The Philadelphia Phillies have never enjoyed a steady career. Their turbulent history has seen some rises, but many falls. However they have always been a popular team within the National League East, which has not always been reflected in the attendance numbers at their stadium. Recently the team has seen a slight improvement, and it is hoped that 2008 will prove to be a successful year.
A Dismal Beginning
The Phillies were first formed under the name The Quakers in 1883 when Al Reach and John Rogers were awarded the remains of a National League expansion, the Worcester Brown Stockings, which had folded in 1882.
Harry Wright was the first manager of this new team, which was soon renamed the ‘Phillies’ in 1887 in honour of its home town. In 1901 the American League and the Phillies saw many of their players defect to rival teams. The remaining members of the team were not able to secure the Phillies a very good position for that season, and they finished 46th in the league.
The team’s performance continued in a similar manner until 1915, when Gavvy Cravath managed to set a new record for the most home runs in one season. Grover Cleveland Alexander also helped throughout the season with his pitching skills, but he was sold in 1917 as the owner of the Phillies, William Baker, refused to increase his salary.
The impact of this trade would be both far-reaching and long-lasting. Having won the division in 1915, the Phillies’ winning record dropped to .447 the following season, and would remain under .500 for the next three decades. The period is one of the longest streaks of incompetence in baseball history. From 1917 until 1947 the Phillies managed just one winning record (.506) which came in 1932.
When Baker died in 1930 he left the club to his nephew, who had high hopes to build a winning team. Unfortunately his funds would not allow this, therefore any talent there was in the team often had to be sold just for the Phillies to make ends meet.
The Baker Bowl was one of the biggest drains on their funds, and after 1910 limited funds meant it was not properly maintained. Many attempts to move to Shibe Park were made, but all of these failed as the owner of the Baker Bowl would not terminate their lease. In 1938 he finally gave in, but the new stadium did not improve audience attendance which rarely rose above 3,000.
Finally, in 1943, monetary problems got so bad that the franchise had to be sold back to the League. Shortly after this a new buyer was found, and William Cox became the proud new owner of the Philadelphia Phillies.
At last money could be spent on buying new talent, which Cox went to work doing straight away. The effects of his efforts were immediate, and within the same year the Phillies had risen out of the standings cellar for the first time in five years, which instantly improved audience attendance. Bucky Harris was manager at the time, but Cox fired him when he objected to Cox becoming too involved with the team.
As revenge Harris reported Cox as having placed bets on his own team. Harris owned up to this, but claimed that he did not know that it was wrong. Landis did not accept this as an excuse, and Cox was banned from baseball for life. He was forced to sell the Phillies to Robert R.M. Carpenter, who was the DuPont heir, who gave sole control to his son, Bob Jr. Carpenter.
Carpenter’s first job as new owner was changing the nickname of the team to the ‘Blue Jays’, but the “Phillies” still appeared on the jerseys with the ‘Blue Jays’ on the sleeves. This new nickname was dropped in 1946, however, due to protest from John Hopkins University whose baseball team had the same name.
The Whiz Kids
Carpenter’s tactics were to get as many young players on the team as possible in the hope this would improve the team’s performance. The two greatest of these were Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. By 1950 the Phillies were leading the standings for most of the season, but the loss of one of their pitchers, Curt Simmons, meant they lost eight out of ten games.
By the end of the season they were only leading by one game, but their first pennant for 35 years was clinched when Dick Sisler hit a home run against the Dodgers, winning the season for the Phillies. However, the New York Yankees managed to sweep the team straight out of the World Series by beating them in four consecutive games.
In 1954 Shibe Park was sold to the Phillies for good, officially making it their home stadium which they renamed Connie Mack Stadium. The Phillies managed to maintain this new progress, and in 1964 with players like Dick Allen, Jim Bunning and Johnny Callison on the team it seemed guaranteed that they would make it to the World Series.
However, the Phillies suffered a ten-game defeat losing streak. Placed second in the League, they took on the St. Louis Cardinals only to lose this game as well, pushing them further down the league to third place.
The title could still have been theirs when the Cardinals dropped two of their last games to the New York Mets, but when they won the third of these the Phillies were forced into a joint tie with the Cincinnati Reds. As they were only one game away for first place, this collapse has come to be known as “The Phold”.
