Tag Archives: Whiz Kids

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time 25-Man Roster

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The Philadelphia Phillies  owe their birth in 1883 to the death of the old Worcester club. Worcester in Massachusetts had been deemed too small to support a major league team.

After three seasons in the National League, the club was disbanded and the franchise rights sold.

Needing a team to balance out their schedule, the NL awarded an expansion team to Philadelphia to begin play in the 1883 season.

Originally nicknamed the “Quakers”, the team was frequently referred to that season as the “Philadelphias”, which was shortened to “Phillies” on a regular basis.

Known as the “Phillies” and the “Quakers” through 1889, the former was embraced much more by fans and sportswriters, and so “Phillies” became the official nickname in the 1890 season.

The “Philadelphia Phillies” name remains the oldest continuous same city, same name professional sports team in American history.

EARLY DECADES 

The Phillies were a fairly successful club on the field for the better part of the first 35 or so years of their existence. In 1915, the team won their first National League pennant after having finished in second place three times and third place another half-dozen times prior.

Beginning in 1918, the fortunes of the team changed for the worse. Thanks to a series of poor ownership groups, the Phillies would experience just one winning season until 1949.

From the 1918 through 1948 campaigns, the Phils finished a combined 1,189 games below the .500 mark. For five straight seasons from 1938-42, the club lost at least 103 games each year. They would pass the century mark in losses in seven seasons between 1936 and the end of World War II.

THE WHIZ KIDS AND 1964 COLLAPSE

The ‘Whiz Kids’, a young group of talented players, emerged to break the spell with a winning 1949. The following year they captured just the second NL pennant in franchise history, and continued playing competitively through the 1957 season.

After sinking back to the bottom of the league once again from the 1958-61 seasons, another group of youngsters emerged to form the next winning Phillies club.

The 1964 team infamously held a 6.5 game lead with just 12 games to play, only to collapse with 10 straight losses. That team would finish in second place, a game out.

Though the team had a winning record every year from 1962-67, they never came close other than that one ill-fated season.

DIVISIONAL ERA YIELDS FIRST BIG WINNER

Baseball expanded and began divisional play in the 1969 season. The Phillies again collapsed to the bottom of the standings, finishing in last place for five straight years through 1973.

Once again, a new group of homegrown players began to emerge. Supplemented by a series of astute acquisitions by a talented leadership group that included owner Ruly Carpenter, scouting director Dallas Green, and general manager Paul Owens, the Phillies built a sustainable winner.

From 1976-83 the Phillies were regular contenders. They won the NL East title six times in those eight seasons, counting the 1981 split-season.

Finally in 1980, the Phillies reached the pinnacle of Major League Baseball. In front of the home fans at Veteran’s Stadium, the team won the World Series, capturing the first championship in franchise history.

TWO MAGICAL SEASONS IN LONG STRETCH OF FUTILITY

Following a second World Series appearance in four years in the 1983 season, the Phillies organization again began to scramble. A series of bad personnel moves resulted in a slow decline to another losing era.

The years 1987-92 were a mostly miserable half-dozen season stretch of failure. The club had a losing record every year. In fact, that futility would stretch out to the year 2000, with 13 of 14 losing seasons.

The one notable exception during that stretch of futility came during a worst-to-first 1993 season. In that year, a hard-scrabble core group of mullet-wearing players known as ‘Macho Row’ created summer long magic.

The Phillies led nearly wire-to-wire in the NL East that season in perhaps the most fun summer of baseball in franchise history. It was all capped by an upset of the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

That 1993 Phillies team would then push the defending champion Toronto Blue Jays nearly to the brink in the World Series, finally being eliminated on Joe Carter‘s historic walkoff home run.

GLORY ERA

It would not be until the 2001 season that the Phillies would field another winner. That season began the greatest winning stretch in franchise history.

