Tag Archives: Eddie Sawyer

Ryne Sandberg Resigns: What Next for Phillies?

This is a difficult day, a challenging day, and a tough day for myself. But I am stepping down as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
With that fairly simple, straight-forward statement, Ryne Sandberg resigned his position as the skipper of the Phillies. 
He leaves the team having guided them to an overall 119-149 record in one full and parts of two other seasons.
Sandberg took over for previous manager Charlie Manuel in August of 2013, leading the club to a 20-22 record down the stretch of what became their first losing season in a decade. 
In his only full season a year ago, Sandberg’s club went 73-89 and finished in last place in the NL East.
At the time of the resignation, Sandberg and the Phillies were 26-48 and buried in last place once again in the NL East. 
For the immediate future, such as the weekend series beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils will be led by Pete Mackanin, who was named the interim manager.
You have already seen many writers and media types step forward with their take on Sandberg’s job performance, his approach, and the timing of this turn of events, some critical and some more supportive. 
My own take is that Sandberg was dealt a bad hand, and he played that bad hand poorly.
That said, I would caution anyone, and I have seen this opinion voiced, who thinks that Ryne Sandberg won’t ever get another shot at a managerial job in Major League Baseball. 
Not only do I think that Sandberg could get a job, but I think there is a good chance that he will get a shot, and he just may succeed.
All Phillies fans have to do if considering why I feel this way is look into our franchise own somewhat recent past, remember a guy who fans were happy to see go by the name of Terry Francona
Tito managed the Phillies from 1997-2000, compiling a 285-363 record for a .440 win-loss percentage that was nearly as bad as the .428 managed by Sandberg.
We all know what happened after that. Francona took over the Boston Red Sox four years later. 
In his very first season at the helm, he guided Boston to their first World Series victory in 86 years. In 2007, Francona was at the helm as the Bosox then won yet another World Series crown.
From 2004 through last season, Terry Francona has managed in MLB with Boston and Cleveland in 10 of the last 11 years. He has yet to record a losing season, and his all-time managerial record now stands at 1239-1100, including those awful early Phillies clubs.
Ryne Sandberg was not only a player in the big leagues, like Francona, but even more, Sandberg was one of the best all-around players of his generation. He has been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and is considered one of the greatest 2nd basemen of all-time.
He earned industry-wide praise when, wanting to manage following his playing career, Sandberg was willing to go down to the minor leagues and learn his craft. He earned his shot at the Phillies job with hard work and success there.
In six minor league seasons, his clubs went a combined 512-498. His first season team, the Peoria club in the Cubs system, went to the Midwest League title game. 
In 2010, Sandberg was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year after an 82-62 season.
Hired by the Phillies as skipper at AAA Lehigh Valley, Sandberg guided that club to its first-ever postseason appearance in 2011, and was named as the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. 
In short, after a Hall of Fame playing career, Sandberg paid his dues as a minor league manager where he was extremely successful. Clearly, there is something there.
Sandberg also highlighted during his resignation press conference that he saw himself as “old school” in style. Perhaps that style simply doesn’t mesh well with today’s professional athletes, almost all of whom are making multiple millions of dollars each season.
This particular Phillies clubhouse has been noted by many in the media as leaderless, from a players perspective. It is never a good thing when the locker room has no voice willing to stand up as a peer and call players to accountability.
Much of the problem with these Phillies is that they are either aging, or limited, or injured. But whatever their individual circumstances, the vast majority are not self-motivators. The proof is in the results.
Sandberg did not help his own case, making a number of baffling moves, both in-game and in lineup decisions. He may have had good reasons for making those decisions, but if so, he rarely was able to communicate those in his post-game pressers. 
The fact may simply be one of inexperience in this position, and that he was overwhelmed by this particular job at this particular time.
Sawyer
I’m 49, and I want to live to be 50.” ~ Sawyer, the last Phils skipper to resign in 1960.
That Sandberg was unable to motivate this particular group may not necessarily mean that he cannot motivate any group at all. 
Remember, this team was left for dead before it ever got out of the starting gates. Everyone inside and outside that clubhouse expected them to lose, probably big, and to see a number of key veterans traded away.
The longer the losing has droned on, and the longer that the situation with players having to live with constant trade rumors over their heads has dragged on, the more the morale seems to have deteriorated.
I’m 49, and I want to live to be 50.” 
That was the statement made by the last Phillies manager to resign. That manager was Eddie Sawyer, all the way back in 1960. So this has not happened for over a half-century.
These Phillies have a lot of problems. The skipper was one of them, but he was not the only one, and he was far from the worst one. Those other problems remain, from the GM to the President to the players. 
Those other problems will need to be dealt with before this franchise can begin to seriously turn around, and regain the trust of its dwindling fan base.

