The 1887 Phillies; Team Photos and a Season Recap Written in 1888

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 payroll, 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 disastrously 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!


 


The Last Time Phillies Scored 13 or More and Lost? 1969

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.


Johnny Lush’s Finest Moment

On May 1st, 1906, 20 year old Johnny Lush (above) took the mound for the Phillies against the Brooklyn Superbas (later known as the Dodgers). A first baseman and an outfielder in addition to being a pitcher, on this day the Phils had him on the hill, and the lefty’s stuff was electric.

Johnny was born in Williamsport, PA, to a father from Germany and mother from Ireland (Insert “Lush” joke here). His father died when he was young, making him eligible to attend Girard College in Philly (which at the time only admitted fatherless boys). After starring in baseball and swimming, he graduated from Girard and went straight to the Phillies, where he played first base. There was a ton of hype surrounding the teenager, who the Phillies hoped would return them to relevance.

And so, on May 1st, 1906, Lush took on a Brooklyn team that most notably had three guys named “Doc” (Scanlan, Casey, and Gessler). The doctors were unable to revive the ‘Bas bats, and the home crowd at Washington Park in Brooklyn (above)  was treated to the 5th no-hitter in Phillies history. The children in the crowd that day would be old men by the time another Phillie threw a no-no (Jim Bunning in 1964).

At 20 years old, Lush became the youngest pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter, a distinction he still claims. It would, however, be the highlight of his career. He would get traded to Saint Louis in 1907, but despite a 2.68 career ERA, he was snakebitten, and finished his career at age 24 with a paltry 66-85 record. You have to wonder, with an ERA like that, what kind of a career he would have had with the Cubs or the Pirates or another succesful team of the 1900s.

After his career, Johnny Lush pulled a reverse Johnny Goodtimes, moving to Hawaii from Philly. He had a successful career selling high end jewelry and antiques. He died in California at age 61 in 1946.


When Lefty Lost a 10-Inning Shutout

On Wednesday, April 18th, Cliff Lee threw a remarkable 10 inning shutout. He was the first Phillie to throw a 10 inning shutout in over 30 years, since Lefty did it in a game against the Expos in 1981. The Phillies also lost that game, 1-0. Here’s the story of that loss.

It’s impossible to overstate Steve Carlton’s greatness. His 1972 season is mentioned in the same breath as Bob Gibson’s 1968 and Doc Gooden’s 1985. He won 329 games and has the 4th most strikeouts in MLB history. He won 4 Cy Young’s and played in 10 All-Star games. Another testament to his greatness? The game he threw on September 21st, 1981, that was strikingly similar to Cliff Lee’s on Wednesday night, with perhaps an even crueler ending.

The 1981 season was cut in half by a contentious strike, and when play resumed the owners decided to split it into halves and declare winners from the first and second halves. (The result was disastrous, with Cincy and St. Louis sporting the two best records in the NL, but neither making the playoffs). The Phillies had won the first half, and thus had nothing to play for in the 2nd half. Therefore, it was no surprise that they went 34-21 in the first half, then went 25-27 in the 2nd half. One of those 27 losses was more painful than the others, however.

Carlton faced off against journeyman pitcher Ray Burris, who would throw for 6 teams over 15 season, winning more games than he lost only four times in his career. But on this day, he was unhittable, shutting down the Phillies frame after frame. Carlton was even more dominant. While Burris only recorded one K, Carlton, put up 12. After 9 innings, the two teams were tied at zero, and they went into extra frames. Burris came out for the 10th and sent the Phils down 1-2-3. Carlton came out in the bottom of the 10th and did the same. And so, after 10 innings, each pitcher had given up 3 hits and had nothing to show for it. They were both pulled for pinch hitters in the 11th.

The game went into the 17th inning, still scoreless. With two outs in the top of the 17th, the Expos sent in a young man named Bryn Smith who had pitched all of 8.2 innings in his career. After giving up a single to Manny Trillo, he induced Len Matuszek to fly out to left and end the inning. In the bottom of the 17th, Andre Dawson singled home Rodney Scott, and the Expos got the win. Bryn Smith faced two batters, retired one and got the win. Steve Carlton faced 35 batters, retired 29, struck out 12, and got an ND. Baseball can be a funny game.

