New Ballpark, Same Story

After the Huntingdon Grounds grandstand was destroyed by fire in August of 1895, there were rumors that the blaze was started by the friction of the hot Phillies ballplayers running the bases. Whatever. The old park was replaced by Baker Bowl, the league’s first steel and concrete ballpark; the Phillies would play there until 1938. The new ballpark and the hot team in a hot pennant race brought out spectators in record numbers – 474,971, first in the league, to see 51 Phillies’ wins to only 21 losses. As before, victories away from home were hard to come by (27-32) and in spite of leading the league with another thousand plus runs scored (1,067) season, the Phillies could not win the pennant as Baltimore captured their third straight flag.

The Phillies did not go down without a fight; as late as September 23 when they traveled to Baltimore for a show down four game series, they had a chance to win it all. They began the series trailing the Orioles by 4 ½ games with 10 games remaining in the season. A sweep would leave them at 81-48 and Baltimore at 80-46. Instead, they were ambushed by what turns out to be every managers’ answer to a power-hitting team: a soft-tossing lefthanded pitcher. In this case it came from a most unlikely source – old Philly teammate, Duke Esper. For the champion Orioles in the 1895 season, Esper won 10, lost 12, and as usual for him, walked (79) twice as many as he struck out (39). But he was too much for the desperate Phillies in this series, beating them 12-4 on September 23rd, and 10-1 on September 26 to eliminate them from the race.

Thompson, Delahanty, and Hamilton put up their now customary big offensive numbers, but, as before, they were not enough. The die was cast as early as the second day of the season when the 0rioles handed the Phillies a 23-4 drubbing. Over the years, the most telling aphorism in major league baseball may have had its start with the 1893, 1894, and 1895 Phillies and their all Hall of Fame outfield: pitching trumps hitting.

On November 14, 1895, Phillies’ management began what over the years became a hallmark of the team:  bad trades. Billy Hamilton to the Boston Beaneaters for Billy Nash, a 32-year-old journeyman third baseman, a lifetime .275 hitter. Yikes!   

By max blue

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Baker Bowl, Billy Hamilton, Billy Nash, Duke Esper, Ed Delahanty, Huntington Avenue Grounds, Philadelphia Phillies
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