Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shades of the 1964 Phillies hopefully not repeated, Magic number is at 1

1964a 001

   The Phillies are down to the magic number of just 1 to clinch it all for the third straight year, we're going to go back in time to revisit 45 years ago when the Phillies were in the drivers seat to go to the World Series with only 10 days left in the season.

   The talk at the water cooler wasn’t about the Eagles yesterday at work, it was about something more sinister, something that Phillies fans will never want to see repeated. I wasn’t even born in 1964, but to those who were rooting the Phillies on back in ‘64, it is all too fresh in their minds what happened.

    Let’s go back to 1964, it was the Beatles storming the world with their music, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” reached number 1 in February 1st that year. They Fab Four then made their first trip to America on the Ed Sullivan Show on the 9th of February. Jimmy Hoffa was convicted by a federal jury of tampering with a jury a couple of years before. In March of ‘64, a Dallas, Texas jury found Jack Ruby guilty of killing JFK’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. The Rolling Stones released their debut album with the same name in April of ‘64. The computer language BASIC was also written in ‘64 and basically help start the computer revolution only years later.

  The Phillies baseball team in 1964 was on a roll, they had spent 132 days of the season in first place this year including their days off. They were also 31 games over .500 on September 17th of 1964 and things looked really rosy for the Phils to make the World Series this year. Then the unexpected happened for the Phillies. Starting on September 21st, they went on a losing streak that rivaled any terrible streak to ever happen to a baseball team. On the 21st of September 1964, the Phillies were 5.5 games up in the NL East with only 12 more games left in the regular season.

The Phillies lost a tough game on the 21st of September,  just 1-0 but this started the ball rolling on a 10 game losing streak for the Fightin Phils that they could never recover from. 7 of those 10 losses were suffered at home and the Phillies were not going to win the NL that year, they weren’t even going to make the playoffs because they didn’t have the setup that they do now. Back then in 1964, the two top finishing teams in either in the NL and the AL went to the World Series. There was no Wild Card or other ways for the teams to get to the World Series, you just had to win the NL or AL Title to go to the World Series. Of course the NL consisted of 10 teams and the Phillies were in the drivers seat to be in the World Series before blowing it all.

     The Phillies wound up losing it all by playing the team that caught up with them by the end of the season. The Saint Louis Cardinals played the Phillies in three games from Sept. 28, 29, 30th and the Phillies somehow lost all of them in St. Louis, but they were already in second place on the 27th of September 1.0 games back because they lost their last 7 games at home including the 27th. The Phillies recovered from their spell of losses but it was too late, the Phils would up winning their last two games of the regular season vs. the Cincinnati Reds on Oct 2nd and Oct 4th. The team finished tied for second place just 1.0 GB away from the Cards.
  The team that would catch the Phillies at the wire was the Saint Louis Cardinals and they went on to beat the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series that year in 7 games. Tim McCarver was the catcher for the Cardinals at only 22 years old. McCarver was a well season veteran by then though, he broke in with the Cardinals at only 17 years old playing in 8 games and then 10 games when he was 18.

     The MLB postseason is exciting as we know it today. It was a much different setup though from 1903 to 1968, the top two finishing teams from each league made the World Series. There was no Division Series games, no NLCS, or ALCS during this period in Major League Baseball. This was the way baseball was played for 65 years with only the top two teams in each league going at it in the Fall Classic. There were only 16 teams in baseball from 1903 which is the first ‘modern era’ World Series game. 8 Teams made up the American League and 8 teams made up the National League. This lasted until the 1961 season when the MLB expanded to include more teams, the American League went to a 10 team league. The National League stayed at 8 teams in ‘61 but went to 10 teams in 1962. Many adjustments have been made regarding the playoffs from 1969 to 1994, but we’ve seen the playoffs pretty well stay the same as we play them now since 1995.

     There are still plenty of current Phillies fans who remember ‘the collapse’ of 1964, they speak of it with fluidness. The games being remembered as if it were just a few years ago, when in fact it’s been 45 years since the famous stumble by the Phillies who could have won it all in 1964. Remember though, this is baseball and anything can happen even when your team is 5.5 games up with 11 games to go in the season as the ‘64 Phils were many years ago.

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