Robin Roberts in 1959

April 1, 1959:

For a few days during Spring Training 1959, famed photographer Marvin E. Newman profiled the Phillies for Sports Illustrated. Amongst the few shots that have surfaced from this session, Robin Roberts is the focal point, and on what would have been Roberts’ 87th birthday, they are presented here. Though the poses are typical, the vivid color and detail make these essential viewing for any Phillies fan.

Photos: Marvin E. Newman

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Reinventing Granny Hamner

February 7, 1957:

For nine years, Granny Hamner had been a familiar face to Phillies fans, serving as the shortstop of the 1950 Whiz Kids. Philadelphia fans quickly took to Hamner, admiring his powerful swing and aggressive style of play. In 1956, the attributes that had made him a fan favorite betrayed Hamner, as he seriously injured his shoulder while diving for a ball. Though his fielding remained consistent, the pain prevented the righthander from swinging an effective bat. An off-season surgery was deemed unsuccessful, and the three-time All-Star’s career was in jeopardy.

In an effort to remain on the field, Hamner made three pitching appearances in 1956, two in relief. Feeling comfortable with the idea, the career infielder opened 1957’s Spring Training penciled in as one of the twenty pitchers. Armed with a fastball, knuckleball and curveball, the Phillies’ new reliever was successful in his debut, pitching three innings and earning the win in an exhibition against the Yankees.

Though the initial signs were encouraging, the experiment didn’t last long. Granny Hamner made the 1957 Phillies as the starting second baseman, only pitching one inning in relief during the regular season. As expected, his swing remained hindered by the injury, and 1957 would be his last season as an everyday player.

Strangely, Hamner would pitch in the majors again, three years into his retirement. While coaching in the Kansas City A’s farm system, the 35 year-old was called to the big club after a rash of injuries to the pitching staff. He would post a 9 ERA after pitching four innings over three games.

Photo: AP Wirephoto

Former infielder Granny Hamner pitches in Spring Training while manager Mayo Smith looks on.

Former infielder Granny Hamner pitches in Spring Training while manager Mayo Smith looks on.

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

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.