On May 26th, 1959, Harvey Haddix put on the greatest pitching performance in baseball history, but lost the game. That was because, after losing his perfect game in the 13th, he gave up a home run to Joe Adcock (It was later ruled a double due to a mixup on the basepaths, but the Braves still won.) A mere three days later, Adcock was involved in perhaps an even stranger walk-off.
On May 29th, the hapless Phillies traveled to County Stadium in Milwaukee to take on the powerful Braves. The Braves were led by young sluggers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, as well as an aging but still spectacular Warren Spahn. Spahn wasn’t on the mound that day (He would throw a complete game 4-hitter against the Phils two days later), and the Phillies quickly got to starter Carl Willey, tagging him for 4 runs in 2 1/3 innings. Braves reliever Juan Pizarro came in slow the onslaught, and the two teams entered the 9th inning tied at 5 apiece.
Phillie starter Gene Conley, who had just come over from Milwaukee the past offseason, gave up a triple to Hank Aaron to start the 9th, then walked Wes Covington intentionally. With one out and runners on the corners, he decided to do the same to Adcock, in the hopes of loading the bases and coaxing the next batter, slow catcher Del Crandall, to ground into a double play. But Conley’s first intentional ball came a little too close to the plate, and Adcock smacked it to 2nd. Thinking he didn’t have time to turn two, Phillies second bagger Sparky Anderson (yes THAT Sparky Anderson. He played one season in the Bigs…for the 1959 Phillies) heaved the ball home. The throw was late, Aaron was safe, and Joe Adcock had his second shocking walk-off in 72 hours.
Gene Conley would pitch for the Phillies for two years, and is the answer to an incredibly awesome trivia question. He is the only person to ever do what? Answer in the comments if you think you know.
On May 29, 1989, Michael Jack Schmidt announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.
Schmidt played out 42 games of the 1989 season, but stepped away from the game just prior to his 43rd. He announced his retirement at Jack Murphy Stadium before the Phillies took the field against the Padres.
Nagging injuries and age had caught up with the 39-year-old infielder. He missed the last two months of the ’88 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. His struggles to open the ’89 season led him to admit that he simply couldn’t do it anymore. He was hitting only .203 with 6 HR at the time of his retirement. He was mired in a 2-41 slump at the plate and was leading the Phillies with 8 errors. In his tearful speech, the opening of which is below, he said: “Over the years, I’ve set high standards for myself as a player, and I always said that when I couldn’t live up to those standards I would retire. I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases.”
Schmidt retired with 548 career home runs, 3 NL MVP Awards, a World Series MVP Award, 10 Golden Gloves, 6 Silver Slugger Awards, and 12 All-Star Game appearances. He led the National League in home runs 8 times and in RBI 4 times. In 1995, he was inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
I bought a bunch of old Philly Almanacs last weekend, and they formed the basis of my column in the Post this week. Of course, they also contained a few sports goodies which I’m excited to share with you on here. Let’s start with the 1887 Phillies (aka the Quakers, as they were also known), who got quite a little write-up in the 1888 Almanac. Lalli actually wrote about this team last year. A few things I particularly enjoy: the writer complaining about the Detroit team’s payrool, and the fact that people apparently hated the Baker Bowl even in its inaugural year. Here is the 1888 Almanac piece verbatim:
The salary list of baseball players for the season of 1887 amounted to over $1,000,000. There were about a dozen professional organizations, the majority of which were composed of eight clubs each, with an average of twelve men per club. The two leading organizations are the National League and the American Association, in each of which Philadelphia has a representative club. These two clubs are great rivals, and each has a host of followers and admirers.
The Philadelphia Club, which is a member of the National League, made the splendid record during the season of winning 75 games and losing but 48, giving it a percentage in victories of .609. Only one club did better-the Detroit, which won the champion pennant with 79 victories to 45 defeats, giving it a percentage of .637. The Detroit Club of 1887 had the highest-priced team ever put upon a ball field, and yet the margin by which it won the pennant was narrow.
