RIP Stanley “Doc” Glenn

Former Philadelphia Stars catcher Stanley Doc Glenn passed away a couple of weeks ago. I had the pleasure of interviewing Doc several years ago when I hosted a radio show, and it was one of the coolest interviews I have ever done. I asked him if he played against Satchel Paige. Not only had he played against him, he had caught for him. I asked him if he had played against Josh Gibson. He responded that Gibson had once run over him at home plate. I have the interview saved on cassette somewhere in this house and will not rest until I find it. It wasn’t just the stories, but the enthusiasm and the warmth that went with them that made me extremely sorry to hear that Mr. Glenn recently passed away.

Glenn was born in Wachapreague, Va. and moved to Philadelphia as a youngster. He was a star at Bartram and the Yankees sent out feelers after seeing his stats. When they realized he was black, they backed off (the league was not yet integrated.) He was quickly signed by the local Stars. When the Majors were integrated in 1947, Glenn was signed by the Braves and played in their minor league system before retiring and going into the electrical supply business. In the 1990s, he became President of the Negro League Baseball Players Association, taking the opportunity to speak about the Negro Leagues every chance he got. In an interview he did with sportswriter Chris Murray in 2005, he said of the Negro Leagues,

“Let me tell you something, fella, Negro League baseball was a happening in the Black world. Women came to the ballpark dressed in their Sunday best, high heel shoes, silk stockings and they had hats on their heads on their hats and long-sleeved gloves … Let me tell you something, we married some of the girls. They would be there dressed to kill. You would think you were at a cotillion.”

His enthusiasm for baseball and for life were such that even now, 9 years after I did a 20 minute interview with him, I can hear his voice as clearly in my head as if I just got off the phone with him. In 2006, he wrote a book about the Negro Leagues called “Don’t Let Anyone Take Your Joy Away”. It was the motto Doc Glenn lived by. He dealt with injustice and racism with dignity and self-respect, and when the dust settled, he refused to judge other people the way he had often been judged. Again from the Murray interview,

“Ignorance doesn’t claim any one in particular. If you’re ignorant and your dumb, then you’re just plain ignorant and dumb,” Glenn said.

Stanley Glenn never got a chance to play in the Majors. He was denied the opportunity to sign with the Yankees because of his skin color. He was at times treated harshly by restaurant owners, police, and fans simply because of the color of his skin. But he never stopped loving baseball, never stopped loving people of all backgrounds, never stopped educating people about America’s past, and never let anyone take his joy away. Philadelphia just lost one of a kind. RIP Stanley “Doc” Glenn. This city is a better place for you having lived here.

RELATED: His obituary in the Philadelphia Tribune.

Raul Ibanez Chases Ignominious Mark

Raul Ibanez has now gone 0 for his last 34 at bats. That is not only bad, that is historically bad. With 3 more fruitless at bats, Ibanez would set a new Phillies record for most at bats without a hit. Considering that the franchise has had some incredibly lean decades with some incredibly lousy players since their founding in 1883, it would be fairly remarkable for Ibanez to set the record. Today we’ll look at the three guys who are tied for the record, with 36 ABs with out a hit. (Nod of the the cap to Matt Gelb for doing all the heavy lifting in a piece he did yesterday.)

Danny Murtaugh, a Chester native, played on the Phillies from 1941-1943 and again in 1946, then finished his career in Pittsburgh in 1951. He was a decent but not great player who batted .254 for his career. In 1942, he ended the season on a low, finishing the year 0-25. In 1943, he picked up right where he left off, going 0 for his first 11. Finally, in the 4th game of the 1943 season, he broke through with a hit. Murtaugh would go on to manage the Pirates, leading them to World Series wins in 1960 and again in 1971.

Len Matuszek put up some of the worst numbers in Phillies history in the 1982 season. He ended the season with an .077 batting average, 0 HRs, and 3 RBIs. Used mostly as a pinch hitter, he collected his last hit on April 18th, going 0-24 over the rest of the season (but, incredibly, he was still used as a pinch hitter through September.) The Phils finished 89-73 that year, but 6-19 in games in which Matuszek appeared. He kept right on sucking in 1983, going 0-5 in APril before being sent down to the minors. He came back up in September, went 0-7, then finally got a hit on September 11, 1983. It had been almost a year and a half since his last hit. He would replace Pete Rose at first base the next year, then be traded to the Blue Jays in 1985.

