The Other DiMaggio

March 1946:

History has been kinder to Joe and Dom, but it was oldest brother Vince DiMaggio that first experienced life as a professional ballplayer. A talented but unremarkable centerfielder, DiMaggio landed in Philadelphia by way of a 1945 trade. His initial season as a Phillie was productive, batting .257 with 19 home runs, but he would be traded to the New York Giants in May of 1946, after only six games with the Phillies. Retiring after the season, DiMaggio would opt for a quieter life than his brother Joe, taking work as a salesman and studying the Bible. The DiMaggios would rarely speak until making amends in 1986, shortly before Vince’s passing.

The 1946 season is known as the first year of the “post-war baseball boom”. With World War II ending in September of the previous year, teams found themselves welcoming back players from service. DiMaggio was one of the many veterans on the 1946 Phillies, having built ships for the Navy years earlier. During Spring Training, this photo was staged, with manager Ben Chapman joking that he communicated with the servicemen via walkie-talkie.

Clockwise from left: Vince DiMaggio, Ben Chapman, outfielder Ron Northey and infielder Frank McCormick

Photo: Miami Beach News Bureau

Manager Ben Chapman jokes with Vince DiMaggio, Ron Northey and Frank McCormick

Manager Ben Chapman jokes with Vince DiMaggio, Ron Northey and Frank McCormick

“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