The season opened very disatrously for the local club, which was obliged to begin at home on newly graded grounds that were not fit to play upon. Several players were injured, all became intimidated, and there was more or less dissipation among the men, which had to be corrected, and it was well toward the middle of the season before the club began to play in good form. From that time on the club improved its position steadily, climbing from fifth to second position. The Boston, New York, and Chicago Clubs repeatedly went down before its steady play, and the Detroit Club was beaten twice in succession on its own grounds. The Philadelphia Club closed the seventeen last games of the season with sixteen victories and one tie.
Remember, in Senior year of high school, how you had two photos: your casual and your formal? Apparently they used to do that same thing in baseball. Here is the same team from above, this time in their evening attire. (Larger version of photo can be seen here)
And finally, here is a really nice photo of the squad that has apparently been touched up (larger version here). Man, that team was just hounded by the paparazzi!
If there were an award given for a player who is most respected by basketball insiders, while getting the minimum public appreciation, Greer could win hands down.
The reason that so many players are on this list is timing. And that couldn’t be more true for our 2nd Most Underrated Philadelphia Athlete, Hal Greer. He was a guard at a time when two of the best guards in the history of the NBA played. And he was teammates with the best Sixer in the history of the franchise. Being compared to Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, in addition to playing second-fiddle to Wilt Chamberlain in Philadelphia lands Hal Greer on our list. His unmatched production and consistency are what rank him so high.
There aren’t many guys in pro sports like Hal Greer anymore. He was born June 26, 1936 in Huntington, West Virginia and became the first black athlete to receive a scholarship at Marshall University. After graduating in 1958, he was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals, who later became the Philadelphia 76ers. He went to the university located in his hometown and then played out his 15-year professional career for the same franchise.
He was most known for his speed and his mid-range jumper. His style was much more hard work than it was flash. Greer’s teammate, and then coach, Dolph Schayes had this to say: “Hal Greer always came to play. He came to practice the same way, to every team function the same way. Every bus and plane and train, he was on time. Hal Greer punched the clock. Hal Greer brought the lunch pail.” He is also remembered for his quirky style at the free-throw line, from which he would shoot jumpers. His career free throw percentage is 80.1%.
Over the course of his NBA career, the 6’2″ guard averaged 19.2 points per game, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. He scored more than 20 points per game in eight seasons. He played in ten consecutive All-Star games from 1961 through 1970. Although he was the smallest player on the 1968 East All-Star team and although he played just 17 minutes, he earned the MVP Award after going 8-8 from the field, 5-7 from the line, and scoring 21 points. From ’63-’69 he was named to the All-NBA Second Team. He was the type of player that always turned things up in the playoffs. In the 1967 playoffs, he averaged 27.7 ppg, 5.9 rebounds. and 5.3 assists while quarterbacking the best team in basketball history to an NBA Title.
The fact that he scored so well while playing alongside Wilt Chamberlain speaks volumes about Greer’s abilities.
Greer retired after the ’72-’73 season. At that time, he had appeared in more games (1,122) than any other player in NBA history. His 21,586 career points ranked among the all-time top 10, as did his totals for minutes played, field goals attempted and field goals made. His numbers still stand up almost 40 years after he retired. He currently sits 30th all-time in scoring, 22nd in field goals made, and 26th in total minutes.
The usual waiting period for induction into the NBA Hall of Fame is 5 years. Underrated as always, Greer was forced to wait nine.
#15- Byron Evans, #14- John LeClair, #13- Von Hayes, #12- Freddy Leach, #11- Brad McCrimmon, #10- Del Ennis, #9- Eddie Plank, #8- Dick Allen, #7- Kimmo Timonen, #6- Bobby Abreu, #5- Joe Frazier, #4- Ricky Watters, #3- Donovan McNabb
Only one player in MLB history hit the Liberty Bell at the Vet. Greg “The Bull” Luzinski did it on May 16th, 1972. (As I have been informed by Andy and Mike, the Liberty Bell wasn’t located that high when he hit it. It was a 500-foot shot, but the Liberty Bell at that time was located in the 400 Level, where it looks like there are luxury boxes in the above photo. They were actually for press and VIPs.)
It’s been great to see this Sixers-Celtics series get off to such an exciting start. In the late 60s and again in the early 80s, this was one of the premiere rivalries in basketball, but both teams have been extremely inconsistent since and the rivalry fizzled. Here is a look at all of their playoff meetings (not including times they met when 76ers were the Syracuse Nationals).
