No team ever hada year like the one the Philadelphia Phillies had in 1964. Only a long-shot betfor the pennant, they started quickly and, led by players like Johnny Callison(right), established themselves as the big team in the National League. Then,two weeks before the season ended, they collapsed completely, lost 10 straightgames, the pennant—and the dream. In the vivid photographs that follow and inthe article beginning on page 57 is the detailed story of their strange andunforgettable season.
An Epic ThatEnded as a Tragedy
At 12:30 on aWednesday afternoon last October, in the green, garretlike executive offices ofthe Philadelphia National League baseball club, secretaries, ticket sellers,promotion men, publicity men and all the people who make up the front-officepersonnel of a major league baseball club began to gather in front of a largetelevision screen to watch the opening game of the 1964 World Series. Many ofthem were emotionally and physically exhausted from the long season that hadended—for them—three days earlier with the Phillies a sadly beaten contenderfor the National League championship. When the surprising Phillies werefighting for and gaining the league lead during the season, these front-officepeople had been besieged with all sorts of requests—for tickets, forphotographs, for personal appearances—from the millions of fans who hadsuddenly adopted the Phillies as their team. More than 1,425,000 people hadpaid their way into Connie Mack Stadium, that marvelous, ramshackle oldmonstrosity of a ball park, which for years had been known, half affectionatelyand half bitterly, as the "Chamber of Horrors." In 1964, as thePhillies won game after exciting game, the old nickname disappeared and themore upbeat "House of Thrills" took its place. Considering the way thePhillies played and won, the new name was more valid than silly, though thebiggest single thrill the team gave its fans was probably the thrill of hopethat the Phillies—dead last in 1961, loser of 23 straight games that year—wereactually going to win a pennant for the first time in 14 years, the second timein nearly half a century.
But that was inthe summer, and now it was October. At 12:45 a blast of march music came overthe set, and a voice said, "The 1964 World Series is on the air." Thecameras panned slowly over Busch Stadium in St. Louis. In Philadelphia some ofthe secretaries began to cry. Men lit cigarettes and looked down at theirshoes. To these people, and to the others who lived for the Phillies, the WorldSeries was being played where it did not belong.
March 1, 1965
By now everyonein Philadelphia knows—or thinks he knows—why the Phillies lost the pennant.History has already marked them as a team that lost when it was nearly amathematical impossibility to lose. Leading the National League by six and ahalf games with only 12 games left on their schedule, the Phils lost 10 gamesin a row and had to win on the last day of the season to gain a tie for secondplace. The people closest to it—the players, the manager, the generalmanager—are still bewildered by that 10-game losing streak from a club which,during the entire season before the collapse, had never lost more than fourgames in a row. Yet Matt Wilson, who runs the two-chair barbershop just sixdoors down the street from the stadium, thinks he knows what happened to thePhils.
"Theylost," says Matt to anyone who asks, "because the manager didn't do theright things at the right time. He should have used the pitchers he wasn'tusing. He should have played the people he wasn't playing. I went up to thestadium about 40 times, and a lot of people lost money and a lot of people weredisappointed. Oh, well, forget it. It's gone now. All gone. It's nothing nowbut another part in the life of baseball."
Just a year agothis week, when the Phillies began spring training, not many considered theteam a true pennant contender, and even the few who did could not argue withmuch conviction that the Phils were likely to unseat the Los Angeles Dodgers asNational League champions. True, the Phillies were a coming team, one that wasimproving thanks to clever trades by General Manager John Quinn, excellenthandling by Manager Gene Mauch and a continuing flow of help from a farm systemthat was starting to produce its own championship teams. In 1962 the Phils hadmoved up to seventh place; in 1963 they finished a surprising fourth. Still,when they reported to Clearwater, Fla. last February they were held at odds of8 to 1, with four teams—the Dodgers, the Giants, the Cardinals and theReds—favored over them.
The Phils didhave some pluses going for them should the team find itself in a contendingposition during 1964. Two-thirds of their schedule after July 24 would beplayed at home, and one of the Phils' most notable characteristics in 1962 and1963 had been powerful closing rushes. Mauch and Quinn had sliced the number ofdoubleheaders at home from 13 to seven because the manager felt strongly thatdoubleheaders confuse and harm a pitching staff.
Overall, thePhils were as good as the best teams at several positions, but there were alsosome large question marks. Quinn and Mauch hoped that one of these—the lack ofa dependable right-handed pitcher—had been erased with the acquisition of JimBunning (see cover) from Detroit during the interleague trading period. Alarger question mark was third base, where the Phillies had used 25 differentplayers since 1959. But Mauch was convinced that he could make a major leaguethird baseman out of Richie Allen, a muscular rookie up from Little Rock, Ark.,where he had a reputation as a powerful hitter albeit a mediocre fielder.
Allen reported tospring training early with the pitchers and catchers because Mauch wanted himto get over any initial nervousness by the time the rest of the squad arrivedfour days later. He told Allen that third base was his until "you playyourself out of it." As Allen trotted onto the field for his first practicehe appreciated the confidence that Mauch had expressed but, as is his custom,he paused long enough to say the 23rd Psalm to himself: "The Lord is myshepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: heleadeth me beside the still waters.... he leadeth me in the paths ofrighteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of theshadow of death I will fear no evil; for thou art with me...."
Bunning, ofcourse, was being counted on as one of the key men of the Phils' pitchingstaff. Always a grim competitor, he had pitched nine seasons in the AmericanLeague for the Detroit Tigers and had had more strong seasons than weak ones.His lifetime record showed 118 wins against 87 losses, a no-hitter against theBoston Red Sox in 1958, a 20-game season in 1957 and a good enough aim atdifficult hitters to finish one-two-three in the league for batters hit bypitches in six of his seven full seasons. At times Bunning had been accused byhis opponents of sharpening his belt buckle so that he could scuff up the balland thus get a better grip on it. He is one of the few men ever to get MickeyMantle of the Yankees mad enough to charge from the batters' box.
Mauch explainedto Bunning that his role in spring training was to get himself ready to stepinto the starting rotation and that he would not be used against NationalLeague clubs during the spring exhibition games. "When the National Leaguehitters see you," Mauch told Bunning, "they will be seeing you for thefirst time and only when it counts." Mauch watched the 22 pitchers on hisroster carefully, but he watched Bunning just a little more closely than therest. Mauch liked the qualities he saw in his new pitcher. He admires fighters.(Mauch was born in 1925, the son of a dedicated sports fan who had an intenseinterest in boxing; his mother told him that if Jack Dempsey had beaten GeneTunney in their first fight in Philadelphia in 1926 Gene's father might havechanged his son's name to Jack.)
The first part ofspring training went well for the Phillies. They hustled and by their constantchatter lifted one another. Allen's bat slapped balls all over Jack RussellStadium in Clearwater, and he hit long drives over the outfield fences. Bunninggot himself into shape and in three appearances against American League teamsgave up only six runs. One day late in March, Mauch stood in his dugout justbefore an exhibition game and looked out at Bunning as the pitcher ran in theoutfield to exercise. "We're going to war with each other, Jim and I,before this season is over," Mauch said. "It will be a good thing, too.He's a great competitor, but he'll say something to me about not pitching himenough or I'm taking him out when he doesn't think he should be taken out, andwe'll just have to go at it." It was Mauch's highest form ofcompliment.
On April 9 thePhils broke camp and headed north through Chattanooga and Asheville, N.C. andthen on to Philadelphia for their final exhibition game with the BaltimoreOrioles before opening the season with the New York Mets on April 14. InAsheville, Mauch put Bunning into a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, aNational League team, because he felt that Jim needed the work before his firstregular-season start three days later. "Just go out and take a little walkin the sunshine," said Mauch. "Don't show them anything, just getyourself loose. To hell with this game." Bunning got loose and got thesunshine and threw nothing but "lollipops and cookies" to the Pirates,who collected 11 runs and eight hits in three and two-thirds innings. Uponseeing the result, some people in Philadelphia began to wonder just what kindof trade John Quinn had made.
Even before theirfinal game of the exhibition season the Phillies felt that they could get offto a good start because the pitching looked good and the hitters were meetingthe ball well. In that final exhibition game at home against the Orioles, thePhils had to face Robin Roberts, one of the heroes of the last Philadelphiateam to win a pennant, the 1950 "Whiz Kids." Allen started at thirdbase and a sizable crowd came out to see him, attracted by his fine showing inFlorida in spring training. In the first inning Allen drove a Roberts pitchhigh up against the Alpo dog food sign atop the left-field roof some 400 feetaway for a home run. The bench jumped up and down, and Mauch walked the lengthof the dugout clapping his hands.
And then theseason began. Philadelphia's won-and-lost record in spring training had beenonly 11-13. A poll of the 10 National League managers indicated that the Philswould finish fifth. Of 232 members of the Baseball Writers' Association ofAmerica who answered a query from The Sporting News, only 10 pickedPhiladelphia to win the pennant, whereas 134 foresaw them finishing anywherebetween fifth and eighth. Three writers picked them ninth in a field of 10. Yetthe team showed cohesiveness and spirit, and Mauch said seriously, "It'spossible for this club to win 92 games." A flow of betting money into LasVegas chipped two points off their odds, and the Phillies opened the season at6 to 1—but still fourth choice. People betting on them were considered to havea lot of hope in their hearts, a lot of money in their pockets and a lot ofrocks in their heads.
Philadelphia didget off to a quick start. In winning 10 of their first 12 games the Philsseemed to be doing the impossible effortlessly. In one game the club ralliedfor four runs in the ninth inning to win 6-5 over Pittsburgh. Allen was hitting.430. Bunning was given three starts against three different teams. He pitched26 2/3 innings in those starts, gave up only three earned runs and won allthree games. Dennis Bennett, a left-handed pitcher at times difficult to handlebut equipped with great skills, changed his mind slightly about pitching duringthe daytime. "I believe I am more effective at night," he had said.Mauch had replied, "I seem to remember that they play the World Series inthe daytime." Bennett's second start of the season was in the daylightagainst Chicago, and he won. Pitcher Art Mahaffey hit his first major leaguehomer with two men on base for a 10-8 win over the Cubs in a game played with a24-mile-an-hour wind rushing toward the fences of Wrigley Field.
Pennants began towave throughout the city of Philadelphia saying, "GO PHILLIES GO," andbumper stickers began to appear on cars. Individual Phillie players becamewidely known and admired. Cookie Rojas, the scrappy Cuban who could play eightpositions; Clay Dalrymple, the sturdy young catcher; Jack Baldschun, thetireless relief pitcher; Ed Roebuck, another relief pitcher with the ability tohit a fungo fly ball higher than any man alive. People who had not rooted for aPhiladelphia team since the A's left town in 1955 started going to Connie MackStadium regularly. Ticket outlets such as Horst and Lichty's in Lancaster, Pa.,Roamer Tours in Reading, Pa. and Angelo's Barber Shop in Atlantic City, N.J.began to feel the press of requests for tickets far in advance.
At the All-Starbreak during the first week in July the Phils led the league by a game and ahalf, yet none were selected to the National League starting team. But JohnnyCallison, the Phils' handsome young right-fielder, who had been gathering a fatportfolio of clutch hits right along, was called on to pinch-hit, and heslammed a three-run homer to give the National League a 6-5 victory. Naturallyhe did it with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
By the end ofJuly, Philadelphia still held the league lead, still by a game and a half.Beating weak teams badly is a good way to win a pennant, and the Phils' recordagainst the four bottom teams in the league—Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston andNew York—was 30-11. The only teams leading the Phils in head-to-head play werethe Cincinnati Reds (6-5) and the St. Louis Cardinals (9-7), and the Phils heldon to first place.
Ruben Amaro, thefancy-fielding 28-year-old infielder, began writing weekly letters to hismother and father, who live in a pale-blue two-story house in Veracruz, Mexico.The letters excited Amaro's father, Santos, a longtime baseball fan, as well ashis mother, Do√±a Pepa. "Dear Papa and Mama," one began, "We have afine team. It is a moving team, very well adjusted. At the rate we are going,with the favor of God we will win the pennant, and we all are sure that if wewin the National League pennant we also defeat any of the American Leaguecontenders. There is nobody in both leagues capable of defeating our team, noteven the hated Yankees."
Each morningSantos Amaro would be up at 7 waiting for the local paper, Dictamen, to arrive.Do√±a Pepa's voice would sound anxiously from the bedroom, "What happened,Amaro? They won or lost?" More often than not her husband would holler backhappily, "They won, old woman! They won!"
"Did Rubenplay?" she would ask. "Did he bat any hits?" When Santos said"Yes," Do√±a Pepa would dress herself and go down to the market and telleveryone about Ruben, occasionally waving a bunch of celery in the air foremphasis as she described Ruben's play. The Phillies became Veracruz' team. Atnight Do√±a Pepa would ask her husband, who had once managed the Aguilas ofVeracruz in the Mexican League, endless questions.
"Amaro, youthink the Phillies will win the pennant?" she often would ask.
"Be calm, oldgirl," he'd answer. "In baseball anything can happen."
