Ahhhh, 1964...anyone who has read more than 5 posts of mine over the years knows my fixation with the 1964 team. I looked it up via retrosheet, and I honestly can remember and talk confidently and coherently about at least 120 of their games that year. I was 9 going on 10 and even remember the night I became a Phillies phan.
It was the last Saturday night game of 1963 and the Phils were completing their season in Los Angeles against the eventual World Champion Dodgers. Growing up in Northern California, I discovered that at night I could catch the Dodgers on 50,000 Watt KFI and decided to hear the game. Phils not only won 12-3 behind lefty Dennis Bennett, who homered. but celebrated the coming out party of a young, then LFer named Richie Allen, who went 3-4 and received effusive praise from Dodger announcers Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett.
Anyways, after the game they interviewed then Dodger GM, Buzzie Bavasi, about the upcoming World Series against the Yankees. I will never forget Bavasi's words, "the National League ought to just send the Phillies because right now they are the best team in the league." To my surprise, he was correct. After the following days 3-1 Phillie win behind Art Mahaffey and Chris Short, the Phils finished 87-75, good for 4th place in the tough NL [Dodgers, Giants and Cards were great that year] but recorded a 56-35 pace to end the season.
I adopted them that night, and was quite excited when in December of '63 they acquired righty Jim Bunning from Detroit. With Bunning joining Bennett, Mahaffey, Short, rookie of the year Ray Culp, veteran Cal McLish and youngster Dallas Green it appeared the '64 team would have 7 starting pitchers.
They started strong at 10-2 and ping ponged back and forth between 1st and 2nd place during the first half of the season with the Giants. Because the Giants were my home team [though I never liked them] I always got instant and first hand info on how the Phils were doing and to my everlasting joy, my dad took me to a Phils-Giants game at Candlestick Park on July 4. Aware of the baseball adage that whoever lead the league on the 4th would win the league, my enthusiasm reached fever pitch when Jim Bunning outpitched Gaylord Perry in a 5-2 win to end the day with a .5 game lead. It was also the day I saw Richie Allen perform in a way that to this day I consider him the be the best Phillie player I ever witnessed, even better than Mike Schmidt.
The Summer of '64, so many wonderful memories. Bunning's perfect game, Callison's game winning home run in the 64 All Star game, the comeback wins, the sheer joy a youngster felt at the possibility that a team newly loved would become a team newly crowned as NL champs for the first time since 1950. One game in particular that I recall was on a Saturday, July 25 when the Phils were playing the Cardinals and it was the NBC Game of the Week, featuring Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese as announcers. I had a Little League game that day but got home in time tow watch the bottom of the 9th inning, Phils trailing 10-2.
I will never forget that bottom of the 9th. Phils had scored 6 runs to make the score 10-8, had runners on first and third and still no outs. Rookie John Herrnstein hit a towering ball to the furthest part of Connie Mack Stadium, about 440 feet away. It looked for all the world like a game tying triple but Curt Flood made an amazing catch. Allen scored from 3rd base but rookie Alex Johnson, playing in his first major league game, got doubled up at 1st and the Phils lost 10-9. Considering the final standings, that catch proved quite important, thought at the time the Cards were 10 games out and not thought of as contenders.
Of course I remember nearly every detail of the final two weeks and to be honest, nothing in my young life ever prepared me for what those two weeks did to me. Nothing that ANY Phillie team has ever done since, not 1980, not '93, not '2008 or not even this season, can ever take away the devastation I felt when that season ended. the Phils a sadly beaten contender.
Writing has always been a proclivity of mine and I in fact wrote a book entitled The Days of Wine and Rojas about that team, written from a 9 year olds memory of that season. It was in honor of middle infielders Bobby Wine and Cookie Rojas and was well written and historically accurate. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it published because publishing companies said they had already published several books about that season and team. I had interviewed Gene Mauch [who was then manager of the Angels] and writer Stan Hochman, who covered that team for the Inquier.
Hoichman in particular shared some amazing stories about that season, many of which I wrote about in the book. One in particular that I found interesting...in Houston during the final West Coast trip of the season [Sept.14-16] several Phil players, including Chris Short and outfielder Wes Covington, purchased hunting rifles with their anticipated World Series shares upcoming. Johnny Callison was very unhappy about this and warned his teammates not to spend money not year earned. How prophetic he would prove to be!
Sorry for the length, but I could talk, and write, about the '64 Phillies forever.