Philography: Jim Konstanty

Based on physical appearance, Jim Konstanty is one of the least likely looking winners of the National League Most Valuable Player award. But for the incredible ‘Whiz Kids’ team of 1950, that is exactly what the Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher became.
The right-hander pitched in parts of 13 big league seasons, 7 of those in Philly. The story of this bespectacled young man’s rise from the western New York farmland to MLB All-Star and MVP is worth knowing by any true Phils fan.
His real full name was Casimir James Konstanty, and he was born towards the tail end of World War I in the western New York farm country, raised there not far from Buffalo. In 1939 he graduated from Syracuse University, where he played basketball from 1936-39. His degree was in Physical Education, and so he then went to work as a P.E. instructor.
In 1941, already aged 24, the newlywed Konstanty tried out for and made the roster of the unaffiliated Eastern League baseball team in Springfield, Illinois. He didn’t have a lot of success as a pitcher, but showed enough that he was given a chance the following season with the Cincinnati Reds AA farm team in Syracuse.
Over the next couple of seasons his pitching improved, and in 1944 he was called up to Cincinnati. He had a nice rookie season with the Reds at age 27, going 6-4 over 112.2 innings spread over 20 games, including 12 starts, with 5 complete games and a 2.80 ERA.
In 1945, Konstanty entered the U.S. Navy towards the end of World War II, and missed the entire baseball season as a result. Coming back in 1946, he was dealt prior to the season to the Boston Braves. He pitched in Boston through early May, but was then sent to the minors. He would pitch at AAA-Toronto into the 1948 season.
In September of 1948, the Phillies, who had taken over the Toronto affiliate from Boston, finally gave Konstanty another shot at the big leagues. He rewarded the Phils by pitching well in 9 late season outings, and set himself up for a regular role in the 1949 season.