1965, when Havlicek stole the damn ball. The Celtics would go on to crush LA in the Finals.
1966– Celtics win 4-1. Would beat LA in 7 games in the Finals.
1967-Sixers win 4-1, go on to win title over San Fran Warriors.
1968-Sixers took a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost the last three games to Russell and the Celtics, who went on to win the title. Chamberlain took a ton of criticism for the loss from fans and the media, and demanded a trade to LA.
1969- Celtics win 4-1. Would beat Chamberlain and Lakers in Finals, 4 games to 3.
1977- The Sixers won 4-3. Went on to lose to Trail Blazers in Finals.
In the 80s, the rivalry reached its burning point. Philly and Boston were undoubtedly the best two teams in the East, and met each other in the Eastern Conference Finals four times between 1980 and 1985, with each team taking two.
1980- Sixers cruised to a 4-1 Series lead. After knocking off rookie sensation Larry Bird, they would lose to another incredible rookie, Magic Johnson, and the Lakers in Six.
1981- That year’s Conference Final was one of the most exciting playoff series in sports history (John Hollinger of ESPN ranked it the #1 greatest playoff series in NBA history). 5 of the 7 games were determined by 2 points or less, including the last 4 games. Furthermore, the two teams had finished the regular season 62-20. They may have been the two most evenly matched teams in NBA history. The Sixers blew a 3-1 lead in the Series, lost Game 7 by one point at the Garden, and the Celtics went on to cruise to an NBA title over the Rockets. This may have been the most devastating loss in Sixer history.
1982- The Sixers and Celtics met again in the Conference Finals. Once again the Sixers took a 3-1 Series lead. Once again, the Celtics won Game 5 in Boston and Game 6 at the Spectrum to force a game 7. Were the Sixers going to blow it again?
No. The Sixers stormed the Garden, blowing out the Celtics. With just a couple of minutes remaining, and a Sixers win assured, a most remarkable thing happened. The Celtic fans started chanting, “Beat LA! Beat LA!”. You have to think that it inspired the USA! USA! chants in Rocky IV. Right?
Anyway, an incredible moment, but it was not to be. The Lakers would beat the Sixers in 6 games. The Sixers would have to wait until they got a player named Moses to get tho the promised land.
1985- Celtics win 4-1. Lose to Lakers in Finals.
2002-Celtics win 3-2 in the first round. This series is best remembered for “Practice?”
I did a lot of talking about fan behavior last week. First in my column for the Philly Post. Then on WIP Thursday night with Spike Eskin. Then Friday on the podcast. And there was one thing I learned that I couldn’t put in the column but thought was really remarkable and thought you guys might dig.
In the 1920s, the Philadelphia A’s had a solid outfielder named “Good Time” Bill Lamar (left). He was a solid hitter, batting .310 over his 4 seasons in Philadelphia. But the hecklers at Shibe Park would simply not let him off the hook. Fans like the Kessler Brothers and their cousins, the Ziegler Brothers, worked as food vendors during the mornings, then let off work to go to games in the afternoon. And, since they had paid for their tickets, they believed they had carte blanche to mentally destroy the home players. They were the 700 Level before the 700 Level existed. But what made it strange is that unlike the Vet, Shibe was a nice place for a ballgame, and unlike the Phillies, the A’s were usually pretty damn good.
Anyways, Lamar started tanking at home in 1927. Seeing that they were getting to him, the fans laid into him even more, and the results were obvious: Lamar batted .272 at home with a .369 slugging %, while he batted .312 on the road with a .452% slugging percentage. The heckling so got to Lamar that Mack sat him for home games…he played in 28 home games that year and 56 away games. Finally, Lamar told Mack he could no longer play in Philadelphia and asked for his release. Despite the fact that he was a .310 career hitter, he never played in the Majors again. (The Washington Senators picked him up off waivers, but when he demanded a $1000 bonus to join Washington, they blanched and no-one else signed him.)
Mack was furious, at one fan in particular. His name was Harry Donnelly, and the 26-year old had ridden Lamar harder than anyone else at the park. Finally, after Lamar was granted his release, Mack decided to get his revenge. A month after Lamar’s exit, Donnelly started jockeying another A’s player. Mack had had enough. He had Donnelly arrested and taken out of the Park. After the game, Mack walked down the street to the police station and swore out a warrant against Donnelly for disturbing the peace.
