On April 30, 1919, Joe Oeschger (pronounced Esh-ker) of the Phillies faced off against legendary spitballer Burleigh Grimes of the Brooklyn Robins (aka the Dodgers) in front of 1,300 fans at the Baker Bowl. Neither pitcher started well, and after 3 innings, the Robins held a 5-4 lead. But the two pitchers settled down, and after 9 innings, the score was 6-6. Suddenly the bats of both teams went quiet, and Grimes and Oeschger starting mowing down the opposition. They essentially pitched a shutout, with neither team scoring in the next 9 innings. Finally, in the top of 19th, the Robins got to Oeschger and scored 3 runs. But baseball is a funny game, and the Phils answered this volley with three runs of their own, with our old friend Gavvy Cravath knocking in two runs as a pinch hitter, replacing Hick Cady, who had gone 1-8 thus far in the game. Finally, after 20 innings, the umpires had to call the game of darkness with the score tied 9-9. (The only Phillies player to hit a home run in the game was the wonderfully named Possum Whitted.)
Incredibly, exactly one year and a day later, Oeschger pitched an even longer game. He had been traded to the Boston Braves, and on May 1, 1920, they took on the Brooklyn Robins. Oeschger faced off against Leon Cadore, and both men worked wonders for their ERAs. After 26 innings, the umpires called the game off for darkness, with the score tied at 1-1. Oeschger had not only pitched 26 innings of one run ball, but he pitched a no-hitter over the final 9 innings of the game. It is still the longest game in MLB history. Furthermore, Oeschger is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch two 20 inning games. Halladay is a workhorse and all, but I think this record is pretty safe. Everything you could ever want to know about Joe Oeschger can be found at Baseball Biography Project.
On today’s date in 1887, the Baker Bowl opened for business. The home of the Phillies from 1887-1938, the Baker Bowl was located on North Broad Street, by West Lehigh Avenue. When it opened in 1887, it was considered state of the art. It was the first ever stadium built of brick and steel. The foul territory was enormous, making the stadium non-fan friendly, but it was appreciated by pitchers. The first game, played on April 30th, 1887, was won by the Phillies, 19-10, over the NY Giants. The Phillies would end the 1887 season 75-48, and finish the year 4 games behind the Detroit Wolverines. Amazingly, Phillies pitcher Charlie Ferguson would lead the team in RBIs, with 85, despite only batting 264 times.
The Baker Bowl’s most famous feature was its enormous right field wall. Located a mere 280 feet from home plate, the wall was an incredible 60 feet tall. By comparison, the Green Monster is 37 feet high (and 310 feet from home plate). The enormous wall was an add-on. When the stadium opened, there was a normal sized wall in right, meaning that balls consistently flew out of the park. The Baker Bowl came to be known as The Bandbox. The nickname was later applied to other stadiums, and is now used for any stadium with intimate, homer-friendly features (You might even called CBP a bandbox.)
The Phils played 51 seasons there and only managed one pennant (1915). There was a giant advertising sign on the right field wall which read “The Phillies Use Lifebuoy”. Legend has it that a graffiti artist snuck in one night and next to the ad wrote, “And they still stink.” The Phils were indeed awful for the vast majority of their history in Baker Bowl. They moved to Shibe in 1938 and stayed there until 1970, when they moved into the Vet.
The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society has an excellent history of the ballpark on their site, and I have posted a bunch of very cool photos after the jump.
Both needing seven games to get past their first-round opponents, the Flyers and Bruins face-off beginning this Saturday in a rematch of last year’s memorable Eastern Conference semi-finals in which the Flyers came back from a 3 game to zero deficit and a 3 goal to zero deficit in Game 7 to advance to the conference finals and eventually to the Stanley Cup Finals. Most of the talk heading into this series will be about last year’s epic comeback, or collapse, depending on who you’re talking to, but let’s dive a bit deeper into history and look at the first ever meeting of these teams in the NHL playoffs.