Over a dozen years, only the 80-81 record of the 2002 team was below the .500 mark. Thanks to a large group of homegrown stars largely put together by GM Ed Wade and supplemented by astute trades and signings by his successor Pat Gillick, the Phillies would capture five consecutive NL East crowns.

In 2011, the Phillies would win a franchise record 102 games during the regular season. The icing on the cake during that run came in 2008. Those Phillies matched the 1980 club by capturing just the second World Series championship in franchise history.

The Phillies rise thanks to that homegrown core ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. Most of that core aged out together after 2012, and the Phillies have not fielded a winning team since.

Now in the midst of a major rebuilding program, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying to emerge using that same proven formula: building from within. The club has improved their minor league system greatly, and put themselves in a strong financial position to contend within the next couple of years.

HISTORY OF MEMORABLE PLAYERS

A look back through the history of this storied team shows long valleys of losing. But it also shows that over the last half-century, the Phillies have been one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball.

There have been many greats to pull on a Phillies uniform in over a century of play. 32 players who have worn that uniform are now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Nine of them played a significant portion of their careers with the Phillies.

Five Phillies have won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Four pitchers have captured the Cy Young Award, while four more have been the NL Rookie of the Year.

There have been 16 different players to capture a Gold Glove Award, with the Phillies having seen one of their players win the honors at every position across the diamond.

The Phillies are a truly historic team, one of baseball’s “Classic Eight” franchises. If you opened the papers in 1883, you could read about a Philadelphia Phillies team. Now as we head towards 2017, fans can do the same, just as their great-great-great grandparents did before them.

APOLOGIES TO PHILLIES GREATS LEFT OUT

When crafting an All-Time 25-Man Roster for a team with a long and storied a history as the Phillies, you are going to leave out some truly great players.

The Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame includes 35 men who have taken the field as a player with the team. Of those players, 17 did not make my Phillies All-Time 25-Man Roster.

To keep things more realistic, I have included two relievers and two catchers. To the following players, and dozens more, I truly apologize. None of these Phillies greats made my roster:

Roy ThomasDarren DaultonJohnny CallisonDel EnnisGavvy CravathCharlie FergusonEppa RixeyRoy HalladayJonathan PapelbonBrad LidgeRyan MadsonCy WilliamsTony TaylorSam ThompsonWillie JonesGarry MaddoxGreg LuzinskiJuan SamuelGranny HamnerPat BurrellBrett Myers.

PHILLIES ALL-TIME ROSTER

PITCHING STAFF (11)

Jim Bunning: 4th WHIP, 7th WAR & K’s, 11th IP, 12th ERA, 14th Wins, 2x NL All-Star, runner-up 1967 Cy Young Award, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame, #14 retired

Grover Cleveland Alexander: 2nd ERA, BAA & WHIP, 3rd pitching WAR, Wins & IP, 6th K’s, 2x top ten NL MVP voting, numerous league and MLB leader, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Steve Carlton: 1st pitching WAR, Wins & Strikeouts, 2nd IP, 6th BAA, 7x NL All-Star, 4x Cy Young Award winner, 4x top ten NL MVP voting, 1981 Gold Glove, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame, #32 retired

Cole Hamels: 3rd K’s, 4th pitching WAR, 6th Wins & IP, 9th WHIP, 3x NL All-Star, 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP

Cliff Lee: 3rd WHIP, 11th pitching WAR & K’s, 13th ERA, 2x NL All-Star

Tug McGraw: 3rd RP WAR, 4th Games, 6th Saves, 14th WHIP, 17th ERA, Wall of Fame

Ron Reed: 1st RP WAR, 6th Games, 7th Saves, 10th WHIP, 15th ERA

Robin Roberts: 1st IP, 2nd pitching WAR, Wins & K’s, 11th WHIP, 7x NL All-Star, Wall of Fame

Curt Schilling: 3rd BAA, 5th pitching WAR & K’s, 7th WHIP & Wins, 9th IP, 3x NL All-Star, Wall of Fame

