Deacon Phillippe

Deacon Phillippe

May 23, 1872
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-21-1899 with LS3

The only pitcher in Pirate history to win 20 or more games his first four seasons in Pittsburgh, Deacon Phillippe was a World Series hero and one of the most respected players of his time.  He was also a record setting hurler; his 1.25 walks per nine innings remains the best of the modern era.
Phillippe, who’s given name was Charles, came to be known as Deacon because he displayed none of the rowdiness ballplayers were known for around the turn of the previous century.  He did not drink, smoke or use profanity, carrying himself as a gentleman on the field.  Phillippe broke into the majors with the Louisville Colonels in 1899, the last year of the franchise’s existence.  His 21-17 record assured he would be one of the players Barney Dreyfuss brought with him to Pittsburgh when he bought into the team.
Phillippe won 20, 22, 20 and 24 games for the Pirates, 1900-1903, with ERA’s ranging from 2.05 to 2.84.  In 1900, the Pirates, who had finished second, played a tournament against first place Brooklyn following the season.  The Pirates lost the best of five affair, 3-1, but Phillippe coasted to a 10-0 shut out victory in Game 3.  The Pirates won the NL in 1901 and 1902, but there were no “championship series” until 1903 when Dreyfuss introduced the World Series.  The Pirates “three-peated” as National League Champions, earning them the right to play the American League’s Boston Pilgrims in the Series.  The only problem was that Manager Fred Clarke had only one healthy regular pitcher, Phillippe available for the event.
Phillippe opened the Series by allowing only six hits and defeated Cy Young, 7-3.  He struck out the side in the second and did not allow Boston to score until the Pirates had a 7-0 lead.  The righthanded control artist returned on one day rest to pitch another complete game triumph, 4-2 in Game 3.  When rain pushed Game 4 back by a day, Clarke went with Phillippe over secondliners Brickyard Kennedy and Bucky Veil.  Phillippe, who’s bunt single helped the Pirates build a 5-1 lead into the ninth, tired in the final frame, but Clarke stayed with him and the Deacon retired pinch hitter Jack O’Brien with two on to hold on for a 5-4 win.
Boston evened the Series by pounding Kennedy and sore-armed Sam Leever the next two days.  With bad weather causing another postponement, Clarke hoped he would have a well-rested Phillippe ready for Game 7 of the best of nine championship.  With Young again his opponent, Phillippe would have to be on his game, but Boston’s Jimmy Collins and Chick Stahl both tripled and scored in the first and Boston, behind the winningest pitcher of all time reversed the fortunes of Game 1 by the same 7-3 score.  The Series moved back to Boston and Pirate hopes were cheered by another rainout.  Needing to win, Clarke sent the Deacon back for Game 8 for his fifth start, on October 13, a date which would later become the most celebrated in club history.  But this October 13, 57 years before Bill Mazeroski launched his World Series winning homerun, did not go well for the Pirates.  Phillippe pitched well, but was outdone by the Pilgrims’ Bill Dineen, losing 3-0.  In defeat, the Pirate ironman had established endurance records in that initial World Series which still stand, including his five starts, five complete games and 44 innings pitched.  He struck out 20 batters while walking only three.
Phillippe’s courageous performance may have cost him in 1904.  He battled a sore arm and went just 10-10 with a 3.24 ERA.  He was again healthy in 1905 and again won over 20 games, posting a 2.15 ERA and 25 complete games.  Phillippe continued to pitch well, but with some discomfort and went 28-21 the next two seasons combined.  His arm problems worsened and limited him to five ineffective relief appearances in 1908.  A healthy Deacon might have made the difference as the Pirates came up just short in their grab for the pennant despite winning 98 games that year.  Phillippe recovered enough to be used as a spot starter/reliever in 1909 and his 8-3 record was a boost to a Pirate club which won 110 games and the National League.  In the World Series victory over Detroit, Deacon made two relief appearances, holding the tough Tigers scoreless over six innings.
Phillippe adapted well to his role as swing man, going 7-1 in each role in 1910.  He walked only nine batters in 121 2/3 innings.  His major league career ended in 1911, as his arm no longer had the strength to allow him to compete against big leaguers.
Remaining a very popular figure in Pittsburgh (some had hoped Clarke would have started him in Game 7 of the 1909 Series), Phillippe was named player manager of the Pittsburgh Filapinos (a play on the Deacon’s family name), in the United States League, a new minor league.  The entry did not last the summer, but returned in 1913 with Phillippe again at the helm, and the league developed into the Federal League in 1914, although by then the Deacon was no longer in command.  Phillippe held various jobs after that, including working in a steel mill, holding a position as a bailiff and worked as a clerk in Honus Wagner’s sporting goods store in the 1920’s.  He passed away in the city’s suburb of Avalon in 1952, but Pirate fans of just a generation ago remembered him by picking Phillippe the team’s greatest righthanded pitcher when baseball celebrated its centennial in 1969.

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Deacon Phillippe


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