Alumni Profile: Chris Short - The Anchor

It was 12 years ago this week that Philadelphia Phillies fandom lost a good friend and a great pitcher. On August 1, 1991, Chris Short, the greatest lefty, not named Lefty, in Phillies history passed away at age 53. In honor of a truly special Phillie, here is his story.

It was a tense one-run game with the Phils one out from victory at Wrigley Field with the ever-dangerous Ron Santo at the plate. In the dugout, manager Gene Mauch was a wreck...but out on the mound Chris Short obviously wasn't bothered. As the crowd was screaming for Santo to tie the game, Short was preoccupied watching a paper airplane sailing down from the upper deck and heading right for the pitchers mound. He watched it land, picked it up, put it in his pocket...then proceeded to retire Santo to end the game. If any moment revealed the "cool" of Chris Short, it was this moment.

Short was the definition of style...in fact, this writer often thought his name was really "stylish lefty Chris Short".... he was constantly referred to in that vein. No lefty not named Lefty was ever better than Short, Curt Simmons included. In the infamous 1964 season, which so defined Callison, Allen and Bunning, Short, was actually the anchor. No pitcher won more clutch games in ‘64 than Short did...he was famous for ending losing streaks, and beating the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, the dismal 5-13 record the Phils had against the Cards was ultimately their undoing, yet Short was 3-0 against the Cards until losing to them the final week of the season.

Highlights...you want highlights? How about a 15 inning, 18 KO gem against the NY Mets in 1965? Oh, by the way, the game ended in a 0-0 tie! Short was a notoriously bad hitter yet he once went 4-4 in a win against the legendary Warren Spahn. And, it was inevitably Short that would draw the tough assignments against the great Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, and their duels were masterpieces of sound and symphony.

From 1964-68, Short won a total of 83 games and most of them were complete games. He formed with Jim Bunning a devastating lefty-righty combination during their four years together. Phillie fans everywhere have spent many a night debating the greatest lefty-righty tandem in Phillie lore....Bunning-Short or Roberts-Simmons. That this debate even occurs should indicate the greatness of Chris Short.

He began his career at age 21 in 1959 and won 6, 6 and 11 games heading into 1963. With a 1-8 record he was clearly at a crossroads and Mauch told him it was time to "put up or shut up". As if on cue, he proceeded to go 8-4 in the second half of the season to finish 9-12. The 1964 season may not have been his best statistically (he did win 20 in '66), but it certainly was his most memorable.

Ironically, he did not become a starter until May as Bunning, Mahaffey, Culp and Bennett were manning the starting posts. It was quite an impressive group but unfortunately Bunning and Short were the only consistent duo. It was an unforgettable season and he won many clutch games. Perhaps his most memorable win came on September 10 against the red hot Cards. After a very disheartening extra inning loss the night before, Short was dominant in a 5-1 win against the red hot Redbirds. In that game he fanned 12 and was in complete control. This win restored the Phillies six game lead in the NL as they headed West for a ten game trip.

Unfortunately, Short and his teammates were about to enter the Twilight Zone. After a complete game 4-1 win over the Houston Colt 45's for his 17th win, Short and his teammates were about to have their first glimpse of what was in store for them. In Los Angeles on a Friday night, Short carried a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning when a Wes Parker single, a Tommy Davis bad hop double and a monstrous home run by huge Frank Howard tied the game at 3. The Phils lost in the ninth and lost the next night in 16 innings when Willie Davis stole home. These two disheartening losses were merely a prelude to what would take place next.... the nightmarish ten game losing streak that would dash forever the dreams of a pennant.

Through the years there has been much debate about the use of Bunning and Short on two days rest during this ten game skid but a special note on Short should be made here. On several occasions during the ‘64 season Short pitched on two days rest with positive results. Indeed, his win in Houston came on two days rest. In fact, pitching on two days rest in Game Five of the losing streak, Short was brilliant. He carried a 1-0 lead against the heavy hitting Milwaukee Braves into the late innings. Ultimately, he was done in, not by exhaustion, but by a Clay Dalrymple catcher's interference, which cost him the game.

Historians can long debate the ramifications of that interference but had Short won that game, he undoubtedly would have been pitching in Game Two of the World Series in ‘64 against the Yankees. Unlike many of his teammates, his career evolved on a positive note after ‘64 as he won 18, 19 and 20 games before injuring his back in 1969.

His career as a Phillie ended in 1972. Some of his career highlights are truly incredible. His win total was 132 and he had two strikeout seasons of 202 and 237. In an age when pitchers prided themselves on finishing what they started, he had three seasons of innings pitched totals of 270, 272 and a staggering 290!

Sadly, he suffered a brain aneurysm in 1988 and never regained consciousness. It was particularly poignant when the Phils had their 25th year reunion in 1989 and Short's picture was shown on the screen. Phillie fans everywhere gave a moment of silence to their fallen hero. Some players openly wept during the ceremonies. He died two years later on August 1, 1991.

It is fitting that we give a quiet toast to an incredibly talented pitcher who played on some of the most loved Phillie teams of all time, Chris Short. As Phillie fans begin quiet contemplation about the future exploits of its latest lefty phenom, Cole Hamels, it would be a pleasant thought indeed if someday he was compared favorably to Chris Short. Few comparisons could do greater honor to Hamels than that.

Editor's Note: Send comments or questions on CD-authored Alumni Profile articles to connectthedots@earthlink.net and CD will respond. Thanks!


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