The Phillies had been one of the worst organizations in all of baseball for decades entering that 1949 season. But with some new blood, the team seemed to be making progress at long last. They finished that final season of the war-torn 40’s with a winning 81-73 record. It was just the club’s 2nd winning record since 1917.
Konstanty was a big part of the Phils sudden success. At age 32, the righty fashioned a 3.25 ERA in 97 innings across 90 appearances. His slider and changeup had developed to the point where they were true weapons, and he proved to be one of the top relief specialists in the game in what was a breakout season for both him and the team.
The 1950 season dawned full of hope for the Fightin’ Phils. Manager Eddie Sawyer had a young club that had challenged the season before, and that many thought had a chance to be very competitive once again. Their spirited play earned them the nickname ‘The Whiz Kids’, with the kids part a nod to their youth.
Eddie Sawyer1 in CardHolder 2
That 1950 club had 23-year old Richie Ashburn manning centerfield alongside 24-year old Del Ennis. 24-year old 3rd baseman Willie Jones and 23-year old shortstop Granny Hamner also started for the club. 
Even the veterans in the starting lineup: outfielder Dick Sisler, catcher Andy Seminick, and 2nd baseman Mike Goliat, were all still in their 20’s. Only 1st baseman Eddie Waitkus, at exactly 30 years of age, had exited his 20’s.
On the mound, the Phils started 23-year old righty Robin Roberts and 20-year old lefty Curt Simmons as their 1-2 in the rotation, with 23- year old Bob Miller and 26-year old Russ Meyer seeing regular action. At age 33, Jim Konstanty was an old man compared to this wet-behind-the-ears bunch.
These young Phillies got hot in early May to move well above the .500 mark, and then as the summer wore on, they took over first place in the National League. With a hot month during the dog days of August, they stretched their lead out to a steady half-dozen games. By as late as September 20th, the Phils led the N.L. by 7 1/2 games, and their first World Series since 1915 seemed a sure thing.
But then the combination of the pressure of what they were trying to finish, combined with a sudden burst from the talented Brooklyn Dodgers, saw the lead shrink. A 4-10 stretch in the final two weeks collapsed the once-safe lead down to a single game, with the Phillies and Dodgers squaring off head-to-head. The Phils would finally pull out a dramatic extra-inning victory in Brooklyn to clinch the Pennant.
Konstanty was the single most irreplaceable piece to that Pennant-winning club. The reliever took his game to another level, and Sawyer rode him hard. He pitched an incredible 152 relief innings allowing just 108 hits that season over 74 games, registering 22 Saves with a 2.66 ERA and 1.039 WHIP.
When the time came for voting for the National League’s Most Valuable Player award, Konstanty easily out-polled Saint Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial and New York Giants 2nd baseman Eddie Stanky. He received 18 of 24 first place votes. Ennis (4), Hamner (6), and Roberts (7) all finished in the MVP top 10 of the voting results.
The Phillies moved into the World Series against the perennial power New York Yankees. Having burned out his starters in the final drive to the NL Pennant, Sawyer turned to his workhorse MVP Konstanty to start the opening game after the righty had not started a single game all season.
Konstanty delivered a tour-de-force performance against the powerful Yankees lineup. In that opener, Konstanty went 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits. The Yanks scored in the 4th on a leadoff double by 3rd baseman Bobby Brown, who then scored thanks to consecutive sacrifice flies.
Unfortunately for Konstanty and the Phillies, his masterful effort was one-upped by the Yanks’ Vic Raschi. The righty had won 21 games that season, and in this World Series opener he shutout the Phils on just 2 hits. The 1-0 victory put New York up 1-0 in the Fall Classic.
After two more tight losses to the Yankees by scores of 2-1 and 3-2, the Phillies were frustrated and had their backs to the wall. Sawyer again called on Konstanty to start the 4th game. This time the Yanks got to him early, scoring 2 runs in the 1st inning. Yogi Berra led off the 6th with a solo homer, and then New York added 2 more for a 5-0 lead. They would win 5-2 to take the World Series in four straight games.
In both 1951 and 1952, Konstanty continued to be a workhorse out of the Phillies bullpen. The ’51 team disappointed, falling back to losing ways. But in 1952 the team rebounded to finish with 87 wins, 20 games over the .500 mark. However, it was only good enough for 4th place.
1953 was an interesting season for both the team and for Konstanty. He was moved into the rotation frequently, getting a career-high 19 starts and pitching a career-most 170.2 innings at age 36. He went 14-10 with a 4.43 ERA, while also pitching 29 games out of the bullpen and registering 5 Saves. The team moved up to 3rd place, but it would prove to be a last hurrah for the ‘Whiz Kids’, and for Konstanty in Philly.
In August of 1954, the now 37-year old Konstanty was struggling and the Phillies were losing. The team released him, but he would not go unemployed for long. The Yankees, perhaps remembering his 1950 World Series heroics against them, picked him up. 
Rejuvenated, the veteran pitched well, allowing just 11 hits in 18.1 innings, mostly in September. The Yanks would win 103 games, but it still wasn’t enough. They finished 8 games behind an incredible 111-win Cleveland Indians team in the A.L. standings.
In 1955, Konstanty was part of an American League Pennant-winning Yankees team. He went 7-2 in 73.2 innings across 45 appearances, with a career-best 2.32 ERA. But amazingly, he saw no action as the Yanks lost a 7-game World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers that fall. It would prove to be his final shot at a title.
54Konstanty520
The Yankees returned to, and this time won, the World Series in 1956, avenging the previous year result with a 7-game victory over the Dodgers. But Jim Konstanty wasn’t with the club to celebrate. He had a poor outing on May 13th against Baltimore, and the Yanks released him 5 days later. 
Konstanty caught on with the Saint Louis Cardinals, and finished the season with them. But that would prove to be the swan song for the 39-year old.
On retiring, Konstanty became a pitching coach with the Cardinals organization. In 1948 he had opened a sporting goods store in Oneonta, in central New York, and he would operate the store until 1973. In 1968, Konstanty took the job as Director of Athletics with Hartwick College in Oneonta, a job which he held until 1972.
Stricken with cancer, Konstanty died at just age 59 on June 11th, 1976. One of his grandsons, Michael Konstanty, would go on to play in the Cincinnati Reds organization from 2008-2010. Jim Konstanty currently ranks both 13th in Saves and Games as a pitcher on the All-Time Phillies rankings.
Although he only had that one truly dominating 1950 season, he was not a flash-in-the-pan. A late bloomer who didn’t reach the majors until age 27, he nonetheless would throw nearly 1,000 big league innings. Jim Konstanty is an indelible part of Philadelphia Phillies history. Winning the league MVP during a Pennant-winning season will do that.

The Whiz Kids

Embed from Getty Images

Dick Sisler is mobbed by his Whiz Kids teammates after the 10th inning home run that won the 1950 NL pennant

 

The team that we now lovingly know as the Philadelphia Phillies was born way back in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers. During that first season they also became referred to as the ‘Philadelphians’, which was frequently shortened to ‘Phillies‘, and so the club thus has the distinction of being the oldest, continuous, one nickname, one city franchise in all of pro sports.

In 1887 they began to play regularly at ‘The Philadelphia Baseball Grounds’, which became ‘National League Park’ in 1895, and finally became known as the ‘Baker Bowl’ in 1914. After playing there for over a half century, the Phillies moved to ‘Shibe Park’ in 1937, which they shared with it’s original tenants, the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics. (The ballpark was renamed ‘Connie Mack Stadium’ in 1953 after the legendary A’s owner/manager.)

