"AND CHICO RUIZ TAKES HIS LEAD
OFF THIRD BASE…."
On a team with Frank Robinson and Pete Rose, he wasn't the best player on the team. He wasn't the best Rookie on the team; teammate and September call-up Tony Perez went on to a Hall of Fame Career. He wasn't even the best player nicknamed "Chico" on the team - Leo "Chico" Cardenas was an every day player. From 1964-1971, Cuban-born Hiraldo Sablon, played as Chico Ruiz. In an 8-year career that was ended by a fatal automobile accident, he averaged 70 at bats per year – less than one for every other game his team played. For his entire career, he hit 2 home runs, drove in 69 runs, and ran one 6th-inning 90-foot sprint that gave his team a 1-0 victory, and changed the course of a whole pennant race.
"TWO DOWN, FRANK ROBINSON AT
Gene Mauch was the manager of the
opposing Phillies that Monday night. Mauch
brought a flavor to the game of baseball. He
knew the rules better than any other manager, and no antic was out-of bounds if
it would give his team an advantage.
During his first full season as
manager, he refused to announce his starting pitcher to the visiting Giants.
So he submitted a lineup card with four pitchers in the starting lineup:
Don Ferrarese listed in center field, Jim Owens at third base, southpaw Chris
Short catching and Ken Lehman listed as the starting pitcher.
After the Giants committed their lineup, substitutions abounded.
Mauch was the type of manager who
would forearm Mets catcher Chris Cannizzaro in the face as the backstop reached
into the Phillies dugout for a foul pop. When
the Phillies batter was called out for interference, he rushed onto the field
with a rule book, and eventually had the call overturned. Some credit Mauch with
creating the National League double-switch.
As brilliant a manager as he was,
the game of baseball continually did to him what the sound of his name would
imply: throughout his managerial career, baseball "mocked" Gene Mauch.
He was the manager during the longest losing streak in Major League
Baseball history. When it became
evident that Mauch and phenom Richie Allen could no longer co-exist, the
trouble-making Allen was preferred, and Mauch was dumped.
As manager of the 1986 California Angels, he led his team to a division
title, a 3-1-game lead against the Red Sox in the ALCS, and a 5-2 ninth-inning
lead in Game 5. Mauch must
have remembered 1964 as he saw the Red Sox advance to play the Mets.
Mauch never did get to manage a World Series team.
"THE 0-1 PITCH FROM ART
The Phillies were in their 82nd year as a franchise, and had only two pennants and no championships to show for it. 1964 seemed different, and the year was unfolding as a show of magic. The Phillies got off to a 6-1 start against the Mets and the Cubs. Newly acquired ace Jim Bunning had pitched baseball's ninth perfect game – and the century's first for a National League team. Fireballing lefty Chris Short had become a reliable number 2 pitcher. The bullpen was anchored by the screwballs of Jack Baldschund and the sinker of Ed Roebuck. Right fielder Johnny Callison became the All-Star game hero with a walk-off three run homer. Richie Allen was having a Rookie-of-the-Year season. The only apparent threat to the pennant, the San Francisco Giants, had bowed out of the race by mid-August.
After defeating the Dodgers on
September 20, the Phillies commanded a 6½ game lead with just 12 games left to
play. Their record was 90-60, and
their magic number was 7 over the Reds and the Cardinals, who were tied for
second. Over the next week and a
half, that magic number would plummet down to 6.
And the Phillies found themselves in third place.
"HE'S COMING HOME!!"
Mauch has been accused of
mismanaging the pitching after that. And
in retrospect, there may be some truth to that charge.
The ace was Jim Bunning, followed up by Chris Short.
Dennis Bennett, Art Mahaffey and Ray Culp did most of the pitching while
the two aces rested. Rick Wise, the
18-year old whom they later traded for Steve Carlton, showed promise as a spot
starter. But Bunning and Short were the clear fan favorites – and
the favorites of manager Mauch.