Chris Short: 4th IP, K’s & Wins, 8th pitching WAR, 19th BAA, 2x NL All-Star, Wall of Fame

Curt Simmons: 5th Wins & IP, 6th pitching WAR, 8th K’s, 3x NL All-Star, Wall of Fame

INFIELDERS (6)

Dick Allen, 1B/3B: 8th OPS, 10th WAR & HR, 11th Triples, 19th RBI & BB, 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, 3x NL All-Star, Wall of Fame

Larry Bowa, SS: 6th Hits & SB, 7th Triples, 15th Runs, 5x NL All-Star, 2x Gold Glove Award, Wall of Fame

Ryan Howard, 1B: 2nd HR, 3rd RBI, 4th Slugging, 7th BB, 10th Doubles, 13th Hits & Runs, 16th OPS, 2005 NL Rookie of the Year, 2006 NL MVP & Silver Slugger, 2008 runner-up NL MVP, 2009 NLCS MVP, 3x NL All-Star

Jimmy Rollins, SS: 1st Hits, Doubles, AB & defensive WAR, 2nd Steals & Games, 3rd Runs & Triples, 6th WAR & BB, 3x NL All-Star, 4x NL Gold Glove Award, 2007 NL MVP & Silver Slugger

Mike Schmidt, 3B: 1st WAR, HR, RBI, Runs, Games & BB, 2nd Hits, 3rd Slugging, 5th OPS, 14th OBP, 15th Steals, 19th Triples, 12x NL All-Star, 10x Gold Glove Award, 6x Silver Slugger, 1980-81 & 1986 NL MVP, 1980 World Series MVP, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Chase Utley, 2B: 3rd WAR, 5th Doubles, 6th Runs, 9th Hits, 17th Slugging, 19th OPS, 6x NL All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger

CATCHERS (2)

Bob Boone: among catchers – 3rd Games & Hits, 4th RBI, 7th HR & Runs, 3x NL All-Star, 2x Gold Glove Award, Wall of Fame

Mike Lieberthal: among catchers – 1st Hits, HR, Doubles & AB, 2nd RBI & Games, 3rd WAR, 4th OPS, 5th AVG, 2x NL All-Star, 1999 NL Gold Glove Award, Wall of Fame

OUTFIELDERS (6)

Bobby Abreu: 2nd (t) OPS, 4th OBP & Doubles, 5th Slugging, 7th WAR & Steals, 10th Runs, 11th HR & RBI, 14th Hits, 2x NL All-Star, 2004 Silver Slugger, 2005 NL Gold Glove Award

Richie Ashburn: 3rd Hits, Games & AB, 4th WAR & Runs, 5th Triples, 8th OBP, 9th Doubles, 11th Steals, 4x NL All-Star, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Ed Delahanty: 1st Triples, 2nd WAR & AVG, Runs & Doubles, 3rd Steals, 4th OPS & Hits, 5th OBP, 7th Slugging, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Billy Hamilton: 1st AVG & Steals, 2nd (t) OPS, 9th WAR, 12th Runs, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Chuck Klein: 1st OPS & Slugging, 5th AVG, HR, RBI, & Runs, 7th Hits & Doubles, 11th OBP, 12th WAR, 1932 NL MVP, 1931 & 1933 runner-up NL MVP, 1933 NL All-Star, Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame

Sherry Magee: 2nd Triples, 4th Steals, 5th WAR, 6th Doubles, 8th Hits, 9th RBI & Runs, 16th AVG, Wall of Fame

Philography: Granny Hamner

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Starting shortstop for the ‘Whiz Kids’, Hamner manned the position for the entirety of the 1950’s with the Phillies

 

Since the fall of 2014, I’ve been running an off-season series titled “Philography” in which I present a brief biography of the important players in the Phillies’ past, both recent and distant.

