Philadelphia Phillies Tailgating
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Philadelphia Phillies Tailgating
The history of the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball‘s National League is a long and varied one. The Phillies are based inPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, and are a member of the National League East division. Since 2004, the team’s home has been Citizens Bank Park in the South Philadelphia section of the city. The franchise has won two World Series championships (against Kansas City in 1980 and Tampa Bay in 2008) and seven National League pennants. The franchise has also experienced long periods of struggle.
After replacing the Worcesters in 1883, the franchise made its first post-season appearance in 1915, losing to the Boston Red Sox in theWorld Series. The Phillies franchise also has the second-longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in American professional sports, sixteen straight from 1933 to 1948; the record stood until 2009, when it was broken by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After another National League pennant in 1950, the Phillies did not return to the post-season until 1976, beginning a period of extended success for the franchise. Compared to the team’s early days, the Phillies have recently been more successful than not, with two such periods: the first from 1975 to 1983, when they won five East Division championships as well as the first-half championship in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and the second starting in 2001, with a winning percentage of .534 in those eight seasons, finishing above .500 in all but one, and making the playoffs from 2007 through 2011.
In its 127-season history, the franchise has employed 51 managers and 10 general managers (GMs). Dallas Green and Charlie Manuel are the only Phillies managers to win a World Series: Green in 1980, and Manuel in 2008. Manuel is also the only Phillies manager to win two pennants, and on the last day of the 2011 regular season, surpassed Gene Mauch‘s 644-win record as the winningest manager in franchise history, taking two fewer seasons than Mauch to accomplish that feat. The longest-tenured general manager is Paul Owens, with 11 years of service to the team as the general manager, from 1972 to 1983. Owens also served as the team manager in 1972, and from 1983 to 1984.After this time, he served as a team executive until 2003, and was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in recognition of his services. The manager with the highest winning percentage over a full season or more was Arthur Irwin, whose .575 winning percentage is fourth on the all-time wins list for Phillies managers.
In 1883, sporting goods manufacturer Al Reach (a pioneering professional baseball player) and attorney John Rogers won an expansion National League franchise for Philadelphia, one of what are now known as the “Classic Eight” of the National League. They were awarded a spot in the league to replace theWorcester Brown Stockings, a franchise that had folded in 1882. The new team was nicknamed the “Quakers”, and immediately compiled a .173 winning percentage, which is still the worst in franchise history. Although many sources (including the Phillies themselves) claim that Reach and Rogers bought the Brown Stockings and moved them to Philadelphia, all available evidence suggests this is not the case. Significantly, no players from Worcester ended up with the 1883 Quakers.
In 1884, Harry Wright, the former manager of baseball’s first openly professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was recruited as manager in hopes of reversing the team’s fortunes. Also in 1884, the team changed its name to the “Philadelphias”, as it was common for baseball teams in that era to be named after their cities (for instance, the “Bostons” and “New Yorks”). However, as “Philadelphias” was somewhat hard to fit in newspaper headlines, some writers still continued to call them the “Quakers” while others began shortening the name to “Phillies.” At some point in the 1880s, the team accepted the shorter nickname “Phillies” as an official nickname. “Quakers” continued to be used interchangeably with “Phillies” until 1890, when the team officially became known as the “Phillies.” This name is the longest continually used nickname in professional sports by a team in the same city.
In 1887, they began play at the stadium eventually known as Baker Bowl. Despite a general improvement from their dismal beginnings, they never seriously contended for the title. The standout players of franchise in the era were Billy Hamilton, Sam Thompson, and Ed Delahanty, who in 1896 set the major-league record (since tied by several others) with 4 home runs in a single game.
Due to growing disagreements about the direction of the team, Reach sold his interest to Rogers in 1899.
Early 20th century
With the birth of the more lucrative American League in 1901, the Phillies saw many of their better players defect to the upstart, including a number of players who ended up playing for their crosstown rivals, the Athletics, owned by former Phillies minority owner Benjamin Shibe.
While their former teammates thrived (the AL’s first five batting champions were former Phillies), the remaining squad fared dismally, finishing 46 games out of first place in 1902—the first of three straight years finishing either seventh or eighth. To add tragedy to folly, a balcony collapsed during a game at the Baker Bowl in 1903, killing twelve and injuring hundreds. Rogers was forced to sell the Phillies to avoid being ruined by an avalanche of lawsuits.
The Phillies won their first pennant in 1915 thanks to the pitching of Grover Cleveland Alexander and the batting prowess of Gavvy Cravath, who set the major-league single-season record for home runs with 24. However, by 1917 Alexander had been traded away when owner William Baker refused to increase his salary. Baker was known for running the Phillies very cheaply; for instance, during much of his tenure there was only one scout in the entire organization.
