Satchel Paige Joins the Miami Marlins

June 16, 1956:

Though the Miami Marlins are now division rivals, in their original incarnation, they briefly served as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. From 1956-’58, future Phillies like Turk “Dick” Farrell and Jim Owens served in the Marlins’ rotation, but the most noteworthy Marlin never made it to the big club: Leroy “Satchel” Paige.

By 1956, the soon-to-be 50 year old Paige was struggling to continue his career, largely due to racism and the view that he had become little more than a novelty. Legendary executive Bill Veeck, who had agreed to run the Miami Marlins for friends, was no stranger to Paige, having given the career Negro Leaguer an opportunity to pitch in the majors in 1948. Never one to shy away from promotion, Veeck signed Paige to the Marlins for a salary of $15,000 and a percentage of the gate.

Paige’s introduction to the Miami Marlins was far from smooth. Manager Don Osborn initially resisted the legend’s presence, insisting he would only call on Paige during exhibition games. Veeck responded by offering Miami’s nine best hitters $10 for each hit they managed off Paige. After striking out all nine, Osborn unconditionally added the 49 year old to the roster. Seeking to capitalize upon his new signing, Veek began planning stunts around Paige. Most were trivial, such as the pictured rocking chair waiting in the bullpen, but for his debut, Paige was flown to the field on a helicopter. The incident was a near disaster, as the helicopter lost contact with the tower and nearly rain out of fuel. As the Hall of Famer later put it, “I was so scared. That pilot and me was like husband and wife until we landed.”

Satchel Paige’s tenure in the Phillies organization would last a total of three seasons before ending acrimoniously. By 1958, Bill Veeck had left the team and Paige began clashing with management, largely due to financial concerns. With the relationship beyond repair, the Marlins suspended Paige for what they called his “utter disregard of rules”. The right-hander was denied his release from the team, finishing the 1958 season before both sides agreed to part.

Following the 1958 season, the Phillies ceased their partnership with the Marlins. Paige would bounce in and out of baseball for the next decade, appearing with the Kansas City Athletics for one game in 1965 before retiring in 1966. The Negro League Committee inducted him into the Baseball Hall of Fame five years later.

Photo: Bob East

Satchel Paige sits in his easy chair in the Miami Marlins bullpen.

Satchel Paige sits in his easy chair in the Miami Marlins bullpen.

Robin Roberts’ Pitching Mechanics

August 16, 1953:

At the height of his powers, Robin Roberts was a prototypical power pitcher. Using the technique know as “drop and drive”, Roberts relied on a long stride and lower body strength to propel his blazing fastball. Though the Phillies’ ace used these mechanics on his way to becoming one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, the drop and drive is now largely frowned upon by coaches at every level, claiming it leaves pitchers vulnerable to upper body injury. Unlike most drop and drive pitchers, Roberts maintained a fluid delivery with little wasted motion.

Having finished with 28 wins in 1952, Roberts’ 1953 campaign received increased media attention as he seemed on pace to eclipse the 30 win mark. Unfortunately, a poor September prevented this, though he finished with a tremendous 23-16 record.

PHOTO: United Press Photo

Robin Roberts' Drop and Drive Delivery

Robin Roberts’ Drop and Drive Delivery

“Dropping the Lies”

The Phillies’ official website makes the claim that “the Phillies are the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional sports”, but this can be disputed. From the team’s inception in 1883 to 1890, three nicknames were regularly alternated: the Quakers, the Philadelphias, and the Phillies. Though the club officially settled upon the Phillies in 1890, further challenges were made. Horace Fogel, owner of the club from 1909 to 1912, called the nickname “trite” and attempted to rebrand them as the Live Wires. After little public support, Fogel ceased his campaign.

While the club had indeed retained the name “Phillies” in some capacity since 1883, it was dropped entirely in 1942 when the team became known simply as “The Phils”. The specific reason for the change is uncertain, but there are more than a few theories, ranging from a dispute with the Phillies cigar company to a newspaper cracking that the team wanted to “get the lies out of their name”. Most accepted is the belief that longtime coach and new manager Hans Lobert felt that, after a long period of futility, “Phillies” held an association with losing.

If Lobert believed that a simple name change would reverse the fortunes of a franchise plagued by poor ownership and poorer finances, he was quickly corrected. The 1942 Philadelphia Phils earned a 42-109 record, beating out their American League neighbors the Athletics for the worst record in the majors. Lobert would not return in 1943, nor would owner Gerald P. Nugent, after the National League demanded that he sell the team.

The team would become the Phillies yet again in 1943, as new owner William D. Cox explained, “We’re calling them the Phillies now; I like that better”.

Fittingly, after Cox received a lifetime ban from baseball that same year, new owner Bob Carpenter, Jr. felt a name change would improve the Phillies’ image. While retaining their new-old name, a fan contest resulted in the secondary nickname the Blue Jays, which lasted until 1949.

The 1942 Philadelphia Phils

The 1942 Philadelphia Phils