General ManagerJohn Quinn was not being calm. He and Mauch had noticed that the other teamswere sending left-handers at the Phillies in bunches and that the Phils hadtrouble hitting them. Early in August, Quinn completed a deal with the New YorkMets and acquired Frank Thomas, an excellent hitter against left-handers. Quinnhad hoped to make the trade as early as spring training, but injuries to Thomashad twice aborted it. Thomas arrived at a time when the Phillies had lost 15 oftheir last 22 games against left-handed pitchers, and he promptly went to work.In his first 32 games with the Phils, Thomas batted in 26 runs and the club won20 of them. The lead lengthened and Ruben Amaro began to dream dreams of theWorld Series. He wrote to Veracruz: "Dear Papa and Mama, We are playing thebest baseball of both leagues and nothing will stop us now. I want you and Mamaand Teresa [Ruben's 8-year-old sister] to get ready to come to Philadelphia. Iwill wire you the money for the tickets, but you better startpacking...."
By September 7the Phillies had drawn 1,224,172 people to surpass every existing Philadelphiaattendance record, but the next day they got a bad break, a very bad break.Thomas, sliding into second base, jammed his right thumb and fractured it,forcing himself out of the lineup. The good people of Philadelphia weresaddened, because Thomas, in only a month, had joined the long parade ofPhillie heroes. He was given a job as a disc jockey on station WFIL with"Uncle Phil Sheridan," and each morning Thomas would get up at 5:45a.m., go to the studio and play records and talk baseball—sort of. "Whydoes it take longer to run from second to third than from first to second?"he asked his listeners one morning. "Because there's a shortstop inbetween."
The day afterThomas' injury Quinn began the search for another first baseman. The desiredone had to field well and hit right-handed. It seemed impossible to find such aman, but Quinn did. He got Vic Power, the flashy Puerto Rican, from the LosAngeles Angels. Power was at his home in Minneapolis taking a three-day restprovided by a break in the Angels' schedule. When Quinn called him on the phoneand asked him when he could report to the club, Power said, "I can't joinyou now. All my equipment is back in Los Angeles." Quinn told Power to comeon anyway, that equipment for him would be found, and Power stayed up most ofthe night making connections to get to the ball club. He arrived at 10 o'clockin the morning for an afternoon game, borrowed a pair of Dennis Bennett's shoesand a glove and played. He got a hit and knocked in a run as the Phils beat theCardinals. "At first I didn't like moving over to the National League,"says Power. "I'd been an American Leaguer all my life and wanted to staythere. But I got to thinking that almost every other Puerto Rican player hadplayed in a World Series, and I said to myself, 'This is my chance,' and I wasglad." One of the first things that Power did in Philadelphia was to pickup his player's option to buy World Series tickets; he bought $90 worth for hisfamily back in Minneapolis.
That defeat ofthe Cardinals, the Phils' closest pursuers, seemed to be the one that made itcertain the World Series would open in Philadelphia. The Phils' lead had openedto six games. Granted, there was still a 10-day, 10-game, 8,000-mile road tripahead: San Francisco to Houston and then back to Los Angeles. But things wentwell in San Francisco, and the Phils won two out of three games. In Houstonthey won the first two games of a three-game series. Before the third gameMauch decided to go all out for a sweep of the series.
He went toBunning, who had pitched 10 complete innings just two days before, and askedhim if he felt he could pitch out of turn. Bunning said, "Yes."Previously Bunning had beaten Houston four times without a loss, but this nightthe Colt .45s hit him hard in the fifth inning, and the Phils lost 6-5. At hishome in Wilmington, Del., Publicity Director Larry Shenk of the Phils had heardthat Bunning was starting and, knowing how well Jim had done against Houston,he clicked off the radio and went happily to bed. Shenk was stunned when heheard the losing score the next morning. But the Phils still had a six-gamelead.
In Los Angelesthey split the first two games of the series with the Dodgers; then on Saturdaynight, September 19, in the ninth game of the road trip, they had the firstreal taste of what was in store for them. It came in the last half of the 16thinning in Dodger Stadium, with the score tied 3-3, and the game entering itssixth hour. With two out and nobody on, Willie Davis of the Dodgers lashed aline drive that bounced off First Baseman John Herrnstein's chest. Herrnsteinrecovered the ball and flipped it to Relief Pitcher Jack Baldschun, who wasracing Davis to first. Davis and Baldschun reached first base simultaneously,and Davis' foot came down on top of Baldschun's. The Phils thought it was thethird out, but the umpire called Davis safe. The Phillies argued in vain.Baldschun, angered by the decision and bothered by the injured foot, threw awild pitch as Davis began stealing second, and the wild pitch allowed Davis togo on to third. Baldschun walked the hitter, Tommy Davis, and Ron Fairly, aleft-handed batter, came to the plate.
Mauch called inMorrie Steevens, a 21-year-old left-hander, from the bullpen. Steevens onlyrecently had been brought up from Little Rock for just such an emergency.Steevens' first two pitches were strikes—typical of the providential way thingshad been going for the Phils all year. Then Third Base Coach Leo Durocherwhispered into Davis' ear, "I know you can steal home. Go ahead!"Catcher Clay Dalrymple gave Steevens the sign for a curve ball, but in themiddle of his windup Steevens picked up the blur of Davis streaking for home.Fairly was flabbergasted at the sight of Davis coming down the line, and DodgerManager Walt Alston jumped up in the dugout, shocked that Davis was trying tosteal home with two out and two strikes on a left-handed hitter. Steevens threwa fast ball low and in the dirt on the left side of the plate. Fairly hadalready backed out of the batter's box, and somehow Catcher Dalrymple caughtthe ball. He dived into Davis' spikes without a full grip on the ball, and itspun away when Davis hit it. The Phillies' lead was still a comfortable fiveand a half games, but the Dodgers had won the ball game.
The next morningthe Phillies slept an hour later than usual at Mauch's insistence. Most of themordered breakfast from room service and, thanks to the three-hour timedifference between Philadelphia and Los Angeles, watched the PhiladelphiaEagles play the San Francisco 49ers on television. The Phils beat the Dodgersthat afternoon, but a ground ball ripped off the top of Vic Power's fingernail.On the team's chartered flight home from Los Angeles to Philadelphia theinjured nail bothered Power, and he wondered if he would be able to swingeffectively.
In Philadelphiapeople had made plans to welcome the team at the airport. By the time thePhillies arrived at 12:30 a.m. the airport was packed, and the body warmth fromthe 2,000 people in the second-floor concourse of the air terminal caused thewindows to fog up. Willie Passio of Sigel Street got up an impromptu band alongwith his brother Nick (on the snare drums), Bobby Vaco (on the bass drums) andBuster Verrecchia (on cymbals). They played Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here,and the fans sang right along. Candida Rojas, Cookie's wife, waited at theairport with a big smile on her face. "We are six and a half games infront," she said. "The magic number is seven. The way I see it we'llhave the pennant clinched by Thursday night." Judy Amaro, Ruben's wife,told reporters that Ruben's parents were coming up from Veracruz for the WorldSeries.
As the happyplayers came off the plane Mauch had a drawn, tired look. In 16 hours the Philswould have to be back at work in Connie Mack Stadium against the CincinnatiReds—who had moved into a tie for second with the St. Louis Cardinals. ThePhillies' magic number—the combination of Philadelphia victories and opponents'defeats needed to clinch the pennant—was seven, with only 12 games left. ThePhillies had already won 90 games. No team in the Phillies' history had everwon more than 91.
The first nightof the final home stand of the season was extremely cold, yet 21,000 peoplecame out. What those people saw was the start of the 10-game losing streak andthe beginning of the wildest two weeks in National League history. Chico Ruizof the Reds stole home with two out and the score tied 0-0 in the sixth inning,at a time when Frank Robinson, the Reds' best hitter, was at bat. Art Mahaffey,the Philadelphia pitcher, saw Ruiz going but threw wildly and Ruiz scoredeasily. The Cincinnati manager, Dick Sisler, did not have the slightest notionthat Ruiz would steal, nor did Third Base Coach Reggie Otero. But Ruiz hadnoticed that on Mahaffey's first pitch he had wound up slowly. Chico decided,"If he winds up slow again, I go!" When he broke for home Sisler jumpedup, screaming, "No, no!" But it was yes, and that one run was the game.In the dressing room Mauch said disgustedly, "If anyone named Chico Ruiztries to steal home for me with Frank Robinson at bat he sure as hell better besafe or..." and his voice stopped.
Twice in threegames the Phillies had lost because of totally unorthodox steals of home.
The Reds were nowwithin five and a half games of the Phils, and the Phillies' magic number wasstill seven, with 11 games to play. The following evening Cincinnati poundedPhiladelphia 9-2, and in the Red dressing room Joe Nuxhall, the agelessleft-hander who came up to the Reds a week or so after Abner Doubleday (orsomebody) invented the game, pushed a make-believe button on the clubhousewall. "The panic button," he said and, referring to Mauch, "TheLittle General will begin to push the button." But none of the Reds trulyfelt they had more than the slimmest chance of catching the Phils. "Theylead by four and a half games, with 10 to play," said Sisler. "I'd liketo be in that position."
