A Thriller at 21st and Lehigh

This is the fourth in a series of 6 monthly columns remembering memorable Phillies games on their milestone dates. This column spotlights the Phillies wild comeback against Cincinnati in 1969 that fell a few runs short. Today is the 35th anniversary of that occasion.

After the September swoon of 1964, the late 1960s were not kind to the Phillies. Connie Mack Stadium was quickly becoming outdated, and the fans wouldn't show up for games at the corner of 21st and Lehigh. But for one game in 1969, the Phillies brought some excitement to the old building. Like most of their games in 1969, the Phils fell short, but the excitement factor for the 13,000 in attendance that Sunday afternoon in August was off the charts.

The Phillies were mired in fifth place when this game began, and the only thing keeping them out of last place in the new National League East division was the expansion Montreal Expos. The Cincinnati Reds, on the other hand, were in the thick of the Western Division race, just 1 ½ games behind eventual division champion Atlanta. All the makings were in place for a mismatch, although Cincinnati's starting pitcher, newly acquired Camilo Pascual, was not having a great season. Pascual was to face Phils rookie right-hander Bill Champion, 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA.

Champion gave up a run in the first when Tony Perez singled in Pete Rose from second, and Pascual went to the bottom of the first with an early lead. The lead evaporated quickly when consecutive doubles by Richie Allen, Johnny Callison, and Deron Johnson plated three runs. Pascual left quickly, to be replaced by Jack Fisher. This would turn out to be Pascual's last appearance of the 1969 season.

The Reds answered with another run in the second, as did the Phillies, on light-hitting catcher Mike Ryan's 11th homerun of the season. But the Reds came right back in the third with three runs off Al Raffo, who relieved Champion after a leadoff walk to former Phil Alex Johnson. Cincinnati now led 5-4 going into the bottom of the third, but consecutive singles by Callison, Deron Johnson, and Ron Stone tied the game. Clay Carroll came on to replace Fisher, but a bases-loaded triple by Cookie Rojas (pinch-hitting for Raffo) gave the Phils an 8-5 lead. Tony Taylor followed Rojas with a double to center, and it was now a 9-5 game after three innings of play.

John Boozer came on for the Phillies, but gave up a double to Bobby Tolan and a single to Alex Johnson to get the Reds to within 9-6. Carroll set the Phils down in the bottom of the fourth with no damage, and set the stage for a disastrous fifth inning.

A throwing error by Boozer allowed 1964 nemesis Chico Ruiz to reach first, where Carroll promptly singled him to second. Manager Bob Skinner brought in Turk Farrell to face Pete Rose, but Rose singled to left to load the bases. Bobby Tolan was retired on a short fly to left, but an Alex Johnson single plated both Ruiz and Carroll, and it was now a 9-8 Phillies lead. Tony Perez' double scored Rose to tie the game, and Lee May's three-run homerun put the Reds up 12-9. After a double by Johnny Bench, Woody Woodward singled to extend the Reds lead to 13-9. Lowell Palmer relieved Farrell, and gave up a single to Ruiz as the Reds batted around. Palmer struck out Carroll, but allowed Pete Rose to slug a three-run homerun to put Cincinnati out in front, 16-9. Bobby Tolan was retired for the second time in the inning, but the damage was done: 10 runs, on 9 hits, and a 7-run Reds lead.

Carroll retired the side with no runs scored in the Phillies half of the fifth, and when Alex Johnson led off the top of the sixth for Cincinnati with a homer, the rout was on. Bench doubled in Lee May, who had reached earlier on a single, and going into the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies trailed 18-9.

Deron Johnson drove in a run in the sixth on a single, and with the bases loaded and one out, manager Dave Bristol brought in another ex-Washington Senator, Pedro Ramos, to face Don Money. Money cashed in with a single to left, scoring Callison and Johnson, and Cincinnati's lead was cut to six. After Mike Ryan popped out, pinch-hitter Rich Barry singled to third to load the bases (his sixth base hit of the year, and last of his major-league career). Tony Taylor followed Barry with a grand slam to bring the Phillies back to within two, 18-16.

Rookie Billy Wilson came on for the Phils in the seventh, and set the Reds down in order. After the stretch, Richie Allen led off the bottom of the seventh with his 23rd homerun of the season off Wayne Granger, and the Phils were back in business, trailing by one, 18-17. Perez answered Allen's homerun with one of his own (his 20th) off Wilson in the top of the eighth to put Cincinnati out in front 19-17. The Phillies were retired in order in the bottom of the eighth, as were the Reds in the top of the ninth, setting up what would be an exciting bottom of the ninth.

Pinch-hitter Terry Harmon grounded to third to lead off the inning and Allen followed with a ground out to Woodward, and the Phils were down to their last out. Callison (4-for-5) kept the game alive by drawing a walk from Granger, and Deron Johnson singled to right to go 5-for-6 in the game. Ron Stone hit a liner to right, but it was right at Rose, and the ballgame was over. Granger pitched three shutout innings of relief to pick up the win, and Turk Farrell, who gave up six runs in 1/3 of an inning, picked up the loss. Three Reds players (Alex Johnson, Perez, and Bench) combined for 13 hits, and Cincinnati racked up 25 total hits. Callison and Deron Johnson, who together contributed nine of the Phils' 21 hits, led the Phillies attack.

Manager Bob Skinner abruptly quit on the Phils three days later after a dust-up with management over problems with slugger Richie Allen, and was replaced by coach George Myatt. The Phillies finished the season 63-99, in fifth place, 37 games behind the division-winning and eventual World Series champions, the Amazin' Mets. Rick Wise led the Phils with 15 wins, and Allen slugged 32 homers and hit .288 to lead the club in both categories. In October, Allen was traded to St. Louis in the infamous Curt Flood deal, and in December, Johnny Callison was traded to the Cubs for Oscar Gamble.

Jim Bunning signed on again in October as a free agent, and the Phillies went into their final season at old Connie Mack Stadium with a minimum of talent. But promise was waiting in the minor leagues in the form of Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, and Bob Boone. Glory would still be a few years away.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories