Tag Archives: Bob Carpenter

Philography: Edith Houghton

 

By Unknown - Original source: Philadelphia Record, 1946Image provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from the Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/7202: Edith Houghton (DAMS 7714), Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue [V07], Historical Society of PennsylvaniaPublished in the Philadelphia Record ca.1946, when she was hired as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies; copyright of the newspaper was not renewed for 1946; nor is there a copyright renewal for any photograph listed using the name Edith Houghton, or described as a woman playing baseball, or naming any of the teams she played on, on or before 1946. Renewal records were checked from 1950 to 1975. This image is therefore believed to be in the public domain in the U.S.A., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48171291 Edith Houghton, baseball’s first female scout

The Phillies have a rich historical tradition that includes being the North American pro sports franchise with the longest-running, continuous use full name (Philadelphia Phillies), the losingest franchise in Major League Baseball history, and the first team to wear pinstripe uniforms.

On February 15th, 1946 the Phillies added to that historical legacy by hiring the first solo female scout, in fact one of the very first female game-related employees, in the history of baseball.

Edith Houghton was a native of the city, born and raised in North Philly into a typically large family at the time, the youngest of ten children. Her father had been a semi-pro ballplayer, and began to teach young Edith the game as a child.

As Shawn Selby wrote in his piece that appeared with SABR, “She would play games with neighborhood kids whenever she had the chance and from her parents’ bedroom window on the second floor she would watch night games on the field outside her house.”

“So enamored with baseball was she that by the time she was 8 she was the on-field mascot for the local police league teams,” wrote Selby. “The job even allowed her to sit next to the mayor at games from time to time. At 9, young Edith was already doing hitting and fielding displays on the field before games.

As she came to adolescence in the 1920’s, young Houghton wasn’t much into dolls and dresses like most girls her age. No, that pre-pubescent Houghton was a tomboy, and her first love was that game taught to her by her father – baseball.

She didn’t just love the game, she was very good at it, so good that she was able to make the Philadelphia Bobbies women’s barnstorming factory team in 1922 when she was just 10 years old. The team was composed of girls in their teens and early-20’s, and Houghton became their starting shortstop.

Paul Vitello of the New York Times reported in 2013 that a Lancaster, PA newspaper wrote about Houghton during her first season as a player.

That piece had stated “Little Miss Houghton, 10-year-old phenom, covered the ground at shortstop for the team and made herself a favorite with fans for her splendid field work and at the bat.

In 1925 as a 13-year old, Houghton even got to tour Japan with the Bobbies, who were named after the popular women’s “bob” hairstyle of the day worn by all of the team’s players.

The website ‘Exploratorium Science‘ tells that she was nicknamed “The Kid”, and described her as being “so small that she had to tighten her cap with a safety pin and use a pen knife to punch new holes in the belt of her uniform pants.

The American women (and two men), almost all of whom were from Philly, played against Japanese men’s teams on their two-month tour.

For a young woman in 1925 to be playing baseball and going to Japan – well, that was pretty exciting,” recalled Houghton to a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2001, per a 2012 piece by Philly.com’s Vernon Clark.

That 2001 reporter was Frank Fitzpatrick, who wrote a nice piece on Houghton, the team, and that Japanese trip (available at this link.)

In his piece, Houghton commented on being so young, and being around women all older than her: “All of the girls were older than I was,” Houghton told Fitzpatrick. “So when they wanted to smoke and drink, they didn’t do it in front of me.

The Selby piece linked earlier here also has wonderful descriptive information on that Japan tour, including that Japanese newspaper accounts had even noted her abilities:

Houghton was singled out for special praise when, in a game against the Nippon Dental College team, she caught a baserunner napping by using “the famous Hans Wagner ‘hidden ball’ stunt.

On the team’s return, Houghton signed with the top female team in the country at the time, the New York Bloomer Girls, for whom she would play for six seasons taking her through her high school years at Philly’s Girl’s High.

She then joined up with the Hollywood Girls, a team from Boston that played exhibitions against semi-pro men’s teams.

Houghton joined the United States Navy WAVES all-female division in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II.

The New York Times reports that she worked as a Navy supply manager, while also playing baseball with Navy-sponsored women’s teams.

After the war, Houghton returned to Philadelphia and was working for a hardware store chain when she learned that the Phillies, her favorite team and one of the worst teams in baseball for decades, was looking to hire scouts.

Houghton approached Phils’ owner Bob Carpenter and made her pitch. The Phillies’ owner quickly hired her, making her the first female scout in pro baseball history.

As Selby wrote, the typically skeptical Philly newspapers were not impressed with what many saw as a cheap publicity stunt:

In a clever turn of phrase, one paper explained that since the Phillies had often played like a bunch of Girl Scouts, they might as well take the drastic step of hiring a girl scout in a bid to get out of the basement of the National League.”

Houghton was not the first-ever female employed in a scouting position. The Chicago White Sox employed Bessie Largent during the 1920’s and 1930’s in that role.

However, Largent was signed only as part of a tandem team with her husband, Roy, and thus Houghton is widely recognized as the true trailblazer in this position.

Houghton would scout hundreds, perhaps thousands, of aspiring ball players over the next half-dozen years, signing 16 players to professional contracts with the Phillies organization.

Unfortunately, none of those players went on to reach the big leagues, though two reached what was known then as the ‘Class B’ level.

In late 1951, Houghton had to leave the organization when the Navy called her back up to active duty in Korea.

She would then remain in service with the Navy through the Korean War and on into Vietnam in the early-60’s, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer before leaving military service in 1964 at age 52 and retiring to live in Sarasota, Florida.

Houghton largely dropped out of public sight at that point. She is not known to have ever married or had children

On February 2nd, 2013, Houghton passed away just eight days before her 101st birthday.

There is a nice audio interview with Houghton by exploratorium.edu available here.

Women have remained a rarity in professional baseball, though they have reached higher ranks in the game than in Houghton’s pioneering days.

The best recent example is Kim Ng, former Los Angeles Dodgers assistant general manager. She is currently MLB’s Senior VP for Baseball Operations. Many believe Ng will one day become the first female to lead a Major League Baseball organization. All it takes is one owner with vision, just as Carpenter had in hiring Houghton.

The terrible trade of Jack Sanford

In 1957, starting pitcher Jack Sanford was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia Phillies. Just over a year later, Sanford was traded to the San Francisco Giants.

It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies franchise history. So how and why did this happen? You have to look at the details to understand the Phillies thought process at the time. That process turned out to be wrong. But was it forseeable by the team decision makers of the day?

Let’s start with Sanford himself. Signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in 1948 as a 19-year old, he began that year with a miserable 3-15 record and 7.20 ERA in 140 innings at the lowest level of the team’s minor league system.

Sanford survived that rough introduction to pro ball, and in 1949 bounced back to go 15-9 with a 4.39 ERA. The following year, while the ‘Whiz Kids’ were winning the NL Pennant, Sanford began to make a name for himself by going 12-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

From 1949-54, a 6-season period in which he aged from 20-25, Sanford went a combined 80-59. He broke the 200 innings pitched level in 4 of those 6 seasons. But he wasn’t given a shot at the Majors.

The biggest problems for the flame-throwing Sanford both involved the same basic issue: discipline. He was known for having a quick temper on the field, and he was also wild. In 4 of the 6 seasons from 1949-54, Sanford walked more than 100 hitters each season.

A 1955 stint in the US Army cost him a full season on the mound, but did wonders for both his personal and professional discipline issues. He returned in time to get a handful of late 1956 innings up with the Phillies, walking 13 in his 13 innings. But he showed enough to be in the mix come the following spring.

In 1957, Sanford not only made the Phillies roster, he put up an epic season. In his first full season at age 28, Sanford went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA. He allowed just 194 hits in 236.2 workhorse innings. He did walk 94 batters, but he also struck out 188.

For this strong performance, Jack Sanford made the NL All-Star team, and then at season’s end was named as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. He even finished in 10th place in NL MVP balloting.

But then in 1958, Sanford slipped back a bit. He went 10-13, and his ERA rose to the 4.44 mark. His strikeouts dropped to a mere 106, and he allowed more hits than innings pitched, making his 81 walks less tolerable.

The Phillies feared that the pitcher, who was about to turn 30 years old, may have been a flash-in-the-pan during his rookie campaign. Hoping to grab some value for him while it existed, GM Bob Carpenter crafted the trade with the Giants.

Jack Sanford trade one of worst in Phils history
Former Phillies GM Bob Carpenter

In exchange for Sanford, the Phillies received righty starting pitcher Ruben Gomez and backup catcher Valmy Thomas.

Gomez had gone 71-72 and thrown over 1,253 innings across 6 seasons with the Giants.

While not a hard thrower, Gomez didn’t beat himself. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and didn’t have Sanford’s wildness problems.

It seemed like a good deal for the Phillies. They got a guy with a more reliable track record with a longer history of success in exchange for a wild thrower with a temper who appeared might be a one-year wonder.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, to say that it didn’t work out would be an understatement. Over parts of 4 more seasons spread out over a 9 year period, Gomez would pitch just over 200 more total innings.