The nine games in the nine days
that followed that initial loss saw the following starting pitchers:
Some say Mauch misused his judgment in an attempt to win every game. This fan will defer to the experts, but from one 10-year old boy's perspective, any strategy to stop the bleeding was welcomed. Callison warned the team through the press: We haven't won it yet. The grip was loosening, but not lost; we remained in first place, and merely had to hold on one more week. One win – just one win – and I knew the Phillies had what it took to recover. But during that stretch, the Cardinals had gone 9-1; the Reds had gone 9-0 – including two double-header sweeps - before losing two to the Pirates, and settled for a 10-2 run.
Going into the final weekend of
the season, the Cardinals had a half-game lead over the second place Reds; the
Phillies were 2 games behind the Reds.
"THE PITCH IS WILD."
The Phillies acquired
right-handed slugger Frank Thomas from the New York Mets on August 7, 1964, just
for the purpose of giving their lineup one more much needed bat.
His goodwill ended in July 1965, after a violent fight during batting
practice with reigning Rookie of the Year Richie Allen.
Quickly, the Phillies sold Thomas to the Houston Astros.
Quickly, the Phillies went into turmoil.
As quickly as the 1964 pennant drifted into the stratosphere, only to be
found a week later in St. Louis, the Phillies' standing as a force in the
National League pennant race flew away. And
it would not emerge again until Dave Cash led the Yes-We-Can boys to the scene
The Phillies fell to fourth,
fifth and seventh (out of ten) place before letting Mauch go in mid-1968.
Then they spent two years in fifth (out of six) before holding the
National League East cellar securely intact for three years.
What wouldn't happen in 1964
was not scheduled to appear even plausible for another 16 years.
|"If Chico Ruiz wants to steal home with Frank Robinson at the plate, he'd better be safe, or he can keep running all the way to San Diego [AAA]." – Manager Dick Sisler|
"RUIZ IS SAFE AT HOME. THE REDS
But the Phillies were not
mathematically eliminated yet. There
remained yet two more games. (For
reasons I don't recall, there was no game scheduled for that Saturday.)
If the Phillies could win them both on the road, AND IF the Reds lost
both of their remaining games at home, AND IF the Mets could defeat the
Cardinals all three of their remaining games in St. Louis, then all three teams
would finish 92-70, and there would be a three-way runoff for the pennant –
the first time in history that would have ever happened.
The Phillies had control of the
two games they played, and the two that the Reds played – for they were
playing each other. But they had no
control over the 51-108 Mets, and the Cardinals, winners of 9 of the last 10,
needed to win just one.
Friday night against the Reds
went to the Phillies 4-3. Chris
Short pitched on three days' rest. The
game featured a near three-run Reds home run that Phillies left fielder Alex Johnson pulled back into play, and the Phillies scored a triple play. The
Mets' Al Jackson outpitched Bob Gibson 1-0.
Saturday saw the Reds and Phillies idle, and the Mets taking full control
of the Cardinals 15-5. It came down
to the last day of the season.
Sunday featured Bunning again:
Jim Bunning and Chris Short pitched 5 of the final 6 games, and 7 of the final
11. The final game featured two
Richie Allen home runs, giving him 29 in his Rookie year. The Phillies won handily, 10-0.
All that remained was for the Cardinals – playing one time zone to the
west - once again to fall to the Mets, and the runoff could begin.
The Mets were pitching 6-18 Galen
Cisco; the Cardinals went with Curt Simmons – a pitcher who had won 17 games
for the Phillies during their 1950 pennant year. The Phillies were now in the clubhouse, hoping against hope
that their old friend would lose. In
a rare following of out-of-town games, ABC affiliate Channel 6 ran occasional
crawlers through the ensuing show keeping fans current on the game's progress.
And we stared at the final score
"If Chico Ruiz wants to steal home with Frank Robinson at the plate, he'd better be safe, or he can keep running all the way to San Diego [AAA]." – Manager Dick Sisler