Phillies Time Machine: 1963 - Ready For Prime Time

As the Dodgers were preparing to meet the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, a series the Blue Crew would sweep 4-0, executive Buzzie Bavasi noted it should be the Phillies instead. Indeed, for the final 3 months of the season the Phils were the best team in baseball.

If the 1962 season had established the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies were no longer the National League's doormats, it was the ‘63 team that established them as the team to be reckoned with. After a dismal start, which actually saw them fall to 8th place at 31-40, the Phils suddenly turned it around in July with a tremendous surge of 56-35 and finished a very strong fourth at 87-75. Managed by Gene Mauch, who is still considered by many as the greatest manager in Phils history, this team proved that by combining home grown talent with careful trades, you could build a winner.... and win the Phils did.

Despite their success, there were more than a few reasons to doubt the staying power of this team. Staff ace Art Mahaffey, he of the 19-win season in 1962 injured his arm, then his ankle, and won only seven games. Slugger Don Demeter, after starting fast, slumped for the entire second half of the season and finished over 50 points below his average of the year before. However, these proved merely minor inconveniences for this hustling and resilient crew of Mauch's Men.

Heroes, there were a-plenty. Right fielder Johnny Callison established himself as one of the coming stars with a solid season and center fielder Tony Gonzalez did the same. Veterans Roy Sievers, Wes Covington and Don Hoak added leadership and skill to a young team on the move. The middle infield was as solid as a rock with Tony Taylor having a standout season and combining with his DP mates, shortstops Ruben Amaro and Bobby Wine to make life miserable for opposing hitters. Once again, the catching was in the wise hands of lefty Clay Dalrymple. The bench strength was a combination of youth and experience in the names of Cookie Rojas, Bob Oldis , Earl Averill and Jim Lemon.

The pitching staff lacked a true ace after Mahaffey went down but made up for it with great depth. Rookie Ray Culp, he of the great potential and disappointing minor league results, made the All-Star team and won 14 games. Veteran Cal McLish added a touch of class and 13 wins to match. The starting staff suffered when Mahaffey went down, but gritty Dennis Bennett, presumed gone for the season after a terrible off-season auto accident shattered his ankle, limped back and won 9 games. Chris Short, another lefty with great skills but very inconsistent results, won 8 games after the All-Star game to solidify the rotation. Throw in flamethrower Ryne Duren, versatile Dallas Green and rookie John Boozer and the starting rotation was among the leagues best.

Of course, Mauch was showing his ability to mix and match with the best of them and his careful use of relievers Jack Baldschun and Johnny Klipstein made this group one of the leagues best. Highlights from the season were many but among them was a scintillating nine-game winning streak in August, a tremendous rally from 9 runs behind to defeat the Colt 45's, and a season ending series sweep of the Dodgers. Ironically, these would be the last defeats the 63 Dodgers would suffer. No wonder they felt the wrong team was going to the World Series.

If these Phils were just about ready for prime time, it was obvious that they would need a bit more help in 1964. This was what made the late season additions of such players as Richie Allen, John Hernstein and Marcelino Lopez so meaningful. It was apparent that this was clearly a team primed for center stage.

While this was all unfolding before Mauch's eyes, a veteran righty was toiling unhappily in Detroit. Jim Bunning was ready to start over and seemed a perfect fit for the talented Phils. The trade was still two months away when the 1963 season ended, but its anticipated announcement would forever change the landscape of Phillies baseball lore.

Even without a clear vision of what awaited them the following year, this 1963 team knew they were special & definitely ready to take the next step.... a clear aim at the 1964 pennant, and prime time.

Author's Note: Please send your questions or comments to CD-authored Time Machine articles to connectthedots@earthlink.net and he will respond!


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