Thomas lasted just one season as the backup catcher in Philly, and retired after the 1961 season.

Meanwhile, from 1959-63, Sanford would produce an 80-55 record for the Giants, pitching more than 1,200 innings. In all five of those seasons, Sanford pitched more innings than would Gomez pitch in total for the rest of his post-trade career.

In 1962 alone, Sanford went 24-7 with a 3.43 ERA and tossed 265.1 innings, coming in 2nd in NL Cy Young Award voting and 7th in NL MVP balloting. He won 15 games in 1959, 16 in 1963, and made 36 or more starts in each of the 1959-63 seasons.

Finally slipping at age 36 in 1966, Sanford was sold to the California Angels, who transitioned him to a bullpen role. In this new role, Jack Sanford would hang on for a couple more years, even receiving AL MVP votes in 1967.

Sanford finally retired following the 1967 season. He had pitched a dozen years, 9 full seasons after the trade. After leaving Philly he pitched over 1,600 innings and won 107 games.

Why are we visiting with the memory of Jack Sanford and this awful trade for the Phillies? Because today is the trade’s 56th anniversary. The deal which GM Carpenter would call “the worst trade I ever made” went down on this very date in 1958.

Philography: Dick Allen

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Allen starred with the Phillies in the 1960’s, returned in the mid-70’s, and became a Wall of Famer

Dick Allen belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Let’s get that out of the way with right off the bat. I’m one of them, the growing list of supporters for this man to be enshrined there as a player.

He is a finalist on the ‘Golden Era’ ballot, which selects an old-timer once every three years. The results for that slot will be announced in a little over a week from now.

Allen was born on March 8th, 1942 in the middle of World War II out in Wampum, Pennsylvania, a tiny borough less than an hour from Pittsburgh, not far from the west-central state line.

Raised in a rural part of the state, Allen developed a love of horses early in life from his father. It would be a love that he would carry into and through adulthood, right up to the present day.

One of five boys raised in a mostly white town, he doesn’t remember much personal experience with prejudice, despite the 1950’s still being a time of segregation in much of the country.
Allen and his brothers were tremendous athletes, helping their local school sports programs become regional powers, which went a long way towards their being accepted.

Dick and his brothers were especially talented as basketball players, and two of those brothers, Hank and Ron, would each earn college basketball scholarships before eventually turning to baseball and each briefly reaching the Majors themselves.

Dick became a baseball fan and player after watching some of the top Negro League games and players in his early years as a boy, and then following the career of the great Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, his first real baseball idol.

After an aggressive push by one of their scouts, Allen signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, but almost immediately had problems with the organization when they decided, without his input, to begin referring to him in official organizational materials as “Richie” Allen.

His own pro baseball career would begin at just age 18, with Elmira in the NY-Penn League, and over the next couple of years his prodigious power allowed him to quickly rise through the Phils minor league system. In 1963, after a salary power play with Phils GM John Quinn failed, Allen was shipped to Arkansas for another year in the minors, and here he was subjected to his first real taste of extended racism from fans.

After destroying minor league pitching for 33 homeruns in that 1963 season, Allen eventually won over many of the fans who had begun the year vilifying him. He finally got the call up to the big club in September of that year. Playing in parts of 10 games, he got to experience being a part of the best Phillies team in a decade. The club finished that year with 87 wins, good for 4th place in the National League.

The 1964 season dawned with great optimism in Philadelphia. The Phils had already shown they were becoming competitive the previous year, and now would be adding the mega-hyped rookie Allen for a full season for the first time. His powerful presence in the lineup was felt immediately.

In that ’64 campaign, Allen produced a season that would result in his being named the NL Rookie of the Year. He also would come in 7th in the NL MVP voting for a season in which he hit .318 with a .382 on-base percentage, crushed 29 homers, 38 doubles, knocked in 91 runs, and scored 125 runs.

Unfortunately, that 1964 season is largely remembered in Philadelphia for the historic losing skid by the team at the end of the year. Holding a 6 1/2 game lead in the NL Pennant race with just 10 games remaining, the Phils blew it all. The collapse was no fault of Allen’s, however. He hit .442 with 3 homers, 12 runs, and 11 rbi in those final 10 games. But it wasn’t enough to halt the team’s unforgettable collapse.

Over the next three seasons, Allen continued to develop his game, becoming one of the most domainant and feared hitters in all of baseball. He was an NL All-Star each season from 1965-67. He received MVP votes each of those years as well, finishing as high as 4th in the 1966 balloting.

Allen tailed off a bit in 1968 and ’69, likely still recovering from a freak career-threatening hand injury that ended his 1967 season early. He had hurt the hand while fixing his car one day. Still, his power remained, and he topped the 30 homerun mark in each year.

