90th anniversary: Last time the Phillies franchise at sea level

Ninety years ago today was something of a turning point in Phillies franchise history.

On May 14, 1922, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-1. In and of itself, that wasn’t terribly important. The win gave the Phillies a record of 11-12 on the year. Again, that wasn’t particularly special, either.

No, but in a longer view, it had a meaning. That win gave the Phillies an all-time cumulative franchise record of 2,827 wins and 2,827 losses, exactly .500. It proved to be the last time they’d ever be .500.

Immediately after that win 90 years ago today, the Phillies began a 12-game losing streak. Sadly, that did more to set the tone for the rest of the 20th century than their .500 record through May 14, 1922.

The Phillies finished 1922 with 96 losses for the club’s fifth straight losing season. They would experience 30 losing seasons in the next 31 campaigns, broken up only by a 78-76 finish in 1932. By the time they finally experienced back-to-back winning seasons with Robin Roberts in the late 1940s, the franchise was over 1,000 games under .500.

They’ve tried to recover and have had their good moments since then, but the hole has proven to be far, far too deep. In the 1950s, they got fewer than 1,000 games under .500, but then regressed.

In fact, aside from being the 90th anniversary of the last time the Phillies were .500, it’s also 20,000 days (a “day-versary” I call it) since they fell back to 1,000 games under .500. That was Aug. 11, 1957, when the Phillies ended the day with a cumulative record of 4,951-5,951. They’ve been under .500 ever since.

Their all-time franchise record reached its low point on May 31, 2002, when a loss put them 1,243 games under .500 (8,360-9,603). Four games later, they tied that low point, but they then improved and have remained above it since then.

However, prior to Sunday’s game, the Phillies have a franchise record of 9,252 wins and 10,311 losses, 1,059 games under .500. In other words, since May 14, 1922, they’ve been 6,425-7,484 (.462).

To get back to .500, they’d have to average 87 wins a years for the next century. While 87 wins are do-able in a single season, over a century it’s almost impossible. It’s hard to imagine the Phillies getting back to .500, a place they last stood at 90 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Houston trades Ivan Rodriguez to the Rangers, the club that made him famous.

2,000 days since the Angels signs free agent centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr. to a far-too-large contract.

2,000 days since the Dodgers sign free agent centerfielder Juan Pierre to a far-too-large contract. There must have been something in the air that day in LA.

3,000 days since the Steve Bartman ball is destroyed at Harry Caray’s restaurant in Chicago.

5,000 days since Barry Bonds fans in his first at-bat of the day, ending a string of 15 straight plate appearances reaching base.

9,000 days since Bill Madlock joins the 2,000-hit club.

9,000 days since Albert Hall hits for the cycle.

9,000 days since the Braves sign aging pitcher Phil Niekro. It’s a homecoming for him.

9,000 days since the Angels release Doug DeCinces, veteran third baseman.

Anniversaries

1878 James L. Wilkinson, Hall of Fame owner of Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs, is born.

1881 Ed Walsh, Hall of Fame iron man White Sox pitcher, is born.

1886 Charlie Comiskey breaks up a double play by running full tilt into Cincinnati second baseman Bid McPhee. The Reds are furious, but the play stands.

1890 Hall of Fame Negro League scout Alex Pompez is born.

1896 Jake Stenzel becomes first Pirate ever to tally six hits in one game.

1899 Earle Combs, Hall of Famer who played center field for the 1927 Murders Row Yankees, is born.

1911 The Cleveland Indians play their first home game on a Sunday.

1912 Major league debut: Herb Pennock, arguably the worst Hall of Famer ever voted in by the BBWAA.

1913 Walter Johnson runs his scoreless-inning streak to a then-record 56 innings before a run in the fourth inning ends it.

1914 White Sox hurler Jim Scott tosses a no-hitter through nine innings but allows two hits and a run in the 10th, losing the game 1-0 to Washington.

1916 Rogers Hornsby hits his first home run, an inside-the-park shot.

1918 Sunday baseball is legalized in Washington, D.C..

1920 Walter Johnson wins his 300th game. He’s the 10th member of the club, with a record of 300-194 at the moment.

1920 Hall of Fame spitballer Burleigh Grimes has probably the best game of his career, setting personal bests in Game Score (102) and innings pitched. His line: 14 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K in a complete-game victory as Dodgers beat Cardinals, 5-1 (14). Opposing pitcher Marv Goodwin also goes the distance, though his line isn’t as good (though three of the runs allowed are unearned).

1924 Babe Ruth day at Yankee Stadium: he gets the AL MVP Award, and the team’s first World Championship banner is unfurled. But the Browns win the game.

1927 It’s an all-time great pitchers’ duel as Cubs hurler Guy Bush and the Braves’ Charlie Robertson both go the distance in an 18-inning, 7-2 Cubs victory.

