Tag Archives: Jim Konstanty

Carlos Ruiz is the fan choice to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer

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‘Chooch’ is the clear favorite of fans for Wall of Fame enshrinement

A couple of weeks ago here at Phillies Nation, I published a piece speculating on which non-2008 players might be worth of a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. Fans responded by tossing out a number of their own choices as commentary, either directly at the website or via social media.

Names not mentioned in my piece but suggested by fans included 1960’s-era players Rick WiseTony Gonzalez, and Cookie Rojas. The National League Most Valuable Player in 1950 and a key pitcher with the NL champions that year, Jim Konstanty was also mentioned. There was even someone who brought up some early-1900’s names such as Dave BancroftJack Clements, and Jimmie Wilson.
As a result of the comments, I decided to actually reach out and poll the fan base to see who their favorite might be to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer.
I decided to run the polling in a two-phase process. I would run a pair of four-player semi-final polls to kick things off. Then would take those receiving the most support and put them into a three-player finals poll. This was a simple Twitter poll, so I am claiming no special scientific method used.
As criteria, I left out most of the early-1900’s players. Fact is, those players historically receive little to no support from modern fans in such polls. Though this recency factor working against them is unfair, it is also a genuine phenomenon. However, I’ve always been a big supporter for 1910’s first baseman Fred Luderus, so put him into one of the semis polls.
The results in those semis with 241 total fans responding were as follows:
Poll #1: Carlos Ruiz 55%, Pete Rose 35%, Bobby Abreu 8%, Fred Luderus 2%
Poll #2: Shane Victorino 39%, Dan Baker 27%, Cliff Lee 18%, Manny Trillo 16%
As you can see, the two 2008 players received the greatest support, something that I anticipated. I decided to move Chooch and The Flyin’ Hawaiian into the final poll.

As the third choice, I made it public address announcer Dan Baker, who now has nearly 50 years with the organization and whose voice is recognizable to generations of Phillies fans. I also factored in that the club is not likely to actually consider Rose again any time soon, if at all.
That final poll resulted in tremendous response as 2,107 individuals cast ballots. The final voting result was a little more lopsided than I had anticipated:
If these are the only choices, your vote for next @Phillies Wall of Famer:
20%Dan Baker
59%Carlos Ruiz
21%Shane Victorino

Based on my little non-scientific polling it would appear that Carlos ‘Chooch’ Ruiz, the catcher for the 2008 World Series champions who played with the club from 2006-16, is the clear fan favorite to become the next honoree on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
If he does get selected by the team, Chooch would become the fourth backstop to be so honored. He would join Bob Boone (2005), Darren Daulton (2010), and Mike Lieberthal (2012) as catchers previously enshrined on the Wall of Fame.

If the usual timing is followed this year, the Phillies can be expected to announce the 2019 Wall of Fame honoree in late-February. There has been no announcement at this time as to whether fans will be included as part of the process for selection of that honoree.

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

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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.