In this series, I try to mostly key on their playing careers, but also like to toss in a few personal tidbits to frame each player’s background.
In two chapters of the series earlier in this current off-season, I covered a pair of shortstops who were vital to National League pennant-winning Phillies teams of the past.
Larry Bowa was the starting shortstop with the NL pennant winners who also won the World Series in 1980, and Kevin Stocker solidified the position during the magical 1993 summer of Macho Row.
This current chapter continues that shortstop theme as we take a look into the life and career of “Whiz Kids” shortstop Granny Hamner, the 9th player selected to the Phillies Wall of Fame back in 1987.
Hamner was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and was first signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent out of high school back in 1944 as a 17-year old.
His older brother, Garvin, was already in affiliated ball, playing with the New York Giants’ B-level Richmond minor league club.
But despite being three years older and further along in his development, Garvin Hamner didn’t beat his kid brother to the Major Leagues.
After signing, Granny went straight to the shorthanded Phillies, appearing in 21 games during that summer of ’44, when baseball and the rest of the country was still embroiled in World War II.
The following year, Hamner started out back in the big leagues. In fact, Garvin had signed with the Phillies as well, and joined him on the roster for Opening Day.
The two brothers played together for the entire month of April and into May.

including as the starting middle infield combo, with Garvin at 2nd and Granny at short.

Neither would last the season. Granny was just 18 years old and hitting for just a .171 average when he was sent to the minor leagues in mid-May.
Garvin lasted with the Phillies through back-to-back doubleheaders on June 6th and 7th, but that was it – for his big league career. At age 21, he would be sent to the minors as well, never to get another shot.
Garvin did play on, lasting through the 1953 season in the minor leagues when, at age 29, he decided to hang it up.
The younger Granny meanwhile hit .258 with 18 extra-base hits in the minors at A-level Utica over 104 games during that summer of 1945. He also fielded the shortstop position flawlessly.
After spending most of 1946 serving in the post-War military, Granny returned in time for a pair of late September games against the Giants. He was sent back to Utica in 1947 as the starting shortstop once again.
Now 20 years old and beginning to mature physically, Hamner hit .291 with 36 extra-base hits, and was knocking on the door for a return to the big leagues.
He received a cup of coffee at the end of September, starting the final two games, once again against those Giants.
In 1948, Hamner won the shortstop job at the start of the season. Hitting just .212 by late May, manager Ben Chapman began to bounce him in and out of the lineup, and use him at both 2nd and 3rd base.
By May, Eddie Miller, in his first Phillies season but an 11-year veteran who had played with both Cincinnati and the Boston Braves, had taken over the full-time shortstop duties.
At the end of May, Hamner seized the starting job next to him as the starting 2nd baseman. The two would form the Phillies’ middle infield combo for the rest of that summer.
By spring training of the following 1949 season, the Miller and Hamner roles were completely reversed under new manager Eddie Sawyer, who had taken over for Chapman the previous season.
Miller was made the 2nd baseman, while Hamner returned to shortstop, the position that he would man for the Phillies for the next eight seasons.
The 1949 Phillies under Sawyer were a young, exciting ball club. They finished in 3rd place in the National League with an 81-73 record, the first winning season for the franchise since 1932.
It was just the 2nd winning campaign since 1917, after which much of the remnant of the 1915 pennant winners had been dealt or faded away.
Hamner was right in the middle of that excitement, literally. He was the 22-year old starting shortstop for what appeared to be an up-and-coming contender.
Among those joining Hamner in that group were 22-year old center fielder Richie Ashburn, 24-year old left fielder Del Ennis, 23-year old 3rd baseman Willie Jones, 22-year old starting pitcher Robin Roberts, and 20-year old pitcher Curt Simmons.
By 1950 these “Whiz Kids” were putting serious pressure on the established powers in the National League.
On the season’s final day, a 9th inning tremendous throw by Ashburn nailed the winning run at the plate, and kept the Phillies in the decisive game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Then a 3-run 10th inning home run by Sisler clinched the pennant.
The Phillies had won the 1950 National League pennant, but would go on to be swept out of the World Series in four straight games by the New York Yankees.
Though they were swept, the first three losses were all by a single run. Hamner was nearly flawless in the field, as usual, during that Fall Classic. He made one error – but it would prove pivotal.
As reported back in 1993 by Joe Berkery of the Philadelphia Daily News:

