Time Machine: 1950, Part 2

The Phillies had captured first place, but had also lost pitcher Curt Simmons for two weeks for National Guard duty. Del Ennis was on an offensive tear and the Phillies had been up and down, battling with the Giants, Dodgers, Braves and Cardinals for most of the season. The Phillies were entering an important stretch as they fought for their first pennant in 35 years.

As Del Ennis paced the offense, it was the veteran Jim Konstanty, who provided the needed pitching help for the Phillies. Konstanty seemed to be a man on a mission. In addition to 16 wins, Konstanty saved 22 games. By the end of the season, everybody had noticed Konstanty. He used breaking pitches and his trademark palm ball to keep hitters off pace and pitched himself to the league's MVP Award at the end of the season. Konstanty's ability to pitch nearly every day made things easier on Sawyer, but tough on the rest of the bullpen, who saw little work. In one stretch, Konstanty pitched 22 innings without allowing a run and allowed just seven hits in the stretch.

The Phillies put together an August to remember, winning 20 of 28 games and putting distance between them and their competitors. The Dodgers dropped to 7 games behind and the Braves were 9 ½ games out. The Cardinals and Giants were seemingly an afterthought at the time. With Robin Roberts pitching like he always had, Simmons returned from the Guard and didn't miss a beat. Roberts and Simmons each won six games in a row and were nearly unhittable.

An ugly incident at Shibe Park marred the Phillies month of August. Andy Seminick slid hard into Giants second baseman Bill Rigney and the two tangled with fists flying. Both benches emptied and police even intervened to end the brawl. It was the second brawl of the season that the Phillies were involved in. The first came against Cincinnati. The brawls gave the Phillies another nickname: The Fightin' Phils.

The Phillies went 11-3 on a road trip and returned to Philadelphia as conquering heroes. As the Phillies arrived back home, a crowd estimated at 30,000 waited to greet them. Manager Eddie Sawyer saw storm clouds and not just the ones that were dumping rain on the adoring fans who waited for the Phillies return. With 27 games left, Sawyer worried that his team was getting over confident and warned that the pennant wasn't won yet.

Just as Sawyer delivered his warning, the Phillies started to fall. On Labor Day, the Giants didn't just sweep the Phillies, but shut them out in both games. The Phillies offense was cooling off quickly and it wasn't to warm up again for some time. The Phillies then welcomed the Dodgers, who also shut out the Phillies in the first game of a double-header and beat them 3-2 in the second game. In four games, the Phillies had pushed across just two runs. Before the Phillies would snap out of their slump, their lead would diminish to just 4 ½ games. On the upside, the bouncing ball Phillies would soon put together an 8-3 run and their lead would go back up to 7 games. Again though, there were those ever present storm clouds.

On September 10th, the Phillies lost Curt Simmons for the rest of the season. His unit was called to active duty in Germany and he left to serve. Less than a week later, Ted Kluszewski drove a line drive right back at Bubba Church. The pitcher's reactions weren't quick enough to get out of the way of the line drive and the ball hit Church squarely in the face, ending his season. The next day, Bob Miller was battling Cincinnati's Ewell Blackwell in a pitcher's duel when his arm gave out. On back-to-back days, the Phillies had lost both of their rookie sensations and in the span of a week, three of their starting pitchers were out of commission.

Looking for a hero, the Phillies found two in Ken Heintzelman and Blix Donnelly. The two turned in strong performances as the Phillies swept the Reds in a double-header, winning the nightcap 8-7 in 19 innings.

The Phillies had 11 games left and their lead stood at 7. Had the 1964 season come before the 1950 campaign, fans would have shown more fear than they did over those final games.

The Dodgers dropped into Philly for a two-game series. Newcombe beat Roberts in the opener of the series and then, the Dodgers pounded the Phillies 11-0 the final day and cut the Phillies lead to five games. Again, the storm clouds came into view on the horizon. The Phillies faced a nine game road trip against the strongest teams in the league to end the season. Plus, the Dodgers were on a role and didn't seem ready to fade.

The trip started in Boston. The Phillies took two out of the three games and things looked a little rosier. Up next, were two double-headers against the Giants. New York had gone on their own hot streak and stood in third place as the Phillies came to town. After the Giants won the opener, the Phillies offense disappeared in the second game and quickly, the Giants had swept the first of the double-headers. Again, the Phillies struggled for runs and lost the first game of the second double-header by a 3-1 score. They took strength in the fact that Roberts was pitching game two, but the Giants used a bloop single to score two runs in the seventh and again beat the Phillies 3-1. The Dodgers and Braves had split two double-headers and the Phillies lead stood at three games. The Phillies had two games remaining, while the Dodgers had four games left, meaning the Phillies had clinched at least a tie.

As the Phillies enjoyed an off day, the Braves and Dodgers again played two. As the Phillies hoped for at least one Braves win, they were disappointed. The Dodgers swept and moved to two games behind the Phillies going into the final two days of the season, which just happened to be in Brooklyn.

Miller's arm injury had healed and he was tabbed to start the Saturday game against Brooklyn. The Dodgers were too hot for the Phillies as Roy Campanella hit a three-run shot to help the Dodgers to a 7-3 win over the Phillies, meaning that the Phillies led by one with one game left. Robin Roberts was picked to pitch the Sunday game, starting his third game in the last five for the Phillies. The Dodgers sent Don Newcombe to the mound as both pitchers stood at 19 wins on the season.

The game went to the ninth tied 1-1. The Phillies failed in the top half and the Dodgers came to bat. The first two batters reached base and Duke Snider ripped a single to center field, leading to one of the most memorable plays in Phillies history. Richie Ashburn raced to the ball and came up firing as Cal Abrams sprinted for the plate. The throw was a strike and Stan Lopata caught the ball and blocked the plate, denying the Dodgers the win. Roberts walked Jackie Robinson intentionally and then retired Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges to end the threat.

Sawyer left Roberts in the game to hit in the tenth and it paid off. Roberts singled and Waitkus followed with a bloop single to put runners on first and second. Ashburn then failed to sacrifice Roberts to third as the Dodgers threw him out. With runners on first and second and one out, Dick Sisler came to bat. After collecting three singles in the game, Sisler ripped a pitch to deep left field. As the crowd held their breath, the ball carried into the seats and the Phillies suddenly had a 4-1 lead. To reinforce Sawyer's decision to stick with Roberts, the veteran put down the Dodgers in order in the bottom of the inning and the Phillies were National League Champions.

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