The effect of the Alexander trade was immediate. In 1918, only three years after winning the pennant, the Phillies finished sixth, thirteen games under .500. It was the start of one of the longest streaks of futility in baseball history. From 1918 to 1948, the Phillies had only one winning record (78–76 in 1932), only finished higher than sixth twice, and were never a serious factor past June. During this stretch, they finished last a total of 17 times and next to last seven times. This saddled the franchise with a reputation for failure that dogged it for many years. For instance, a 1962 cartoon in a baseball magazine depicted a ballplayer arriving at a French Foreign Legion outpost, explaining, “I was released by the Phillies!”
The team’s primary stars during the 1920s and 1930s were outfielders Cy Williams, Lefty O’Doul, and Chuck Klein, who captured the vaunted Triple Crown in 1933. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s cozy Baker Bowl proved to be a fertile hitting ground for Phillies opponents as well, and in 1930, the team surrendered 1199 runs, a major-league record still standing today.
Baker died in 1930. He left half his estate to his wife and the other half to longtime team secretary Mae Mallen. Five years earlier, Mallen had married leather goods and shoe dealer Gerald Nugent. With the support of Baker’s widow, Nugent became team president. Baker’s widow died in 1932, leaving Nugent in complete control. Unlike Baker, Nugent badly wanted to build a winning team. However, he didn’t have the financial means to do so. He was forced to trade what little talent the team had to make ends meet, and often had to use some creative financial methods to even field a team at all.
One problem was Baker Bowl. Once considered one of the finest parks in baseball, it was not well maintained from the 1910s onward. For instance, until 1925 the Phillies used a flock of sheep to trim the grass. Fans were often showered with rust whenever one of Klein’s home runs hit girders. The entire right field grandstand collapsed in 1926, forcing the Phillies to move to the A’sShibe Park (five blocks west on Lehigh Avenue from Baker Bowl) for 1927.
For several years—particularly after Nugent took control of the team—the Phillies tried to move to Shibe Park on a permanent basis as tenants of the A’s. However, Baker Bowl’s owner, Charles W. Murphy, refused to let the Phillies out of their lease at first. He finally relented in 1938, and only then because the city threatened to condemn the dilapidated park. Despite the move, attendance rarely topped 3,000 a game.
The nadir came in 1941, when the Phillies finished with a ghastly 43–111 record, setting a franchise record for losses in a season. A year later, they needed an advance from the league just to go to spring training. Nugent realized he didn’t have enough money to operate the team in 1943, and put it up for sale. He found a willing buyer in minor-league executive Bill Veeck, who had the intention of stocking it with Negro League stars. Unfortunately for Veeck, when Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, an ardent segregationist, found out about it, he pressured National League president Ford Frickto have the league take over the Phillies. The story was initially challenged by a 1998 article in the Society for American Baseball Research‘s The National Pastime, arguing that Philadelphia’s black press made no mention of a sale to Veeck. However, in 2006, Jules Tygiel published an article in the 2006 edition of Baseball Research Journal which proved Veeck indeed planned to buy the Phillies. He expanded on it in an appendix, entitled “Did Bill Veeck Lie About His Plan to Purchase the ’43 Phillies?,” published in Paul Dickson’s biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. Joseph Thomas Moore wrote in his biography of Doby, “Bill Veeck planned to buy the Philadelphia Phillies with the as yet unannounced intention of breaking that color line.”
A week later, the league sold the Phillies to a wealthy lumber broker named William B. Cox. Nugent had begun phasing out “Phillies” in favor of “Phils” during the 1942 season, but Cox almost immediately restored “Phillies” to the team’s jerseys. For the first time in decades, the Phillies had an owner who was not only committed to building a winner, but had the financial resources to do so. He immediately poured some of his wealth into the team payroll. He also devoted significant resources to player development, including the farm system, for the first time in the history of the franchise. His efforts had an immediate impact. By July, they had won only four fewer games than they had in the previous season, and ultimately managed to get out of the National League cellar for the first time in five years in 1943. Although they were still a long way from contention, the Phillies’ long-suffering fans appreciated what Cox was trying to do; attendance rose for the first time in nearly 30 years.
However, Cox was a very hands-on owner. When manager Bucky Harris objected to Cox’s interference, Cox fired him. Harris was still simmering the next day, and dropped a bombshell to the Philadelphia press in his hotel room: he had evidence that Cox was placing bets on his own team. Cox initially claimed that the bets were made by his business associates. However, he eventually admitted to placing several small bets, not knowing it was against the rules. This made no difference to Landis, who banned Cox from baseball for life. Author Rich Westcott was quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying Cox knew “next to nothing about baseball. Otherwise, why would he have bet on the Phillies?” Soon afterward, Cox sold controlling interest in the Phillies to DuPont heir Robert R.M. Carpenter, who turned control over to his son, Bob, Jr.
Carpenter’s first act was to try to change the team’s name (and more importantly, its image as a chronic loser) to the “Blue Jays” after a city-wide vote on a new nickname. In announcing the change, Carpenter said “he had always admired the blue jay and its scrappy qualities.” However, “Phillies” continued to appear on the team’s jerseys, with a blue jay appearing on the sleeves. Students at Johns Hopkins University, whose teams are also known as the Blue Jays, vehemently protested Carpenter’s decision, claiming that the change dishonored their school due to the Phillies’ losing history. The nickname was quietly dropped in 1949.
On May 16, 1953, Curt Simmons pitched an almost-perfect game, when he retired 27 consecutive batters, after the Milwaukee Braves’ leadoff batter reached base in the first inning on a single.A year later, on May 13, 1954, Robin Roberts likewise pitched an almost-perfect game, when he retired 27 consecutive batters, after the Cincinnati Reds’ leadoff batter hit a home run in the first inning.
The Whiz Kids
Like Cox, Bob Carpenter, Jr. wasn’t afraid to spend the money it took to build a contender. He immediately started signing young players and invested even more money in the farm system. The Phillies quickly developed a solid core of young players, known as the “Whiz Kids“, that included future Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts. This coincided with the final collapse of the A’s. Philadelphia had been an “A’s town” for most of the first half of the 20th century. Even though the A’s had fielded teams as bad or worse than the Phillies for most of the time since the 1930s, the A’s continued to trounce the Phillies at the gate. However, a series of poor baseball and business decisions on the A’s part allowed the Phillies to win the hearts of Philadelphia’s long-suffering fans.
Things started coming together for the Phillies in 1949, when they rocketed up the standings to third place with an 81–73 record. Although the season had essentially been a two-team race between Brooklyn and St. Louis, it was still the Phillies’ first appearance in the first division in 31 years. It was also a fitting tribute to Bob Carpenter, Sr., who had died in June and left Bob, Jr. in full control of the team.
Although the Phillies led the National League standings for most of the 1950 season, a late-season tailspin (triggered by the loss of starting pitcher Curt Simmons to National Guard service) caused the team to lose the next eight of ten games. On the last day of the season, the Phillies hung onto a one-game lead when Dick Sisler’s dramatic tenth-inning, three-run home run against the Dodgers clinched the Phils’ first pennant in 35 years. In the World Series, exhausted from their late-season plunge and recipients of poor luck, the Phillies were swept by the New York Yankees in four straight games. Nonetheless, this appearance cemented the Phillies’ status as the city’s favorite team. In 1954, the Athletics moved to Kansas City, and sold Shibe Park (renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953) to the Phillies. Carpenter didn’t want to buy it, believing it would cost the Phillies more in the long run to own the park than it would renting it from the Athletics. For the past 16.5 years, the Phillies had paid the A’s ten cents’ rent for every person that came through the turnstiles at their games. However, no other facility in the Delaware Valley was suitable even for temporary use, so Carpenter reluctantly bought the park.
“Phold” of 1964
The Phillies remained competitive for most of the first half of the 1950s, only to sink back to mediocrity for most of the second half of the decade. However, during 1962 and 1963, the Phillies began to climb back to respectability. Throughout the 1964 season, they seemed destined to make it to the World Series, with excellent performances from players such as rookie third basemanDick Allen, starters Jim Bunning (obtained from the Detroit Tigers at the start of the season to shore up the pitching staff) and Chris Short, and star right fielder Johnny Callison. On Father’s Day, Bunning pitched a perfect game against the New York Mets, the first in Phillies history. TV Guide went to press with a World Series preview that featured a photo of Connie Mack Stadium. However, from a 6 1⁄2-game lead on the Cincinnati Reds with 12 games remaining in the season, Philadelphia collapsed in a 10-game losing streak (the first seven played at home). The crucial series came when the now second-place Phillies traveled to St. Louis to play the Cardinals after their losing home stand. They dropped the first game of the series to Bob Gibson by a 5–1 score, their eighth loss in a row, dropping them to third place. The Cardinals would sweep the three-game set and assume first place for good. The Phillies still had a chance to force an unprecedented three-way tie for first after the Cardinals dropped the first two games of their last season series to the New York Mets. However, the Cardinals won their last game of the season, leaving the Phillies tied with the Reds for second place—just one game out of first. The “Phold”, as it is known, is one of the most notable collapses in sports history.
By the late 1950s, Carpenter decided that the Phillies needed a new home. As mentioned above, he never wanted to buy Connie Mack Stadium in the first place, and was now convinced there was no way he could make money playing there. The stadium didn’t have nearly enough parking, and the neighborhood around it had already gone to seed. To that end, he sold the park toPhiladelphia Eagles owner Jerry Wolman in 1964, taking a million-dollar loss on his purchase of just 10 years earlier. The Phillies remained at the old stadium until 1970. In the last game played there, the Phillies avoided last place by beating the Expos 2–1.
The Phillies opened the new Veterans Stadium in 1971, with hopes of a new beginning. In their first season there, pitcher Rick Wise hurled a no-hitter. On September 18, 1971, Wise pitched another near-perfect game, in which he gave up a home run to the Chicago Cubs’ leadoff batter in the second inning, but then did not allow another baserunner until the 12th inning, with two outs. He had been perfect for 10 2⁄3 retiring 32 consecutive batters—the record for most consecutive outs in a game by a winning pitcher. That same season, Harry Kalas joined the Phillies broadcasting team. In 1972, the Phillies were the worst team in baseball, but newly acquired Steve Carlton won nearly half their games (27 of 59 team wins). In that same year, Bob Carpenter retired and passed the team ownership to his son Ruly.
By 1974, the Phillies began their quest for a championship that would be theirs 6 years later. That year second baseman Dave Cash coined the phrase “Yes We Can” for the Phils. Indeed, for a while, it looked as if they could. They led the division for 51 days; however, in August and September, the Phillies went 25–32 and it was “No They Couldn’t”.
The Phillies achieved some success in the mid-1970s. With such players as Carlton, third baseman Mike Schmidt, shortstop Larry Bowa, and outfielder Greg Luzinski, the Phillies won three straight division titles (1976–78). However, they fell short in the NLCS, against the Reds in 1976 and the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978. In 1979, the Phillies acquired Pete Rose, the spark that would put them over the top.
1980: First World Series championship
The Phils won the NL East in 1980, but to win the league championship, they would have to defeat the Astros. In a memorable NLCS, with 4 of the 5 games needing extra innings, they fell behind 2–1 but battled back to squeeze past the Houston Astros on a tenth-inning game-winning hit by center fielder Garry Maddox, and the city celebrated its first pennant in 30 years. The entire series saw only one home run hit, a game-winning two-run home run by Phillies slugger Greg Luzinski in the Phillies’ opening 3–1 win in Game 1 at Philadelphia.
Facing Kansas City in the 1980 World Series, the Phillies won their first world championship in 6 games, thanks to the timely hitting of Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose. Schmidt, who was the NL MVP for the 1980 season, also won the World Series MVP finals award on the strength of his 8 for 21 hitting (.381 average), including game-winning hits in Game 2 and the clinching Game 6. Thus, the Phillies became the last of the 16 teams that made up the major leagues from 1901 to 1960 to win a World Series. By comparison, the other 15 teams had each appeared in at least three World Series and won it at least once.
During the early 1980s, when baseball was becoming more drug-conscious, several Philadelphia players admitted to having used amphetamines from time to time. A memorable Philadelphia Daily News headline dubbed the team “The Pillies”.
The team made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season losing to Montreal in the special pre-LCS playoff series. After the 1981 season Ruly Carpenter, dissatisfied with changes in baseball’s labor environment, sold the team to a group of investors led by team executives Bill Giles and David Montgomery for $32.5 million—a handsome return on his grandfather’s $400,000 investment 38 years earlier.
The 1983 season was the Phillies’ centennial year. On September 28, they defeated the Chicago Cubs, 13–6, at Wrigley Field. This victory gave the Phillies the National League East Division championship. It was also the 7,000th win in team history.
The Phillies struggled for most of the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s. Aside from a distant second-place finish in 1986 (21 1⁄2 games behind the Mets), they were not a serious factor in a pennant race for the rest of the decade. During this stretch, the 1984 team was the only other one that even managed to get to the .500 mark. During this time, the Phillies often struggled to attract more than 25,000 people to Veterans Stadium, the biggest in the National League at the time (at over 62,000 people). Even crowds of 40,000 were swallowed up by the cavernous environment.
One factor in the Phillies’ decline was the acquisition of Iván DeJesús from the Cubs in return for Bowa and a young prospect named Ryne Sandberg. Although the trade is now reckoned as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, it may have made some sense at the time from the Phillies’ perspective. Although Sandberg had clearly earned a spot in the majors (he’d hit .290 in the minors for two years in a row), the Phillies didn’t think they had a position for him. He’d seen time in the minors at shortstop, second base, third base and center field—spots held by Bowa,Manny Trillo, Schmidt and Maddox, respectively. Nonetheless, the Phillies didn’t get nearly enough in return. DeJesus only batted .249 in three years with the Phillies, and was out of baseball by 1988. Meanwhile, Sandberg went on to a Hall of Fame career.