In his first 6+ seasons in a Phillies uniform, from his September callup in ’63 through the 1969 season, Allen hit for an even .300 batting average with a .380 on-base percentage. He had 966 hits, 177 homeruns, 544 rbi, and 591 runs. And he was just entering his prime years, as the 1970 season would see him turn 28 years old.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, he wouldn’t play any of his prime here in the City of Brotherly Love. Following that near-miss campaign of 1964, the Phillies did not contend again. From 1965-67 they continued to record winning records, but never finished higher than 4th.

In 1968, the club slid back to 76-86, the franchise’ first losing record in years. Many in the town’s fan base turned on it’s enigmatic slugger as a symbol of their frustrations, and frankly there was still an element of the team’s fan base that could be described as nothing less than racist in that late-60’s civil rights era.

Some of the fans in the left field bleachers at old Connie Mack Stadium took to throwing pennies, even batteries, at him. He began to wear a batting helmet in the field, a practice that would follow him throughout the rest of his career.

In 1969, Allen was off to a hot start, but then in June of that season he was suspended by new manager Bob Skinner for showing up late to a game. For Allen, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. During his down time, he had purchased horses for his growing stable on a farm in Bucks County. Happy to get away from the abusive fans and what he felt was some unfair treatment by the team, Allen told the Phillies that he wouldn’t return from suspension.

Fearful of losing a prized asset in the prime of his career at the peak of his trade value without compensation, GM Bob Carpenter talked Allen into returning with a promise that he would be traded at the end of the season. Allen returned, and while the team was pitiful, he finished out another strong individual season.

The trade came on October 7th, 1969 as the Phillies sent Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson to the Saint Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielders Curt Flood and Byron Browne, catcher Tim McCarver, and pitcher Joe Hoerner. But as with seemingly everything involving Allen at the time, even his trade would not come without major controversy.

These were the days before free agency, when baseball’s “reserve clause” was still in effect, basically binding players to a team unless they were traded. Flood wanted no parts of going to a losing situation in Philly, and balked at reporting. In the end, he would not only refuse the trade, he would take on all of baseball in fighting for the elimination of that reserve clause.

Though Flood’s fight would ultimately prove of major historical importance for all Major League Baseball players, it didn’t help the Phillies at all. The young outfielder was considered a key piece in the deal from their perspective. Saint Louis would ultimately send along Willie Montanez as compensation to complete the deal.

His stay in Saint Louis would prove short, just one season, but it was a highly productive season. Allen returned to his place among the game’s top stars. He was voted the starter at 1st base for the NL in the All-Star Game, his 4th All-Star appearance. He hit 34 homers and drove in 101 runs. And still, again there was controversy.

A series of late-season injuries, including a torn hamstring, ended his season early while the Cards were still in contention. It would prove to be a fatal blow for the team. But also, Allen chose to recover at his home near Philadelphia, rather than back in Saint Louis where the team could monitor him, a decision with which Cardinal management was not happy.

Almost immediately after the season concluded, the Cards dealt him away to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore and catcher Bob Stinson. The deal appeared to be a steal for LA, and Allen did indeed produce for the Dodgers, but it was again only a one year performance. In that one season out west, Allen hit .295, slugged 23 homers, knocked in 90 runs, and nearly led the Dodgers to an NL West crown.

Still, he was gone in the off-season, this time to the Chicago White Sox in a deal in which the Dodgers in return received a talented southpaw pitcher by the name of Tommy John. It would be Allen’s first time in the American League, and it would prove to be a perfect fit for player and franchise.

The AL West seemed up for grabs behind the Oakland A’s, who had become the team to beat in the division after winning the 1971 World Series. To challenge them in ’72, the Sox believed that Allen’s power was just what they needed. They were right, as Chicago battled Oakland all year, leading the race as late as late-August.

Though Oakland would eventually inch slowly away to an eventual 5 1/2 game division victory, the 2nd place 87-win season was a big step in the right direction for the Sox. The step forward was indeed led by Dick Allen. He was named the American League Most Valuable Player after hitting .308 and leading the AL in on-base percentage (.420), Walks (99), Homeruns (37) and RBI (113) in what was the first of 3 consecutive AL All-Star seasons.

The success would not repeat in 1973 due to injury. In late-June, Allen was in the midst of another big campaign when he broke his leg in a 1st base collision. At the time of the injury he was hitting .310 with 16 homers and 41 rbi, and he was voted to another All-Star Game appearance. He would only return for parts of 3 more games that year. The Sox, tied for first at the end of June, faded to a 5th place finish.