Smith went on to have a very nice career, winning 108 games and finishing with a very respectable 3.53 ERA. But his first one came fairly cheap. Here’s the box score to that game. A very fun box score to look at, as both team had some all-time greats on their roster.

RELATED STORY: Former Phillies pitcher Joe Oeschger throws 20 innings and gets a no-decision.


Most Underrated Philly Athletes of All-Time: #8 Dick Allen

Our 8th Most Underrated Philadelphia Athlete of All-Time is Dick Allen.  Allen’s relationship with the fans of this City was unlike any other.  The picture above is definitely worth 1,000 words: you’ve got Dick Allen playing first base at Connie Mack Stadium for the hometown Phils, he’s traced “Boo” into the dirt in front of him in response to the crowd’s relentless booing, and he’s wearing his batting helmet in the field- not because he had suffered a head injury, but to protect himself from the batteries, pennies, fruit, and garbage thrown at him from the stands.  Merely calling Allen “underrated” doesn’t do any justice to how Philadelphia fans treated the star.

The Phillies signed the 18-year-old Allen as an amateur free agent in 1960.  He worked his way through the minor league system and by 1963 he was ready for AAA ball.  The Phillies AAA affiliate at time was the Arkansas Travelers, based in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Allen asked the organization to send him anywhere but Little Rock, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.  Obviously, with it’s history of violently fighting desegregation, Little Rock wasn’t the greatest place in the world for an African-American in the early 60’s.   Throw in the fact that Allen was the first black player in Little Rock’s minor-league history and you can imagine that his welcome wasn’t unlike Bart’s introduction as the new Sheriff of Rock Ridge (NSFW). Outside the stadium before his first game, Allen was greeting with a fan protest that included a picketing line and signs like “Don’t Negro-ize Baseball” and the ultra-created “Nigger Go Home.” During his time in Little Rock, he was chastised by the fans and the community.  His car was vandalized.  He received death threats.  Thankfully, his talent on the field made for a short-lived career in Little Rock and he was sent up to the majors as an everyday player in 1964.

Although Allen’s stint with the Travelers lasted only a year, it affected him for the rest of his career. First, he started drinking for the first time in his life.  And second, it made him angry.  Angry at the Phillies brass that sent a 21-yr-old black kid into the racial powder keg that was Little Rock against his wishes.

Allen broke in with the Phillies in style.  The rookie batted .318 with 29 HR, 91 RBI, 13 triples, and 125 runs.  He led the majors in triples and runs and was the runaway winner for Rookie of the Year.  His offensive prowess continued and over the course of the next three seasons he was selected to the All-Star Team each year.  He played six years with the Phillies before being traded after the ’69 season. Over the course of that time in Philadelphia, he batted .300 while averaging 30 HR, 90 RBI and 98 runs per year.

Those numbers put him in the upper echelon of sluggers in Phillies history, and should put him in the upper echelon of fan favorites.  But that’s not where he sits.  Instead, partly due to things outside of his control and partly due to his own behavior, Allen drew much more of this town’s ire than its awe.

One of the things out of his control included the size of his contract.  In 1960, he signed with the organization for $70,000 and then in ’67 he was given $82,000 (making him the highest-paid 4th year player in baseball history).  With big contracts come big expectations.  Although Allen produced offensively, he also struck out…a lot.  He was no Ryan Howard, but he averaged 141 Ks a year.  He also wasn’t the best defensive player, committing 41 errors in his Rookie of the Year season. Strikeouts and errors aren’t what fans look for in a high-priced athlete and so the boos started early in Allen’s career.

During the next season, Allen’s relationship with the fans took a drastic turn for the worse.  Veteran Phils slugger Frank Thomas taunted Allen and his black teammate Johnny Briggs by calling them “boy” and referring to Allen as “Muhammed Clay.”  Things boiled over after Thomas called Allen a “Nigger SOB” at batting practice before a game.  Allen went after Thomas and the two fought, Richie Allen with his fists and Frank Thomas with a bat.  After the two were separated, then-manager Gene Mauch approached Allen and told him that he’d been looking for a reason to dump Thomas but that he’d fine Allen $1500 if he ever leaked that fact.  Mauch told the press that he had to choose between a 36-year-old and a 23-year-old.  Not surprisingly, the fans blamed Allen for the departure of the favored veteran.  Allen described the fans’ reaction to Life:

The next day, I stuck my head out of the dugout and I’d never heard such booing…People yelled ‘Nigger’ and ‘Go back to South Street with the monkeys’ and it hasn’t stopped yet.

While the fan’s mistreatment of Allen wasn’t justified, the slugger didn’t do anything to help the situation.  Always at the forefront of controversy, Allen was both the victim and the culprit.  He began showing up late for batting practice, not because he was stuck in traffic, but because he stopped at the bar first.  He was fined and benched a number of times for his tardiness (read: showing up to the park after batting practice was already over, and being hungover or drunk). Not that it affected him. One of his teammates was quoted as saying, “He’d be all glassy-eyed and still hit one 450 feet.”  He showed up to spring training in 1968 in a state described by reporters as “hopelessly drunk.” He missed team flights, was accused of faking injury to get out of playing, and became a divisive character in the locker room.  The media blamed Allen for the firings of consecutive managers Gene Mauch and Bob Skinner.  He dressed by himself in an equipment room separate from the rest of his teammates.  In 1969, he missed a double-header in New York and was suspended indefinitely. In retaliation, he held out for 26 games and returned only when he was promised a trade out of Philadelphia.  He said,  “I can play anywhere; First, Third, Left field, anywhere but Philadelphia.”

The press took whatever ammunition Allen supplied and buried him with it, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly.  He was painted as a trouble-maker, as a player with entitlement issues.  The stories wouldn’t have been as interesting if the reporters divulged that Phillies management granted the star certain privileges (driving to games, taking time off, etc.), so that never made it to print. And so with the blessing of the fan base, Allen was traded.  

After his trade, he didn’t stop producing.  He earned 4 more All-Star selections.  He was awarded the MVP in 1972, a year in which he batted .308, with 37 HRs, 90 runs scored, 113 RBI, and 19 steals for the Chicago White Sox.  He did return to Philadelphia in 1975 for two more seasons with the Phillies before finishing his career in Oakland in 1977.  

Instead of going down in history with the likes of Schmidt, Roberts, and Carlton, Dick Allen is remembered more for being controversial than for being talented.  Because Philadelphia couldn’t look past his off-the-field issues and see his on-the-field skills, he remains one of the most underrated athletes to play in Philadelphia.


Who is the Only Person to Play for Both the Eagles and Phillies?

The correct answer to this awesome trivia question? Walt Masters, born on March 28th, 1907 in Pen Argyle (near Easton). Masters was a Philly boy, though, graduating from West Philly High School and then attending the Wharton School at Penn.  He played baseball and football at Penn, and was a star at both.

Masters made his MLB debut for the Washington Senators on July 9th, 1931, when he pitched an inning in a 14-1 blowout over the Red Sox. He pitched twice more that year, and then disappeared from baseball. He was also making money as a semi-pro football player, and baseball didn’t allow people to play other sports in the US. Masters tried to get around the rule by moving to Canada and playing for the Rough Riders (those Penn kids are a sneaky bunch aren’t they?) But the Rough Riders wouldn’t let him play football because they were amateurs and he had gotten paid for baseball, so he coached football and played baseball for an Ottawa team for a few years. He returned to Philly in 1936 and played briefly for the Eagles at QB. He went 1-6 for 11 yards with one INT, and ran 7 times for 18 yards. After the season, he signed with the Phillies and was on the team briefly in 1937. He didn’t have much more success on the diamond, where the pitcher appeared in one game and got blasted for 4 earned runs in a single inning of work against the Reds. Two years later, he would reappear on the Philadelphia A’s (making him also the answer to the question, “Who is the only player to play for the A’s, Phillies, and Eagles?”) He pitched in 4 games and finished the year with a 6.55 ERA.

During the war, former sports stars were in high demand, so in 1943 the 36-year old Masters played a few games for the Chicago Cardinals. He wasn’t very good, going 17-45, 249 yards, with 2 TDs and 7 Ints. He tossed 7 more passes for the Cards in 1944, and then was out of pro sports for good. He returned to Ottawa, where he played both football and baseball. He then worked in public relations for a company specializing in cleaning buildings in Ottawa. He died in Canada in 1992 at the age of 85.