in the third game, he bobbled Bobby Brown‘s grounder in the eighth inning with the Phillies leading, 2-1. Hamner had scored the go-ahead run. A run scored on the error and the Yankees went on to score in the ninth and win, 3-2.

Hamner finished 6th in the National League MVP voting in the following weeks after a season in which he hit .270 with 11 homers, 82 RBI, 78 runs scored and played tremendous defense at shortstop for the NL champions.
Though the Phillies dropped to 73-81 in the 1951 season, they were not a one or two-year flash in the pan. The winning returned with records of 87-67 in 1952 and 83-71 in 1953.
But those records were only good for 4th and 3rd place finishes. In two of the next four seasons, the club would finish with identical 77-77 records.
Hamner continued his strong play, especially defensively. He was the National League starting shortstop in the 1952 All-Star Game, and was an NL All-Star in three straight seasons from 1952-54.
His best offensive season was in 1953 when he hit .276 with 21 homers and 92 RBI. The following year he hit .299 with 13 homers and 89 RBI.
Hamner and the Whiz Kids were never able to get back to the World Series. By 1958 at age 31, Hamner had lost his starting job.
In the 1959 season he was traded to Cleveland and had one final shot at winning a pennant, but the Tribe fell short.
I was through with baseball the day they traded me,” said Hamner in a 1972 interview with Duke DeLuca of the Reading Eagle.

I didn’t like it in Cleveland, but the Phillies actually did me a favor. They weren’t going anywhere and Cleveland was battling the White Sox for first place. We lost the pennant in the last two weeks. I really didn’t have any reason to beef about the trade. I just hated to leave the (Phillies) organization. I was raised in the organization.

Late in his career with the team, the Phillies had actually used Hamner on the mound in four games.
At the end of his career, Hamner tried to hang on as a knuckleball pitcher in the minor leagues, found some success in the minors in that role, and actually returned to the big leagues in 1962 with the Kansas City Athletics as a pitcher.
During that 1962 season, Hamner appeared in three games for the Athletics, and he was bashed around. The knuckleball that had confounded minor leaguers was roped around or waited out by the big leaguers.
In that brief return to the Major Leagues as a pitcher, Hamner allowed 10 hits over four innings and had a 9.00 ERA with no strikeouts and six walks. Needless to say, he didn’t last.
Over parts of 17 seasons in Major League Baseball, having worn a Phillies uniform in 16 of those, Hamner put together a career .262/.303/.383 slash line. He produced 104 homers, 708 RBI, 711 runs scored.
Hamner was a 3x NL All-Star, received MVP votes in a half-dozen seasons, and was one of the top defensive shortstops of his time.
Following his retirement, Granny worked for the Phillies as a scout and a coach in the farm system during the 1970’s and 80’s, and was a regular at spring training down in Clearwater, Florida.
His installment into the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1987 made him the fourth Whiz Kid in the prestigious group, joining Roberts, Ashburn, and Ennis. They have since been joined by Simmons and Jones from that 1950 NL championship team in being so honored.
Hamner is currently 8th on the Phillies all-time career franchise ‘Games played’ list, 9th in At-Bats, 11th in Hits and Doubles, and 19th in Runs scored.
When he died of a heart attack on September 12th, 1993 Hamner was just aged 66 years. His brother, Garvin, lived on for another decade, passing himself in December of 2003 at age 79.
Just four nights before his death, Hamner had stopped by the Phillies broadcast booth and visited with old friend and teammate Ashburn, who said that the old shortstop appeared fine.
It would be the last time that the two friends, who could trace their relationship back 50 years to their starts in minor league baseball, would see one another.
Hamner played for many years for the Phillies during a period when the game underwent significant changes.
Most of them are gone now, those Whiz Kids. Simmons is still alive, now aged 86. Fellow pitchers Bob Miller (89) and Paul Stuffel (88), and infielder Putsy Caballero (88) – that’s it.
Four remain alive from a season in which, as young 20-somethings, they thrilled the Philly baseball world.