“This man’s rooting has damaged the morale of my team,” Mack told the magistrate. “He has been razzing us all year with a voice that carries like a three-mile loudspeaker. Because of him I have had to dispose of Bill Lamar, a competent outfielder. He has assailed other players until they are of little use to the club at home…He has done more to ruin the morale of the Athletics than any other factor, including the bats of Ruth and Gehrig.” The magistrate held Donnelly on $500 bail and threatened to fine him if he were again “handing out raspberries.” I have to assume that Donnelly learned to shut his fat mouth. There is no more historical record of him after his arrest.
Today’s post comes courtesy of a tweet from KYW’s Matt Leon I found pretty fascinating.
The Phillies face 41-year old Mets pitcher Miguel Batista tonight. It won’t be the first time Ruben Amaro has seen Batista. In fact, the two know each other from Batista’s very first appearance in the major leagues.
It was April 11th, 1992. The dominant Pittsburgh Pirates were facing the lowly Philadelphia Phillies at the Vet. Doug Drabek, father of former Phils prospect Kyle Drabek, was on the hill for Pittsburgh. Andy Ashby was hurling for the Phillies. The Pirates were on their way to winning 96 games, the Phillies on their way to winning 70.
Ashby somehow shut down the Pirates incredible lineup, which included Jay Bell, Barry Bonds, Andy van Slyke and even current D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson, while Drabek struggled against a fairly weak offense that included Dale Murphy, Mickey Morandini, and yes, a center fielder who would end the season with a .219 BA, Rueben Amaro.
After 6 innings, the Phils led 5-1, and Jim Leyland decided to give a 21-year old Dominican a chance. In came Miguel Batista, and he induced Mickey Morandini to line out, then walked a player named Julio Peguero, who would play a grand total of 14 games in the majors. Up came Ruben Amaro. The future Phils GM sent a ball into deep right center, scoring Peguero (One of three career runs he would score in the bigs.)
1992 would turn out to be a career year for Ruben Amaro. He hit .219, with 7 homers and 34 RBIs (both career highs). The man he faced, Miguel Batista, is quite a character. He has played for a total of 10 different teams, has written a novel, and is considered one of the good guys of Major League Baseball.
Pretty brutal 15-13 loss to the Braves on Wednesday night, though it was a pretty entertaining game. It also was a little bit of history, as the Phillies have racked up a W every time they’ve scored 13 or more runs since August 3, 1969.
So what happened that August afternoon in the Summer of ’69? The Phils took on the Reds in decrepit Shibe Park, playing out the string in a frustrating year, a year in which they would go 63-99. Facing them were the Cincinnati Reds. A month before this game, a Cincinnati Enquirer writer had introduced the phrase “Big Red Machine”, one that the team would adopt over the next decade. The Reds were on their way to becoming one of the great teams in National League history. They would finish 3rd in the NL East in 1969, but the foundation of their great 1970s run was set. Starting for the Reds that Sunday afternoon were Peter Rose, Tony Perez, and Johnny Bench.
On the hill for the Reds that day was veteran Camilo Pascual (aka “Little Potato”. Seriously.) He wouldn’t last long. Pascual was run off the mound in the first inning, having given up 3 runs while getting 1 out. In came “Fat” Jack Fisher. He wouldn’t last much longer. He was pulled in the bottom of the 3rd. Through 6 innings, the Reds 4 pitchers had given up 17 runs, all earned.
But the Phillies pitchers weren’t faring any better. Bill Champion lasted 2+ innings, then got pulled for Al Raffo, who have up 2 runs in one inning. Then, in the top of the 5th, the dam burst. The Reds went wild, racking up 10 runs, taking a 16-9 lead. Pete Rose had both a single and home run in the inning. Turk Farrell would surrender 6 runs for the Phils.
The Reds went up 18-9 in the top of the 6th, and you have to wonder how many of the 13,000 faithful in Shibe headed for the exits. But the Phils weren’t done. In the bottom of the 6th, the Phils scored 7, helped by a Tony Taylor grand slam. A Dick Allen solo shot in the bottom of the 7th closed the gap to 18-17, but then Wayne Granger came in for the Reds and shut the door. Bill Wilson, meanwhile, pitched the final 3 for the Phils and gave up only one run. The Phils got the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the 9th, but Ron Stone lined out to right, and the Reds escaped with a 19-17 shootout win. Turk Farrell took the loss for the Phillies. It was a well deserved loss, as he gave up 6 runs in 0.1 of an inning. Farrell would retire at the end of the season and move to England to work on an oil rig. Here’s the box score of that game.
