SI Vault
 
The Year of the Blue Snow
Steve Wulf
September 25, 1989
That was 1964, when the Phillies blew the pennant and broke the author's heart. Now, 25 years later, he relives the loss with his heroes
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 25, 1989

The Year Of The Blue Snow

That was 1964, when the Phillies blew the pennant and broke the author's heart. Now, 25 years later, he relives the loss with his heroes

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

"One time, after a game, I offered to take this blind girl I knew down to the field. The fans are leaving, and I'm still in uniform. She wants to feel home plate, so I take her over there, and she feels around. Then we walk to first base so she can feel the bag, then to second base and third base. We go all around the bases until we're home again. I never did notice that there were people still in the stands until suddenly I hear all this applause. It was probably the biggest ovation I ever got."

Despite their near success, the '64 Phillies were not kept intact. After a series of off-season trades, the Phils finished sixth in 1965. The front office kept breaking up that old gang of mine, until, in the middle of the '68 season, Mauch himself was sent packing.

I continued to root for the Phillies until the late 1970s. But by that time I was a sportswriter, committed to the edict, No cheering in the press box. So when the Phillies went all the way in '80, I was little more than an interested observer. I numbly walked through that World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In fact, when I ventured out onto the field at Veterans Stadium after the final out to bask in a moment I once longed for, a German shepherd growled at me. I got the message.

As for the 1964 Phillies, they scattered in different directions. A few stayed in baseball: Green, Rojas, Roebuck, Wise, Bobby Wine, Tony Taylor and a young catcher who had only one at bat that year, Pat Corrales. Bunning went into politics after Green, the Phillies' farm director, fired him in 1976 as the manager of a Phillies' farm team. Baldschun and Bennett, roommates in '64, went their separate ways, but both ended up working in the construction industry. Allen, who once said he didn't want to play on something his horses couldn't eat, drifted in and out of thoroughbred racing and now sells an all-weather bubble in which baseball players can practice.

In later life the '64 Phillies were nothing if not prolific: Bunning had nine children, and Bennett and Thomas eight apiece. Why, the 53-year-old Amaro, in his second marriage, has an eight-month-old child and another on the way. There are many grandchildren, and there will be many more, to listen to the tales of the Year of the Blue Snow.

"I'm luckier than most of these guys, because I got to bat in a World Series, with the Orioles in 1969," said Dalrymple at the reunion. "In fact, I batted 1,000—two for two. But the thing I remember about '64 is that I was so physically and mentally exhausted when the season was over. I just went home and slept on the couch for days. It didn't really hit home, though, until I'm lying there watching the first game of the World Series on television. My daughter comes home from first grade and says to me, 'Daddy, how come you're not playing today?' That really hurt."

Dianne Callison, Johnny's wife of 32 years, had a similar recollection. "That September, everybody wanted World Series tickets—friends, neighbors, the pharmacist. I sent the Phillies a check for $1,100 worth of tickets. I suffered through all the losses, but I think one of the saddest days of my life came after the season, when that check came back in the mail. You know, I still have some of those World Series tickets in the attic, along with a pennant that says, 'Phillies, 1964 National League Champs.' "

The 1964 Phillies have had more than their share of tragedy. Short lies in a coma. John Boozer and Don Hoak, both of whom played briefly for the Phils that year, died young. Dalrymple's first wife, Celia, died of cancer, leaving him with three young children, and his second marriage failed. Mahaffey went through a bitter divorce, lost his 16-year-old son, Michael, in an auto accident and hasn't heard from his estranged daughter, Judy, in seven years. He made this plea to Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, who recently wrote a series on the team: "I wouldn't mind if you put it in the paper that I'd love to talk to her." Dalrymple and Mahaffey, thankfully, are very happy in their present marriages.

Callison's investments failed to provide a sufficient income, and he could never find a job for which he was suited. Though he made it known he wanted to get back into baseball, he never got a call. Three years ago he was rushed to the hospital with bleeding ulcers and had a heart attack while in intensive care. He had a triple bypass and lost 20 pounds. In street clothes he does not look much like a man who once had the best arm in baseball, who once finished second in the MVP voting.

Mauch lost his wife, Nina Lee, to cancer several years ago, but it's his ongoing baseball tragedy that people focus on. He has managed for 26 seasons searching for a pennant, with the Phillies, the Expos, the Twins and the Angels. In the 1982 playoffs, when he was managing California, he brought back Tommy John to start against Milwaukee sooner than he normally would have—as if to prove that he'd been right 18 years earlier—and lost the gamble. But you have to hand it to him: Mauch says he still wants to manage if the situation is right.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9