1927 An entire section of the Baker Bowl’s right field stands in Philadelphia collapses. Thankfully, only one person dies, but scores are injured.

1928 Jimmie Foxx hits the first of his 12 career walk-off home runs. It’s also his only pinch-hit walk-off home run. To this day, no one’s had 13 walk-offs in the regular season.

1928 John McGraw is hit by car outside Wrigley Field while trying to hail a cab. He takes responsibility for it and doesn’t try to get the driver’s name.

1932 Earle Combs gives himself a nice birthday present. He celebrates his 33rd birthday by belting a leadoff homer off veteran pitcher Sad Sam Jones. It’s the only leadoff homer Jones ever surrenders in 487 career starts.

1933 Al Simmons bangs out his 100th career triple.

1933 Hack Wilson lashes out a walk-off grand slam, a pinch-hit one, too. Dodgers 8, Phillies 6.

1936 Dick Howser, late Royals manager, is born.

1936 Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey gets his 1,000th career hit.

1938 Enos Slaughter’s career is off to a nice start. Today he hits his second career home run, and it’s a walk-off home run.

1938 The second career home run for a young Enos Slaughter is a walk-off home run.

1939 Charlie Gehringer hits his 500th double.

1939 On Mother’s Day, Mother and Father Feller come watch their son pitch. They get more than they bargained for when a foul ball off the bat of Marv Owen catches Mother Feller flush in the face. She needs six stitches over her right eye.

1939 The Giants sign longtime Yankees star second baseman Tony Lazzeri.

1940 Jimmie Foxx hits arguably the longest home run in the history of Comiskey Park, as it clears the left field roof.

1941 Dizzy Dean retires. Technically, he pitches once more in 1947, but that’s just a gimmick. (As a broadcaster, he criticized the Browns saying he could do better, so the team gave him a chance to prove it.)

1942 Tony Perez is born.

1944 A Connie Ryan single ruins what was otherwise a perfect game for Bucky Walters in Cincinnati victory over the Braves.

1944 Stan Musial loses the ball in the sun, and it conks him on the head. Pepper Martin runs over to ask him if he’s okay and then asks if it’s okay that he laughs at Musial. Then he bursts out laughing. Can’t blame the guy, really.

1950 The Yankees farm out Billy Martin to the minors, but not before he first argues with team boss George Weiss about it.

1950 Johnny Hopp gets six hits for the Pirates in one game, including two homers, as they top the Cubs, 16-9.

1955 Dennis Martinez is born. He has a great nickname: El Presidente.

1958 The Kansas City A’s purchase Whitey Herzog from the Senators.

1959 Today is the worst known WPA game for Stan Musial: 0-for-3 with an RBI, two walks, a strikeout, a sacrifice hit, and a GIDP. WPA: -0.578 as Braves beat Cardinals, 8-7.

1961 The Indians win a great pitchers duel over the Orioles, 1-0 in 15 innings The only run scores on a throwing error by Baltimore shortstop Jerry Adair.

1964 Former batting champion Pete Runnels appears in his final game.

1965 Carl Yastrzemski hits for the cycle, going 5-for-5 with two home runs. He sets personal bests for total bases (14) and extra base hits (4). He also gets five RBIs.

1967 Mickey Mantle becomes only the sixth member of the 500-home run club. Two months later, Eddie Mathews joins him.

1968 Don Drysdale begins his streak with the first of six consecutive complete-game shutouts.

1968 A young Nolan Ryan shows glimpses of his future as he fans 14 batters in a game, leading the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Reds.

1970 Dick Allen gets his 1,000th career hit.

1972 Willie Mays first plays with the Mets.

1973 According to WPA, the best game any player for the WAS/TEX franchise ever had comes today when Toby Harrah goes 2-for-4 with two runs, a homer, three RBI, and a walk for a 1.011 WPA. Texas 7, Twins 6.

1973 Yaz gets his first sacrifice hit in over six years and won’t have another for more than three seasons.

1975 Mets honcho M. Donald Grant fines player Cleon Jones $2,000 for “betraying the image of the club.” Jones had recently been arrested on an indecent exposure charge in Florida (though the charge was later dropped).

1977 Jim Colborn of the Royals tosses a no-hitter versus the Rangers. He fans six and walks only one.

1977 Roy Halladay is born.

1978 Dave Kingman of the Cubs hits three home runs in one game and gets eight RBI on the day. A three-run blast in the 15th is the highlight. Or rather, it’s the highlight of the game. After the game, the real highlight takes place when a reporter asks Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda what he thought of Kingman’s performance on the day. His response:

What’s my opinion of Kingman’s performance!? What the BLEEP do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was BLEEPING BLEEP. Put that in, I don’t BLEEP. Opinion of his performance!!? BLEEP, he beat us with three BLEEPING home runs! What the BLEEP do you mean, “What is my opinion of his performance?” How could you ask me a question like that, “What is my opinion of his performance?” BLEEP, he hit three home runs! BLEEP. I’m BLEEPING pissed off to lose that BLEEPING game. And you ask me my opinion of his performance! BLEEP. That’s a tough question to ask me, isn’t it? “What is my opinion of his performance?”