RELATED: Phils beat Cubs, 23-22.
He smiled too much. He didn’t run enough. He played the air guitar. He threw up at the Super Bowl. He was passive aggressive. He didn’t lead enough 4th quarter comebacks. He told your boss not to give you that promotion. He convinced Napoleon to attack Russia in the winter.
If you ever needed anyone to blame for anything for 11 years, McNabb was a handy target. Part of that had to do with how tough it is to be QB in Philly, part of it has to do with a pricklish personality that never allowed him to “get” Philadelphia, and part of it (“he smiles too much”) was sheer nonsense.
But even if I concede everything that drives people crazy about McNabb, there is still simply no debate that “Five” is the greatest QB in Philadelphia Eagles history. And it’s not close. He has the record for Most completions, most yards, and most TDs. He played in 6 more games than the beloved Ron Jaworski and threw 41 more TDs and 51 less INTs. He had a winning percentage of 65.2%, while Jaws was just over 50%. He threw 66 more TDs and 5 less INTs than Randall, whose winning % was around 59%.
What makes these numbers even more impressive is the fact that, with one single notable exception, McNabb was playing with receivers who never approached the level of skill of Mike Quick, Harold Carmichael, or even Keith Jackson. Due to the Eagles insistence that “the system” was more important than anything else, McNabb spent season after season passing to James Thrash and Todd Pinkston. Just how good was McNabb? The mindblowingly bad Thrash played with the Redskins for nine seasons and caught for 1620 yards. In just three years with McNabb, he caught for 2026 yards. Coincidence, or an example of a great quarterback making a terrible player better? (As for Pinkston, once the Eagles let him go, not a single team showed interest.) In the one single season during his prime that McNabb had an unequivocally great wide receiver, he had the greatest season any QB in Philly has ever had, throwing for 3,875 yards, 31 TDs and a mere 8 INTs, while leading the Eagles to a 13-2 record in games he started, best in team history.
McNabb then threw for 357 yards in the Super Bowl (the most anyone not named Kurt Warner has ever thrown in a Super Bowl) against a Patriots team that was cheating so hard they made the Black Sox look like choir boys,but it was allegations of McNabb (maybe?) throwing up in the end that became the story of the 2004 season. Despite all the yards, and despite the fact that he shredded a Pats defense had completely shut down Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning in the two games previous, McNabb’s Super Bowl, and season, were seen as a failure.
In addition to his questionable attitude, the other thing working against McNabb was the fact that he came along at roughly the same time as Brady and Manning. McNabb was not as good as the other two QBs that came along at the same time, and so, by some sort of twisted logic, he sucked. It was absurd and irrational, but Eagles’ fans pride themselves on their passion, not their rationality. McNabb never understood that (as opposed to local icon Brian Dawkins, who understood it implicitly), and his lack of understanding of their rather diminished his accomplishments in the eyes of many Eagles fans.
Now that time has passed, it is time to re-evaluate McNabb’s value as an Eagle. His stats (and his close-but-no-cigar career) compare favorably with the undeniably great Jim Kelly. Kelly played 11 seasons with the Bills, McNabb played 11 for the Eagles. Kelly played in 160 games, McNabb in 148. McNabb passed for 2 more yards per game, Kelly threw slightly more TDs per game (1.48 to 1.46), and McNabb threw 75 less interceptions than Kelly despite playing in 12 fewer games. (And don’t forget that Kelly was throwing to Andre Reed and James Lofton, not Pinkston and Thrash.) McNabb also ran for 3249 yards for the Birds, while Kelly ran for 1,049 for the Bills. Kelly went 9-8 in the playoffs. McNabb went 9-7. Jim Kelly is a God in Buffalo. And yet, here in Philly…Until more people in Philadelphia can separate McNabb’s incredible career from their own personal feelings for him, he will remain one of the most underrated athletes in Philadelphia history.