Fantastic Finishes - IV

Eddie Sawyer

Bob Carpenter

Granny Hamner

Del Ennis

Richie Ashburn

Robin Roberts

Curt Simmons

Eddie Waitkus

Jim Konstanty and Andy Seminick
Fantastic Finish - NL 1950
Philadelphia Phillies fans enjoyed the 1949 season.
  • Under new manager Eddie Sawyer, the Phils finished 3rd, 16 games be­hind the champion Dodgers and 15 behind 2nd place St. Louis.
  • Why get excited about that? It was the first year since 1932 that the Phils had finished in the top half of the eight-team league and the first time since 1917 they had finished that as high as third.
  • Working with owner/GM Bob Carpenter, Sawyer infused the club with youth.
    SS Granny Hamner - 22
    3B Willie "Puddin-head" Jones - 23
    LF Del Ennis - 24
    CF Richie Ashburn - 22
    P Robin Roberts - 22
    P Russ Meyer - 25
    P Curt Simmons - 20

Philadelphia added several more youngsters for the 1950 campaign.

  • 24-year-old Bob Miller and 25-year-old Bubba Church joined the pitching staff.
  • 22-year-old Putsy Caballero became a utility infielder.

Sawyer also made a change at 1B.

  • 30-year-old 1B Eddie Waitkus returned to the club after being shot by a female groupie during the 1948 season.
  • When Sawyer reinstalled Eddie to the starting lineup, Dick Sisler, who had ably manned 1B during the '49 campaign, told his skipper, I can play the outfield better than some of the fellows you have. The son of Hall of Famer George Sisler backed up his words with effort, spending long hours during spring training learning to play LF.
  • Waitkus's addition raised the average age of the regular lineup to 26.5. The club's top seven hurlers averaged a tad over 27.

After winning just six of their first 13 games, the Phils got rolling and rose to first place May 11.

  • They spent the next two months playing peek-a-boo with the Cardinals and Dodgers at the top of the standings. But the Redbirds would not be able to keep up the pace.
  • A double shutout of the Cubs July 25 vaulted Philly into 1st place and a torrid stretch in which they won 18 and lost 6 had them up by six on August 10.
  • They stayed solid, taking 14 of 19 to lead Brooklyn by 7 on September 2 with the Boston Braves holding down 3rd, 8.5 in arrears.

The solid play of the team the press dubbed "The Whiz Kids" came from a com­plete team effort, starting with the mound corps.

  • Roberts seemed a shoo-in for 20 wins since he already had 19 against only 8 defeats.
  • Lefty Simmons didn't lag far behind the staff bell cow with 17 wins of his own to go with 8 losses.
  • The surprise of the staff, though, was decidedly not a kid. 33-year-old Jim Konstanty, whom Sawyer had brought with him from AAA Toronto for the '49 season, was on his way to appearing in a staggering 74 games, all out of the bullpen. He would finish 62 contests and be credited with 22 saves when that statistic was retroactively calculated decades later.
  • Ashburn led the hitters at .310 with Ennis close behind at .303, the same figure attained by 29-year-old C Andy Seminick.
  • As of September 2, Del had driven home 112 runs and clouted 28 HRs. Sisler added 74 RBIs, and Hamner 71, an impressive figure for a SS.

But just when Phillies fans had started to believe their '49 edition had matters well in hand, they faded.

  • A doubleheader sweep at home at the hands of the Giants September 4 began a five-game losing streak that cut the margin to 4.5 games over the Dodgers.
    The Phillies suffered a loss September 10 when Simmons left for mili­tary service in the buildup required by the Korean War.
  • But six victories in the next seven games - with three walkoffs - righted the ship and restored the lead to 7.5.
  • Entering the final week of the season, the standings looked like this.

    Team W L GB
    Philadelphia 88 57 ---
    Brooklyn 82 61 5.0
    Boston 80 63 7.0
    New York 79 66 9.0

  • While the Braves and Giants were not mathematically eliminated, the only team with a realistic chance to overtake the Phils was Brooklyn.

Monday, September 25
No one gained or lost as the Giants and Dodgers split a twinbill, and so did the Phillies and Braves.

Tuesday, September 26
Brooklyn beat New York 8-7 but gained no ground as the Phils won at Boston 8-7.

Wednesday, September 27
The Dodgers split with the Braves but gained a game on Philly, which dropped a pair to the Giants.
In NY's second-game triumph, Bobby Thomson's inside-the-park grand slam sparked the 5-0 victory.

Thursday, September 28
With all four teams playing their third twinbill in four days, the Phils dropped ano­ther pair to New York, both by a score of 3-1. The defeat in the nightcap was particularly bitter for the Phils as NY LF Whitey Lockman pulled away from an inside pitch but the ball hit the bat and looped into LF for a two-run single.
The Dodgers and Braves split again.
The Phils' lead shrank to 3 over the Bums.

Friday, September 29
While Philadelphia enjoyed a much-needed day off, the Dodgers beat Boston twice to chop another game off the deficit.
As luck would have it, the schedule called for the Phillies to close with two at Brooklyn. The Dodgers could force a three-game playoff by taking both games.

Saturday, September 30
The Dodgers kept their hopes alive with a 7-3 victory before 23,879 at Ebbets Field.
22-year-old righty Erv Palica won his 13th game of the season. Bob Miller, who had been showing signs of fatigue down the stretch, lasted only 4 2/3 inning. Sawyer brought in Konstanty to stem the tide, but Jim didn't come through this time. The bespectacled hurler gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
CF Duke Snider and C Roy Campanella clouted four-baggers for the home team - #31 for each.

So it all came down to one game on the final Sunday of the 154-game season.

To be continued ...

Reference: Baseball's 25 Greatest Pennant Races, Lowell Reidenbaugh (1987)
AL 1908
AL 1948
AL 1949
NL 1949
NL 1966
NL West 1993
AL 1920 - 1
AL 1920 - 2
AL 1920 - 3
AL 1967
NL 1951 - 1
NL 1951 - 2
NL 1951 - 3
NL 1914 - 1
NL 1914 - 2
NL 1938 - 1
NL 1938 - 2
NL 1938 - 3
NL 1964 - 1
NL 1964 - 2
NL 1981 - 1
NL 1981 - 2
NL 1981 - 3
NL 1981 - 4