Earlier that day,fans hopeful of receiving World Series tickets began to march to their postoffices, and by 8 a.m. the following morning the North Philadelphia Station,which handles the Phillies' mail, had 52,500 requests. The tickets were printedin eight colors—green, red, purple, brown, orange, blue, yellow and gray—andeach ticket bore a picture of the Philadelphia skyline. The Warwick Hotel wastaking no more reservations for early October and expected to handle $50,000worth of guests for the Series.
But a crawlingpanic began to move through the city the next night as the Phils lost to theReds again, this time 6-4. When the Reds brought Sammy Ellis in to pitch in theseventh, the Phils seemed to be beginning one of their storied rallies, onethat would bring them a desperately needed victory. After Ellis struck out onebatter, he walked the bases full. Manager Sisler let Ellis stay in the game,and the 22-year-old right-hander looked in at Johnny Callison as 23,000 fanschanted, "Go, go, go!" Ellis was afraid. "I have never been soscared in my life," he said later. "My knees were shaking and my handswere perspiring." But Ellis struck out Callison on a 3-2 pitch on theoutside corner of the plate and then threw a third strike past Tony Taylor. Itwas a magnificent performance and one that cut the Phillies' lead to three anda half games, with nine left. The magic number was still seven.
Early the nextmorning the Milwaukee Braves got on an airplane in Pittsburgh after a losinggame the night before. They had heard that the Phils had lost, and as theysettled in the plane Gene Oliver, the catcher-outfielder, spoke to Ed Mathews,the Brave third baseman. "Eddie," Oliver said, "I've got a feelingwe're going to knock Philadelphia off four straight. I don't know why I havethis feeling, but I felt this way in 1962 when I was with the Cardinals, and wewent to Los Angeles and knocked the Dodgers out of the pennant." (Oliverhad hit a homer on the last day of that season to beat Los Angeles 1-0.)
When the Bravesgot to Philadelphia they went over to Vincent's barbershop opposite the WarwickHotel, where all visiting teams stay. National League ballplayers tend to waitto get haircuts until they get to Philadelphia because Ernie Valadez, the31-year-old proprietor, and his four assistants give the players extra service.That extra service includes hot towels applied to the face and top of the headand a massage with two vibrators, all for $2.25. The barbers also specialize inflattop crew cuts—the players' favorite. In the barbershop Oliver kiddinglytold the barbers that the Braves, fighting for a spot in the first divisionthemselves, were going to sweep the Phillies four straight. The barbers bittheir lips and went back to work.
The Bravesstarted Wade Blasingame that night, and Mauch decided to use two rookies in theoutfield against Blasingame—Alex Johnson and Adolpho Phillips. Mauch had heardthat "Johnson and Phillips had beaten Blasingame two games in the PacificCoast this year, according to our reports." In the first inning Joe Torreof the Braves hit a line drive to center that should have been a single, butthe ball took a weird bounce and sailed past Phillips for a triple, scoring thefirst run. In the fifth inning, with two out and two on, Johnson struck out. Inthe seventh, after getting on base, Johnson advanced to second on Vic Power'sswinging bunt to Mathews at third base. Knowing that he had no chance to getPower, Mathews threw the ball to second base behind Johnson, who had made awide turn. As Alex scrambled to get back to second his feet came out from underhim, he was tagged out and the inning was over. The Braves won 5-3, and Johnsonand Phillips between them had gone 0 for 6 against Blasingame. Mauch had beengiven a monumental piece of misinformation. Both Johnson and Phillips hadindeed hit well against Blasingame's Pacific Coast League team (Johnson .500,Phillips .388), but Blasingame had faced Phillips only once all season and hadwalked him, and he had never pitched to Johnson at all.
The Phillies'lead was now down to three games.
