Home of the Whiz Kids
Now while I have enjoyed their great success in a few recent years, my favorite team was the 1950 team whose nickname was The Whiz Kids. In sharp contrast to the present Wheeze Kids, their average age was only 26.4 years of age. It was a team built on bonus babies and they were exciting to listen to. And they won the National League pennant during that season.
I had all of their baseball cards and their yearbook and many of their autographed pictures. It's too bad that I don't still have them today. My favorite players were Robin Roberts, Del Ennis, Curt Simmons, Richie Ashburn and Willie Jones. But I also loved Granny Hamner, Eddie Waitkus, Andy Seminick, Stan Lopata, Jim Konstanty, and Dick Sisler. Some of these were among the best ever to play for the Phillies.
Unfortunately, all sorts of problems came their way late in the 1950 season and the league championship came down to the final series against the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers. The final game pitted the Opening Day starting pitchers, right-handers Robin Roberts and Don Newcombe, against one another. The Phillies defeated the Dodgers in extra innings in the final game on a three-run home run by Dick Sisler in the top of the tenth inning. But going into the World Series, their first since 1915, the Whiz Kids were hurting and missing several key players. Pitcher Bob Miller, who injured his back slipping on wet stairs, outfielder Bill Nicholson who was diagnosed with diabetes and out for the remainder of the season, rookie pitcher Bubba Church, who had been hit in the eye with a line drive,and star pitcher Curt Simmons, who was activated into military service on September 10. They were so short of pitching that they had to use reliever Jim Konstanty to start the first game. And, with typical Phillie luck, the Whiz Kids were swept by the New York Yankees who won the second of five consecutive World Series championships.
With such young players, most thought that a new dynasty had begun. But the team finished with a 73–81 record in 1951, and, except for second place tie in 1964, did not finish higher than third place again until 1975. I didn't realize the following until a few days ago, but their failure has been attributed to multiple theories, the most prominent of which is owner Carpenter's unwillingness to integrate his team after winning a pennant with an all-white team. The Phillies did not integrate until 1957, a decade after Jackie Robinson's entry. And maybe this is why the Phillies have generally been mediocre at best. So sad.
Now that brings us to 2014, most likely another mediocre season. Instead of being young, they are loaded with older veterans in the final years of their careers. Most are past their peaks and are declining in performance. They are burdened with many high salaries and have ruined their farm system over the past few years attempting to win one more championship. And so, unless there is a miracle, the Wheeze Kids are probably destined to trying to stay out of last place for the next decade.
Will I still be a fan? Probably. We have gotten used to it and we still hope for miracles. And after decades, it is hard to change your allegiance. I guess some of us are just slow learners. But I do miss the Whiz Kids!