Phillies Time Machine: 1965 - Diminishing Returns

If the 1964 Phillies startled the baseball world with their near miss at the National League pennant, then the 1965 Phillies can rightfully take their place as equally surprising. For if the ‘64 Phillies far exceeded most people's expectations, the ‘65 Phillies were as equally disappointing.

Despite the bitter ending to a wonderful 1964 season, hopes were highfor the ‘65 edition of the Philadelphia Phillies. The team had made somedaring moves during the offseason and appeared bound and determined to erase any thoughts of past failures. The Phils boldly added sluggingfirst baseman Dick Stuart and starting pitchers Bo Belinsky and veteranRay Herbert to a strong nucleus of Johnny Callison, Richie Allen andpitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short. On paper, this team looked verytough to beat.

Unfortunately, baseball is not won on paper but on the ball fields of Pittsburgh, San Francisco and St. Louis. It's not won by writing impressive lineup cards on crumpled pieces of restaurant napkins, its won in the winds of Chicago, the heat of Houston and the sun in Los Angeles. This team, instead of becoming a team of destiny, would turn out to be a team in turmoil.

The warning signs were everywhere. In acquiring Stuart and Belinsky, the Phils were adding two headstrong individuals to a group of players who had sacrificed individual goals for team goals in ‘64. Stuart, for allhis power, was a defensive liability at 1st base and would combine withthird sacker Richie Allen to form one of the weakest corner infield defenses in the league. Belinsky, who was expected to replace thedeparted lefty Dennis Bennett, languished all season and finished with a dismal 4-9 record.

Though the team finished a somewhat respectable 85-76, this record was deceiving. But for a six-game winning streak in late June and a finishing three-game sweep of the woebegone New York Mets to end the season, this was a .500 club. Manager Gene Mauch did all he could to keep this team on task, but often to no avail. Things reached an apex on July 3, when 1964 hero Frank Thomas and young slugger Richie Allen got into a pre game fight, with major ramifications. Thomas, a crowd favorite, was almost immediately sold to the Houston Colt 45's and Allen was never quite the same dynamic player.

Oh, there were some fine seasons accrued by a few players. SluggersCallison and Allen, the cornerstones of the Phils ‘64 success, had solidindividual seasons. Callison was once again rock solid on defense inright field and hit 32 home runs and knocks in 101 runs. He alsocontributed a league leading 16 triples to the mix. Allen, a buddingsuperstar before the fight, still played well enough to hit over .300 [.302] with 20 home runs and 85 RBI. As usual, they both playednearly every day, with Allen missing one game and Callison missing only two.

Stuart, nicknamed Dr. Strangeglove, for his defensive foibles, did holdhis own offensively with 28 HR and 95 RBI.

Other notable individual performances were turned in by stellar utilityman Cookie Rojas, who hit .303 and center fielder Tony Gonzalez who rediscovered his power stroke somewhat [13 HR] while still hitting a solid .295. An emerging hitting star appeared to be on the horizon in left fielder Alex Johnson, who while still platooned with Wes Covington, did hit .294 and seemed ready for prime time play.

Sadly, for every solid player there were two disappointments and theyincluded '64 stalwarts Covington, SS's Ruben Amaro and Bobby Wine, C's Clay Dalrymple and Gus Triandos, 2b Tony Taylor and the ill departed Thomas. The magic of ‘64 was gone from the performances of this group in 1965.

On the pitching staff, Bunning and Short were again bulwarks, Bunning with 19 wins and Short with 18. The rejuvenated Ray Culp, who contributed 14 wins out of the starting spot, more than supported them. The other starters, Belinsky [4-9, Herbert [5-8] and Art Mahaffey [2-5] were bitter disappointments. Things actually became so bad that veteran Lew Burdette was acquired to patch up the rotation. That he was not up to the task was shown in his 5.45 ERA. Even past bullpen beaus Jack Baldschun and Ed Roebuck slumped in 65 and neither would be part of the ‘66 team.

In fact, as the season progressed, a new relief ace would step forward,rookie fireballer, Gary Wagner. An unlikely player to make the club outof spring training, Wagner would prove to be one of the only positivesurprises to emerge from the ‘65 season.

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect to the ‘65 season was the official death of the group of players that Mauch had been nurturingand encouraging since 1961. Gone forever would be the dreams that this group would ever win a pennant together. By the end of 1965, departing were such Phillie favorites as Amaro, Baldschun, Covington, Mahaffey, Hernstein, Triandos, Thomas and Johnson. Roebuck was gone in early ‘66.

That these players had been such valuable resources for some incredibly popular and productive clubs made the parting all the more difficult. By the end of 1965, gone also were players like Stuart, Herbert, Burdette, Ryan Duren and OFer Billy Sorrell. They were players brought in with the expressed purpose of helping get the Phils over the proverbial hump.

That they couldn't do it in the year of diminishing returns gave Philsfans a deepening sense of nostalgia, a sad sense of unfulfilled closure.This was the legacy of the 1965 team, a team that would be the start ofa Phils free fall, lasting nearly a decade.

Editor's Note: Please direct questions on CD-authored Time Machine articles to connectthedots@earthlink.net and CD will respond. Thanks!


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