Masters NFL stats.

Masters MLB stats.


Anyone for Ennis? Philly’s 10th Most Underrated Athlete

Del Ennis’s treatment at the hands of Philadelphia fans has never quite made sense, other than the fact that this city has always had a very strange relationship with its power hitters. The city never warmed to Mike Schmidt, jeered Richie Allen, and booed Pat Burrell. Even so, the city’s treatment of Ennis is particularly hard to understand, because he was a hometown kid who made good.

After he broke Ennis’s RBI record last May, Ryan Howard was given a note from Liz Ennis, Del’s widow, congratulating him on his feat. Howard handled it classily, but it made you wonder if he even knew who Ennis was. If not, he wouldn’t be alone. Ennis is the guy whose name is in the Top 10 of pretty much every Phillie career category, and yet every time I stumble across Phils career stats, I find myself thinking, “Who in the hell is this Ennis guy?” I figured it was time to find out.

Ennis was born in North Philly in 1925. He was signed by the Phils out of high school but instead went into the Navy, where he fought in the Pacific Theater. After the War, he joined the Phils and made an immediate impact, batting .313 with 17 HRs and 73 RBIs. The left fielder was also known to have a cannon of an arm, and was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year. In 1950, he propelled the Whiz Kids to the World Series with a remarkable season in which his numbers were .311-31-126, the latter of which led baseball. And yet despite being Philly’s first bonified batting star since Chuck Klein, he was routinely booed by Philly fans. In 2003, Frank Fitzpatrick wrote an excellent piece called, “Why Did They Boo Del Ennis?

Talk to aging Phillies fans and they all seem to have a different reason: Ennis was a clumsy outfielder; Ennis struck out too often (though his season high was 65); Ennis didn’t hit in the clutch (though he drove in 100 runs in each of six seasons between 1949 and 1955 – excluding 1951 – in an era of relatively subdued offense); Ennis didn’t hustle.

“Del lumbered in from the outfield. He wasn’t dashing like Richie Ashburn,” said Phillies scout Maje McDonnell, a coach with the team in the 1950s. “But he bore down every play, every day. On balls hit back to the pitcher, he ran harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. I saw him drive second basemen into center field breaking up double plays. He hustled all the time.”

And so not only was it classy of his wife to send the note to Howard, it was remarkable that she still pays attention to the Phillies. In the Fitzpatrick article, it is obvious that the pain of Del’s treatment is still with her.

“The booing was hurtful to him. It really was,” said Liz Ennis, surrounded by a basement full of photos, newspaper clippings and memorabilia from her husband’s playing days. “Every time he was interviewed, the very first question everybody would ask is, ‘Why did the fans boo you like they did?’

“He always said that as long as they paid money to get into the ballpark, they were entitled to boo. But the fact of the matter was, he didn’t understand it. He really didn’t understand it. And I don’t either.”

Incredibly, only one player over the 9 year period from 1948-1957 had more RBIs than Ennis. That would be Stan Musial, who is a demi-God in St. Louis. Ennis, meanwhile, has all but been forgotten in the town he not only played in, but was born in. The more I read about him, the only thing that makes sense is the Bobby Abreu charge…that he didn’t hustle in the field. Even if so (and he was known to be a slow runner), he more than made up for it with his rifle arm, as he recorded 14 or more assists 5 different seasons.

Ennis is not only one of the greatest Phillies of all time (Phillies Nation has him ranked 16th), I think that he is certainly on of the most underrated Phillies in the history of the team. 3rd in Home Runs, 3rd in RBIs, 4th in hits, 3rd in total bases, 7th in doubles, 5th in games played, 9th in runs scored, the list goes on and on. Del, for what it’s worth, we here at Philly Sports History tip our cap to you.

You can see PSH’s full list of Philly’s 15 Most Underrated Athletes here.