On August 15, 1990, Terry Mulholland lost a perfect game in the seventh inning when a San Francisco Giants’ batter reached base on a throwing error. The next batter grounded into a double play. Thus, Mulholland faced the perfect-game maximum of 27 batters, but did not qualify for a perfect game. He was credited, however, with a no-hitter.
The 1992 season would end with the Phillies at the bottom of the barrel, at last place in the National League East. However, their fortunes were about to change.
1993: Fifth National League championship
The 1993 Phillies were led by stars such as Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Curt Schilling. The team was often described as “shaggy”, “unkempt”, and “dirty.” This team was known as a bunch of throw back, whatever it takes kind of players. The previous year, noting the presence of the clean-cut Dale Murphy, Kruk himself described the team as “24 morons and one Mormon” or a bunch of idiots and Murph. Their character endeared them to fans, and attendance reached a record high the following season. As a play on the legendary 1927 New York Yankees‘ Murderers’ Row, the team’s dirty,mullet-wearing look was dubbed “Macho Row.” To the surprise of their city and the nation, the Phillies powered their way to a 97–65 record and an East division title, all thanks to a big April in which the Fightin’s went 17–5.
The Phillies’ major contributors on offense were OF Lenny Dykstra, 1B John Kruk, SS Kevin Stocker (a rookie who led the team in batting average, hitting .324), and OF Jim Eisenreich, all of whom hit over .300 for the season. Their pitching staff was led by 16-game winners Curt Schilling and Tommy Greene. Each member of the rotation posted at least 10 wins, while the bullpen was led by elder statesman Larry Andersen and closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, who notched 43 saves and a 3.34 ERA.
The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves (the two-time defending National League champions) in the 1993 National League Championship Series, four games to two, to earn the fifth pennant in franchise history. They faced the defending world champion Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. Philadelphia lost the Series in six games, with Toronto’s Joe Carter hitting a walk-off three-run home run off of Mitch Williams in Game 6, to win a second consecutive championship for the Blue Jays. Following that loss, Williams was the subject of death threats and other hostile reaction from some irate Phillies’ fans; he left for the Astros.
With the 1994 players’ strike, most of the Phillies’ fan base was greatly offended, and afterward, the team had little success either on the field or at the gate for a decade. Both were negatively affected by the realignment of the Atlanta Braves into the National League East in 1994, as the Braves won the division every year until 2006, often by wide margins. Despite the relative lack of success, many current baseball stars rose to prominence during this era in Phillies history, including Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu, Randy Wolf, Plácido Polanco, and perhaps most notably Schilling. In addition, the nucleus of the 2008 World Series-winning club (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers, and Cole Hamels) was developed during this era.
Former Phillie Larry Bowa was hired as manager for the 2001 season, and led the Phillies to an 86–76 record, their first winning season since the 1993 World Series year. They spent most of the first half of the season in first place, and traded first place with the Braves for most of the second half. In the end, they finished two games out of first, the Braves’ tightest division race in years. Bowa was named National League Manager of the Year. The Phillies continued to contend for the next few years under Bowa, with the only blemish being an 80–81 season in 2002.
This marker in the Citizens Bank Park parking lot commemorates Veterans Stadium, the Phillies’ home for many years.
The following year, in their last season at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies were expected to contend for the World Series after adding such players asJim Thome, Kevin Millwood, and David Bell to go along with the emerging nucleus of Rollins, Burrell, Wolf, and Vicente Padilla. However, Burrell and Bell slumped miserably at the plate, and the Phillies’ inconsistent bullpen led to the team finishing 86–76 and in third place behind the Braves and eventual World Series-winning Florida Marlins.
The opening of the new Citizens Bank Park brought fans new hope, and the team was expected to win the NL East. However, they finished a distant second, and Bowa was fired with two games to go in the season.
Charlie Manuel took over as manager for 2005, and kept the Phillies in contention throughout the season; they were only eliminated from wild card contention on the next-to-last day. However, it was not enough to save the job of general manager Ed Wade; he was fired after his eighth season. Soon after, the Phillies hired Pat Gillick, who, ironically, was the general manager of the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays’ Championship teams. Despite another late-season disappointment, 2005 saw the Phillies core shift away from veterans such as Thome, Polanco, Abreu, and Wolf to younger home-grown stars such as Rollins, Utley, Brett Myers and Ryan Howard.
Continuing what he had begun in the off-season, Gillick engaged in a flurry of trades in an effort to transform the character of the team and to obtain financial flexibility for what he termed “retooling.” On July 26, 2006, the Phillies traded backup catcher Sal Fasano to the New York Yankees for minor league infielder Hector Made. Two days later, the Phillies traded third basemanDavid Bell, who was due to become a free agent during the off-season, to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league pitcher Wilfredo Laureano. Gillick did not stop there, making a deadline deal that sent outfielder Bobby Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle to the Yankees in exchange for Matt Smith, C.J. Henry, Carlos Monastrios, and Jesus Sanchez.
The team responded well to the changes. All-Star second baseman Chase Utley was free to bat third, and Ryan Howard batted cleanup; more importantly, they assumed a team leadership role along with shortstop Jimmy Rollins. On August 18, Gillick acquired veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Souderton, Pennsylvania, for the starting rotation. Immediately afterwards, and following a win over the Washington Nationals on August 29, the Phillies’ record stood at 66–65, trailing the San Diego Padres by a mere half game in the wild-card race. By September 24, the Phillies had captured and lost the wild-card lead and were tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers. With identical 82–74 records, both teams took to the road for the final six games, the Phillies to Washington and Florida, the Dodgers to Colorado and San Francisco. On September 30, both the Dodgers and Padres won their respective games and as a result, the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention while two games behind with only one left to play.
2007: 10,000 losses and an incredible regular-season finish
The special assistant to the general manager and long-time Phils coach, John Vukovich, died of brain cancer on March 8, 2007, and was honored on August 10, 2007 by the Phillies organization, which installed a plaque bearing Vukovich’s name and accomplishments on the “Wall of Fame” in the Ashburn Alley outfield concourse at Citizens Bank Park. For the 2007 season, the Phillies wore a black circular patch on their right uniform sleeves bearing the letters “VUK” in white.
The Phillies began the 2007 season with a 5–3 home loss on April 2 to the Atlanta Braves after 10 innings. After the first fifteen games, the Phillies limped to a 4–11 record, but then found a five-game winning streak to put them back into contention in the National League East. After 40 games, the Phillies finally reached the .500 mark at 20–20.
Heading into the All-Star break, the Phillies split their win/loss record at 44–44, hampered by the loss of starting pitchers Freddy García and Jon Lieber due to injuries that sidelined them for the remainder of the season. They found a bright spot in young pitcher Kyle Kendrick, who rose from the Phillies’ AA team in Reading, Pennsylvania to the Phils starting rotation in 2007.
Three Phillies were named to the 2007 All Star Game in San Francisco. Chase Utley was the starting second baseman for the National League squad and center fielder Aaron Rowand was named as a backup (his first All Star appearance). Starting pitcher Cole Hamels also appeared in his first All Star Game.
On July 15, 2007, the Phillies lost their 10,000th game, 10–2 to the St. Louis Cardinals on a nationally televised ESPN game. The Phillies became the first North American professional sports franchise to lose 10,000 games.
On September 21, Jimmy Rollins became the first player in major league history to collect 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 home runs, and 25 stolen bases in the same season. Rollins also became the 4th player to have at least 20 home runs, 20 triples, 20 doubles, and 20 stolen bases in a season on September 30, securing the feat on the last day of the season with a sixth inning RBI triple.
On September 12, the Phillies were seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East, and it appeared as if their division hopes were dashed. However, the Mets suffered an epic collapse on the likes of the “Phold of 1964”, going 4–11 over the next fifteen games while the Phillies parried with a strong 12–3 record. The Phillies had defeated the Mets in eight consecutive encounters (between July 1, 2007 and September 16, 2007) and ultimately overtook the Mets by one game on September 28. The Phillies fell back into a first-place tie the following day with a Mets win and a Phillies loss, with only one game remaining in the regular season to decide the champion of the National League Eastern Division.
The Mets would lose their final game of the season. Only minutes later, the Phillies defeated the Washington Nationals, clinching the division for the Phillies for the first time in 14 years. The Phillies won the final game behind 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, who in 1980 had skipped a day of high school to attend that year’s Phillies championship parade down Philadelphia’s Broad Street.
After their historic comeback, they were swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies after losing 2–1 in Game 3 on October 6, 2007. It was the first time since 1976 that the Phils were swept in a postseason series.
On November 20, 2007, Jimmy Rollins was named National League MVP, edging out Colorado Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday by 17 votes, making it one of the closest contests since the voting format was adopted in 1938. Along with Ryan Howard‘s 2006 win, they became the first baseball club with back-to-back MVP winners since the San Francisco Giants‘s Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
2007–08 offseason: Philly favorites
Even though their sweep from the playoffs was a disappointment, the Phillies started on their quest for October baseball in 2008 by trading OF Michael Bourn, RHP Geoff Geary, and 3B Michael Costanzo (since traded to the Baltimore Orioles) to the Houston Astros for RHP Brad Lidge and IF Eric Bruntlett. They also re-signed LHP J. C. Romero to a three-year deal, in addition to bringing back manager Charlie Manuel and the rest of the coaching staff.