With the notable exception of the 1915 World Series season, the Phillies were mostly losers on the field during that first half-century. But new ownership during the 1940’s began to put increased emphasis on the farm system, developing strong players who finally jelled in the 1950 season.

Two of those players went on to become long-term Phillies legends and Baseball Hall of Famers. Center fielder Richie Ashburn was a Kansas farm boy who could run like the wind. One of the great Negro Leaguers of the time famously called Ashburn ‘the fastest white man in the game.’

Robin Roberts was a bulldog of a starting pitcher who by the end of the century was recognized as one of the top 75 greatest players in the history of the game by The Sporting News.

Together, Ashburn and Roberts helped fuel a young, exciting Phillies team that gradually rose into contention, and which because of their youth were handed the nickname of ‘The Whiz Kids’.

By the final week of the season the young Phillies were battling the far more veteran Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant. Roberts started three times for the Phillies that week, including the season finale showdown on the final day at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn.

The two clubs battled into the bottom of the 9th inning, where a base hit saw Cal Abrams head for home as the Dodgers potential winning run before a perfect throw from center field by Ashburn nailed him to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th with two men on Dick Sisler stepped up to the plate. The son of Baseball Hall of Famer George Sisler delivered the biggest hit in Phillies history to that point, driving a three-run opposite-field home run to put the Phillies out in front.

Roberts set the Dodgers down in the order in the bottom of that 10th inning, and the Philadelphia Phillies had won their first NL pennant in 35 years.

In the World Series the club that everyone was by now calling ‘The Whiz Kids’ would take on the powerful New York Yankees.

For Game 1 at Shibe Park, manager Eddie Sawyer was unable to call on his ace Roberts because of that pennant-stretch work load. So, Sawyer tapped reliever Jim Konstanty, who would be named the Most Valuable Player in the National League that season, for the assignment. Many felt that the game was a mismatch in favor of Yankees 21-game winner Vic Raschi.

Konstanty, normally a relief pitcher, surprised most everyone by nearly matching Raschi pitch-for-pitch. But the Yankees scored a 4th inning run that held up for a 1-0 victory in the opener.

For Game 2 in North Philly, Roberts was back on the hill facing Yankees ace Allie Reynolds, and it resulted in yet another pitcher’s duel. New York again took the lead with a 2nd inning run, but Ashburn’s RBI tied it up in the bottom of the 5th, and the two teams battled into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, future Hall of Fame legend Joe DiMaggio stepped to the plate and blasted a solo home run to left field. It would stand up as the winning run in a 2-1 Yankees victory.

Down 2-0 after a pair of dispiriting one-run losses on their home turf, the Phils moved on to Yankee Stadium where a third consecutive pitchers duel took place.

Phillies left-hander Ken Heintzelman carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning, but he finally tired, got wild, and loaded the bases. Konstanty relieved to try and preserve the lead. Unfortunately, the usually sure-handed Granny Hamner bobbled a ground ball that allowed the tying run to score.

That tie moved into the bottom of the 9th where Russ Meyer came on to pitch for the Phillies and retired the first two batters, and the Series appeared headed for its second straight extra inning tilt. But Meyer then allowed three consecutive singles, the final one to Joe Coleman knocking in the game-winning run.

That 3-2 victory had the Yanks up by three games to none, all three victories in tense affairs taken by just a single run each. Now they looked to clinch their franchise’ 13th World Series title in front of the home fans in Game 5.

Yogi Berra‘s 1st inning homer and a 3-run 5th inning rally put the Yanks up 5-0, and they coasted into the 9th inning with that same big lead. After recording the first two outs, the home team was apparently ready to end it easily.

The Phillies decided to put up one last fight, however. They put two men on base and then, with two outs, Andy Seminick hit an easy fly ball for what looked like it would be the final out. Yankees left fielder Gene Woodling settled under it, the ball came down into his glove…and popped out, falling to the ground as two runs scored.

Suddenly the Phillies were down 5-2, and when the next batter got a hit they were improbably, perhaps miraculously bringing the tying run to the plate.

Alas, there would be no miracle. Reynolds came on in relief and struck out pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. The Yankees celebrated their title as the home crowd went wild. The Phillies walked off the field having fought a great dynasty to a near draw, yet still having been swept.

The Phillies were young and talented, and it seemed as if they had a bright future together as contenders. Even that was not to be as the team slowly faded back into mediocrity over the next few years.

But for one glorious summer in Philadelphia, a young, talented, lovable group of ballplayers excited the town and battled the dynastic Yankees in the World Series.

It would be years before many of those ‘Whiz Kids’ would ever again have to pick up a dinner check in the the city of Philadelphia, and they are still remembered fondly more than a half-century later.