Phillies Time Machine: 1955

Spring always brings hopes of pennants in major league cities. The spring of 1955 was no different in Philadelphia. With winning seasons in 1952 and 1953, the Phillies fourth place finish in '54 was just a bump in the road – they hoped. Still, finishing 22 games out of first cost manager Terry Moore his job during the offseason and the Phillies had made a couple other changes that they thought would move them to the top.

In 1948, Phillies general manager Herb Pennock passed away and the team went without a general manager until 1954 when Roy Hamey took over. Midway through the '54 campaign, Hamey fired manager Steve O'Neill and replaced him with Terry Moore. When the season ended, Hamey wasn't satisfied with his choice and Moore was relieved of his duties.

Hamey dug into the history of the Philadelphia A's to find a former outfielder, who played a grand total of 73 games in the majors ten years earlier. Mayo Smith had finished his undistinguished playing career and was managing in the Yankees farm system when Hamey summoned him to Philadelphia.

With an unknown at the helm, the Phillies season started well enough, but quickly turned in a very bad direction. On April 30th, the Phillies lost a game and they wouldn't win again for two weeks. Whether it was coincidence or an unexpected result, April 30th was also the day that the Phillies completed a deal with the Cincinnati Reds. In the swap, the Phillies sent Smoky Burgess to the Reds for Andy Seminick and Jim Greengrass.

Ironically, Greengrass was supposed to be the big catch in the deal. Hamey had visions of him teaming with Del Ennis and Willie Jones to give the Phillies more than enough power in the middle of the lineup. Early in his Philadelphia career, Greengrass suffered a leg injury and never came near the expectations of Hamey or the Philadelphia fans, hitting just 12 homeruns and driving in a sad 37 runs. Seminick took over behind the plate and nearly equaled Greengrass' production, hitting 11 homeruns and driving in 34 runs.

As had been the case, Del Ennis provided the true power and Richie Ashburn was the main catalyst at the top of the lineup. Ennis hit 29 homeruns, drove in 120 and posted a .296 batting average. Ashburn was even more impressive. Ashburn started to hit on opening day and didn't stop until the final gun had sounded, winning the batting title with a .338 average. Ashburn's season was so good, that Stan Musial and Willie Mays both finished a distant 19 points behind Ashburn in the batting race.

While the season was marred by the early losing skid, things did turn around somewhat for the Phillies. They posted an 11 game winning streak and finished the season winning 40 of their last 70 games. During the win streak, which was the team's longest since 1892, Phillies starters threw five straight complete games. It was the pitching staff that salvaged any hope of a winning season for the Phillies; Actually, it was Robin Roberts that salvaged any hope.

1955 became Robin Roberts sixth straight season with 20 or more wins as he finished 23-14 to lead the league in wins. The Phillies superstar threw an amazing 305 innings and 26 complete games to lead the league in those categories, too. At the end of the season, The Sporting News selected Roberts as their Pitcher of the Year for the third time in his illustrious career.

Curt Simmons ERA ballooned from 2.81 in 1954 to 4.92 and he won just eight games for the Phillies. Local Philly boy Jack Meyer arrived in the majors to lead the league with 16 saves and a 3.44 ERA. Meyer had come up through the Phillies system as a starter, but adapted easily to the relief role. Unfortunately, the league caught up with Meyer and he struggled for a couple seasons before coming anywhere near the season that he had in '55.

With the Phillies buried in the standings early, they finished at .500 (77-77), good enough for just fourth place. Mayo Smith would go on to manage just two and one-half more seasons for the Phillies before he was replaced. Greengrass and Seminick would both continue their downward spiral and wouldn't last too long in Philadelphia. Greengrass hit just .205 with 5 homeruns in 1956 and was gone. Seminick hit .192 over the next two seasons, getting just 11 at bats in 1957, before he too was gone.

Ashburn and Roberts went on to continue their Philadelphia careers that would culminate with both players having their numbers retired by the Phillies years after their careers ended. Ennis played one more season with the Phillies before being traded to St.Louis in an unpopular deal. For the Phillies, they would reach .500 just one more time in the next six seasons, with the hope of spring staying a little more guarded with each passing year.

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