KC Royals Will Not Collapse Like the 1964 Phillies

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We will get to comparisons with the KC Royals after a brief trip through history that rocked the baseball world in 1964.  Even if you don’t like the Cards, Phils, or Reds, this is just strange stuff. In 1964, my dad moved me (I was a Cardinal fan then; yes, I have confessed it) to Kansas City.  After the Cards’s Series victory, longing to fit in, I wilted under pressure of high school friends and left the Cards for to root for KC teams.

Let’s review the Philadelphia year in 1964–later known as the Philadelphia “Phold.”  It was so bad that several (sad) books were written about the poor Phillies.  With 39 games left, the Phils were 11 games up on the Cards.  With 12 games left, the margin was 6 1/2 games.  The Phils had the finish line within easy reach.  Or so they thought. Then Frank Thomas (different player that the White Sox Frank Thomas) on Sep. 8th, the first baseman, suffered a  thumb injury and he was gone.

Dallas Green, then a relief pitcher for the Phils and a later manager,  said, “I think everybody in Philadelphia thought we were going to win the pennant.”  But near the end of the season the Phils went on a 10 game losing streak with all sort of unusual  games and finishes that seem to foretell their doom.  A bizarre game was the catalyst.

A play that would forever haunt the Phils team occurred on September 21st.  Against the Reds, the light hitting Chico Ruiz singled with one out in the sixth.  Vada Pinson advanced Ruiz to third but Pinson was thrown out at second, trying to make it  into a double (two out).  Then Ruiz on third committed the (apparent) base-running blunder.  He bolted for home with no apparent reason.  Frank Robinson, a Hall of Fame hitter, was batting.  Everyone on both sides looked on in disbelief.

You can see most of the steal and other stuff on the Phil’s collapse in “The Fall of the Phillies 1964” video.

The most surprised person on the field was the Phils’ relief pitcher Art Mahaffey.  Mahaffey threw the pitch beyond the reach of Phil’s catcher Clay Dalrymple.  Then Ruiz mad dash home completely melted the Phils” will to compete. The Reds won 1-0.  Dallas Green later said that the play “shook us to the core.”  They were unable to right themselves after the play, according to Green.   The steal that looked like it was extremely stupid for the Reds, was a back braker for the Phils. The steal of home was rated  among the ten best steals ever in Sports Illustrated.

Two days later Pinson would hit two homers and Ruiz would only get his second home run of the year.  The hated Ruiz had gotten to the Phils again.  Phillies’ fans called it “the Curse of Chico Ruiz.” Ruiz gained a nickname that can’t be printed here.  Guess.

On Sept. 26, relief pitcher Bobby Shantz blew a one run lead in the bottom of the 9th.   An error by the Phils helped the Braves to a victory.

All of this unnerved not only the players, but the Phils’ manager Gene Mauch.  Their main relief pitcher, Jack Baldschun, upset his manager with a loss.  Dallas Green said that Mauch turned to relief pitchers without the ability or experience to close out games.  As a result, a lot of late inning losses further unnerved the Phils and their manager.  With about a week left, it became a three team race:  the Phils, Cards, and Reds.

Another mistake that Gene Mauch made was to pitch Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on short rest. He started an amazing four times in nine games. He did the same with Chris Short.  They both would start every other day. It  was a disaster. Bunning’s ERA excluding the then day stretch was 2.25.  During those 10 games, his ERA shot to 10.95.  For Short, the ten day stretch lead to a  5.71 ERA; during the rest of the season, he had a 1.99 ERA.  Part of that ten day stretch was a sweep of a three game series by the Cards over the Phils.

It came down to the final day.  St. Louis was playing the (disastrous) Mets and the Phillies were playing the Reds.  The Reds and Cards were one game up tied over the Phils.  The Phils came back to life beating the Reds 10 to nothing.  That left it up to the Cards who could clinch with a win.  Gaylon Cisco, who would play with the Royals in the future, started for the Mets in place of Tracy Stollard who had just broken wrist in a bar fight.  The Cards were trailing 3 to 2 in the top of the fifth.

The Cards then scored three in the fifth and three in the six  to take a commanding lead.  Bob Gibson was used in short relief effectively. The Cards won the game 11 to 5 and the pennant as Harry Caray screamed famously, “The Cardinals win the pennant, the Cardinals win the pennant.”  The Cards would get the World Series ring over the Yankees.

But what is remembered for that year was almost more the collapse of the Phils as the rise of the Cards. Green who would later manage the Phils in the World Series against the George Brett (and his sore …) and the Royals with the Phils winning.

Several players in these sets of games became Royals.  Gaylon Cisco, pitcher for the Mets, would move to the expansion 1969 Royals, and Cookie Rojas  of the Phils later became the second baseman for the Royals in the Seventies until Frank White.

Next: Will history repeat itself again?