#12 Most Underrated Athlete in Philly Sports History: Freddy Leach


Your first reaction to this was probably a lot like mine: who in the hell is Fred Leach? An online search turns up a wiki page that is a full two sentences long. His facebook page has all of two likes. Well I guess that’s why Art though he should make the list. After all, the outfielder batted .312 during his 6 years with the squad, with 44 homers and 301 RBIs. That’s pretty damn impressive, especially when you consider he never picked up a baseball bat until he was 21 years old. And perhaps that’s what makes him a bit more special…he never played baseball until he reached an age when he needed a job, so he thought he’d give baseball a try. Four years later, he was in the Big Show. And his six years in Philly were good enough to make him #77 all time on the Phillies Nation’s 100 Greatest Phillies of all Time list. So what are you waiting for? Like old Freddy on facebook already!


Andy Musser Dies

On Sunday, at the age of 74, former Philadelphia sports broadcaster Andy Musser passed away in his Wynnewood home.  Over the course of his career, Musser called games for the Eagles, Sixers and Villanova basketball, but his work in the broadcast booth for the Phillies defined his time in Philadelphia.  From 1976 to 2001, Musser was one of the voices of Phillies baseball.  Never the main guy, but always there in the background supporting Richie Ashburn or Harry Kalas.  When I say always there, I mean it…the guy missed only 2 games during that 26-year span (both with laryngitis).

His most memorable call came late in the 1980 regular season, when Mike Schmidt hit a home run to defeat the Expos and clinch the NL East crown.

There have been a lot of articles written over the past two days about Musser’s life and his career, but none better than Tyler Kepner’s piece for the NY Times Baseball Blog published last night. You should read the whole thing, but the introduction makes clear the type of guy Andy Musser was:

Whenever I write a long feature story, I try to quote everyone I interviewed. I feel like I owe it to them, for helping me. I’ve been interviewed for stories but left out of the article, and it’s not a good feeling.

About three years ago, I wrote a piece on the epic 23-22 game between the Phillies and the Cubs in 1979. I talked to one of the broadcasters, Andy Musser, who died on Monday at age 74. I quoted Andy only once in the story – and once more in a blog entry – and I felt bad about that.

I shouldn’t have. A few days after the article appeared, a postcard arrived in my mail box:

“Tyler, Nice job on the 23-22 game yesterday. You really worked hard on it and brought back many memories for me. Thanks for the mention. Cordially, Andy.”

After his retirement in 2001, Andy Musser became the Philly Beer Ambassador for Anchor Brewing Company out of San Francisco.  Musser was a lover of craft beers and used his down time on the road with the Phillies to tour breweries all over the country.

Baseball and beer.  Not a bad life for one of the voices that brought us Philadelphia sports.


Phillies You Should Know: Bo Belinsky, Playboy Pitcher

Born on December 7th, 1936, Bo Belinsky once said, “It’s no fun knowing that in every home in America your home is celebrated as a day of infamy.” He was known for his self demeaning wit, his playboy persona, and his electric fastball. But by the time his career was over, he was also known as one of those tragic figures whose vices prevented him to ever reach his full potential.

Bo Belinsky began his career as a rock star in LA. As a handsome 25-year old rookie, he won his first five starts, threw a no-hitter in his 4th start, and dated Playboy models, soon becaming the toast of the town in a city that rarely elevates baseball players to the level of movie stars. But it wasn’t long before his hard living took a toll, and his fall from grace was swift and spectacular.

In some ways, Belinsky was a perfect example of a typical “What if?” question: if you could be a superstar for 2-3 years, dating Playboy models and partying with the Rat Pack, but have a rough life for the next 40 years, would you do it? It’s a question worth pondering, especially when you consider that his stay at the top included girlfriends such as Connie Stevens, Tina Louise, and Mamie van Doren, the latter of whom he was engaged to. (He later married Playboy Playmate Jo Collins, though the marriage was brief).

His wanderlust and naivete were paradoxically charming and destructive. This from an incredibly fascinating piece by Pat Jordan on Belinsky in SI in 1972 (seriously, a must read).