Desi Relaford was a all-glove, no-hit player known for his versatility.Over the course of his career, he played every position other than catcher and 1B. As a member of the Mets in 2001, he actually pitched an inning, throwing over 90 mph. While his versatility couldn’t be questioned, his bat could be. That’s why he played for 7 teams in a 12 year career. 1998 started off as a great year, and he was flirting with .300 by early July. Then he began the first of two remarkable slumps that year. In July, he hit a stretch where he hit 1-42 (.024). Then in late August-early September he hit his 0-36 skid. A couple of years ago, he wrote a really interesting piece for Bleacher Report about his exit from baseball, and the feelings of despair he felt when his career was over.

UPDATE: Just saw that Relaford wrote a piece on NBCPhiladelphia today about Raul’s slump. Very cool.

Philadelphia Warriors Win First Title

1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors starting in the front row: (L-R) Jerry Rullo, Angelo Musi, Peter A. Tyrell, G.M. Peter Rosenberg, Jerry Fleishman, Back Row: Asst. coach Cy Kaselman, George Senesky, Ralph Kaplowitz, Howard Dallmar, Art Hillhouse, Joe Fulks, Matt Guokas, head coach Ed Gottlieb

On this date in 1947, the Philadelphia Warriors defeated the Chicago Stags 83-80 in Game 5 of the best of seven series to win the first championship in NBA history.  Paced by the league’s leading scorer, “Jumpin” Joe Fulks, the Warriors cruised through the series (their only loss coming by one point on the road when Fulks was in foul trouble) against the #1 seed of the Western Division.

The league, then known as the Basketball Association of America, had been founded in the summer of 1946 by the owners of the large sports arenas in the Northeast and Midwest.  The BAA was an 11-team league made up of the Chicago Stags, Cleveland Rebels, Detroit Falcons, Philadelphia Warriors, Pittsburgh Ironmen, Providence Steamrollers, St. Louis Bombers, as well as the Boston Celtics and the New York Knickerbockers (the only two teams to continue in the same city with the same name since the inception of the league).

The Warriors were coached by Eddie Gottlieb, a long-time figurehead in Philadelphia sports.  “The Mogul” played for Southern and won the public league championship in 1914.  Then in 1918, he organized a team that included several of his high school teammates as well as some of his high school opponents.  The SPHAs, sponsored by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, barnstormed across the country playing in and winning various professional leagues.

The most notable player on the ’46-’47 Warriors was Joe Fulks, a 6’5″ forward who perfected the jump shot.  Fulks won the BAA scoring title that year averaging over 23 points per game…without a shot clock and his margin over the second best scorer in the league was nearly 7 points.  During the series against the Stags, Fulks averaged 26.2 points per game, including outbursts of 37 in Game 1 and 34 in Game 5.  Below is video of Fulk’s performance in Game 1:

Although not as spectacular a performer, center Art Hillhouse deserves mention here.  Hillhouse averaged less than 9 points per game throughout the ’47 playoffs, but did something in the finals that no player has since accomplished.  He fouled out of every single game.

In the team picture at the top, you’ll also see Matt Guokas.  Sadly, after the championship season, Guokas was involved in a car accident that resulted in an amputated right leg and the end of his playing career.  He turned to broadcasting and in 1953 became the public address announcer for the Philadelphia Eagles.  For more than three decades, Guokas was the voice of the Eagles, calling games at Shibe Park, Franklin Field and the Vet.  His son, Matt Guokas, Jr., also played professional basketball in Philadelphia and was on the 1967 NBA Champion 76ers.  The Guokases were the first father-son combination to have won NBA titles as players; they’ve since been joined by the Barrys and Waltons.