1980 It’s the best WPA game Alan Trammell ever had: 0.924 WPA. 4-for-5, one double, three runs, and two RBI. Tigers 6, A’s 5.

1980 Steve Carlton has his 10th consecutive Quality Start, his longest such streak ever. His line in that time: 8-2 W-L record, 78 IP, 46 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 26 BB, 68 K and a 1.73 ERA.

1981 George Brett injures his ankle in a game and whaps reporter on the head with a crutch afterwards. (He apologies the next day).

1983 Ben Oglivie hits three home runs in one game for the third time in his career as Brewers beat Red Sox 8-7 in 10 innings. His third homer tied it, 6-6, in the bottom of the ninth.

1983 The longest hitting streak of Darrell Evans‘ career peaks at 13 games. He’s 26-for-52 with six doubles, a triple, and seven homers in that span.

1987 Former catcher Luke Sewell dies at age 86.

1988 The best WPA that we know of for a relief stint in Braves history occurs when Rick Mahler does this in relief: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K for a 0.943 WPA. It’s also one of the last times a pitcher tosses eight innings in relief.

1988 Jose Oquendo becomes the first position player in 20 years to get a decision, losing when Ken Griffey Sr. hits a double off him in the 19th inning of a Braves 7, Cardinals 5 (19) game.

1988 Don Sutton records his 324th and final career win.

1989 Benny Distefano joins the exclusive club of left-handed catchers when he works the backstop for one inning. The last southpaw catcher was Mike Squires, nine years before.

1993 Wally Backman plays in his last game

1993 Woody Williams, one of the only pitchers to beat all 30 franchises, makes his big league debut.

1993 Jay Gainer of the Reds hits a homer run in his first at-bat, on his very first pitch.

1994 It’s the 30th/final multi-homer performance for Dave Winfield.

1994 In only his second major league appearance, relief pitcher Paul Shuey fans four in the ninth inning.

1994 The Royals retire George Brett’s number.

1995 Sammy Sosa belts out his 100th career home run.

1996 Dwight Gooden tosses a no-hitter: NYY 2, SEA 0. I looked it up once and figured it was against the fourth-best lineup ever no-hit.

1997 Jim Thome laces his 100th home run.

1998 Wayne Huzienga has a hissy fit: Marlins trade Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, and another guy to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.

1999 Ted Lilly makes his big league debut.

2000 Wild game: Expos 16, Cubs 15. The Cubs lead 6-2 early but blow it. They rally to lead 11-9 in the middle of the eighth, but that’s when things get really ridiculous. First, Montreal scores four in the bottom of the eighth for a 13-11 lead. Then the Cubs came back for four immediately after for a 15-13 lead, but Montreal scores thrice more in the bottom of the ninth. It’s not too often you see 11 runs scored in the last inning and a half and neither team’s lead is ever more than two runs.

Sammy Sosa gets five hits, Eric Young steals five bases, and Henry Rodriguez tallies seven RBI, all for the Cubs—and the team still loses.

2000 Jim Fregosi manages his 2,000th game: 966-1,034 in his career.

2002 Jimmy Carter throws out the first pitch in a Cuban League All-Stars game. Fidel Castro coaches him as he warms up.

2006 A month after reaching .500 for the first time in 44 years, the Astros franchise record falls back to .500 (3,519-3,519) and it’s never been that high ever since.

2006 Andy Pettitte ties his personal-high Game Score: 87. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K.

2008 The Cubs sign centerfielder Jim Edmonds.

2010 Ron Gardenhire orders his team to issue an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira in order to face Alex Rodriquez with the bases loaded. This highly questionable strategy immediately backfires, as A-Rod launches his 19th career grand slam.

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Comments

  1. Chris J. said...

    A reader points out there’s a garbled up bit in the article.  When I say:

    “The Phillies finished 1922 with 96 losses for the club?s fifth straight losing season. They would experience 30 losing seasons in the next 31 campaigns, broken up only by a 78-76 finish in 1932.”

    “Next” should be “out of” 1922 was the fifth year in the 31 year drought.  Looking back over it, the sentence clearly looks like I’m saying it was the first of 31 dead seasons, and that’s wrong.

  2. schmenkman said...

    As you alluded to, the reason for the Phillies’ giant organizational deficit is the period from 1919 to 1948, when they were 1697-2873.

    That’s a 30-YEAR period with a .371 winning percentage.  Echoing what you said about 87-win seasons, that’s very hard to do over such a long time.

    The way I prefer to look at it is this:

    The Phillies have been over .500 for the past 50+ years.

    And if they manage to get to 5 games over .500 at some point this season, they will be over .500 dating back to 1949.

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