Coming out of Spring Training John Kennedy made the club and travelled north with the Phillies to open the season; he might be the Phillies new shortstop. Or maybe not. On April 5, General Manager Roy Hamey made one of those mind-scrambling deals that leave unsupecting fans breathless – he sent five players and $75,000 to Brooklyn for shortstop Chico Fernandez. So much for John Kennedy’s shot. Philadelphia was all set to welcome the first black ballplayer to wear a Phillies uniform, and instead got a guy who had 66 major league at bats and a few hits scattered around. Did Hamey think he was worth all that dough and those throw-in ballplayers just because he was backing up Pee Wee Reese? And didn’t we try that once before? Backup shortstop Bobby Morgan from Brooklyn for $50,000? Dodgers General Manager Buzzie Bavasi must have been giggling all the way to the bank.
Ten years since Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers, and the Phillies had failed to find a black ballplayer deemed worthy. John Kennedy went 0-2 and was sent back to the minors. Some were willing to call Chico Fernandez the first black to play for the Phillies, but sports writers were more likely to call him “the light-skinned Cuban,” reminiscent of 1916 when St. Louis catcher Mike Gonzalez was called “the swarthy Cuban”. Maybe Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first.
Opening day at Connie Mack Stadium, and there they were again: Robin Roberts against Don Newcombe; neither was very effective. Big Newk left after seven innings trailing 6-5, but Gil Hodges homered off Roberts to tie it in the 8th, and Gino Cimoli won it in the twelfth with yet another long ball off a still chucking Robin Roberts who came to play. It was the first of 22 1957 season losses for the Phillies’ stallion who only won 10. The pitching slack in 1957 was taken up by righthander Jack Sanford who went 19-8, and was named National League Rookie of the Year for his trouble.
On May 28, the people of Philadelphia heard what sounded like a 10 million voice shout of denial coming from somewhere up the New Jersey turnpike when the National League announced approval of proposed moves of the Dodgers and Giants to the West coast to begin the 1958 season.
September 22 – the final two homeruns at Ebbets Field were hit by Duke Snyder off Robin Roberts.
The Phillies won one more game than they lost (77-76) in 1957, and finished in 5th place, 17 ½ games behind the winning Milwaukee Braves. Credit should be given to manager Mayo Smith for a way above average job considering the horrendous year from Robin Roberts, and no Del Ennis in the middle of the lineup. Heading into August and September, the Phillies, at 56-44 were still within range of the front running Milwaukee team; only 3 ½ games behind. But they couldn’t keep it up.
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- Bobby Morgan, Chico Fernandez, Connie Mack Stadium, Del Ennis, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Ebbets Field, Gil Hodges, Jack Sanford, Jackie Robinson, John Kennedy, Mike Gonzalez, Pee Wee Reese, Philadelphia Phillies, Robin Roberts, Roy Hamey