Of all the gamesplayed by the Phillies in their collapse, none is remembered more vividly thanthe game of Friday, September 25. "It was like a World Series game,"says Milwaukee Manager Bobby Bragan. According to Gene Oliver, "It was themost exciting baseball game I have ever been in or ever seen." The Philsled 1-0 until the top of the seventh inning, when Catcher Clay Dalrymple tippedthe bat of Milwaukee Batter Dennis Menke for Dalrymple's first interferencecall of the season. The Braves promptly started a two-run rally, and thenMilwaukee went ahead 3-1 in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the eighthJohnny Callison hit a two-run homer to tie the score. In the 10th the Bravesgot two more runs, but in the bottom of the inning, with one on and two out,Allen hit an inside-the-park homer to tie the game again. Certainly, here was agame that belonged to the Phils. In the 12th inning the Braves had runners onfirst and second when a ground ball—a possible double-play ball—was hit to theright of First Baseman Frank Thomas, who before the game had ripped the castfrom his thumb and asked to play. The ball bounced off Thomas' glove and a runscored. Then, with Gene Oliver at third base, the Braves tried a double steal;the throw from second back to home had Oliver out, but Dalrymple dropped theball. Milwaukee won 7-5. The Phils' lead was only one and a half games overCincinnati and two and a half over the Cardinals.
The next day,after carrying a 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning, the Phils lostagain, 6-4. Johnny Callison was playing with a severe cold, and when he wentout onto the field Umpire Al Forman noticed that he seemed frail and white.Callison was on antibiotics and had been on them for several days, but wouldnot come out of the lineup.
By now the fansin Philadelphia were booing, and thinking desperately. In an unlaudable effortto stop the batting assault of the Braves, a group of teen-agers went to anauto supply shop late Saturday afternoon and bought eight tiny circular mirrorsto reflect sunlight into the eyes of the Brave hitters the next day.Fortunately, the sun did not shine, but it didn't seem to matter as the Philsgot off to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning. Then the Braves smashed 22hits and won 14-8. Philadelphia relinquished first place—to the CincinnatiReds—for the first time in 73 days. And the Cardinals were only half a gamebehind the Phils as the two teams opened a three-game series in BuschStadium.
On the plane toSt. Louis the players were silent but somewhat happy to be leavingPhiladelphia, where the boos had begun to bother them. In that final gameagainst Milwaukee, Ruben Amaro had been booed unmercifully, while a signsaying, "Amaro for MVP" hung from the stands. By now he had stoppedwriting home. His father kept saying over and over, "What in hell is wrongwith these kids? They are not batting worth a damn." Do√±a Pepa no longerwaved celery in the market, and her husband tried to soothe her. "Everyteam goes into a slump now and then, old girl. They soon come out of them."Do√±a Pepa sat in silence and prayed.
"The peoplein Philadelphia," said Ruben in St. Louis, "will be hollering 10 yearsafter we are gone. But the nice thing is we are getting away now."
Relief PitcherJack Baldschun said, "It's got to help for us to get away. You don't hearthe boos when you are out there pitching, but down in the bullpen you hear thecomments and the cuss words and...." Catcher Clay Dalrymple said,"Their hearts are breaking right along with ours." Mauch said, "Westill have time."
As the Philliescame onto the field for their first game with the Cardinals, their gray roaduniforms were wrinkled and they marched over to warm up in complete silence.The reporters descended on Mauch. His eyes were red and tired, and when he tookoff his cap the sprinkling of gray hairs seemed to say more than he reallycould. But as a flight of 20 reporters walked over the Phillie dugout to speakto him he suddenly lifted his head straight up in the air as if looking at afoul ball headed in his direction. The reporters scattered, arms up over theirheads. Mauch smiled at his little joke. "Who's choking?" he asked.
He answered everyquestion and all of them as honestly as he could. One reporter asked him,"Who do you think will win the pennant?" Mauch ran his right indexfinger slowly across the front of his uniform blouse, right where the redletters spell out "Phillies."
St. Louis won thefirst game 5-1, and afterward the door to Philadelphia's dressing room stayedclosed for 20 minutes. The next night they lost again, 4-2. Now they were inthird place behind the Reds and Cardinals, who were only percentage pointsapart. After that game Mauch sat with his head in his hands in the small,uncomfortable visitors' clubhouse, a huge pile of telegrams at his feet. Theoverwhelming majority of the wires were from fans thanking the Phils and Mauchfor the thrills the team had given them over the year. "There is no newstonight," he said to the reporters.
Very late thatnight the oval bar in the Chase Hotel was filled with baseball people, and thetalk was about how the Phillies had folded. Everyone had a theory. Thomas'injury, all the injuries, Power's recent failure to hit, pitching Bunning outof turn, the badly timed errors, the bullpen's shabby work. Just before closingtime footsteps were heard in the long corridor that opens onto the bar. It wasGene Mauch, his raincoat slung over his shoulder. The room fell silent aseveryone looked at him. "Would you like a drink?" a friend asked."I'd like a million," he said, and somehow managed to smile.
