course, was being counted on as one of the key men of the Phils' pitching
staff. Always a grim competitor, he had pitched nine seasons in the American
League for the Detroit Tigers and had had more strong seasons than weak ones.
His lifetime record showed 118 wins against 87 losses, a no-hitter against the
Boston Red Sox in 1958, a 20-game season in 1957 and a good enough aim at
difficult hitters to finish one-two-three in the league for batters hit by
pitches in six of his seven full seasons. At times Bunning had been accused by
his opponents of sharpening his belt buckle so that he could scuff up the ball
and thus get a better grip on it. He is one of the few men ever to get Mickey
Mantle of the Yankees mad enough to charge from the batters' box.
to Bunning that his role in spring training was to get himself ready to step
into the starting rotation and that he would not be used against National
League clubs during the spring exhibition games. "When the National League
hitters see you," Mauch told Bunning, "they will be seeing you for the
first time and only when it counts." Mauch watched the 22 pitchers on his
roster carefully, but he watched Bunning just a little more closely than the
rest. Mauch liked the qualities he saw in his new pitcher. He admires fighters.
( Mauch was born in 1925, the son of a dedicated sports fan who had an intense
interest in boxing; his mother told him that if Jack Dempsey had beaten Gene
Tunney in their first fight in Philadelphia in 1926 Gene's father might have
changed his son's name to Jack.)
The first part of
spring training went well for the Phillies. They hustled and by their constant
chatter lifted one another. Allen's bat slapped balls all over Jack Russell
Stadium in Clearwater, and he hit long drives over the outfield fences. Bunning
got himself into shape and in three appearances against American League teams
gave up only six runs. One day late in March, Mauch stood in his dugout just
before an exhibition game and looked out at Bunning as the pitcher ran in the
outfield to exercise. "We're going to war with each other, Jim and I,
before this season is over," Mauch said. "It will be a good thing, too.
He's a great competitor, but he'll say something to me about not pitching him
enough or I'm taking him out when he doesn't think he should be taken out, and
we'll just have to go at it." It was Mauch's highest form of
On April 9 the
Phils broke camp and headed north through Chattanooga and Asheville, N.C. and
then on to Philadelphia for their final exhibition game with the Baltimore
Orioles before opening the season with the New York Mets on April 14. In
Asheville, Mauch put Bunning into a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a
National League team, because he felt that Jim needed the work before his first
regular-season start three days later. "Just go out and take a little walk
in the sunshine," said Mauch. "Don't show them anything, just get
yourself loose. To hell with this game." Bunning got loose and got the
sunshine and threw nothing but "lollipops and cookies" to the Pirates,
who collected 11 runs and eight hits in three and two-thirds innings. Upon
seeing the result, some people in Philadelphia began to wonder just what kind
of trade John Quinn had made.
Even before their
final game of the exhibition season the Phillies felt that they could get off
to a good start because the pitching looked good and the hitters were meeting
the ball well. In that final exhibition game at home against the Orioles, the
Phils had to face Robin Roberts, one of the heroes of the last Philadelphia
team to win a pennant, the 1950 "Whiz Kids." Allen started at third
base and a sizable crowd came out to see him, attracted by his fine showing in
Florida in spring training. In the first inning Allen drove a Roberts pitch
high up against the Alpo dog food sign atop the left-field roof some 400 feet
away for a home run. The bench jumped up and down, and Mauch walked the length
of the dugout clapping his hands.
And then the
season began. Philadelphia's won-and-lost record in spring training had been
only 11-13. A poll of the 10 National League managers indicated that the Phils
would finish fifth. Of 232 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of
America who answered a query from
The Sporting News
, only 10 picked
Philadelphia to win the pennant, whereas 134 foresaw them finishing anywhere
between fifth and eighth. Three writers picked them ninth in a field of 10. Yet
the team showed cohesiveness and spirit, and Mauch said seriously, "It's
possible for this club to win 92 games." A flow of betting money into Las
Vegas chipped two points off their odds, and the Phillies opened the season at
6 to 1—but still fourth choice. People betting on them were considered to have
a lot of hope in their hearts, a lot of money in their pockets and a lot of
rocks in their heads.
get off to a quick start. In winning 10 of their first 12 games the Phils
seemed to be doing the impossible effortlessly. In one game the club rallied
for four runs in the ninth inning to win 6-5 over Pittsburgh. Allen was hitting
.430. Bunning was given three starts against three different teams. He pitched
26 2/3 innings in those starts, gave up only three earned runs and won all
three games. Dennis Bennett, a left-handed pitcher at times difficult to handle
but equipped with great skills, changed his mind slightly about pitching during
the daytime. "I believe I am more effective at night," he had said.
Mauch had replied, "I seem to remember that they play the World Series in
the daytime." Bennett's second start of the season was in the daylight
against Chicago, and he won. Pitcher Art Mahaffey hit his first major league
homer with two men on base for a 10-8 win over the Cubs in a game played with a
24-mile-an-hour wind rushing toward the fences of Wrigley Field.
Pennants began to
wave throughout the city of Philadelphia saying, "GO PHILLIES GO," and
bumper stickers began to appear on cars. Individual Phillie players became
widely known and admired. Cookie Rojas, the scrappy Cuban who could play eight
positions; Clay Dalrymple, the sturdy young catcher; Jack Baldschun, the
tireless relief pitcher; Ed Roebuck, another relief pitcher with the ability to
hit a fungo fly ball higher than any man alive. People who had not rooted for a
Philadelphia team since the A's left town in 1955 started going to Connie Mack
Stadium regularly. Ticket outlets such as Horst and Lichty's in Lancaster, Pa.,
Roamer Tours in Reading, Pa. and Angelo's Barber Shop in Atlantic City, N.J.
began to feel the press of requests for tickets far in advance.
At the All-Star
break during the first week in July the Phils led the league by a game and a
half, yet none were selected to the National League starting team. But Johnny
Callison, the Phils' handsome young right-fielder, who had been gathering a fat
portfolio of clutch hits right along, was called on to pinch-hit, and he
slammed a three-run homer to give the National League a 6-5 victory. Naturally
he did it with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
By the end of
July, Philadelphia still held the league lead, still by a game and a half.
Beating weak teams badly is a good way to win a pennant, and the Phils' record
against the four bottom teams in the league—Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and
New York—was 30-11. The only teams leading the Phils in head-to-head play were
the Cincinnati Reds (6-5) and the St. Louis Cardinals (9-7), and the Phils held
on to first place.