A New Stadium
1970 saw the end of the Connie Mack Stadium which had deteriorated beyond repair. The Phillies moved into their new Veterans Stadium in 1971. This did not seem to bring much luck to the team, and in 1972 the team endured one of the worst seasons of any baseball team.
Steve Carlton practically carried the team, winning almost half their games for them. Around the same time the ownership of the club was moved down another generation to Robert ‘Ruly’ Carpenter III.
It was not until the mid 1970s that the Phillies even saw a glimmer of success. Between 1976 and 1978 they managed to win three consecutive division titles, with thanks to players such as Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.
In all three of these years they lost out to the NL Championship Series; in 1976 to the Reds and to the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978. But in 1979 they signed Pete Rose, who gave them the extra edge they needed in their game.
The team won the NL East in 1980, taking them to a Championship Series where they faced the Astros in a memorable contest, with four out of five of the games going to extra innings. Initially the Phillies fell behind, 2-1, but they managed to swing the game series back round in their favour, taking their first pennant for thirty years.
The 1980 World Series was played against Kansas City, which they won in only six games. This was the Phillies first and only world championship. Surprisingly it was in the same year that some of the players admitted that they had taken amphetamines, which led to the team being dubbed “The Pillies”.
In 1981, the team was sold by the Carpenter family to Dave Montgomery and Bill Giles. This did not halt the progress of the team, who won another pennant two years later. This time they faced Baltimore in the World Series but lost to them in only five games.
After the success of the beginning of the decade, things took a turn for the worse for the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s. By 1992 the Phillies were in last place in the National League East.
A Rise and then a Fall
This misfortune was not to stay with the Phillies, however, and 1993 was a winning year for them. Curt Schilling, Darren Daulton, John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra were the leading players of the time. The team’s players were characteristically dirty and unkempt, but this look seemed to greatly appeal to the fans – attendance rose to an all-time high!
The Phillies reached the NL Championship Series, where they beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-2. In the World Series they faced the Toronto Blue Jays, the defending champions, who took the title in only six games. With the players strike in 1994 and the Atlanta Braves being realigned back into the NL East, the Phillies did not see much success for the next decade.
The Atlanta Braves managed to take the division each year until 2006, not giving the Phillies much of a look in. Individually though many of the Phillies’ players had success, with the core of the team being Brett Myers, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard.
A Steady Improvement
However, in 2001 Larry Bowa was hired as manager, which paid off well for the Phillies as they lead the division for the first half of the season, swapping this with the Braves for the second half. They gave the Braves the greatest competition that season, but missed out to first place by two games.
Bowa was rewarded for his efforts by being given the title of National League Manager of the Year. With Bowa as their manager the Phillies continued to put up a good fight, but never managed to succeed in winning over the Braves.
When the Citizens Bank Park was opened it was speculated that the Phillies were guaranteed to win. But when they lost out to the Braves once again Bowa was fired and replaced by Charlie Manuel in 2005. Although he managed to keep the Phillies in contention for the whole season Ed Wade, general manager of the team, was still fired and Pat Gillick was hired in his place.
Gillick’s tactics were to make as many trades as possible in an attempt to improve the team, including trading Sal Fasano for Hector Made and David Bell for Wilfredo Laureano, and he also bought Jamie Moyer.
These changes seemed to do the trick and by the middle of the season the Phillies had taken the wild card lead, which they then went on to tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers. With six games left to play the Dodgers took the lead, eliminating the Phillies from the play-off contention.
The 2007 Season
2007 followed the same pattern, with the Phillies and the Braves chasing each other through the league. The Phillies managed to streak ahead with a five-game win, which allowed them to reach .500 after 40 games.
Times became more troubled when Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber were injured, but Kyle Kenrick managed to step forward to support the team. The same season the Phillies lost their 10,000th game to the St. Louis Cardinals which set a new record for being the first North American sports franchise to do so.
By September they were failing the NL East by being seven games behind the New York Mets. However, the Mets’ next fifteen games were a disaster which allowed the Phillies to take first place. It all hung on the two teams’ final game, which the Mets lost and the Phillies won awarding them their first division for fourteen years.
Only a month later, however, the Colorado Rockies beat them in three games, which was the first time they had been defeated in a post-season series since 1976. Various trades were made due to this, including swapping Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Michael Costanzo for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett, with the hope that 2008 would be a winning season.
2008 Line Up