The Phillies signed OF Geoff Jenkins to a two-year deal, to be the left-handed part of a platoon with right-handed OF Jayson Werth. They also signed OF So Taguchi to a one-year deal, as a pinch hitter/backup outfielder. With these new outfielders coming into town, the Phillies sold OF Chris Roberson to the Baltimore Orioles. Most recently, the Phillies acquired free-agent 3B Pedro Feliz, formerly of the San Francisco Giants, inking him to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. These additions relegated IF/OF Greg Dobbs to a utility role, where he excelled in the previous season as the team’s primary left-handed pinch hitter. On February 21, 2008 an arbitrator ruled in Ryan Howard‘s favor, giving him a $10 million salary for the 2008 season.
Major League Baseball’s website also named the Phillies as the favorites for the National League East championship for 2008. Meanwhile, in the wake of the 2007 season and Carlos Beltrán’s calling out of the 2008 Phillies’ team, the Mets–Phillies rivalry now stood as one of the most intense in baseball.
2008: A second World Series championship
Though the Phillies were named in some sources as the favorites to repeat as division champions, they did not get off to the blazing April start that many had hoped for. Still, they managed their first winning opening month since 2003, and only their fourth since their last World Series appearance. With a batting average of .360 and his MLB-leading 11 home runs, Chase Utley paced the team’s offense, followed closely by a resurgent Pat Burrelland his 25 runs batted in. Though team speed was hampered by the loss of Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins to the disabled list, the latter for the first time in his career, the Phillies still pushed forward to a 15–13 record. The pitching rotation was led by ace Cole Hamels, who led the team in wins (3), ERA (2.70), and innings pitched (43 1⁄3). Reliever J. C. Romero and new closer Brad Lidge both went the entire month without sacrificing a single run, over 12 1⁄2 and 11 innings respectively.
Though several fill-in players, including Brad Harman and T.J. Bohn, substituted nicely during Victorino’s and Rollins’ absence, perhaps none was more valuable to the team during the month of May than Jayson Werth. Expected to be primarily a platoon player coming into the season, Werth showed flashes of the form that once made him such a highly regarded prospect with the Dodgers. While Utley’s bat cooled, Werth had a game with three home runs and stole four bases in the month. Unfortunately, as Rollins and Victorino returned, Werth was lost to the disabled list. Ryan Howardbroke out of his early-season slump, hitting .245 in May, nearly an 80-point increase from his average in April, and slugging ten home runs. Hometown pitcher Jamie Moyer also became the sixth pitcher in Major League Baseball history to defeat all 30 teams in the league on May 26, in a 20–5 Phillies win over Colorado.
June was a tale of two halves for the Phillies, as they ended May and started June with a strong run of offense and excellent pitching. From May 26 to June 13, the Phillies posted a 14–4 record, starting their run with a 15–6 win over the Astros and ending with a 20–2 win over the Cardinals. However, the offense took a downturn as the Phillies pitchers began to sacrifice more runs in the latter part of the month. The Phillies went 3–11 over the remainder of June, with the pitchers allowing an average of 4.79 runs per game, to the offense’s 3.36 runs scored per game. This was punctuated by a season-high 6-game losing streak. The poor records coincided with the Phillies’ stretch of interleague play for 2008, as they were swept by the Angels, and lost their series with the Red Sox, A’s, and Rangers, in addition to dropping two NL series against the Cardinals and Marlins. While Hamels andKyle Kendrick each managed to post a 3–1 record in the rotation, the other starters (Moyer, Adam Eaton, and Brett Myers) were not so lucky. Myers’ poor performance received arguably the most scrutiny, based on management’s decision to move him back to the rotation from the bullpen after the 2007 season. Myers would eventually accept a demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley to work on his confidence and mechanics.
July began with the announcement that Chase Utley and Brad Lidge would represent the team at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game,with Utley garnering the most votes of all National League players. The Phillies went 8–4 in July before the All-Star break, compiling a four-game win streak, a four-game losing streak, and winning four of their last five. In a move to bolster their starting rotation in preparation for the pennant race, the Phillies traded three minor league players, including second baseman Adrian Cardenas, pitcher Josh Outman, and outfielder Matthew Spencer to the Athletics for starting pitcher Joe Blanton on July 17.
On September 27, the Phillies clinched the National League East for the second year in a row, once again helped by a late September slump from theNew York Mets. The Phillies redeemed their previous year’s playoff performance by winning the NLDS three games to one against the Brewers, and they defeated the Dodgers in Los Angeles as well, 4–1. As the National League champions, the Phillies advanced to the 2008 World Series to play the Tampa Bay Rays. After a power outage by the offense in which they went 1 for 33 with runners in scoring position and the first-ever suspended postseason game in World Series history in game five, the Phillies rode their pitching rotation to a 4–1 victory in the Fall Classic; Hamels was named the series MVP for both the NLCS and the World Series.
