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.

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