1900 – Present
In 1883 Alfred Reach, a former player and a sporting-goods manufacturer, united with Colonel John Rogers, a lawyer and politician, to purchase the Worcester Brown Stockings of the National League and move them to Philadelphia. The name the club adopted as a takeoff on their hometown, Phillies, is now the oldest name in the NL.
The team would become known more for its failures than its successes, so its first-season record of 17-81 was appropriate. The team named baseball pioneer Harry Wright manager for 1884, and in 1885 the Phillies finished third with their first winning record, 56-54. They contended in 1887, the year they moved into what would become known as Baker Bowl, and finished second. They remained respectable for the rest of the century, and their outfield in the years 1891-95 contained three Hall of Famers: Billy Hamilton, Sam Thompson, and Ed Delahanty.
The franchise’s troubles began at the dawn of the 20th century. Reach and Rogers had a falling out, and Reach sold his share of the club in 1902. There would be nine more ownership changes before stability returned to Philadelphia. The crosstown Athletics and Connie Mack were unprecedentedly stable, and their emergence with the new American League caused the Phillies grief. Superstar Nap Lajoie jumped to the Athletics in 1901. Although the Phillies were able to obtain a court order that forced his transfer to the AL’s Cleveland franchise and prevented him from playing in Pennsylvania, his loss, and Ed Delahanty‘s death the following season, left the Phillies’ offense crippled. One of baseball’s biggest disasters struck in 1903, when the Baker Bowl’s leftfield bleachers collapsed, killing 12 and injuring 232.
The Phillies contended off and on, winning their first pennant in 1915 on the strength of Grover Cleveland Alexander’s first of three straight seasons leading the NL in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, topping 30 victories each year. Gavvy Cravath led the league in HR and RBI. But the Red Sox won the WS in five games, and the Phillies were not to have another chance at the World Championship until 1950. The pitching was usually to blame. After trading away Alexander following the 1917 season, the Phillies topped .500 only once in the next 31 years, and finished last 17 times. During this period, they were tagged the Phutile Phils. The 1930s Phillies, led by slugger Chuck Klein (1932 MVP), became legendarily bad. The owner from 1933 through 1942, Gerry Nugent, was in constant financial need and sold off or traded (in deals that included cash) most of his promising players. In 1943 the NL took the club away from Nugent, but their choice was no better, as new owner William Cox was barred from baseball for betting on the Phillies. Robert Carpenter, Jr., bought the team before the end of 1943, and he or his son Ruly owned the franchise until 1982. The Carpenters would, by that point, be anachronistic as owners who made their living exclusively from baseball. To stimulate interest in the club, Robert Carpenter conducted a contest to rename the club, and although it was never official, in the years 1944-45 the team was known as the Blue Jays.
Hall of Famer Herb Pennock was named GM in 1943 and spent the last five years of his life building the club that would become known as the Whiz Kids. MVP relief ace Jim Konstanty led the club to the 1950 pennant, leading the NL in appearances and saves. Del Ennis led in RBI, and Richie Ashburn topped NL outfielders in putouts for the second of an ML-record-tying nine seasons. They won the flag from Brooklyn in the last game of the season on a tenth-inning Dick Sisler HR. Ashburn cut down Cal Abrams at the plate in the bottom of the inning. But the Yankees swept the Series, and the Phillies remained without a World Championship. They maintained respectability until 1958, when they began a four-year streak of last-place finishes. Eddie Sawyer, their manager in 1950, came back in 1958 but quit after just one game of the 1960 season, saying, “I’m 49 years old, and I’d love to live to be 50.” His replacement was Gene Mauch, who with GM John Quinn rebuilt the team into a contender. The Phillies lost an ML-record 23 straight games in 1961, but by 1962 they were back above .500. In 1964 they lost the pennant on the last day of the season and Mauch was criticized for overusing his three best starters down the stretch. Each appeared in more than 40 games. Jim Bunning, the staff’s ace, pitched the NL’s first 20th-century perfect game that year, and Richie Allen ran away with the Rookie of the Year award.
After Mauch was fired during the 1968 season, the team dropped below .500 again. They finished last in the NL East for three straight seasons (1971-73) before GM Paul Owens, appointed in 1972, turned things around. The first good signs were the 1972 acquisition of Steve Carlton, who won 27 of the Phillies’ 59 victories in 1972 and won the first of a record four Cy Young Awards, and the emergence in 1973 of Mike Schmidt, the greatest third baseman of all time. The Phillies went on to win three straight division titles (1976-78) and finally achieved what had eluded them for so long when they defeated the Royals in six games in the 1980 World Series. No other franchise has waited so long for its first World Championship. Schmidt was the Series MVP.
After the 1981 season the Carpenter family sold the club to a group headed by Bill Giles, who had been with the front office since 1969 and whose father was Warren Giles. The Phillies won another pennant in 1983.