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: 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.

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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.

Philography: Chris Short

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Chris Short was a mainstay in the Phillies rotation during the 1960’s

Chris Short was an outstanding lefty starting pitcher who in these parts is forever associated with the ill-fated 1964 Phillies.

But he had a lengthy career in Philadelphia, a Phils pitcher for parts of 14 seasons spanning Connie Mack Stadium in the 1950’s and Veteran’s Stadium in the 1970’s.

For a 6-year stretch, from 1963 through 1968, he was one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball.

Short was also an interesting story off the field. His nickname was “Style”, given him by teammates because he actually lacked any in his dress. He was described in a recent article by Frank Fitzpatrick as “different…in a harmless way” by former road roommate and fellow Phillies pitcher Art Mehaffey, and as “happy-go-lucky” by fellow Phils pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning.

Born in Milford, Delaware, Chris Short’s talent difference was first noticed on the field as a teenager. A standout at Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey, where his father, a judge, had sent him to instill some discipline, Short signed with the nearby Phillies as an amateur free agent in June of 1957 at age 19.

Short began in the Phils’ farm system at Johnson City in that summer of 1957 as a 19-year old. He was wild, as are many young lefties, but his talent was obvious. Over the next two season, Short would work his way steadily up the club’s organizational ladder. He made 76 starts from 1957-59 at 3 levels, accumulating a 34-24 record with a modest ERA, and allowing significantly fewer hits than innings pitched.
In 1959, Short got his first taste of life in the Big Leagues. He made 3 early season appearances with the Phillies, getting one start each in April and May. He would get beaten up to the tune of 19 hits in 14.1 innings, amassing an 8.16 ERA, and with just a 8/10 K/BB ratio, but would go on to a successful year with AAA Buffalo.
Short began the 1960 season back at AAA, but it didn’t last long. Just a week into the season he got the call back to the Majors, and would spend the rest of the season there with the parent Phillies. Used exclusively as a lefty reliever through June 2nd, Short made 11 appearances out of the pen and was having success. In 17.2 innings he was 2-0 and had allowed just 14 hits.
It was then that manager Gene Mauch decided to give the lefty a shot in the rotation. During June and July of 1960, Short made the first 10 starts of his Big League career. 2 of his first 4 outings were complete game victories over the Chicago Cubs, one at Wrigley Field and the other at Connie Mack.

Short would slow down, losing his next 7 starts, including an 0-5 July. Sent back to the bullpen, he again thrived, with a 2.61 ERA during 20 games in August and September, allowing just 26 hits in 31 innings. When 1960 finished, Short had appeared in a total of 42 games, 10 of them starts, and had allowed 101 hits in 107.1 innings with a 3.94 ERA. He wasn’t dominating, but he was more than surviving as a 21 year old.

During the 1961 and ’62 seasons, Short continued to bounce back and forth between the rotation and the pen. Battered a bit in 1961, he regained some equilibrium with a solid 1962, and finally in 1963 at age 25, Chris Short became a full member of the starting rotation with the Phillies. He made 27 starts, going 9-12 with a 2.95 ERA. He also had amassed 198 innings, striking out 160 batters.