In the 1973-74 NHL season, the Bruins were the class of the entire league offensively. They won the most games in the NHL and scored 49 more goals than any other team in the East and 76 more goals than the Flyers, who led the West. Their most telling offensive stat was that the players who finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in scoring in the NHL all wore the Black & Gold (Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman).
The Flyers won the West with 50 wins and 112 points, but were much more gritty and defensive-minded than their Finals foe. With Bernie Parent in net, the Flyers tied the Blackhawks with the lowest number of goals allowed (164 in 78 games). Parent’s 47 wins was a record that stood until the 2006-2007 season. The Bullies also led the NHL by amassing 1750 penalty minutes, which was 603 more minutes than the second most penalized team in the league. The leading scorer for the Flyers, Bobby Clarke, sat in 5th behind the four Bruins in NHL scoring. Clarke finished with 35 goals and 52 assists in the regular season to lead the NHL West.
Entering the series, the Flyers were huge underdogs; not only because of the waves of offensive talent the Bruins could throw at their opponents, but also because of the history between the two teams. Since joining the NHL in 1967, the Flyers faced the Bruins a total of 28 times; their record: 4-20-4. This abysmal record included a 27 game winless streak which stretched from November 1969 to March 1974. Piling more history against the Flyers was the fact that the Bruins had home-ice advantage in the Finals. Prior to the series, the Flyers had won one game at the Boston Garden and that win took place 6 years, 5 months and 25 days before the Finals began (in the meantime, they went winless in 21 games at the Garden).
In Game 1, the Bruins got out to a 2-0 lead with first period goals from Wayne Cashman and Gregg Sheppard. The Flyers got one in the second and then Bobby Clarke tied the game 5 minutes into the 3rd period. The score would stay knotted until Bobby Orr’s slap shot with 22 seconds left beat Bernie Parent and put the Flyers down 1-0 in the series.
Game 2 provided the turning point of the series. All square at 2-2, Game 2 went into overtime. With the Flyers needing a victory to avoid digging a 2 games to 0 hole, Bobby Clarke scored the most important goal of his career:
In Games 3 and 4, a re-energized and confident Flyers team held serve at home and took the series lead 3 games to 1. Back in Boston for Game 5, the Bruins “outmuscled, outskated and outhustled” (in the words of Bruins’ coach Bep Guidolin) the Flyers en route to a 5-1 victory. The pressure of the series came through in Game 5, resulting in a playoff record 43 penalties, including 6 fights. Schultz averaged 1 fight per period.
With series at 3-2, Game 6 was played in Philadelphia. In the dressing room before the game, Fred Shero wrote his most famous pre-game quote: “Win today, and we walk together forever.” After Kate Smith’s God Bless America caused the Spectrum to go bat-shit, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr skated up to her, shook her hand and gave her flowers in an attempt to foil the Flyers’ good luck charm. At that point, the Flyers were 36-3-1 when she sang. Their attempt wasn’t successful.
At the 14:48 mark of the first period, Rick MacLeish deflected home a power play goal. That was all Bernie needed. Parent was under fire all night, but made save after save. Instilling confidence in the Flyers and frustration in the Bruins, Parent was flawless. Bernie saved all 30 shots he faced and shut out one of the best offenses in NHL history in a Stanley Cup clinching Game 6 win.
The Penn Relays are taking place now through Saturday at Franklin Field. Officially the Penn Relay Carnival, the Relays are the longest running uninterrupted collegiate meet in the United States. The first meet was held in 1895 (a year before the first modern Olympics) and is considered the birthplace of the modern relay. The event has long drawn the top high school, collegiate and Olympic level athletes from around the country and beyond.
When discussion turns to the Eagles worst draft picks, there are a lot to choose from. Jon Peters was a bust, as was Leroy Keyes. Bernard Williams had a lot of talent, but loved getting high more than he loved playing football. A lot of people throw Jon Harris into the mix, and Kevin Allen was a disaster. Mike Mamula seems to make every list, although he twice had 8 sacks in a season and probably should have been used as a linebacker instead of a DE. But none of these players was selected ahead of 5 future NFL Hall of Famers (though Keyes was picked ahead of 4 of them.)