“My problem was simple, Babe,” he says, staring straight ahead. “I heard music nobody else heard. I remember once in the Texas League when the team bus stopped in Veracruz so we could eat. All the players went into the restaurant except me. I thought I heard music down the street, so I went looking for it. I found a two-piece jazz band playing on the sidewalk in front of a bar. I listened for a while, and when they went inside, I followed them. I had a few drinks and then left. I had every intention of returning to that bus until I ran into another jazz band. I followed them into a bar, too. What I didn’t know was that all these bars hired jazz bands to lure customers inside. Man, after that bar, it seemed like every step I took there were these buglers waiting for me. I woke up six days later in a hotel room in Acapulco. I had a sponsor. This blonde Mexican—she had to be blonde, right!—was sitting by the bed saying, ‘Belinsky! Belinsky! I make you great yanqui bullfighter! But first we must change your name.’ I said, ‘Sure, Babe, we’ll change it to Lance. Lance Belinsky, how’s that?'”

After such a promising start with the Angels, he quickly came crashing down to earth, never to rise again. A month after his no-hitter, he was accused of pulling a woman out of his Cadillac and assaulting her. Two years later, he punched a 64-year old reporter. His days as an Angel were done. His next stop? Philadelphia. The Phillies were, like Belinsky, coming off a disastrous year, and manager Gene Mauch was hoping two negatives would equal a positive. Belinsky arrived with much fanfare, making the cover of SI before throwing his first pitch in Philly. The team was excited that Belinsky was bringing some LA glamour (and his on again off again girlfriend Mamie van Doren) to Philly.

Glamorous Mamie Van Doren was coming to Clearwater to root for ex-fiance Bo. During batting practice several players waited near the gate Mamie was supposed to enter. No luck. Once the game began, shiny heads kept popping up out of the dugout; shiny eyes scanned the stands for Mamie. No Mamie. The Phillies, left at the altar in last year’s pennant race, had been stood up again. Mamie sent word that the weather was too cold. The following day was overcast but mild. Again, no Mamie. “I wasn’t feeling groovy,” she explained. “This would never have happened,” Catcher Gus Triandos told Belinsky, “if we had won the pennant.”

Mauch wasn’t worried about Mamie van Doren, but he was hoping he could bring the former phenom back to the top of his game. He explained what happened in Philly in an excellent 2005 piece in LA Magazine (only the PDF is available, but it’s worth a read, and made the “Best Sports Writing of 2005” book, where I first came across it.)

“I went to a great deal of trouble to get Bo. People said, ‘You’re crazy.’ But I was pretty cocky and thought I could take on anybody.” Convinced that Belinsky’s fastball was his most effective pitch, the manager did his best to persuade him to abandon the showier but less consistent screwball…At first Mauch appeared to make headway. “Bo went to Houston and threw a 3-hitter relying on his fastball. Four days later, we get to Los Angeles, Bo gets two strikes on a hitter in the first inning, and here comes the goddamn screwball. I go to the mound and say, ‘One more of those and you go to the bench.’ The fastball wasn’t flashy enough for Bo. Flash meant a lot to him, ore than baseball did, which he saw as sort of an hors d’oeuvre to get things started-girls, parties.”

Belinsky refused to abandon the screwball, and was relegated to a role in the bullpen. It was in the Philly bullpen that he got hooked on amphetamines. Things went steadily downhill. He left Philly and went to Houston, then to Pittsburgh, then to Cincy. He never recaptured the magic, and ended his career with a 28-51 record and a 4.10 ERA (the ERA sounds respectable, but remember the 60s were a pitcher’s decade).

The above SI article portrays him as a alcoholic, and after that article, things got a lot worse before they got better. He graduated from booze to coke, and began hanging out with gangsters and pimps. He got remarried, but while wacked out of his mind, he shot his wife in the hip. He went in and out of rehab. After he and his wife divorced, he neglected his children. He found Jesus, tried to get clean, and often would go years without a drink. He spent the last decade of his life gainfully employed at a car dealership in Las Vegas. But he never fully escaped his demons. He tried to commit suicide in 1997, and four years later he died at age 64. Interestingly, he was buried 5 plots away from another 1960s star who never could escape his demons, Sonny Liston.

PREVIOUSLY: Belinsky’s story sounds eerily similar to that of a Philadelphia pitcher we have previously featured, Slim Jones.

Another Philadelphia tragedy, if you missed it the first time, the Fast Rise and Tragic Fall of Tyrone “The Mean Machine” Everett.