Jackie Robinson and the Phillies

April 15th is a big day in MLB history, and the league does a fine job of honoring it. It was the day Jackie Robinson first stepped on the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and thus broke the color barrier in the sport that had been put up 60 years earlier. (He was not the first black player to play Major League ball. That was Moses Fleetwood Walker.) His first game was not as big a deal as you might think at the time. It was not a front page story on the New York Daily News, and the Times only had a short piece about it. The game was not a sellout. About 60% of the crowd was black. Robinson had a fairly forgettable game, going o-3 against the Boston Braves. The crowd roared it’s approval when Jackie performed well in the field. His first four games would pass rather quietly. It was a week later that things would turn ugly.

Ben Chapman was born and raised in the deep South, and the Phils manager did not approve of the integration of Major League baseball. Therefore he encouraged his players to yell every racial epithet they had ever heard at the Dodgers first baseman, who unfortunately was playing the position on the field closest to the Phils dugout. The Phils players were relentless, riding Robinson so hard that several fans in the area wrote the commissioner to complain.

The incident made waves, and after two games of viciously hounding Robinson, Chapman was told by Commissioner Happy Chandler to sit out the third game of the series. The Phillies PR team tried to protect their franchise, which was getting lambasted by the press. They had Chapman meet with the black media, explaining that “bench jockeying” was a rich baseball tradition, that his team called DiMaggio “The Wop” and White Korowski “The Polack”. Riding the opposition was the Phils way.

His excuse didn’t stick, but by that point it didn’t matter. He had served his purpose in the “Great Experiment”. Branch Rickey, the Dodgers President who had signed Robinson, was thrilled by Chapman’s behavior. According to Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had it Made:

The Dodgers president wasn’t angry with Chapman or his players. As a matter of fact, in later years, Mr. Rickey commented, “Chapman did more than anybody to unite the Dodgers. When he poured out that string of of unconscionable abuse, he solidified and unified thirty men, not one of whom was willing to sit by and see someone kick around a man who had his hands tied behind his back-Chapman made Jackie a real member of the Dodgers.”

A year later, Chapman was being hounded so mercilessly by the media and by fair-minded fans that Rickey had Robinson and Chapman pose for a photo together as a conciliatory gesture. Chapman refused to shake Robinson’s hand for the photo, so they instead each man held the same bat.

The Phillies franchise was hurt by the incident, and Chapman was out of baseball a year later. The Phils would not sign their first black player for 10 more years, the last team in the National League to do so. That player was a man by the unlikely name of John Kennedy, who got all of 2 at bats in the major leagues.

As for Chapman, according to a 1994 Sporting News obituary, he possibly had some regrets a bit later in life.

“A man learns about things and mellows as he grows older,” Chapman began. “I think maybe I’ve mellowed. Maybe I went too far in those days, when I thought it was OK to try to throw guys off-balance and upset them with jockeying. I’m sorry for many of the things I said. I guess the world changes and maybe I’ve changed, too.”

Not exactly a tear jerker, but it was a far cry from the Chapman of 1947. As for Robinson, I found this summation of him in Mickey Mantle’s book, The Quality of Courage, perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve ever read about him.

There’s an odd thing about Jackie Robinson. I myself was never very friendly with him, and I have found that a lot of people who knew him in and out of baseball really dislike him. He’s a hard man for some people to like because he isn’t soft and smooth-talking and syrupy. He is tough and independent and he says what he thinks, and he rubs people the wrong way. But I have never heard of anyone who knew Jackie Robinson, whether they liked him or disliked him, who didn’t respect and admire him. That might be more important than being liked.


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How Close Were the Phillies to Integrating Baseball?

billveeckFlamboyant owner Bill Veeck would be turning 96 today if he were still alive. While doing a little reading on him today I made an interesting discovery…that he claimed to have almost bought the Philadelphia Phillies in 1942 and loading up the roster on Negro League stars such as Satchel Paige and Roy Campanella. However, according to this terrific 1998 article, Veeck’s claims, made in his autobiography, simply do not check out. Veeck could have certainly bought the Phillies in 1942, but he almost certainly did not have any serious negotiations with Phils owner Gerry Nugent, despite his claims that the deal was all but done. And even if he had, the prospect of integrating the team in what was a very racist city (look at what happened to Dick Allen 20+ years later) would have been almost unthinkable. Nonetheless, this is a pretty fascinating story, and I thought you guys might dig it.