that was over a thousand home runs. In the next 5 years, the Phils would also see Bunning, McDowell, Schmidt, Carlton and Ashburn elected.

The Phillies renewed their legacy in the 1993 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, particularly in a wild, rainy Game 4 at the Vet. They trailed 3-0, led 6-3, trailed 7-6, led 12-7, led 14-9, and finally held off a furious Jays rally to win 14-13. Just as the Phillies had beaten Mel Stottlemyre twice in the 1964 Series, now they had beaten his son, Todd Stottlemyre. Curt Schilling pitched a shutout in Game 5, and in Game 6 in Toronto, Mitch Williams came in for the bottom of the 9th, struck out Rickey Henderson, got Devon White to fly out, and, with the dangerous Joe Carter waiting on deck, got Paul Molitor to ground out to 2nd baseman Mickey Morandini, and the Phils won, 6-5, to take their 4th World Championship.

Of course, the Phils had to wait until 2008 to make it 5. And in 2009, the Yankees finally evened things up against them. And in 2010, the Phils lost the NLCS to the Giants.

Still, 5 World Championships (1964, 1976, 1980, 1993 and 2008), and 10 Pennants (1915, '50, '64, '66, '76, '80, '83, '93, 2008 and '09) is more than most teams have.

Something to think about as you pose for a photograph between the statues of Dick Allen and Mike Schmidt outside Citizens Bank Park, that glorious temple of baseball that opened in 1999.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What if the Phillies Had Won the 1964 Pennant? Part I

The San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies last night, to take the 2010 National League Pennant.

For much of 1964, it seemed like the Pennant -- the League having no Divisional play at the time -- would come down to either the Phils or the Jints. But the Giants tailed off... and then, at the same time, with the Phils up by 6 1/2 games with 12 to go, the Phils lost 10 straight, the Cincinnati Reds won 9 of 10, and the St. Louis Cardinals won 8 of 10.

Final standings: St. Louis, Philly and Cincinnati each 1 back, San Francisco 3 back, and the Milwaukee Braves 5 back. The closest race in NL history. (In 1908, the New York edition of the Giants finished in a tie with the Chicago Cubs, with the Pittsburgh Pirates just 1 back, before a replay gave the Cubs the Pennant. But that was a 3-way race; 1964 had 3 within 1, 4 within 3 and 5 within 5.)

Odd: In 1964, the Phillies won 92 games, yet finished out of the postseason and are viewed as one of the most massive failures in baseball history; in 1980, the Phillies won 91 yet games, yet won the World Series and were viewed, until the Phils began their current run of success in 2007, as the greatest team in franchise history.

I'm not going to compare great Philadelphia baseball teams; that's a post for Uncle Mike's Musings (see link to the right) at a later time. But it's worth pointing out that, despite the Phils' 1980 and 2008 World Championships, an entire generation still looks at 1964 as the defining season of their lifetime, a wound that nothing can ever heal.

In 1950, the Phils won the Pennant, but got swept in the World Series by the Yankees. It was their only real Pennant race between 1915 and 1964. But do the fans old enough to remember 1950, all of them now over age 65, kvetch over that Series loss, the way the fans whose defining year was '64, now roughly between the ages of 50 and 65, think of that one?


If the Phillies had won the 1964 National League Pennant, could they have beaten the Yankees in the World Series? Certainly, they could have. After all, the Cardinals did.

But would the Phillies have beaten the Yankees? That's another story entirely, and I'm going to try to tell it.

Here's how the TTL-1964 World Series likely would have happened, based on the RL-starting pitchers used by manager Gene Mauch down the stretch, the ones Yankee manager Yogi Berra used, and the RL-results:

Game 1 at Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia, October 7: Whitey Ford vs. Chris Short. This would have given Short 4 days' rest since his last outing, on October 2. Pitching ace Jim Bunning today would have put him on just 2 days' rest, and that chance was already taken too often. In RL, Ford was hurt, and had to leave the game in the 6th inning, and Al Downing came in, and the Cards hit him hard. The Cards won, 9-5. It's not hard to imagine the Phils still winning, and thus winning their first World Series game in 49 years -- and only their second WS game ever. Phillies 9, Yankees 5. Phils lead 1 game to 0.

Game 2 at Connie Mack Stadium, October 8: Mel Stottlemyre vs. Jim Bunning. This would have given Bunning 3 days' rest since the regular-season finale on October 4. In RL, this was Bob Gibson's 1st WS game, and he lost it. In fact, the Yanks got 8 runs on 12 hits, the majority of it off a rested Gibson. Bunning on 3? I don't think he stops the Yanks. Yankees 8, Phillies 3. Series tied, 1-1.

Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, New York, October 10: Jim Bouton vs. Art Mahaffey. It would have been Dennis Bennett's turn, but Mahaffey had a better record. Would Mahaffey have pitched better than Curt Simmons, the 1950 Whiz Kid who finally, in RL, won a Pennant with the '64 Cards? Probably not, Simmons allowed 1 run on 4 hits through 8. Card manager Johnny Keane brought in knuckleballing reliever Barney Schultz to pitch the 9th. Schultz threw one pitch. Mickey Mantle cranked it into the upper deck. Would Phils closer Jack Baldschun have done any better? Almost certainly not. Yankees 2, Phillies 1. Yanks lead 2 games to 1.

Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, October 11: Al Downing vs. Short. Downing had a shutout going into the 6th, but Ken Boyer -- the Cards' Captain and the brother of Yankee 3rd baseman Clete Boyer -- hit a grand slam on a slider that didn't properly slide. Would the Phillies' Captain have done that? Probably not: Johnny Callison, like Downing, was a lefty. But that doesn't mean that Richie Allen (not yet insisting on being called "Dick" instead) wouldn't have. Phillies 4, Yankees 3. Series tied, 2-2. So, already, this is the best season in Phillies' history: The only season in which they've won at least 2 World Series games, something they wouldn't do in RL until 1980.

Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, October 12: Stottlemyre vs. Bunning. In RL, Stottlemyre and Gibson battled it out, and Tom Tresh homered in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extra innings. But Yogi pulled Mel for Pete Mikkelsen, and in the top of the 10th, Tim McCarver (not yet a Phils hero) hit a 3-run homer. Keane stuck with Gibson, and the Cards won. Would the Phils' catcher have done what McCarver did? Clay Dalrymple? Seriously? A better question might be this: Would Bunning on 3 days' rest have been better on this day than Gibson on the same rest? In RL, Cardinals 5, Yankees 2. In TTL, I think this one is different. Yankees 3, Cardinals 2, in the regulation 9. Yanks lead series, 3 games to 2.

Game 6 at Connie Mack Stadium, October 14: Bouton vs. Mahaffey. In RL, Bouton, at age 25 already something of a flake but still with a great fastball and not yet the knuckleball-relying, 30-year-old marginal pitcher who wrote Ball Four, lived up to his "Bulldog" nickname, while Simmons didn't have his good stuff and only went 6 innings. If the RL-Phils only do even a little bit better than the TTL-Cards did, the Series is over. Yankees 8, Phillies 3. Yanks win Series, 4 games to 2.

In RL, Game 7 at the first Busch Stadium (formerly the last Sportsman's Park), on October 15: was Stottlemyre vs. Gibson, both on 2 days' rest. Despite a 9th-inning Yankee comeback attempt, the Cards won, 7-5, and took the Series. But the Phils come up, er, short (Chris Short would have started for them), and there is no Game 7.


No, there's no choke, no "Phlop." Blowing a 1-game-to-0 lead isn't horrible. The Yanks blew a 2-games-to-1 lead in RL, and haven't gotten criticized down through the years for it. Maybe the Mantle walkoff (not that we called such a home run that at the time) in Game 3 gets remembered as "one of those moments" that just sort of happen to some teams, like the Phillies. But in this case, the Phillies don't blow it. They just get beat.

And for those of you who say, "You're only saying that because you're a Yankee Fan," make your own suggestion of how the Phillies could have won. After all, the Yanks were without their best starter (Whitey Ford) and their starting shortstop (Tony Kubek), and they still came within 2 runs in Game 7.

It's true that the Yankees were aging, and that this was the last Pennant for Mantle, Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and Kubek.

But the Phils... the reason they didn't win the Pennant in RL is that they weren't really all that good. Aside from right field (Callison), 3rd base (Allen), and left field (an aging but still strong Wes Covington), they didn't have a very strong lineup. Three regulars hit under .240: Catcher Dalrymple, 1st baseman John Hernstein (Frank "Big Donkey" Thomas, not to be confused with the later "Big Hurt," missed much of the season with an injury), and shortstop Bobby Wine (just .212). And aside from Bunning and Short, they didn't have a whole lot of pitching. Really, this was a 4-man team: Callison (who finished 2nd to Boyer for the MVP), Allen (Rookie of the Year), Bunning (who might've won the Cy Young if each League then gave one out, Dean Chance of the Angels won it instead) and Short.

I don't know if the Cardinals, who actually did win the Pennant, were the best team in the NL. The Reds, the Giants, and even the Braves might have been better. Arguably, the Phils were only the 5th-most-talented team in the National League in 1964.

The shock isn't that they blew a sure Pennant, but that they were ever close to one.

Put it another way: If you could manage any Phillies team in a 7-game series, would you take 1964 over 1980? Would you take 1964 over 2008? Would you take 1964 over 1950? Would you take 1964 over 1993?

I wouldn't.

What I would do is tell the story of what might have happened if the Phillies had beaten the Yankees in the 1964 World Series. That's next. And if you're a Phillies fan, I think you're going to like it.