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The Rise and Fall of the Fabulous Phillies
William Leggett
March 01, 1965
No team ever had a year like the one the Philadelphia Phillies had in 1964. Only a long-shot bet for the pennant, they started quickly and, led by players like Johnny Callison (right), established themselves as the big team in the National League. Then, two weeks before the season ended, they collapsed completely, lost 10 straight games, the pennant—and the dream. In the vivid photographs that follow and in the article beginning on page 57 is the detailed story of their strange and unforgettable season.
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March 01, 1965

The Rise And Fall Of The Fabulous Phillies

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Early the next morning the Milwaukee Braves got on an airplane in Pittsburgh after a losing game the night before. They had heard that the Phils had lost, and as they settled in the plane Gene Oliver, the catcher-outfielder, spoke to Ed Mathews, the Brave third baseman. "Eddie," Oliver said, "I've got a feeling we're going to knock Philadelphia off four straight. I don't know why I have this feeling, but I felt this way in 1962 when I was with the Cardinals, and we went to Los Angeles and knocked the Dodgers out of the pennant." ( Oliver had hit a homer on the last day of that season to beat Los Angeles 1-0.)

When the Braves got to Philadelphia they went over to Vincent's barbershop opposite the Warwick Hotel, where all visiting teams stay. National League ballplayers tend to wait to get haircuts until they get to Philadelphia because Ernie Valadez, the 31-year-old proprietor, and his four assistants give the players extra service. That extra service includes hot towels applied to the face and top of the head and a massage with two vibrators, all for $2.25. The barbers also specialize in flattop crew cuts—the players' favorite. In the barbershop Oliver kiddingly told the barbers that the Braves, fighting for a spot in the first division themselves, were going to sweep the Phillies four straight. The barbers bit their lips and went back to work.

The Braves started Wade Blasingame that night, and Mauch decided to use two rookies in the outfield against Blasingame—Alex Johnson and Adolpho Phillips. Mauch had heard that "Johnson and Phillips had beaten Blasingame two games in the Pacific Coast this year, according to our reports." In the first inning Joe Torre of the Braves hit a line drive to center that should have been a single, but the ball took a weird bounce and sailed past Phillips for a triple, scoring the first run. In the fifth inning, with two out and two on, Johnson struck out. In the seventh, after getting on base, Johnson advanced to second on Vic Power's swinging bunt to Mathews at third base. Knowing that he had no chance to get Power, Mathews threw the ball to second base behind Johnson, who had made a wide turn. As Alex scrambled to get back to second his feet came out from under him, he was tagged out and the inning was over. The Braves won 5-3, and Johnson and Phillips between them had gone 0 for 6 against Blasingame. Mauch had been given a monumental piece of misinformation. Both Johnson and Phillips had indeed hit well against Blasingame's Pacific Coast League team (Johnson .500, Phillips .388), but Blasingame had faced Phillips only once all season and had walked him, and he had never pitched to Johnson at all.

The Phillies' lead was now down to three games.

Of all the games played by the Phillies in their collapse, none is remembered more vividly than the game of Friday, September 25. "It was like a World Series game," says Milwaukee Manager Bobby Bragan. According to Gene Oliver, "It was the most exciting baseball game I have ever been in or ever seen." The Phils led 1-0 until the top of the seventh inning, when Catcher Clay Dalrymple tipped the bat of Milwaukee Batter Dennis Menke for Dalrymple's first interference call of the season. The Braves promptly started a two-run rally, and then Milwaukee went ahead 3-1 in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth Johnny Callison hit a two-run homer to tie the score. In the 10th the Braves got two more runs, but in the bottom of the inning, with one on and two out, Allen hit an inside-the-park homer to tie the game again. Certainly, here was a game that belonged to the Phils. In the 12th inning the Braves had runners on first and second when a ground ball—a possible double-play ball—was hit to the right of First Baseman Frank Thomas, who before the game had ripped the cast from his thumb and asked to play. The ball bounced off Thomas' glove and a run scored. Then, with Gene Oliver at third base, the Braves tried a double steal; the throw from second back to home had Oliver out, but Dalrymple dropped the ball. Milwaukee won 7-5. The Phils' lead was only one and a half games over Cincinnati and two and a half over the Cardinals.

The next day, after carrying a 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning, the Phils lost again, 6-4. Johnny Callison was playing with a severe cold, and when he went out onto the field Umpire Al Forman noticed that he seemed frail and white. Callison was on antibiotics and had been on them for several days, but would not come out of the lineup.

By now the fans in Philadelphia were booing, and thinking desperately. In an unlaudable effort to stop the batting assault of the Braves, a group of teen-agers went to an auto supply shop late Saturday afternoon and bought eight tiny circular mirrors to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the Brave hitters the next day. Fortunately, the sun did not shine, but it didn't seem to matter as the Phils got off to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning. Then the Braves smashed 22 hits and won 14-8. Philadelphia relinquished first place—to the Cincinnati Reds—for the first time in 73 days. And the Cardinals were only half a game behind the Phils as the two teams opened a three-game series in Busch Stadium.

On the plane to St. Louis the players were silent but somewhat happy to be leaving Philadelphia, where the boos had begun to bother them. In that final game against Milwaukee, Ruben Amaro had been booed unmercifully, while a sign saying, "Amaro for MVP" hung from the stands. By now he had stopped writing home. His father kept saying over and over, "What in hell is wrong with these kids? They are not batting worth a damn." Do�a Pepa no longer waved celery in the market, and her husband tried to soothe her. "Every team goes into a slump now and then, old girl. They soon come out of them." Do�a Pepa sat in silence and prayed.

"The people in Philadelphia," said Ruben in St. Louis, "will be hollering 10 years after we are gone. But the nice thing is we are getting away now."

Relief Pitcher Jack Baldschun said, "It's got to help for us to get away. You don't hear the boos when you are out there pitching, but down in the bullpen you hear the comments and the cuss words and...." Catcher Clay Dalrymple said, "Their hearts are breaking right along with ours." Mauch said, "We still have time."

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