The Magic of '64 - Part Four

The '64 Phillies live on in the hearts of fans everywhere. It was the team that broke our hearts, but with 40 years to get over the heartache, the 1964 Phillies remain as one of the all-time favorites in the rich history of Phillies baseball. All season long, will salute the '64 Phillies, the team that almost brought the World Series back to Philadelphia.

It was May 10, 1964. The Cincinnati Reds were in town and the Phils had taken the first two games of the series. Although the Reds were just 11-10 when they came to town and lost the opening game of the series 11-3, they had battled Jim Bunning and the Phillies only to lose 5-4 in the second game of the series. The Phillies remained one game behind the Giants coming into play on Mother's Day of 1964.

Chris Short was the starting pitcher for the Phillies that Sunday. In his first five seasons, Short was 32-42 with a 3.95 ERA for the Phils. Short seemingly turned the corner in 1963, with a 2.95 ERA, but finished with a 9-12 record. For Short, 1964 would be the year when he would truly start to establish himself as a solid part of the Phillies rotation. After leading the league with 14 wild pitches in 1961 and walking nearly as many as he struck out, Short had developed a reputation as a good pitcher who lacked the control he needed to really get over the hump. Slowly, Short worked on his control and the results were starting to show.

Mother's Day of 1964 would be much like Short's '63 season was. He pitched very well, but still came out on the short end of the score. The Reds beat Short and the Phillies 2-0 behind the great Joe Nuxhall. A little more than two months later, Nuxhall would again beat the Phillies as the Reds took three out of four in Cincinnati against the Phils.

The Sunday loss was tough, but the Giants also lost, so the Phillies stayed just one game behind San Francisco. Perhaps, the Phillies were looking ahead to a series with the St. Louis Cardinals, who were due into Philadelphia right after the Reds. The Cardinals came into the series two games behind the Phillies and three behind the Giants. Ray Culp and Art Mahaffey were set to go against the Cards in the first two games of the series.

Ray Sadecki and Curt Simmons were the starters for the Cardinals. Both would pitch great games against the Phillies as the Cardinals took the first two games of the series in Philadelphia. The Giants split a pair of games with Houston, leaving the Phillies two games behind. More importantly though, the Cardinals and Braves had caught the Phillies and also stood two games out. In the third game of the series, the Phillies turned to Jim Bunning, who beat the Cardinals 3-2. The news that the Giants lost a pair of games to Houston came as even better news and brought the Phillies to just ½ game out of first place.

The Phillies spot in the standings was significant because they were about to embark on the toughest part of their 1964 schedule. Dead ahead was a 13 game road trip with four games in Houston and three each in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. The plan was to make it through the trip in good shape and then take advantage of a 16 game homestand against the same teams, plus the New York Mets.

Dennis Bennett beat the Colt ‘45s in the series opener, but Houston came back to win the second game of the series behind Turk Farrell. The Giants also split a pair of games and the Phillies still trailed by ½ game, with St.Louis again tying the Phillies for second place. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were playing better and were 2 ½ games out, while the Milwaukee Braves stood 3 games out of first.

Eleven games still remained on the road trip that the Phillies thought was a key to their season. It was about to get rougher too, since a visit to the Giants remained just after two more games in Houston.

Prior to hitting the road, the Phillies sold pitcher Ryne Duren to the Cincinnati Reds. Duren was in his second season for the Phillies and was seldom used. When the was sold to Cincinnati, Duren had pitched just three innings and had a 6.00 ERA for the Phillies. He had been a respectable 6-2, 3.30 with two saves for the Phillies in '63 and would finish the '64 season with an overall ERA of 3.09 with an 0-2 record for the Reds.

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