The “Whiz Kids” team had won the 1950 NL Pennant, and their successors hung around the .500 mark for most of the next half dozen years, finishing between 3rd and 5th place. But from 1958-61, the club finished in last place each year, with each season successively worse, sinking from 69 to 64 to 59 to a low of 47-107 in 1961. But along with Short’s improvements, the entire Phillies team was finally beginning to show signs of life.

The 1962 Phillies didn’t fair much better in the standings, finishing in 7th. But it was better than last place, and their final record was actually a winning one at 81-80. It would prove a sign of things to come. The 1963 Phillies would go 87-75, finish in 4th place, and with some young, exciting players like NL Rookie of the Year Richie Allen the future was finally looking brighter.

In 1964, Chris Short became an NL All-Star for the first of what would be two times. He also received some NL MVP votes for a season in which he would finish 17-9 with a 2.20 ERA, pitching 220.2 innings over 42 games, including 31 starts. The Phillies that year ran out to a big lead in the National League, and appeared primed to return to the World Series for the first time in 14 years. And then the infamous collapse came.

In the final week of that 1964 season, manager Gene Mauch pitched his top two starters, Bunning and Short, on two days rest not once, but twice each. Bunning would be completely bombed in his starts. Short didn’t pitch so poorly, but following a complete game victory over Houston on September 14th that raised his record to 17-7, he would not win again. The Phils famously let a 6 1/2 game lead with 10 to play get away.

Still, the Phillies appeared poised to be one of the top clubs in the National League for the next few years. It never materialized. Though they had a winning record each year from 1965-67, giving the club a stretch of 6 straight winning seasons during the 60’s, they wouldn’t again come close to winning a Pennant.
Short fully established himself among the top hurlers in the game during that era. His seasons during that period were key pieces to the Phils’ winning run. He went 18-11 in 1965, pitching a career-high 297.1 innings with a 2.82 ERA. In 1966, Short again received MVP votes during his only 20-win season. He went 20-10 with a 3.54 ERA, pitching 272 innings across a career-high 40 starts.
His 1967 campaign was the 2nd All-Star season of his career, but injuries cost him an entire month from late-May through late-June. As a result, his record was just 9-11. But he fashioned a 2.39 ERA, allowing just 163 hits in 199.1 innings. In 1968, Short was again strong, going 19-13 with a 2.94 ERA and tossing 269.2 innings. As the 1969 season approached, Chris Short was just 31 years old, and appeared set to ring out his successful decade with another strong year.

It was 1969, the “Summer of Love” in the United States, that would prove anything but for Short and the Phillies, and that would in fact prove to be the beginning of the end for his career. That year, Short suffered a back injury that would require surgery. Though he would pitch in parts of the five seasons from 1969-73, he would never again be the same level of pitcher as his mid-60’s dominant peak.

It all started innocently enough. He lasted just 4 innings in his first outing in Chicago on April 8th. His next start was not for a week later, home at Connie Mack against the Mets. Short battled through 6 innings against the Mets 22-year old rookie phenom Gary Gentry, but the Phils trailed 3-1. In the top of the 6th, Short got Amos Otis to ground weakly to 3rd, and then struck out the last two hitters he faced, Ron Swoboda and Jerry Grote. In the bottom of the inning, Short was lifted for a pinch-hitter, Johnny Briggs. He would not appear again in 1969.

1969 became a lost year for Chris Short, with the surgery knocking him out, and it was a lost season for the Phillies, who in the first year of a new divisional setup would finish in 5th place out of 6 teams in the new National League East Division. In fact, it would mark the first of 5 straight seasons that the Phils would finish either 5th or 6th in the new setup.

Short was able to return for the 1970 season, the team’s final one playing in Connie Mack Stadium. The old ballpark at 21st and Lehigh Avenue had been in existence since 1909 when it opened as Shibe Park, the name it would carry until 1953. The Phillies had left Baker Bowl at Broad & Lehigh and moved into Shibe, the home of the Philadelphia Athletics in those days, in 1938. In his 1970 comeback, Short went 9-16, making 34 starts and pitching 199 innings for a 5th place team. It wasn’t the strong seasons that he had been pitching, but he was healthy and was able to take his turn the team ended the Shibe/Mack Era.