Michael Haddix was a star running back at Mississippi State. The Eagles, who were coming off a 3-6 strike shortened season, saw that in the next few years star running back Wilbert Montgomery was going to need to be replaced. So when the #8 pick came to them, they decided to spend it on Haddix. It was a terrible pick, not only because Haddix didn’t live up to expectations, but because they passed on 4 future Hall of Famers who would be drafted in the first round and 5 overall. The Oilers had the pick after the Eagles, and selected future Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. A few picks later, the Bills decided to select Jim Kelly. The round ended with the two teams who had met in that January’s Super Bowl, the Dolphins and the Redskins, selecting Dan Marino and Darrell Green. Again, two of the best to ever play their positions (Future Hall of Famer Richard Dent was selected in the 8th Round). When you add in the men selected before Haddix, such as Elway and Dickerson, this may have been the richest First Round in NFL history. And the Eagles got squat for it.
Haddix ran for 76 yards on 24 carries in his first game that September. It would prove to be the greatest game he ever played. By Week 4, he had scored two TDs, but his carries per game were quickly dropping. He would score one more touchdown for the rest of his career. He stayed on the team for 6 years however, eventually moving to fullback. His best season would come in 1986, when he ran for 276 yards (and 0 TDs). In his 6 years in Philly, he would rush for 1189 yards. The running back selected a few picks before him, Eric Dickerson, would rush for that many yards in the first 10 games of his career. Was he the worst pick ever? Hard to say. Leroy Keyes was pretty bad, was picked directly before the Steelers selected Mean Joe Greene, and had an even shorter career. But Haddix was picked ahead of one of the greatest linemen of all-time, greatest QBs of all time, and greatest CBs of all time.
That said, 1983 wasn’t a total loss for the Birds. They got Wes Hopkins in the 2nd round. Who do you think was the worst Eagles pick of all time?
Leonard Tose’s daughter, Susan Tose Spencer, recently discussed the lockout with the Las Vegas Sun. (She currently lives in Las Vegas.) Not surprisingly, Spencer, who was the first (and still only) female GM in NFL history, sides with the owners.
“The players are employees, but they’re not taking any risks,” she said Tuesday. “They’re not spending any money on expenses.
“As a business owner, I say it’s my business, because I put the money up. If I buy a new franchise today, I’m spending $800 million to $900 million, and I may have to borrow money to build a new stadium. It’s all my risk.”
Of course, her dad was a legend in this town, for his selfless giving to employees and to charity, his lavish and ultimately disastrous lifestyle, and for the fact that he very nearly moved the team to Phoenix. This from a 1984 Sports Illustrated article.
The game of holding cities hostage, one played with increasing success by pro sports entrepreneurs, was raised to a high art last week by Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose. After threatening to move the Eagles to Phoenix, the financially embattled Tose—he reportedly is $40 million in debt—agreed to keep them in Philadelphia in return for concessions from the city fathers that included construction of luxury boxes in Veterans Stadium, deferral of stadium rent for 10 years, a new practice facility and a bigger share of food and beverage concession revenues…When rumors of a possible move to Phoenix surfaced a few weeks ago, Tose said, “The only way the Eagles will move will be over my dead body.” Early last week the real story emerged: Negotiations were under way for James Monaghan, a Phoenix resident, to pay Tose $30 million or more for a one-quarter share of the Eagles, who would move to the Arizona city. The news was a downer in Philadelphia, where a crowd booed Tose as he came out of a barbershop and where the Daily News’ Mark Whicker wrote of Tose, “Loyalty? That’s just a word in the dictionary…behind loser, a few pages behind liar.”
The press wasn’t always so angry at Tose. In fact, many of the reporters loved him, because the cordial Tose was the only owner in the NFL who served filet mignon and lobster in the press box. He was known for his incredible generosity, often tipping waiters with $100 bills. He helped start the Ronald McDonald House, and he often dipped into his pockets to help local charities, schools, and the Philly Police Department.