Before thatsecond game Callison, still weakened by a virus infection, nearly collapsed inthe clubhouse and could not start. Later he pinch-hit a single and begged tostay in the game. Under baseball rules only a pitcher is allowed to wear ajacket on the field, but Mauch sent a windbreaker to Callison as he stood onfirst base. The outfielder's fingers were so weak that he could not fasten thezipper and pull it up. Bill White, the Cardinals' first baseman, zippered thejacket for Callison, and St. Louis never said a word about the rule that wasbeing broken. By now even the opposition was feeling compassion for the Phils.The next night, before the last game in St. Louis, White, Dick Groat and CurtFlood of the Cardinals stood by the batting cage and looked down into thevisitors' bullpen, where Mauch sat alone on a green bench. Groat, a veteranprofessional who admires Mauch deeply, said, "No one could possibly imaginewhat he has gone through or what is going through his mind now." TheCardinals won again, the Phils looked awful and when Philadelphia got toCincinnati early the next morning Dennis Bennett said, "We've blown thewhole thing. We had it and it's gone." The Phils had still not won their91st game.
In Cincinnatithey won their last two games of the season, too late. They finished in a tiefor second with the Reds, but the Cardinals won the pennant. In the words ofCookie Rojas, the season and the collapse were "like swimming in a long,long lake and then you drown." Ruben Amaro's last letter of the seasonarrived in Veracruz while the Phils were on their way to Cincinnati. "DearPapa and Mama," it began, "Something is wrong with the team. We are alldefeated before we start playing. Nothing is right, we just lose games. I haveno words to tell you what is wrong. You know by the papers that we are a losingteam, but we will keep on fighting to the end.... Perhaps I planned too farahead when I asked you to come to Philadelphia."
On the day whenDictamen arrived at the Amaros' home in Veracruz with the headline, THE CARDSWIN THE PENNANT, Do√±a Pepa collapsed in tears. "I have only cried twice inmy life," she said later. "The first time was one day in Cuba. Amarowas playing with Almendares against Havana. It was Sunday, and the game wasdecisive and Havana won. At the last part of the game I broke out crying. Theother time is when I see the headline about the Cardinals. Oh, my son, my son,I kept on sobbing."
Later Santos andDo√±a Pepa wrote to Ruben: "It's all right, son, don't worry. Next year theteam will make it."
In Philadelphiathe debris of defeat lingered in the team's clubhouse into the winter. In thebottom of Ruben Amaro's cubicle were four gloves, a shaving kit, half a dozenletters and a 50¢ Golden read-it-yourself book titled Little Black Puppy.Second Baseman Tony Taylor had left behind an unopened 28¢ box of Webster Tipscigars, Outfielder Wes Covington left a hundred letters and a flood oftelegrams, Pitcher Art Mahaffey left a "Big League Autographed Ball"autographed by Wes Covington, Dennis Bennett went away for the winter afterflinging a paperback called Born to Battle on the floor. There was action inthe front office during the winter—Bennett was traded to the Boston Red Sox forDick Stuart, yet another powerful right-handed-hitting first baseman; BoBelinsky (see cover), the colorful, volatile left-hander, was obtained from theLos Angeles Angels; and there were other deals—but elsewhere in the old ballpark time had stopped. A thin layer of dust covered the official playing rosterof the Milwaukee Braves on Mauch's office desk. Up above in the stadium itselfnew sod took hold in the infield, but the only sound was the eerie whistle thewind made as it squeezed through the louvres above the right-field wall. Thepainters completed the yearly task of trying to make the old seats look likenew. Out on the scoreboard the slogan, "Tote 'em Home Pennant"remained. When the sun got high enough it reflected off the eight tiny mirrorsthe teen-agers had cast over the sides of the stands onto the outfield grasslike worthless coins on the day of that final home game.
This week at JackRussell Stadium in Clearwater, Unk Henry, the silver-haired clubhouse man, isstanding in his shiny nylon Phillie jacket in the clubhouse under the stands.He has unpacked the 18 big red equipment trunks and the whirlpool bath, and heis ready for another season.
"When we cameback to Philly the night after our last game in Cincinnati," Unk Henry saidreflectively a few weeks ago, "there were 10,000 people waiting just tocheer us, to thank us for giving them the thrills. I've thought the wholeseason over, and the slump. Well, every spring we have a new chance. This teamstill has pep and fight and talent, and it believes in itself even now. Wecan't wait for this season to get started."