Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 1964 Phillies (a cautionary tale)

I’m going to break from my goals tonight because of the prodding of Bob Thomas. I jetted past the summer of 1964 without acknowledging the greatest Philadelphia Phillies collapse of all time. The Phillies were the only game in town by the ‘60’s. Of course before the Phillies they had shared the city with the Athletics. For decades Connie Mack and the Athletics were the closest thing to baseball glory folks from Philly and the tri state area could brag about. The Phillies were wretched. They even played their games in the shadow of Connie Mack as their stadium was named for the old gentleman.
Connie Mack Stadium was in a ruined part of town. When we went to games my dad would dip into his pocket for a quarter for a neighborhood kid to “watch” our car. Basically extortion money.
The stadium itself was quintessential old school baseball. Dirty, decaying and cool. You were right in the game and the decrepitude of the interior only amplified the beauty of emerging from the runways into the light of day or the glare of the stadium lights. The world was green, white, and brown and the giants of our youth were right there in front of us.
Sadly none of them were on the Philadelphia Phillies. It is a sad measure of their lack of skill that most of us picked other teams to root for during the season. Terry revered the Yankees, my team was my Dad’s team, the Reds, Mick had his beloved Pirates and on and on. Christ Kenny Fell preferred the hapless Mets to the Phillies.
But to continue…in the summer of 1964 the Phillies were in first place for 73 consecutive days. They had a huge lead coming into the final days of the season. This was before wild cards and extra divisions and shit so they were going to the World Series if they could just hold on for a few more games.
They couldn’t. Along with the collapse of the Mets in 2007 there has never been a more ignominious end to a baseball season. Of course Phillie fans knew it would happen. Most loser towns (Chicago for one) accept this as a matter of course. No way their hopes will not be dashed and dashed they were.
My favorite part of this entire train wreck was watching Sally Star on tv coming apart day by day as the Phillies committed more and more bonehead blunders. By the time they’d blown the whole thing it looked as though she was going to have to spend a few weeks in the loony bin.
It wasn’t till I was long out of Wenonah that the Phillies found baseball glory and tonight they’re knocking on the door. Let’s hope the ghosts of ’64 aren’t walking down from old Connie Mack to help them along.

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