Toward the end of the 1948 season a bald, graying, scholarly, virtually unknown manager named Eddie Sawyer began to fill the roster of the Philadelphia Phillies with a bunch of fuzzy-faced boys. Few were ready for the big leagues but, as Sawyer said, "What have we got to lose? We're not winning now." So he swept the old lineup clean, gave the Whiz Kids their chance to play and, two years later, won a pennant, the first for Philadelphia in 35 years.
?THAT WAS 1950
The Phillies haven't won one since, and last fall they finished last for the second year in a row. So this spring—still scholarly, just as bald but even grayer—Eddie Sawyer (who was out of baseball for several years before rejoining the Phillies in 1958) has been cleaning house again. Robin Roberts still has a job, along with some of the other pitchers. Ed Bouchee remains at first base, and Joe Koppe, who is something of a newcomer himself, at short (top left). Wally Post, because he drove in 94 runs, will probably play right field, and Harry Anderson (below left), if he plays back to his 1958 form, may remain in left. But the others are going or gone. Nobody expects this new bunch of "whiz kids" to win any pennants, not this year or next, because they simply do not have that brand of whiz—but the Phillies will lose in 1960 with new faces.
The catcher is Jim Coker, a good-looking 24-year-old up from Buffalo. The second baseman, hopefully, will be Pancho Herrera, who won the triple crown championship—batting, home runs, runs batted in—of the International League last year. Herrera, who failed to beat Bouchee out of the first-base job in previous attempts, had never played second in his life until this spring; he is a huge man, 6 feet 3 inches tall and 220 pounds, but he moves well and maybe the experiment will work.
At third base there is no really new face, only two different ones: Alvin Dark, traded from the Cubs, and Ted Lepcio, who came from Boston by way of Detroit. "We have some outstanding third-base prospects in the system," says the Phillies' front office, "but they aren't quite ready for the majors," a statement which, considering the state of affairs this year, means the young third basemen are no better right now than Class C. Lepcio, when he isn't resting Dark at third, can rescue Herrera at second; since that may be a large job, Lepcio will have help from Bobby Malkmus, a .300 hitter last year at Denver. Last year's second baseman, George Anderson, who hit .218, is not being counted on this season.
Young Johnny Callison, obtained from the White Sox for Gene Freese, may put Harry Anderson on the bench instead of in left, and Bobby Del Greco is in center. Always a superb fielder, Del Greco failed with the Pirates, Cardinals and Yankees because he couldn't hit big-league pitching, but he is only 27 and he can hit big-league pitching now—or at least that is what Kerby Farrell, who managed him at Buffalo, says. As for Post, he still has a job, but it is only because his eventual replacement, a powerfully built Bahamian named Tony Curry, needed another year in a high minor league. Even so, Sawyer was tempted. In 1959, at Williamsport in the Class A Eastern League, Curry batted .314, had 90 runs batted in, 21 home runs, and was given the Most Valuable Player award. Should he treat Triple-A pitching the same way, he may rejoin the Phillies by Memorial Day.
Where pitchers are concerned, Sawyer is like the old lady who lived in a shoe. Roberts had his best spring in years, and has apparently regained his old ability to throw very hard. Gene Conley will report from the pro basketball playoffs late, just as he did last year, but expects to pitch just as well: 12-7 and a 3.00 ERA. Don Cardwell, Jim Owens and Jack Meyer are three proved big-league pitchers. Ruben Gomez, for the first time in history, passed up winter baseball and as a result seems well rested and ready to play. Curt Simmons, throwing without a trace of pain, is all set for a comeback. Young John Buzhardt, picked up from the Cubs in the Dark-Richie Ashburn deal, is considered a terrific prospect. The Phils believe Dick Farrell, terror of the 1957 bullpen, is going to be effective again.
?NEEDS AND DREAMS
The Phils really need another catcher to back up Coker and Valmy Thomas; only Bouchee and Post are real power hitters; Dave Philley is the only dependable pinch hitter; and the bullpen is in a state of confusion. But the starting pitchers are solid and if the hitters come through the Phils will be much improved. If not, if it's another dreary year in the cellar, Phillie fans can look at the kids and reminisce about 1950.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]