A Historic Losing Streak

August 20, 1961:

1961 found the Phillies in a time of transition. With second year manager Gene Mauch beginning to shape the team in his image, the club earned the worst record in the league, finishing an impressive 47-107. Though the manager had acquired many of the pieces that would fuel the team’s 1964 pennant race, their inexperience was still apparent in 1961. Speaking to Stan Hochman fifty years later, infielder Ruben Amaro, Sr. summarized the team: “We went out there and played our asses off, but we were overmatched. We were so young. It was like a kindergarten team playing a fourth-grade team.”

Though the entire year was a disaster for the Phillies, for one summer stretch, the young team was historically bad. Beginning on July 29, the Phillies lost 23 consecutive games, still the most of any team since 1900. Mauch tried desperately to jumpstart his team, frequently changing his line-up and switching the roles of his starters and relievers. Even future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, in his final season with the Phillies, felt Mauch’s scorn. After calling Roberts “Molly Putz” and claiming he couldn’t “pitch his fastball past your Aunt Matilda”, Mauch sent the righty to the bullpen, then refused to use him. In fact, Roberts did not make a single appearance during the team’s losing streak.

The team’s fortunes finally took a temporary turn for the better on August 20. Having already lost the first of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves, the Phillies won the second game to the score of 7-4 behind John Buzhardt’s complete game. After the game, Mauch posed with Buzhardt, who coincidentally wore the number 23. Arriving back in Philadelphia the next day, Mauch would find himself being carried on the shoulders of Phillies fans.

Strangely, the team would go on to win their next four games.

Gene Mauch and John Buzhardt pose after the Phillies break their 23 game losing streak.

Gene Mauch and John Buzhardt pose after the Phillies break their 23 game losing streak.

Phillies fans welcome Gene Mauch back home.

Phillies fans welcome Gene Mauch back home.

The Dude and the Kids

Spring Training, 1993:

In celebration of Lenny Dykstra’s release from a California prison, we’d like to remember a time when it was considered acceptable to leave your kids with The Dude.

Photo: The Associated Press

Lenny Dykstra shows little leaguers around Spring Training.

Lenny Dykstra shows little leaguers around Spring Training.

Dick Allen Threatens The Phillies

October 6, 1976:

Arriving in Philadelphia in the early 1960’s, Tony Taylor and Dick Allen could not have had different relationships with the city. Taylor, a Cuban that arrived in a 1960 trade, immediately endeared himself to Philadelphia fans. A solid but unspectacular infielder, his initial stint with the team was so fondly remembered that he found himself inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2002. Allen, a Wampum, PA native, signed as an amateur in 1960 and was named Rookie of the Year in 1964. While Allen’s career numbers warrant serious Hall of Fame consideration, his battles with racism and his own personal demons have made him perhaps the most controversial player of the 1960’s.  And though Allen, too, can be found on the Phillies Wall of Fame, it can be argued that his reputation has prevented his career from receiving its proper due.

After several years away from the team, both found themselves back in the City of Brotherly Love by the mid-seventies.  Tony Taylor received a hero’s welcome, though his career was largely over. However, time had not healed the icy relationship between the Phillies and Allen, who was nearing the end as well. A career filled with injuries, confrontation and alcohol had taken their toll on Allen, and with his skills diminished, so too had management’s patience. Though there were occasional bright spots, like Allen receiving a standing ovation during his first game back, the reunion was largely problematic.

1976 found the Phillies on the upswing. A young core featuring Mike Schmidt, Gary Maddox and Larry Bowa had led the team to their first postseason berth since the 1950 Whiz Kids. While Allen had contributed to the team’s success, 40 year-old Tony Taylor appeared in only twenty-six games and was in danger of being left off of the playoff roster. Allen, who had been in a season long battle with manager Danny Ozark and was notified that he would not be returning in 1977, made it known that if his longtime friend was left off the roster, he would respond by refusing to appear in the playoffs. This threat was one of a number of Allen-related incidents toward the end of the season, including his refusal to celebrate with his teammates after clinching a playoff berth and then electing to go home while his teammates played in St. Louis. For his part, the first baseman would eventually apologize for any trouble he caused.

After these incidents found the team nearly divided along racial lines, with Larry Bowa and Tug McGraw speaking out against Dick Allen, Phillies management gave in slightly. Though he did not play, Tony Taylor was named to the coaching staff for the 1976 NLCS, where the Phillies were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. Taylor would find himself on the coaching staff again in 1977, while Allen would finish his career with the Oakland Athletics. Surprisingly, years later, Dick Allen would go on to call the 1976 Phillies the most talented team he ever played on.

Dick Allen plays catch with Tony Taylor days before the start of the 1976 NLCS

Dick Allen plays catch with Tony Taylor days before the start of the 1976 NLCS

Curt Simmons Returns Home

April 16, 1952:

After missing the 1961 season to serve in Germany, Sgt. Curt Simmons arrived at the National Airport in Washington, DC ready to resume his baseball career. Simmons made his first start only two weeks later, throwing a two run complete game against the Cubs. He would finish the season with a 14-8 record and 2.82 ERA.

Famously, this was not Simmons’ first tour of duty. In September of 1950, as the Whiz Kids were making their postseason push, Simmons’ National Guard unit was called to active duty and he was forced to miss the remainder of the month. Simmons did return to the team in time for the World Series against the Yankees, but Phillies management elected not to reinstate him to the roster. The Yankees went on to sweep the series.

Photo: Unknown

After serving in Germany, Sgt. Curt Simmons touches down in Washington, DC.

After serving in Germany, Sgt. Curt Simmons touches down in Washington, DC.

Dr. Mesabubu Curses The Phillies

September 3, 1962:

Debuting in 1962, the Houston Colt .45’s experienced the growing pains of every expansion team. Fielding a team largely comprised of castoffs, the team found itself mathematically eliminated from the postseason with nearly forty games to play. Already struggling with a disinterested fanbase, Houston’s owners, including Press Agent and future Phillies chairman Bill Giles, were desperate to create a buzz around the team. With a doubleheader scheduled against the Phillies, who sported a 15-0 record against Houston to this point, ownership announced a “Break the Jinx” night.

As 19,000 fans brought in good luck charms like rabbit feet and black cats, Houston management upped the ante by hiring witch doctor “Dr. Mesabubu” to place a curse upon the Phillies. Played by a local disc jockey, Dr. Mesabubu scaled a ladder and recited spells that were intended to reverse the fortunes of the Phillies. The Colt .45’s seemed to benefit, carrying a 2-0 lead into the top of the 7th until a Johnny Callison home run tied the game. The Phillies won to the tune of 3-2, and took the second game, 5-3.

Though the Phillies finished the season with 17 wins against them, Houston eventually got their revenge, winning the final game of the season series.

Photo: Chuck Farmer

Dr. Mesabubu Curses the Phillies

Dr. Mesabubu Curses the Phillies