When the Phillies opened Veteran’s Stadium in 1971, Chris Short was not just a regular member of the starting rotation, he was their Opening Day starter at Pittsburgh. He would pitch at The Vet for the first time a week later, on April 13th, 1971, losing to those same Pittsburgh Pirates.

Short would finish 7-14 in 1971 with a 3.85 ERA. He pitched 173 innings across 26 starts. But at the end, he was being eased out. After getting ripped in what was his final start at Pittsburgh on August 30th, Short was relegated to the bullpen, and from there he made just 4 appearances in September.

Short wrapped his 14-season Phillies career in 1972
1972 Topps, Short’s last Phillies card

 

1972 would prove to be Chris Short’s swan song in a Phillies uniform. He was used exclusively as a lefty reliever out of the bullpen, and in fact seemed to be settling into the role. Struggling at first, he was excellent over his final dozen appearances. Short registered a 1.72 ERA in those 12 games, striking out 14 and allowing just 11 hits in 15.2 innings. But it was a game on June 27th that sealed his final fate in Philly.

June 27th, 1972. First game of a doubleheader between the Phils and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cubbies started former Phillie and future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins. The Cubs had a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the 6th, and Phils starter Jim Nash was in trouble thanks to some awful defense.

With runners at 1st and 3rd and nobody out, manager Bob Skinner called on Short to put the fire out. Instead, Short’s two walks (one intentional) and a wild pitch helped it blaze into a 3-run inferno. It would be the final appearance by Short in a Phillies uniform after 14 seasons stretching back to the 1950’s.

Chris Short was released by the Phillies in October of 1972. He signed a month later as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1973, Short appeared in the final 42 games of his career with the Brewers, including 7 starts. His last win as a starter came on June 1st at Milwaukee County Stadium, a 5-3 Brewers victory in which Short went 6 innings, scattering 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 to beat the Chicago White Sox.

His actual final game was not so glorious. On September 18th against the Cleveland Indians he failed to retire a batter. Called on to protect a 5-3 Brewers lead in the bottom of the 9th with 2-on and nobody out, Short yielded a 3-run walkoff homerun to pinch-hitter John Ellis. It would be Chris Short’s final time on a pitching mound.

Short retired from baseball at age 35 with a final record of 135-132 across parts of 15 seasons in Major League Baseball, 14 of those with the Phillies. Hit pitched in 501 games, 308 as a starting pitcher. In his 2,325 innings he struck out 1,629 batters and yielded 2,215 hits. His career ERA was a respectable 3.43, and he had even accumulate 18 Saves along the way.

To this day, Short is high on the Phillies all-time career pitching lists: 4th in Wins (132), 4th in Games (459), 3rd in Starts (301), 4th in Shutouts (24), 4th in Innings (2,235), and 3rd in Strikeouts (1,585) and he was selected to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1992. In 1979, Short was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.

Short never got to see his plaque on that Phillies Wall of Fame. He was inducted posthumously after dying tragically young, on August 1st, 1991. He battled health issues for years, including diabetes. Alone in his office, working as an insurance agent, Short had suffered a brain aneurysm in 1988. Hospitalizations and rehabs followed, but Short never recovered, finally succumbing at just age 53.
Chris Short is considered by many to be a bit star-crossed, his story somewhat tragic, particularly due to the circumstances of his post-baseball career and his life’s shortened and difficult ending.
But it must always be remembered that Chris Short also lived the dream. He not only reached the pinnacle of his profession in Major League Baseball, but he became an All-Star, was one of the best pitchers for the entirety of the decade of the 1960’s, and in 1964 very nearly helped lead his team to the top. He should be remembered fondly always by Phillies fans everywhere.