2009: Two straight Series appearances
The Phillies posted a second consecutive winning April to open the season with an 11–9 record, but the month was marred by the death of legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas. After opening the month of May against the rival New York Mets, the Phillies met President Barack Obama to celebrate their World Series victory the previous season, and had two rookie pitchers win consecutive starts for the first time since 2007. Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer earned his 250th career win during the month, while first baseman Ryan Howard and outfielder Raúl Ibáñez became the first Phillies teammates to hit 10 home runs in the same month. Echoing their strong run in the middle of the 2008 season, the Phillies compiled a 16–4 record in late May and early June, which was countered by weakness during interleague play in late June.
After the team’s largest victory of the season (22–1 over the Cincinnati Reds) in early July, five Phillies—Howard, Ibáñez, second baseman Chase Utley, and outfielders Shane Victorino andJayson Werth—were selected to the All-Star team. July was the team’s best showing of the season, as they compiled their first 20-win month since the 2001 season. The Phillies traded for starting pitcher Cliff Lee at the end of the month to bolster their starting rotation, who won his first five starts with the team, and signed free-agent pitcher Pedro Martínez. In August, Eric Bruntlettturned the first game-ending unassisted triple play in National League history, and the only the second unassisted triple play in team history. The following month, the team clinched its third consecutive division championship on September 30, becoming the first Phillies team to make a third straight playoff appearance since the 1976–1978 Phillies.
Philadelphia defeated the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series (NLDS), 3–1, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the second consecutive year, 4–1. Howard was named the most valuable player of the NLCS. The Phillies were defeated by the Yankees in the World Series, four games to two.
On December 9, Chase Utley was named by Sports Illustrated as the second baseman on its MLB All-Decade Team.
2010: Fourth consecutive NL East title
One of the highlights of the season occurred on May 29, when Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game, the second in franchise history.
The Phillies finished with a 97–65 record, the best record in major league baseball. In the NLDS, they swept the Cincinnati Reds, 3–0. In Game 1, Halladay’s first career postseason start, he hurled a no-hitter, giving up only one walk. It was only the second postseason no-hitter in Major League Baseball history, and the first since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. The Phillies lost the 2010 National League Championship Series, 4 games to 2, at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win their first World Series title since 1954, defeating the Texas Rangers.
Halladay was named the National League’s Cy Young Award winner.
2011: Fifth consecutive NL East title
In 2011, the Phillies amassed a starting pitching rotation that ESPN referred to as the “best rotation in major league history.” This rotation included Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. Blanton was sidelined with injury and was replaced with Vance Worley, a AAA pitcher from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who amassed an 11–3 record in the 2011 season. The Phillies won 14 consecutive games when Worley started, including games where he did not receive the decision.
On August 16, after a two-day delay because of inclement weather, the Phillies, led by Steve Carlton and Jimmy Rollins, and hosted by Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker, unveiled a 7 feet (210 cm) tall bronze statue of Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas in the left field side of the Ashburn Alley outfield concourse at Citizens Bank Park, between the Harry the K’s restaurant and the center field statue of Kalas’ best friend, Richie Ashburn. Privately commissioned and funded entirely by donations by fans, this statue shows Kalas standing cross-legged on top of ahome plate, with a microphone in his right hand, which is also on top of a baseball bat, which Kalas is leaning upon. A bronze plaque embedded in the concrete walkway at the foot of the statue carries the originally planned August 14 unveiling date.
The Phillies amassed a 102–60 record, the best in franchise history, and the best regular-season record in MLB in 2011. The previous record of 101–61 was set in both 1976 and 1977. Immediately after the Phillies clinched their division championship in mid-September, while playing several bench players and shuffling their batting order, they suffered an 8-game losing streak, becoming the first team in MLB history to lose 8 straight after winning their division and winning 98 games in a season.
The Phillies eliminated the Atlanta Braves from wild card contention on the last day of the regular season, sweeping a 3-game series against the Braves in Atlanta, erasing an 8 1⁄2 game lead that the Braves held in the wild card lead as of September 1, 2011. The St. Louis Cardinals caught and surpassed the Braves on the last game of the season, and faced the Phillies in the 2011 National League Division Series, which was tied at 2 games apiece as of October 6, 2011. The Phillies lost the deciding Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park the next night. The Cardinals went on to win their eleventh World Series title (most in the National League), defeating the Texas Rangers.
2012: Fall from grace
During the season, the Phillies put up a sub-par performance during the early and middle months of the season, and fell into last place for much of the season. The Phillies traded away Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Hunter Pence during August, as team management did not see the possibility of reaching the post-season.
In August, not long after the trades, the Phillies caught fire, and finished with an 81–81 record, after being 14 games below .500 at mid-season. The Phillies finished in 3rd place in the NL East, 17 games behind the Washington Nationals and 13 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who went on to win one of the wild card spots. The Phillies finished 7 games out of contention for the wild card.