As for his disastrous lifestyle, he was a heavy drinker and a remarkably terrible blackjack player, always a terrible combination. This from his obit in the NY Times:
The casinos sent limousines and provided him with his own table, dealer, cocktail waitress and monogrammed glasses kept filled with scotch. He sometimes played seven $10,000 hands simultaneously. On one night, he signed $1 million in credit markers. In 72 losing nights, he lost $14.67 million at the Sands alone.
On some nights, he won big, stuffing athletic bags with hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the end, he lost it all, by his estimate more than $20 million at Resorts International and $14 million at the Sands.
He lost all of his money to divorce and to the casinos, and on his 81st birthday he was evicted from his Main Line mansion. He lived out his last few years in a small Center City hotel, with many of his bills being paid by former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil. When Tose died in 2003, Vermeil gave the eulogy. He began by saying, “Leonard Tose was an original piece of work.”
There’s an interesting piece on MLBtraderumors.com right now about how Sam Fuld has stepped in nicely since Manny’s sudden retirement in Tampa, and it references how the Phils tried to replace Schmidt when he suddenly retired in 1989:
The stakes were very different back in 1989, when an aging Mike Schmidt unexpectedly retired on May 28th with a season line of .203/.297/.372. Hopes had been high for Schmidt to regain his Hall of Fame form after a down 1988, but 172 plate appearances in, Schmidt acknowledged that he simply wasn’t the same player anymore.
With internal options Chris James and Randy Ready stretched as everyday third basemen, the Phillies made a deal three weeks later, trading Steve Bedrosian and Rick Parker to the Giants for Charlie Hayes, Terry Mulholland and Dennis Cook. Hayes provided an OPS+ of 93 as the regular third baseman, around where Schmidt was when he called it quits.
The move helped Philadelphia eventually win the National League in 1993, along with a second deal that day with the Mets to bring Lenny Dykstra into the fold. At the time, however, it was the Charlie Hayes trade, and Hayes left the Philadelphia fans disappointed, both because Schmidt was impossible to replace, and because the Phillies finished 67-95.
Not only was Schmidt impossible to replace, but Hayes was simply not very good while in Philly. In his two full seasons with the team (’90 and ’91), he had 110 RBIs total. Compare that with Schmidt, who had 110 or more RBIs in a single season 4 times, and between 100-110 another 3 times. Hayes would come into his own two years later as a member of the expansion Colorado Rockies. Perhaps the best indication of what a launching pad Coors Field was, Hayes hit 25 HRs (17 at home) and 98 RBIs (66 at home).
I’m not sure how the move helped the team win in 1993. Hayes and Cook were no longer on the team, and Mulholland was a good but not spectacular pitcher (though Philliesnation has him ranked as the 55th best Phillie of all time.). The Dykstra deal helped them win in ’93 obviously, but I don’t see how “the Charlie Hayes trade” really made much of an impact. In fact, Steve Bedrosian, who the Phils traded away, helped the Giants make the playoffs in 1989, the Twins make the World Series in 1991, and the Braves win the NL West in 1993. Charlie Hayes would return to the team in ’95, and actually put up much better numbers the 2nd time around (.276, 11 HRs, 85 RBIs). His son Tyree is now a pitcher in the Reds organization.
Interesting story in today’s Inquirer about Philly track star John Taylor. I don’t think I had ever heard of him:
The first relay race in Olympic history – a sprint medley consisting of two 200-meter legs, a 400 and an 800 – was held later on July 25, and the U.S. team won easily. Taylor ran the 400 in 49.8 seconds. One of those 200 legs was run by his fellow Penn Quaker, Nate Cartmell, and the 800 by Mal Sheppard, a former Brown Prep teammate.
(Though he was the first to earn gold, Taylor was not the first African American to medal at an Olympics. In 1904, two track and field competitors, Joe Stadler and George Poage, essentially competing for their club teams, had combined to win three medals – a silver and two bronzes.)
