October 9, 2016
This started August of 2015, but I was still writing it when Ruben Amaro, Jr., got fired. The addendum was written more recently.
For those who don’t believe in baseball curses, this might persuade you otherwise. I lived through a lot of this…
Curses – Part 2 – The Phillies August 23, 2015 (6th Elul 2015)
“So – the Phillies must be cursed, since they’re terrible this year, right?”
No – actually not – the Phillies are a blessed franchise at the moment. That’s one of the reasons I believe they will win it all this year. Yes – I repeat, on August 23, 2015, that the Philadelphia Phillies, currently tied for last place in their division, will win the World Series Championship in 2015. Basically – because if that’s the will of Yahweh – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One Jesus called Abba Father – then anything is possible. What Yogi said in 1973 – “It ain’t over till it’s over,” – is especially true this year. And it ain’t over for the Phillies.
“Why do you think the Phillies are blessed?”
Well – if they win this year, that would mean they’re SUPER- blessed, right? As bad as they were earlier in the year, it will take a miracle – which is precisely what will happen.
“What did they do to get blessed?”
Well, they won in 2008 – only seven years ago. They weren’t cursed then – and, while cursed teams may make it to the World Series (like the Red Sox), they cannot win unless the curse is removed (as in 2004). Teams are often blessed or cursed depending on how they treat Jewish individuals – and, since the Phillies have had a Jewish General Manager (Ruben Amaro, Jr.), they are more likely to be blessed. It’s still true – Yahweh promised to Abraham that “I will bless them who bless you, and I will curse them who curse you.” He was talking about the Chosen Nation – Abraham’s descendents through Isaac and Jacob.
“OK – but the success of the Phillies has been most recently. They certainly weren’t blessed for a lot of years.”
You would be correct – the Phillies have been cursed for far longer than they’ve been blessed. They have finished last 30 times, haven’t they?
“What did they do to get cursed, then?”
We need to trace the Phillies blessing and cursing back to the beginning. And the beginning actually looks good – They first played in the National League in 1883 officially named the Quakers. They won their first game on May 14, 1883 (7 Iyyar 5643, a Shemitah) when they beat the Cubs 12 – 1, after having lost their first 8 games. The season looked like they were cursed – they finished their inaugural season 17 – 81, for a winning percentage of .215 (worse than the 1962 Mets). But that was more because (like the 1962 Mets), they were an expansion team. They couldn’t help but improve over the next few seasons – which they did. By the early 1890’s, they had a very competitive team with a Hall of Fame outfield of Sam Thompson, “Slidin’” Billy Hamilton, and “Big” Ed Delahanty. They didn’t win any pennants, but they had some very solid seasons.
So – when were they cursed? And why? That’s hard to pinpoint. But there are two possibilities. Remember, many teams are blessed or cursed depending on how they treated Jewish players. The question is: which Jewish player did the Phillies disrespect? The answer: could it have been Honus Wagner?
“Wait a minute! Honus Wagner wasn’t Jewish!”
I know – not officially. But there are a lot of solid reasons to believe that the greatest player in Pittsburgh Pirates history AND the man voted the greatest shortstop of all time, had Jewish ancestry. To wit:
- Many Jewish people are named Wagner, including Rabbi Israel Wagner of the Jewish congregation at Beach Haven, New Jersey.
- Honus Wagner was nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman” for his phenomenal speed and his German heritage (“Dutch” for “Deutsch”), Casey Stengel’s other nickname was “Dutch” for the same reason.
- He played 21 seasons (21 = 3 x SEVEN).
- He had enormous success on the baseball field; he tied with Babe Ruth for second (behind only Ty Cobb) when the first Hall of Fame election was conducted in 1936.
- Like Mike Schmidt is considered the best third baseman ever, Honus Wagner is, even nearly 100 years after his retirement, the greatest shortstop of all time. He was such a good fielder that he was the best at any position he played.
