As we all await the fate of the 2022 version of the Philadelphia Phillies and their latest struggles with the Ghosts of Septembers Past, I thought it would be worth mentioning that it was 58 years ago today, Sept. 25, that one of the greatest games no one remembers was played at Connie Mack Stadium, the game that finally convinced me that my first beloved Phillie team, the eventually doomed 1964 team, would not win the National League pennant despite leading the league almost from Day 1.
A baseball book I read several years ago was entitled The Greatest Baseball Games Ever Played actually had a chapter on this game, as remembered by such combatants that night as Managers Gene Mauch and Bobby Bragan, as well as pllayers Joe Torre, Gene Oliver, Bobby Wine and Cookie Rojas. They all indicated it was likely the most dramatic game they had ever participated in, given the circumstances at the time and the incredible drama of the game.
As has been chronicled a million times since 1964, that Phillie team, likely about the 5th most talented team in the NL at the time, had captured the imagination of the entire nation by playing an inspired brand of baseball all year to the tune of a 6.5 game lead with but 12 to play. In fact, so certain was everyone of the anticipated pennant that World Series tickets were printed, perhaps someone reading this post has even seen one!
But storm clouds began to develop on the night of Sept 21 when Chico Ruiz stole home in a scoreless dual and the resulting 1-0 loss eventually had resulted into what was then a 4 game losing streak entering Friday night, Sept 25. The lead was down to 3 games and Philadelphia had a creeping sense of doom. Still, over 25,000 phaithful made their way to the stadium to watch lefty Chris Short, pitching on 2 days rest, try to silence the Milwaukee Braves. And silence them he did...to the tune of a 1-0 lead entering the 7th inning. But then Clay Dalrymple committed his first catchers interference of the season and then lead to a Braves 2 run rally. The Braves tacked on a run in the 8th to lead 3-1 when Johnny Callison, who would have been the MVP that year had the Phils won the pennant, hit a clutch 2 run home run in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game at 3.
The Phils got the winning run to 3rd base in the bottom of the 9th but Hank Aaron made a great play on a Tony Taylor line drive to end the threat and send the game into extra innings. The aforementioned Torre hit a 2 run home run in the top of the 10th but then in what could have been a home run that still lives in Philly lore had the Phils won the pennant, rookie Richie Allen, with the Phils down to their last strike, hit a 2 run, inside the park home run to tie the game at 5 entering the 11th inning. Certainly this was a game that belonged to the Phillies!
Neither team scored in the 11th, though the Phils again threatened, but in the top of the 12th the Braves scored two runs to take a 7-5 lead. Once again, the Phils rallied as both Callison and Allen got on base for lefty John Herrnstein, who promptly hit what would have been a game winning 3 run home run...alas foul by a few feet! He then grounded out, ending the game and leaving the Phils a mere 1.5 games in the lead. They would fall out of the league league two days later, never again to sit on top of the 1964 National League standings.
I have often felt that so many would have, could haves might have occurred had the Phils won that game. My sense is that A] the Phils would have recovered their mojo and won the pennant, B] Mauch never would have had to use Jim Bunning on two days rest, C] Johnny Callison would have won the NL MVP, D] Allen's home run would be remembered as indelibly as Mike Schmidt and Dick Sisler's were, E] Allen would be in the baseball Hall of Fame and F] Mauch would at least be on the Phillies Wall of Fame and perhaps even be in the HOF with Allen.
In a current era where every at bat has been filmed by someone, I have never been able to find one person who has film of Allen's Magical Race Around the Bases and the only Phillie phan I have ever found that even remembers that jaunt was a former Renegade named Jamie. He said he was listening to that game and recalls Allen's incredible race around the bases.
As we await the fate of the 2022 version of the Phillies I thought it might be interesting to recall a game played 58 years ago, ironically against the same opponent and in the same city.
A game that those who participated still say was the greatest game they ever participated in, and yet a game that eventually sealed the fate for one of Philadelphia's most beloved baseball teams.