The Magic of '64 - Part Three

As the first month of the season came to a close, the 1964 Phillies seemed to be cruising along. As the Phillies wrapped up a series at home against the Cubs, a road trip to Cincinnati and Milwaukee was just ahead. For the '64 Phillies though, it didn't seem to matter where they played or against who they played – at least early in the season.

On April 26, 1964, the Phillies beat the Cubs at Connie Mack Stadium to take two out of three against the Cubs. Two days later and Art Mahaffey and Dennis Bennett threw gems against the Reds as the Phillies improved their record to 9-2 and took a one-game lead in the National League.

May started with the Phillies in Milwaukee and with a great pitching matchup. Jim Bunning went up against the Braves Warren Spahn. Just eight days before the Phillies arrived in Milwaukee, Spahn had celebrated his 43rd birthday and was in his last season with Milwaukee and the penultimate season of his career. In other words, his best days were behind him. Spahn would finish the '64 season 6-13, 5.30, but was still a draw.

Bunning was in his first season with the Phillies and right in the middle of what would be a Hall of Fame career. The '64 season would see Bunning finish 19-8, 2.63 and would be the first of three seasons in a row that Bunning would finish with 19 wins for the Phillies. Win number 18 would come on September 20, 1964 and would be the last game the Phillies would win as they embarked on a ten game losing skid that would cost them their season. Bunning would start three times during that streak, looking for his 19th win and would come up short with the Braves beating Bunning twice in the span of four days and the Cardinals beating Bunning in the final game of the skid. Bunning would come back to get win number 19 against Cincinnati on October 4th, the final day of the season. The Cardinals would beat the Mets that same day to wrap up the National League pennant and end the Phillies hopes for a return to the World Series.

Perhaps, a younger Spahn might have provided more trouble for the Phillies, but in 1964, the Phillies would be able to take care of Spahn, especially with Bunning on the mound. The Phillies would beat Spahn and the Braves 5-3 on May 1st. The Phils would again beat Spahn when the Braves visited Philadelphia in July, but their win on the first day of May, 1964 increased their lead to two games as the Giants lost to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

While it all looked good for the Phillies, a losing streak was right around the corner. That streak would knock the Phillies out of first place as the Giants, Braves and Cardinals all battled with each other and the Phillies for the top spot in the National League.

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