- He debuted in a Shemitah (19 Tamuz 5657, or July 19, 1897); he played his last game on the very day of Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) of the Jubilee year directly following a seventh Shemitah
- He led the Pirates to a National League pennant in 1902 (there was no World Series that year). He led the NL in runs scored, doubles, RBI’s, stolen bases, slugging percentage, and getting hit by a pitch. In 1903, he led the Pirates to another pennant and led the NL in triples, along with winning his second of eight batting titles, with an average of .355. The end of the 1902 season and most of the 1903 season took place in a Shemitah. After the end of the Shemitah, in the 1903 World Series, Wagner struggled as the Pirates lost to the Boston Pilgrims (now the Red Sox), 5 games to three.
- He led the Pirates to victory in the next World Series to be played in a Shemitah: 1909. He batted a crisp .333 (to Ty Cobb’s anemic .231) and drove in 7 (that’s SEVEN) runs.
- Take a look at his pictures – notice anything about his face? Italians are known for tending to have large Roman noses; now, which other ethnic group are known for having prominent noses? No, I don’t think it’s Germans…
Remember the tragic tale of Phillies pitcher and erstwhile scout, Con Lucid? He was a pitcher for the Phillies. To quote myself, from my devotional: “So why ever talk about this odd 19th Century pitcher who didn’t amount to much? Well, it was what he did off the field that makes him memorable – when he was acting as a scout and not a player. The story goes that Con Lucid was nursing a sore arm early in the 1897 season. His team, the Phillies, asked him to go to Paterson, New Jersey, to watch a Minor League game between teams in the Atlantic League. He was instructed to watch a player on one of the teams, a guy with the first name of John, who was 5’ 11” and 200 pounds (fairly heavy for a typical baseball player at the time).
Lucid’s report was not a positive one – other than the observation that the player was a ‘good hitter.’ ‘He’s big and clumsy’ he wrote, ‘too awkward to play big league ball.’ Most people at that time probably agreed with that assessment – but, unfortunately, it was Con Lucid’s name that went down in history with that report. Because the player he suggested that the Phillies not sign was named John Peter Wagner… better known by his nickname Hans… or Honus. That’s right – Honus Wagner, who went on to be one of the greatest baseball players to ever put on a uniform. Starting later in the 1897 season for the Louisville Colonels of the National League, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1900 season. In 1901, he played, frequently, for the first time, the position of shortstop. Despite being ‘big’ and ‘awkward,’ he was a phenomenal fielder at short, considered the best fielder for his time period.”
That could be the reason that the Phillies were cursed back in 1897 – for the disrespectful way they treated “The Flying Dutchman.”
Here’s what Bill James said about him: “He (Honus Wagner) was a gentle, kind man, a storyteller, supportive of rookies, patient with the fans, cheerful in hard times, careful of the example he set for youth, a hard worker, a man who had no enemies and who never forgot his friends. He was the most beloved man in baseball before (Babe) Ruth.” No wonder the Phillies were cursed for not signing him!
Now, the Phillies didn’t win anything until the 1915 NL pennant, but they weren’t the dregs of the league, either. They were mostly moderate, neither good nor bad. And, the team that won the pennant in 1915 was a very good team. The key player of the era, though, was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, Grover Cleveland Alexander, or “Pete” as he was called. He joined the Phillies in 1911, having a spectacular rookie season, winning a record 28 games for a first-year player. He was dominant for all seven years he played for the Phillies. He won the first game of the 1915 Series over the Red Sox. But – just making the World Series doesn’t mean a team isn’t cursed – that’s part of the agony, getting there and not winning. The Red Sox got into the post-season many times while they were cursed – the ignominious ways they lost are part of it.
So – did the Phillies lose in an ignominious way in 1915? I would answer that question: YES! How? OK – they won the first game behind Pete, but they lost the next three. Back at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia for Game Five, down 3 games to 1, they should have had the upper hand. But a lot of things went wrong:
- Pete Alexander was supposed to pitch, but he had a sore arm; his start was pushed back – to infinity. Game Six never came.
- Gavvy Cravath, the NL’s MVP (if they had named one in 1915) went into a slump in the World Series. He had a great season, setting the all-time record for home runs in a season with 24. (until Babe Ruth broke it for the first time, with 29 dingers in 1919).
- The Phillies’ owner’s greed cost them dearly. In order to sell more tickets, they roped off parts of the outfield where fans could stand. Hitting a ball into these areas was a home run. It should have helped both teams, but it ended up hurting the Phillies – Harry Hooper hit two balls into these areas… yes, he played for the Red Sox.
- Even worse than all that – they were badly hurt by stupid strategy. In the bottom of the first, the Phillies had Red Sox pitcher Rube Foster on the ropes. They had loaded the bases with nobody out, with their slumping MVP coming to the plate, Cravath. So what does Pat Moran, the Phillies manager, do? Let Gavvy redeem himself by coming up with a giant hit to drive in two or three runs? No. Let his slugger try to hit a ball into a roped-off area for a Grand Slam? No. He orders his MVP, clean-up hitter, in the first inning, to bunt. BUNT? Yes – bunt. And – oddly enough, he got it down. Unfortunately, he sent an easy grounder to the mound. To home… to first – double play. At least the inning wasn’t totally lost: with two outs, number five hitter Fred Luderus doubled home the two runners still on base. But… what could have been!
Sounds like a curse to me! Anyway – the next possibility sank the Phillies for a long, long time. On December 11, 1917, the Phillies traded Pete Alexander to the Cubs, along with Bill Killefer, for Pickles Dilhoefer, Mike Prendergast, and $55,000. Even considering that that was a very significant amount of money in those days, this was one of the worst deals in the history of Major League Baseball. He wasn’t losing it – he won 30 games in 1917. He would finish his career in 1930, back with the Phillies, trying to win one more game to break the tie with Christy Mathewson for the most wins lifetime for a National League pitcher. He failed – in 9 games, 3 starts, he was 0 – 3 with a 9.14 ERA. He just couldn’t do it. So why did they trade him? Because of his drinking? He was getting worse with that, but he had pitched well for years, despite that. What then? The Phillies traded him because they were afraid he would be drafted for World War I. And – they were, indeed, correct. Pete was drafted and left the Cubs after the April 26th game – he was 2-1 on the season. He did go “over there” to Europe. But he came back in 1919 to win 16 games, but lead the league with a 1.72 ERA.
Were the Phillies cursed because of the disrespectful way they treated a great pitcher? Maybe. They certainly went into a frightening tail-spin for years and years. From 1918 onward – until Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts made the Phillies respectful in 1948 (a long 30 seasons), they finished in the first division only once (the 1932 team finished fourth with a 78 – 76 record). Every other season was the typical horror story. One of the Phillies’ pitchers in the late ‘30’s even picked up the nickname “Losing Pitcher” (Hugh) Mulcahy because his name appeared so often as the “Losing Pitcher”. They finally rose out of the basement into the penthouse – just briefly – with a trip to the World Series in 1950. They lost in 4 straight to the Yankees in one of the lowest scoring World Series of all time.
After that, the “Whiz Kids” as they were known because they were so young, got older without getting any better – they returned to the nether regions of the National League standings.
Another possibility: did you ever hear of John Kennedy? No – not the president… no, not the utility player in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s… No, the one who played for the Phillies from April 22 to May 3, 1957. So what was so special about a guy who, at the age of 30, appeared in only 5 games without any hits? Well, he happened to be the first black player in Phillies history. That quick burst into the Big Leagues – that was his entire MLB career – made the Phillies the LAST NL team to feature an African-American player. Think of that – Jackie Robinson had arrived a full 10 years earlier; he would retire after the 1957 season rather than play for the Giants, a team the Dodgers tried to trade him to. The Dodgers had, for years, had many black players besides Robinson. The Phillies, on the other hand, were notorious for the way they treated Jackie when he first came in. Manager Ben Chapman is shown in the movie “42” to be the worst racist in history. And, it was said, that Richie Ashburn was the All-American boy: white hair, blue eyes, and a red neck (he was a racist).
And the Phillies continued their poor treatment of black players into the ‘60’s. Philadelphia was considered a racist city by many. It didn’t help that a lot of poor black people lived in the neighborhood around Connie Mack Stadium, causing a lot of suburbanites to feel threatened when coming to Phillies games, especially night games. The Phillies attendance figures suffered because of all this, until the Phillies finally moved to Veteran’s Stadium (the Vet) in South Philly. The Phillies continued to put a poor team on the field – in 1961, the team was 47 and 107, the last season of 154 games, so it could have been worse! That team lost a record of 23 straight games. That team featured the immortal Choo-Choo Coleman, infamously drafted by the Mets in the Expansion Draft.
They treated Dick Allen badly, too. When he was young – just 21 years old in 1961 – they sent him to their affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas. Without the national attention that Jackie Robinson had gotten when he broke into Major League Baseball in 1947, Allen was virtually alone in his complete season as the first black player there. This was during the turbulent early days of the Civil Rights movement. His own hometown fans held two parades, specifically to protest the presence of the Phillies’ talented prospect on their team. Despite the extremely difficult circumstances, he had an excellent season, leading the league in total bases. When he came up to the Phillies in 1964, his team continued to disrespect him. They called him “Richie”, a name that had never been something that anyone called Richard Anthony Allen (for no reason except to link him with Phillies’ great, Richie Ashburn). He had a great rookie year, winning Rookie of the Year honors for the team that blew a 6 ½ game lead with 12 games to play by losing 10 straight. The next season, 1965, he got into a fight with his popular teammate Frank Thomas (NOT the Hall of Famer, but a solid player, nonetheless). Now a long-time friend of the “Wampum Walloper”, Thomas hit him with a bat, resulting in Frank’s immediate trade to the Mets. Even though everybody who witnessed the fight say it wasn’t Allen’s fault, the fans blamed him for the loss of the popular “white” player. This is the primary reason the booing started – and lasted until Dick was finally traded to the Cardinals after the 1969 season. Allen had outstanding offensive numbers through an era infamous for good pitching – but numbers didn’t mean a thing to the Philly boo-birds. He was gone. The Phillies had a chance to redeem themselves later (somewhat) when Dick Allen, winner of the 1972 AL MVP award while playing for the White Sox, returned to play 1st base for the greatly improved Phils. He finally got a chance to play in the post-season as the starting first-sacker for the 1976 Eastern Division Champs.
The infamous 1964 collapse was more evidence that the Phillies remained a cursed franchise. Cursed teams usually can point to a moment when some disaster occurred to set the stage for ultimate failure. For the ’64 Phillies, it was “Chico Ruiz.” In the first loss of the 10 game skid, Chico Ruiz of the Reds broke up a scoreless tie by stealing home. The play was even more odd because he did it with the great future Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson at bat. It was a play that many Phillies players and fans described as “a punch in the gut.” The Reds won 1 – 0, and disaster ensued.
The Phillies finally won the NL East title in 1976 to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial in the “Cradle of Liberty.” They promptly dropped three straight to the streaking World Champion’s, the Cincinnati Big Red Machine. The curse continued – strange plays led to defeat. After right-fielder Ollie Brown inexplicably botched a fly ball in Game 1, leading to a Reds’ win, Dick Allen made a key error in Game 2, as did the normally sure-gloved shortstop Larry Bowa. It was the infamous “Hot Dog Wrapper Play,” where he missed a grounder because he was allegedly distracted by a flashing white piece of paper that must have looked like the ball. Whatever – it became part of the Phillies’ Losin’ Lore.
The Phillies team of 1977 may be the best team they have ever had. With Richie Hebner at first, Ted Sizemore at second, Bowa, Maddox, Boone, and Schmidt in their primes, with Greg Luzinski having one of his best seasons at the plate, the Phillies further improved themselves by getting Bake McBride from the Cardinals at the trade deadline. Their bench was deep and solid; their starters included a magnificent season by Steve Carlton to win his second Cy Young; and their bullpen included Ron Reed, Tug McGraw, and Gene Garber, three of the best relievers in the game. But… after splitting the first two games in Los Angeles, the Phillies went home to the Vet to finish the NLCS, hoping to send the Dodgers home. However, it was not to be… in Game Three, the Phillies were leading 5 – 3, with Dodger Killer Gene Garber on the hill with two outs and two strikes on the hitter Vic Davalillo. He bunted… safe. Then Manny Mota destroyed a pitch into left field that Luzinski… dropped (This will forever be known as “The Game Where Luzinski Dropped That Fly Ball”). A run scored; Mota to third. Davie Lopes drills a shot – off Schmidt, but right to Bowa at short, who makes the long throw over to first – Lopes is… safe. Score tied. Then Garber unwisely tries to pick off Lopes – Hebner misses it, Lopes to second. Then – Bill Russell – and “doink – doink-doink-doink” … a seeing-eye bouncing single up the middle… Lopes scored – and a stadium full of more than 65,000 people knew it was over. Even though the Phillies had one more shot in the bottom of the ninth, and had the great Steve Carlton going for them the next day, we knew it was all over – the curse was activated. Carlton made a valiant effort in the pouring rain on the next night, but it was over… Dusty Baker hit a home run or something for the Dodgers, but they might as well have not played the game – all was lost.
The 1978 season was a struggle – Luzinski seemed to have forgotten how to hit – but a heroic effort by Randy Lerch to beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh (two home runs) and “Johnny-Come-Lately” Greg Luzinski with a game-winning three run homer, won the Phils their third straight NL East title. But the playoffs against the Dodgers were still a disaster. They dropped the first two games at the Vet with hardly a whimper. Carlton showed the team how it’s done, winning Game 3 in LA, pitching a complete game and hitting a three-run homerun off of Don Sutton, winning 9 – 4. But the Dutchman’s Curse haunted them once again in Game Four. One of the greatest defensive centerfielders in the history of the game made not one, but two errors: In the 10th inning, with the game tied at three, Garry Maddox got a late break on a ball hit by Dusty Baker, seemed to recover, then dropped it. With Ron Cey, who had walked, on second, and Baker on first, with two outs, Bill Russell (again!) singled to center. Maddox would have had to make a great play to prevent Cey from scoring, but he never had a chance: the Four-Time Gold Glove winner (he would have a total of eight before he was through) charged the ball, but let it skip past him, allowing Cey to score the series-winning run.
They were cursed, all right. So how did they finally win in 1980, after 97 years of existence? Well, something must have happened in 1979 or early in 1980. The 1979 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles was a Shemitah World Series. The 1980 season was a Shemitah season. So, why would Elohim finally lift the curse? There are three possible reasons:
- The Phillies acquired Pete Rose before the 1979 season. This move was significant on the playing field – after a 4th place finish in 1979, Rose played a key role in the World Championship drive in 1980. The only problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a Jewish connection (I don’t know if Pete Rose has Jewish ancestry, but anything’s possible); or,
- It was Mike Schmidt’s seventh season. Maybe Elohim blessed the Phillies by removing the curse because of Schmidt’s likely Jewish ancestry; or,
- The curse was broken in one of the oddest games ever played – the 23 – 22 game between the Phillies and Cubs. It was one cursed team against another – something had to give. Look at all the signs in my description – could this be when it was lifted?
“It happened on the 20th of Iyyar 5739. I was just watching the Phillies playing the Cubs, May 17, 1979. There was Donnie Moore of the Cubs, number 49, pitching to Randy Lerch, number 47. Lerch hit a line drive into the left field bleachers for a home run, making the score 7 – 0, Phils, in the first inning. He then got number 21, Bake McBride, to pop up and end the inning. In the top of the first, Dennis Lamp faced 7 batters; the Phillies ended up with 7 hits. In the bottom of the first, the CUBS had 7 hits, also. The Phillies had 7 hits in the top of the third; the Cubs scored 7 runs in the bottom of the fifth. Bill Buckner was 2 for 7, with 7 RBI’s. Pete Rose was 3 for 7; 3 hits and 4 run scored (adding up to 7). The biggest day by anybody was by Cubs left-fielder Dave Kingman (position number 7). The game was eventually won by the Phillies, 23 – 22, by a walk-off home run by Mike Schmidt in the 10th. The winning pitcher for the Phillies was Rawly Eastwick, number 49. There were also an inordinate number of guys in this game who went down into ignominy – Pete Rose, who gambled and lied about it, keeping him out of the Hall of Fame… Greg Luzinski, who on October 8, 1977 “dropped that fly ball” that led to a Dodgers victory… Rawly Eastwick, who gave up Bernie Carbo’s three-run shot in Game Six of the 1975 World Series… Randy “Long Ball” Lerch, who, on July 11th, 1979, tried to pitch a game against the San Diego Padres wearing a cast on his right arm after breaking his non-pitching arm just the night before; he gave up three consecutive home runs to Jerry Turner, Dave Winfield, and Gene Tenace before being removed by the-soon-to-be-fired Danny Ozark… Ivan DeJesus, who was traded by the Cubs to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and some minor league third baseman named Ryne Sandberg (yes, THAT Ryne Sandberg)… Donnie Moore, who, while pitching for the California Angels in 1986, gave up the home run to Dave Henderson in the ALCS that lost the Angels the lead and the playoffs (which he never lived down – he committed suicide less than three years later)… and, last but certainly not least, Bill Buckner, whose error gave the Mets the win in Game Six of the 1986 World Series.”
There are far too many coincidences – that game must have had such a significance because the Dutchman’s Curse was over. The Phillies’ string of success, including a win in the 1983 NLCS over the suddenly beatable Dodgers by the “Wheeze Kids”. True – they lost to the Orioles in five games, but it really wasn’t a cursed performance. The Phillies just lost. They had a memorable season in 1993 – went all the way to the World Series. They did lose in an ignominious way – Joe Carter’s Walk-off – but the whole season was a blessing. Nobody expected them to win the division; nobody expected them to beat the Braves; no one really gave them a chance against Toronto. That’s not the sign of a cursed team – a cursed team would typically have been expected to win. Finally – everybody thinks back on the season with great fondness – there aren’t any bitter ashes, nor should there be.
The Phillies certainly had some bad clubs in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, but they weren’t especially bad – not really cursed. Winning in 2008 proved that they weren’t cursed. They may have been blessed because 2008 was a Shemitah season, and, since Yahweh blesses Jewish people especially in Shemitah years, He blessed the Phillies because of their assistant GM Ruben Amaro, who is Jewish. Right after that, they made Amaro their General Manager. I thought that, because 2015 was a Shemitah season, that the Lord would do a miracle – yes, it would have been a miracle; that was the point! – and bring the Phillies from dead last at the All-Star break to a World Championship. It wasn’t anything I could do – it was all Elohim’s will. For a long time, it actually seemed like a possibility – I was excited because it would have been a massive display of the Lord’s power – and I wanted Him to get the glory for it. I think it started to unravel when the Phillies finally made the decision to fire Amaro. That may well be – from the moment the team purposed to fire him, there was no reason for the Phillies to win. And – not only did they curse themselves for firing him, they honored someone else with a baseball card. I have no doubt that the Phillies have been cursed again for these blunders.
The Dutchman’s Curse was broken; Ruben’s Curse has just begun…
Do you know there’s ANOTHER curse I’ve found? Did you ever hear of Lip Pike? He was the first real superstar in Baseball History. Very shortly after the end of the Civil War, in 1866, the 21-year old Lipman Pike was playing for the Philadelphia Athletics Base Ball Club. Now, there are two things odd about that:
- he wasn’t from Philadelphia; he was from Brooklyn; and
- he was Jewish, which, even then, was not a common ancestry of baseball players (most of them were of Irish ancestry, in those days).
From the SABR website:
Playing for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1866, for whom the “long ball was a prominent part of [their] arsenal”, Pike “had numerous multi-homer games” on a team that boasted several sluggers “capable of smashing the ball beyond the reach of opposing fielders.” A description in The Baseball Chronology of the events of July 16, 1866, gives an indication both of Pike’s home run prowess and of the nature of the game at the time:
“Lipman Pike of the Athletics of Philadelphia hits six  home runs, five in succession, against the Alert club of Philadelphia. Final score is 67-25.”
Lip Pike was an amazing player! He played all positions on the field, despite being a left-handed thrower. He was so fast that he once beat a horse in a 100 yard race. He was also among the first professionals – illegally, at first. He was found to be getting paid by the Philadelphia team “under the table.” He was not the only one, but he was one of the first to be identified as a professional.
But he did not play in Philadelphia in 1867, despite his sensational year with the Athletics. Why? Well, there was the problem of him being considered a “foreigner.” No – not the fact that he was Jewish. He was a foreigner because he wasn’t from Philadelphia. He had a great season in 1866, but, despite that, he and another “foreigner” were accused of not playing honestly if the team didn’t win. So – the Athletics disrespectfully cut Lip Pike and his “foreigner” teammate at the end of the season.
According to SABR:
“The two salaried players who had been imported from New York (Dockney and Pike) were jettisoned in favor of Philadelphians. This experiment had never worked the way management had hoped. Whenever the play of the Athletics had been considered suspicious, the two ‘foreigners’ had been the most suspected. It seemed that, as nonnatives [sic], their loyalty was perpetually in question. With the exception of [Al] Reach, all of the 1867 regulars were local boys.
“In 1867, Pike played for the well-respected and powerful Irvingtons of New Jersey, (in 6 of the Irvingtons’ 23 games, all at third base) and for the first rate Mutuals of New York (in 21 of the Mutuals’ thirty games, in the outfield, first, second, and third base). He appeared exclusively for the New York Mutuals in 1868, hitting a robust .497, with a .661 slugging average for a Mutuals team that went 31-10.
“Pike returned to his native Brooklyn in 1869 where he played for one of the nation’s leading teams, the Brooklyn Atlantics. For the first time the National Association of Base Ball Players recognized the professional class of player and team. Overall, against all comers, the Atlantics racked up 40 wins against six losses, with two ties. However, the Atlantics record against teams composed exclusively of professionals fell off to 15 wins, six losses, and one tie. This was Pike’s first season as a full time player, as he appeared in all 48 games, hitting .610 with an astonishing slugging average of .883.”
In 1870, Lip Pike played for the Brooklyn Atlantics team that defeated the first professional team established in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. After a 57-0 undefeated season in 1869, the Cincinnati team won their first 24 games in 1870. Finally, they played the Brooklyn Atlantics on June 14, 1870 – and lost. It required extra innings, but Brooklyn beat the Red Stockings 8 – 7 in 11. Starting at second base and batting eighth for the Atlantics was Lip Pike, who got one hit, had three putouts, and six assists.
In 1871, however, he did NOT play for Brooklyn. The Atlantics decided not to join the new National Association professional baseball league in 1871. Lip Pike became a foreigner again: he played for the Troy Haymakers that year. The Brooklyn Atlantics DID finally join the NA in 1872, but too late for Pike – he signed to play in Baltimore in 1872 and 1873. He played in 1874 in Hartford; in 1875 he was in St. Louis. The National League began play in 1876; Lip jumped to the St. Louis franchise in the NL. Then, he moved on to the Cincinnati NL team in 1877, where he stayed until July 1878, when he was released. He signed with the Providence Grays NL team to finish the 1878 season, then played Minor League ball in Springfield and Albany in 1879. When Albany disbanded in 1880, he finally returned to Brooklyn, finishing the season with the Unions. Finally, in 1881, he was back with the Brooklyn Atlantics, but by then it was a Minor League team.
In late 1881, the Worcester team in the NL (which had no official team name, but were called the “Rubylegs” or the “Brown Stockings”) needed a player to help them finished the season, due to an injury to a starting outfielder. He played poorly, hitting only .125. But the worst thing happened on September 3rd. Playing center field, Lip Pike made 3 errors in the 9th inning to give Boston 2 runs and a 3-2 victory over Worchester. The losing club immediately accused Pike of throwing the game and suspended him.On September 29th, he was black-listed – not allowed to play the next season. His playing days, though, were essentially over. He had established a successful haberdashery business in Brooklyn, so he didn’t need to play anymore. He had a brief comeback with the New York Metropolitans in 1887 at the age of 42, but he was definitely finished as a player.
From SABR: Pike “died of heart disease on October 10, 1893 in Brooklyn, at the age of forty-eight. His funeral was a notable event, attended by much of the Jewish and baseball communities of Brooklyn. The services were conducted by Rabbi Geismer of Temple Israel and, according to the Brooklyn Eagle, he ‘paid fitting tribute to the exemplary life led by the deceased.’ “
So – what does this have to do with anything? There are two significant connections to Philadelphia. First – he was disrespectfully cut by the 1866 Philadelphia Athletics for being a “foreigner.” This was toward the end of the season, in September of 1866. So – that’s when I believe Philadelphia baseball in the 19th Century was cursed… yes, the 84-year big curse for disrespecting a Jewish superstar. So… add 84 to September 1866 and you get…
Do you know what happened on October 1, 1950?
That’s right – the Phillies beat the Dodgers, 4 – 1, on Dick Sisler’s 10th inning three-run home run. A game where the curse on the Brooklyn Dodgers was manifested, but a curse seemed to have been lifted for the Phillies.
The curse that Elohim, the All-Powerful One laid on Philadelphia baseball in 1866 when they disrespectfully cut Lip Pike, questioning his loyalty to the team, despite his amazing accomplishments.
Yeah – that curse.
Now – I know what you’re saying: “But the Phillies lost the World Series in four games to the Yankees – and the “Curse of the Flying Dutchman” was still in effect – right?
“What!?” I hear some of you scream.
Here it is: when a curse is lifted, something good, like a World Championship, usually ensues. Yes, that is true. But – if curses overlap like these do, there is usually a sign that one curse is over, but no ultimate victory yet. Sometimes there is a bad sign (like 2003 for both the Cubs and the Red Sox), but sometimes there’s a good sign (like Dick Sisler’s home run). Sometimes the Lord relents – temporarily allows a blessing, even while there is a long-term curse (like the New York Giants in 1933 and 1954) because a team has done something very commendable (like Bill Terry adding both Harry Danning and Phil Weintraub to the Giants in 1933, two Jewish rookies).
So, when the Phillies’ “Lip Pike Foreigner Curse” was lifted, there was a good blessing, but not an ultimate blessing.
And now: the second curse. Lip Pike ended his Major League Baseball career with that debacle in 1881 – when he apparently threw that game for the Worcester team. Now – it may have been right, or it may not have: it’s impossible to tell since we can’t see what happened. It is possible that Lip just had a bad day – he was, after all, an older player who hadn’t recently played ball at a high level. It’s possible he didn’t do it on purpose. But, on the other hand – ballplayers can usually tell if another is “playing on the level” or throwing a game because they were paid to lose by gambling interests. Maybe his Worcester teammates knew he was throwing that game and there was no doubt about it. Whatever happened, an honest bad day or a dishonest thrown game, it ended Pike’s MLB career.
So: what does something that happened to Lip Pike in Worcester in September of 1881 have to do with the Phillies? Maybe nothing. But do you know what happened to Worcester? They played badly in 1881 and in 1882, finishing deep in the standings, so deep that they couldn’t attract very many fans. Attendance in 1882 was minimal – tiny crowds for any team, but especially for a Major League franchise. Something had to be done – and it was. The franchise was sold to a buyer who moved the team to another city where there was no Major League team. Oddly, he got the franchise rights, but none of the players. His team would essentially be an expansion team in 1883.
The team’s name? They were officially the Quakers, but that name never took. They were called a name based on their city, which soon became the team’s official name…
The Phillies. The Philadelphia Phillies. The worst team in the 1883 National League… starting in a position that would not be unfamiliar (last place) in their next century of play… and certainly beyond – the Phillies finished in last place most recently in 2015.
So… did the way the franchise that became the Phillies get cursed by their treatment of Lip Pike in 1881? You decide…
The 84th season, starting in 1881? Oh… that would be 1964.
Bunning… Short… Bunning… Short… Gene Mauch, Phillies’ manager has his team surprisingly with a 6 ½ game lead with 12 games to play… they lose 10 straight games, with him pitching Jim Bunning and Chris Short on 1 or 2 days of rest… they fail (of course) and the Cardinals win the pennant and the World Series.
Or – “I will bless those who bless you; I will curse them who curse you.” Yahweh is always in complete control.