Phillies Time Machine: 1958

1958 saw the Phillies get off to a good start and put themselves within striking distance of the pennant by the all-star break. Then, it was almost like a band of strangers took over and the team quickly went into a tail spin that saw them fire their manager as they tried to salvage a lost season.

The Phillies came into the 1958 season with expectations of good things happening. They had sent pitcher Harvery Haddix to Cincinnati for slugger Wally Post and had other veterans and a few rookies that the Phillies thought would help them improve over their 77-77 record in 1957.

For Richie Ashburn, 1958 was the year that he won his second batting title. On the last day of the season, Ashburn went 3-for-4 to finish with a .350 average, just edging Willie Mays. Ashburn also led the league in hits with 215 to lead one of the many solid individual performances for the Phillies.

One of the young players that the Phillies thought would come through was Ray Semproch. By mid-July, Semproch had reeled off 11 wins and was part of the Phillies surge toward the top. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Semproch would become an individual example of what the team was as a whole when he went into a second-half skid. When the season ended, Semproch would have added just two wins after the all-star break to finish at 13-11.

The switch seemed to be completely turned off at the all-star break. The Phillies hit the break with a seven game win streak and had moved to just 2 1/2 games of first. That seven game streak would be ruined by a seven game losing skid and by the time July ended, the promising Phillies had fallen to 8 1/2 games out and manager Mayo Smith was a goner.

Smith's exit meant an opening for Eddie Sawyer. Sawyer had been a long time member of the Phillies organization and didn't really want the job, but was talked into it by team president Bob Carpenter. Sawyer would manage the rest of the season and a full campaign in 1959, only to quit after the Phillies 1960 opener. During his 1958 stint, the Phillies went just 28-41 for Sawyer and finished a distant 23 games out of first place.

The acquisition of Post didn't turn out the way the Phillies had hoped. Post did hit a solid .282, but his homerun production was nowhere near what the Phillies were looking for and he finished the season fourth on the team in homeruns with just 12.

The youngsters who had made their marks as rookies in 1957 mainly struggled in their second seasons. First baseman Ed Bouchee slipped to a .257 average after hitting an impressive .293 in his rookie year. On the mound, 1957 rookie Jack Sanford (10-13, 4.45) was a disappointment and Dick Farrell, who went 10-2, 2.39 in his rookie season fell to 8-9, 3.35 in his sophomore season. One second year player who came through was left fielder Harry Anderson. Anderson hit .301 in 1958 and led the team in homeruns (23) and RBI (97).

Once again, the pitching staff was led by the great Robin Roberts. Roberts finished the '58 campaign with 17 wins and a 3.23 ERA. The Phillies pitching staff finished with a 4.32 ERA.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, 1958 was a harbinger of things to come. The team would also finishe 23 games out in 1959 and they would sink even lower in the following seasons until Gene Mauch eventually got things turned around.


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