August 8, 1961:
In the midst of a historic losing streak, tensions were high in Philadelphia. During the second game of a doubleheader against the Pirates, a brawl broke out in the sixth inning. The reason for the benches clearing has seemingly been lost, but the newswire noted that the game resumed only after police intervention. The remainder of the game was played under protest, and resulted in something the Phillies had become more than familiar with: a loss.
Photo: AP Wirephoto
The Phillies and Pirates brawl during a 1961 doubleheader
April 6, 1963:
Longtime Phillies trainer Joe Liscio had a reputation for thinking outside the box. In a 1964 article, “Baseball Digest” detailed Liscio’s use of sea kelp, wheat germ and Vitamin B12 injections in treating the team. As the article claimed, “The Phils may not win it all, but they will be excruciatingly healthy”.
1963 saw Liscio introduce the shoulder wheel to the Phillies, designed to strengthen the shoulder and arm. In this photo, Liscio watches closer Jack Baldschun use the mechanism during Spring Training.
Jack Baldschun uses the shoulder wheel under trainer Joe Liscio’s supervision.
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.
Phillies fans welcome Gene Mauch back home.
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
April 15, 1960:
After famously quipping, “I’m 49 years old, and I want to live to be 50,” former Whiz Kids manager Eddie Sawyer resigned one game into the 1960 season. Gene Mauch, manager of the Boston Red Sox’s AAA club, was quickly hired and is seen here, greeting reporters at Philadelphia’s International Airport.
Photo: UPI Telephoto
Gene Mauch is named the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.