Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: Philadelphia Phillies
While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.
Phillies Phans have a long and storied past that has heated up over the last few autumns. With the Induction this past summer of the architect of the revival, Philly is well represented within Cooperstown’s shrine – which is just a short day-trip away.
Life with a .473 winning percentage hasn’t always been easy for Phillies fans. They lost their 10,000th game in 2007 – joined by the Braves earlier this season in the five digit loss category. In 129 seasons, they’ve made 14 playoff appearances (including the current 98-win team, five this decade), been to seven World Series (two since 2008) and own two Championships. They didn’t win their first flag until 1980 – 98 years after their founding – as the final franchise of Major League Baseball’s original 16 to do so.
In contrast to the red-clad Phillies, over 54 years the blue-clad Philadelphia Athletics won five World Championships and nine pennants in the City of Brotherly Love. But while Connie Mack’s A’s got more recognition, the Phillies have stayed loyal to their city and their history is covered with legends from Pete Alexander, Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt to current stars Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. In all 34 Hall of Famers have connections to the team, including six who sport the Philadelphia “P” on their Hall plaques.
From 1883 to 1913, the Phillies achieved just two second place finishes. But in 1915, the Phils made an improbable leap forward with Alexander at the forefront. After finishing sixth the year before, they reached the Fall Classic. In 1916 Dave Bancroft’s talents were added to Alexander and Eppa Rixey, keeping the team in contention. By 1917 the Phillies reached a height of five Hall of Famer with Chief Bender and Johnny Evers joining the team – a modern day club record, beat only by the 1892, squad which featured six.
In the Hall of Fame’s Baseball Timeline, the team’s next star – Chuck Klein – is represented with his 1932 MVP trophy, marking his NL-leading totals in runs, hits, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage and stolen bases; and his 300th career home run ball from 1941.
The A’s collected two World Series rings and reached a third straight Fall Classic in 1931, but then fell on hard times. It wasn’t until the Whiz Kids led by Roberts and Ashburn jumped up and grabbed the NL pennant in 1950 that the city again played in the Fall Classic. Featuring a roster with only a handful of regulars over 30, the team became know for its youth. A 1950 NL Champions banner emblazoned with “Whiz Kids”, a 1952 jersey worn by Robin Roberts, an Ashburn warm-up jacket and a cap belonging to 33-year-old closer Jim Konstanty, who became the first reliever to be named Most Valuable Player, all appear in the a Timeline.
An occasional blip over the next two decades showed there was still baseball life in Philadelphia, but the team only mustered one second place finish and one third place ranking while hovering around .500. During this time period, future U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning authored a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964. His cap and a ticket from the perfecto against the New York Mets can be found in the Timeline. A few years later, 2011 Hall of Fame Classic participant Rick Wise threw another no-hitter, but his June 23rd, 1971 performance was more than a great pitching performance. He connected for two home runs in the 4-0 victory. His bat from the day is on exhibit in the Hall’s newest exhibit One for Books, which explores baseball records.
Schmidt got a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 1972, when Carlton joined the team. Then in 1975, Schmidt’s second full season, they broke a string of Philly losing campaigns. The following year, they made the playoffs. From 1976 to 1983 the Phillies missed the postseason just twice and reached the World Series twice, raising their first World Champion banner in 1980.
A prolific home run hitter, high-caliber defender at third base and three-time MVP, Schmidt played 18 seasons and was incredibly generous to the Hall of Fame while writing baseball history. Among the objects on display from Schmidt at the Hall are a “Tony Taylor” model bat from his four homer game on April 17, 1976 (One for the Books); a 1979 bat used to hit five homers in three games; a bat from his 1980 NL-leading 48 home run, MVP season; and his 1987 500th home run jersey (all in the Timeline).
Likewise, the four-time Cy Young Award winning Carlton dominates the Phillies artifacts after a career in which the lefty – who at one point held the title of all-time strikeout leader and is now fourth – dominated big league hitters. His 3,000th strikeout ball is in One for the Books and Carlton artifacts in the Timeline include the glove he used when setting the all-time strikeout record for a left-handed pitcher in 1980; his 1980 Cy Young Award; the ball from his NL record setting 3,117th K; his 1982 jersey and cap from when led the NL in wins and strikeouts and earned his fourth Cy Young Award; and 4,000th career strikeout ball, becoming the second pitcher to ever reach the mark.
For one last hurrah during the maroon Phillies era, the team fielded a lineup of four Hall of Famers for a season, adding Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in 1983. That team lost the Series.
The Phils reached the World Series for a fifth time in 1993, but were defeated by the Pat Gillick-led Blue Jays.
It wasn’t until Gillick came to Philly in 2006 that things really started to turn around again. A division title in 2007 followed three straight second place finishes and began the current string of five straight NL East titles which has taken the city to the World Series twice, including the 2008 World Championship. Today’s Game is a testament to the talent currently on display at Citizen’s Bank Park. Many of the artifacts from their ’08 Championship have migrated from their original home in Autumn Glory to the Phillies locker including Carlos Ruiz’s Game Three-winning batting helmet, pitcher Joe Blanton’s Game Four home run bat, Howard’s two home run bat from Game Four, closer Brad Lidge’s World Series cap and Jayson Werth’s ’08 spikes. Also in the locker are Utley’s 35-game hitting streak spikes; Howard’s 2006 league-leading 56-homer, 149 RBI MVP jersey; Rollins’ spikes from his 2007 20-triple, double and steal season, joining Tiger Curtis Granderson that same season in matching a mark completed by only Willie Mays and John Schulte; and Roy Halladay’s May 29, 2010 perfect game ball. Halladay’s cap from the game appears in One for the Books.
In his first season in Philly, Halladay took writing history a step further by throwing only the second-ever postseason no-hitter. And now that he and the Phillies are lining up for another deep October run, fans are hoping for more.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.