The usual pattern in major league baseball is to gather a winning team and ride them until the players begin to show signs of aging – it may be a step slower on the bases or in the field, decreased bat speed, a ball hit to the warning track instead of clearing the fence, a pitcher losing velocity on his fastball, or beginning to hang curves over the plate instead of snapping them off the corners. Astute managers and coaches spot these beginning deficiencies early enough to make changes necessary to keep teams competitive until help arrives through trades, purchases, free agent signings, and the like. Phillies management knew the process as well as anyone, but the team always seemed to end up with a collection of aging has beens or more ofter, never weres; and an all too familiar pattern – when a good young ballplayer arrived, people knew it was only a matter of time before they would be gone, most often for cash to keep the franchise going. How long would Jimmie Wilson be around?
As the 1926 season moved along, gone was the 1925 optimism from improved play, the 1926 team took a step backward at 58-93, dead last, not even close to the 7th place Braves. They scored 687 runs, 125 fewer than in 1925; they allowed 900 runs, 121 more than the 7th place Braves.
The pitching was bad as usual, with a jaw-dropping 5.03 ERA. So how did 34 year old Hal Carlson survive the curse of playing in hitter friendly Baker Bowl and post a 17-12 record with an ERA of 3.23 and three shutouts? Carlson had pitched an indifferent eight years for Pittsburgh with a 42-55 record for a mostly good Pirate team, and two years for the Phillies, winning 21 and losing 31. He certainly did not get any inspiration from the rest of the staff. And not from the defense; Heinie Sand made 55 errors. Cy Williams was still holding down centerfield at 38, but slowing down with only 53 RBIs in 107 games, though he did hit .345. Jimmie Wilson hit .305 in 90 games. The team batting average was a respectable .281. Attendance sagged with the team, 8th of 8 at 240,600, 64,000 fewer than 1925.
The 1926 World’s Series featured one of the most famous events in baseball history – the 7th inning, game seven, strikeout by Grover Cleveland Alexander of New York Yankees rookie sensation “Poosh ‘em up, Tony” Lazzeri with the bases loaded to preserve a 3-2 St. Louis Cardinals lead and win the championship.
On December 20, the Cardinals traded 30-year-old Hornsby to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and, drum roll please . . . Jimmy Ring. Why the Cardinals would trade arguably the greatest right hand hitter of all time, a man who from 1922 through 1925 had averaged a .403 batting average, and had just managed the team to a World’s championship, why they would trade him defies explanation. The Cardinals had taken a page from the Phillies’ book of blunders.By max blue