Dead last in 1961, seventh in 1962 and fourth last year, the Phils have become the National League team on the move.
The big question about Philadelphia's hitting is how much it will miss Don Demeter (51 home runs and 190 RBIs the past two seasons), traded away to the Detroit Tigers. In 1963 the Phils were third in the league in batting, slugging average and total bases. What they genuinely need, however, is a good right-handed hitter to platoon with Wes Covington (.303) in left. Covington is dangerous against right-handed pitching but is troubled by good lefties. Manager Gene Mauch probably will platoon 21-year-old Alex Johnson in left with Covington, but Johnson has had only two years in the minors. His 1963 season, however, is the one that Mauch hopes Johnson remembers—294 total bases, 108 runs, 128 RBIs, 35 homers, 28 stolen bases and a batting average of .329 in only 120 games at Twin Falls in the Pioneer League. There is a chance that the Phils will have the top-hitting rookie in the major leagues this season in Third Baseman Richie Allen, 22, who was lured out of Wampum, Pa. by heap plenty wampum ($50,000). Last year he became the first Negro to play for Little Rock, Ark. and ended up leading the International League in triples (12), homers (33), RBIs (97) and total bases (299) while hitting .289. In 10 games with the Phillies at the end of the season, he batted .292. Whoever plays shortstop alongside Allen, either Bobby Wine or Ruben Amaro, will not hit much (total RBIs between them 63), but Wine (.215) seems to have cured himself of stepping into the bucket. The right side of the infield is just about what the right side of an infield should be, with power (Roy Sievers) at first and speed (Tony Taylor) at second. Sievers, one of the few players left who ever wore the uniform of the St. Louis Browns, had 82 RBIs last year while hitting for his lowest average (.240) in 10 major league seasons. Sievers will be backed up by John Herrnstein, a left-handed batter who hit 45 homers in two International League seasons and knocked in 156 runs. Herrnstein can also play the outfield in an emergency. Taylor scored 102 runs, made 180 hits and stole 23 bases while batting .281. Tony Gonzalez is one of the hitters who will have to make up for the loss of Demeter. His home runs dropped from 20 in 1962 to four last year, but he proved the past two seasons that he is a solid .300 hitter. The hitting star of the team probably will be 25-year-old Johnny Callison, who can knock in runs (78) and hit the long ball (26 homers). Callison's growing up has been one of the most interesting developments on the Phillies. Two years ago he carried a .300 batting average into the last day of the season and asked that he be benched to protect it. "I realize now that it was the wrong thing to do," he says. "I would never do it again." Callison should hit .300 this year; he has spiced his power with slash hitting and will push an outside pitch into left instead of trying to pull it as he once did. He now is a threat to bunt at any time, and he is as fast as anyone in the league. Clay Dalrymple has learned to hit left-handed pitching a little better. Gus Triandos, picked up from Detroit in the Demeter trade, should be able to use his power in Connie Mack Stadium.
It is surprising that the Phils were able to finish in the first division at all last year. Dennis Bennett missed the first half of the season, and Art Mahaffey (19-14 in 1962) the last. They contributed only 16 wins all year but this season should deliver 35 between them. Mahaffey, who was bothered by arm and ankle trouble, looked fine this spring. Bennett says, "There is no way they can stop me from winning 20, and I might just add three more to match my uniform number." In the Demeter trade, the Phils also obtained Jim Bunning, one of the most consistent American League pitchers over the last few seasons. In five All-Star Games against the top National League hitters he gave up only two earned runs and four hits in 14 innings. Bunning will be tough the first time around the league and should help the Phils to get off to a good start. Ray Culp, the 22-year-old righty, was 14-11 with a 2.97 ERA; Chris Short, the 26-year-old lefty, had an ERA of 2.95 and, after a bad start (1-8), closed with 8-4 through the last months of the season. Cal McLish was 13-11 last year, but he is now 38. The Phils have a lot of young pitchers behind their solid starters, and any one could make the grade. Any one could also be traded for some help in the outfield. The bullpen has Jack Baldschun (2.29 ERA and 12 saves in 65 appearances) and Johnny Klippstein (1.93 in relief), plus Ryne Duren. Available for spot starts or relief will be John Boozer (3-4, 2.93) who picked up two of his wins against the Dodgers, and Dallas Green (7-5, 3.23), who beat both the Dodgers and Cardinals twice.
For the past two seasons the Phils have been the third-best fielding team in the National League, but when Demeter left for Detroit he took a 1,000 outfield glove with him. The loss will also hurt because of his versatility: he could play all the outfield positions as well as first and third. Wine and Amaro at shortstop are very good, and Dalrymple is becoming one of baseball's most respected catchers. There is some logic behind Allen's shift from the outfield in Little Rock to third base with the Phils—he had two good years as a shortstop in the minors. The outfield suffers when Covington is in left, but Gonzalez is dandy in center, while in right Callison is superb. "Callison," says Mauch, "is just about the complete ballplayer. There is no need to pinch-hit for him, run for him or field for him." Callison's arm is the best in the league; last year he had 26 assists, highest in the majors. Young and handsome, Callison plays the right field wall at Connie Mack Stadium to perfection and loves to throw in behind the runner who swings too wide at first. He will also stop those who try to stretch singles into doubles. Last year he made only two errors in 157 games.
There is strong pitching here, better than average hitting and speed, plus some problems in the outfield that may be solved by a late trade. This season could bring the start of a winning tradition to Philadelphia.