After the Games, Taylor stayed in Europe to compete, returning to Philadelphia that fall. At some point, he contracted typhus, fell ill and died at his parents’ home on Dec. 2.
Happy birthday to the Phillie Phanatic, who debuted on April 25th, 1978. The Phanatic was recently named the beloved mascot in sports by Forbes Magazine. So how did America’s most beloved mascot get his start?
The Phanatic was created in 1977 because the team wanted a more family-friendly mascot. Their previous mascots, Phil and Phyllis, were created to build upon the bicentennial buzz, but the bicentennial had come and gone, and Phil and Phyllis weren’t inspiring families to bring their kids to the madhouse that was Veteran’s Stadium. The following comes from Bill Giles book, Pouring 6 Beers at a Time:
Denny Lehman, the Phillies director of marketing, periodically traveled with the team. He saw firsthand how much fun the (San Diego) Chicken could create. For two or three years, Denny badgered me to have a real mascot to replace Phil and Phyllis. He explained that the chicken was creating more of a family atmosphere at Jack Murphy and that the number of fights in the stands had decreased dramatically.
In 1978 I relented and asked our promotion director, Frank Sullivan, to contact the people who designed Big Bird on Sesame Street. I asked the designers-Bonnie Erickson and Wade Harrison-to create something fat, green, indefinable, and loveable.
The first rendition was not to my liking. I asked them to make him fatter and his nose bigger. They did. The Phillie Phanatic was born.
The Phanatic debuted on April 25, 1978 against the Cubs.
Both the Sixers and the Flyers are in action today with their playoff lives on the line. The Sixers, down 3-0 in the first round, try to avoid being swept by the Heat at home at 1pm. The Flyers, down 3-2 in the Conference Quarterfinals, are in Buffalo where the puck drops at 3pm.
Having two teams in this precarious position on the same day isn’t common: this is only the second time it’s occurred. The only other time both the Sixers and Flyers needed wins on the same day to avoid playoff elimination was May 1, 1977.
The 1976-77 Sixers was one of the most talented and deep teams in franchise history. In addition to reaping the benefits of the ABA-NBA merger by adding Julius Erving, George McGinnis and Caldwell Jones, the 76ers were loaded with Henry Bibby, Steve Mix, Fred Carter, Joe Bryant, World B. Free and Darryl Dawkins. Oh yeah, there was also that Doug Collins guy. The Sixers rolled through the Eastern Conference, earning the #1 seed and the first-round playoff bye that came with it.
The Sixers faced the pre-Bird Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. Each team traded wins, forcing a Game 7 on May 1, 1977 in Philadelphia. The Sixers took the seventh game 83-77 and went on to the NBA Finals.
In the Finals, the Sixers lost 4 games to 2 to the Bill Walton led Portland Trailblazers. Game 2 of that series saw the series changing Darryl Dawkins sucker-punch followed by Maurice Lucas sucker-punch followed by Dawkins/Lucas square-up seen below:
On the same day the Sixers beat the Celtics in Game 7, the Flyers were in Boston trying to avoid being swept in the Conference Semifinals. The 1976-77 Flyers were led by Rick MacLeish, Bobby Clarke and mid-season pickup Bob Dailey. The Flyers advanced to the semis by defeating the Maple Leafs in six games. After losing their first two games at home against the Leafs and being down 2-0 in game three, the Flyers turned the series around and reeled off four straight wins.
Reaching the conference semifinals for the fifth straight year, the Flyers repeated their early first series performance by digging an 0-2 hole with home losses. However, this time there was no turnaround. When the series shifted to Boston, the Flyers lost Game Three 2-1. On May 1, 1977, Boston completed the sweep with a 3-0 shutout victory. After the game, the Bruins’ organist John Kiley poured some salt into the wounds by switching out his normal victory song for “God Bless America.” Douche.
The last time both teams faced elimination, Philly was treated with a mixed bag of results. There is no telling what will happen later today, but by the time 6 o’clock rolls around, there’s a chance that the Phillies will be getting our undivided attention.