The 1974 season saw Allen return healthy, but also saw yet another controversy develop. Future Hall of Famer Ron Santo arrived from the cross-town Cubs. A Chicago baseball icon, Santo was basically playing out the final season of his career. A clubhouse power struggle ensued between the two, and by the end of the year, Allen confided that he was retiring. He left the team in mid-September and would not return.

Realizing that he was discontented, the Sox sought to get a return for their powerful 1st baseman while they could still get some value. He had shown that he still had that power with a 32 homer season in a 1974 during which he also hit .301 on the year. In December of ’74 they dealt him to the Atlanta Braves, but Allen remained retired and never played in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, back in his old Philly stomping grounds, the Fightin’ Phils were indeed beginning to fight their way back up the standings once again. Allen was courted by a number of current Phillies including Mike Schmidt, as well as old-timers such as Richie Ashburn and his former teammate Robin Roberts. They convinced him that things had changed in Philly, both on and off the field, and Allen relented to a return.

The Braves traded Allen’s rights to the Phils, and on May 14th, 1975, Dick Allen returned to the Philadelphia Phillies lineup for the first time in a half dozen years. He played 7 innings at 1st base that night at Veteran’s Stadium, going 1-3 with a single as the Phils shutout the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 behind a Steve Carlton complete game.

In that 1975 season, Allen helped the Phillies young sluggers Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in their development while providing a veteran slugging presence behind them in the batting order. He only hit a dozen homers, but drove in 62 runs in just 488 plate appearances.

The 1976 season opened with a ton of excitement around the team. They were expected to challenge the Pirates for the NL East crown, the All-Star Game would be held in Philly that year, and the nation would be celebrating it’s Bicentennial, with many of the important festivities centered in the city.

1976 would not play out as a healthy year for Allen. Two separate injuries at the end of April and the end of July cost him a month each time. Still, despite just 298 plate appearances, basically half a season, he managed to bomb 15 homers and drive in 49 runs. And the team did indeed finally win the NL East, setting a franchise record with 101 wins and pulling away in September to a 9-game victory in the division.

The 1976 playoffs would be the only postseason appearance of Allen’s career. The Phillies were matched up with the defending World Series champions, ‘The Big Red Machine’ era Cincinnati Reds. It would prove to be a quick knockout for the champs, as the Reds swept the Phils with 6-3, 6-2, and 7-6 wins. Allen went 2-9 with a run scored. It was mostly uneventful for the veteran slugger, except for his Game 2 error that led to the ultimate winning run.

That off-season, for the first time in his career, Dick Allen was a free agent. Unfortunately for him, it would not result in the kinds of big paydays that future free agents would enjoy. He was now 35-years old, clearly at the end of his career. Allen signed with the Oakland Athletics during Spring Training of 1977, but despite getting regular playing time through June, Allen was not happy.

Following a June 19th doubleheader in Chicago against the White Sox team for whom he had enjoyed success just a few years earlier, Allen retired. In his final at-bat, as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 7th inning, Allen struck out. In what was a more complete story to the goodbye, he had started the opener for the A’s at 1st base and gone 2-4.

Dick Allen retired having played in parts of 15 seasons. Just 11 of those were full seasons due to either youth, age, or injury. He had blasted 351 homeruns, drove in 1,119 runs and had a career .292 average. He had been the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, and the 1972 AL Most Valuable Player, as well as a 7-time All-Star.

Allen’s retirement years were difficult. He went through a divorce that included a major financial settlement against him, and then suffered further with a destructive fire at his home which also destroyed his horse stables. Having said he would never be a coach in the game, he would indeed return as a hitting instructor with both organizations for which he had his most career success, the White Sox and Phillies.

In retirement there have been few players whose Hall of Fame credentials have been more vigorously debated. Many of his detractors point to two main negatives: that he was a “clubhouse lawyer” type who sowed discord behind closed doors and caused friction that hurt his teams. Also, that he simply didn’t produce over a long enough period of time.

However, almost every major player and coach who was a part of Allen’s career has stepped forward to refute the claims of his negativity in the clubhouse, including two of the game’s greatest managers, Chuck Tanner and Gene Mauch. Among players, no less than the greatest 3rd baseman and greatest Phillie in history, Mike Schmidt, has called Allen a mentor.

A reasonable evaluation of the dominance of the numbers produced by Dick Allen, largely during that decade of the 1960’s that is universally regarded as having been historically dominated by pitching, is absolutely worthy of his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If there is any justice in this great game, in a little more than a week Dick Allen will get a phone call that is long overdue. That call will be one letting him know that he has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and that in the summer of 2015, he will finally get his long-deserved day in the Cooperstown sun