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Bad Is Beautiful
Cy Williams played for the Chicago Cubs from 1912 through 1917, at the end of the Dead Ball era, and then flourished in the Phillies outfield in the decade of the ’20s. Beginning on April 30, 1923, Williams went on a 15-game hitting tear that might be unmatched in baseball history; during that time, playing at Baker Bowl, he had 65 total bases on 11 singles, five doubles, 11 homeruns, and 29 RBIs. The team won only two of those games, one on May 11th , a 20-14 romp over St. Louis.
The losing became almost comical, the season splattered with five, six, and seven-game losing streaks. From May 4 to May 27, the team won three games, and lost 19. New manager, Art Fletcher was helpless to stop it. How could he with pitching the worst in the league in all categories, most tellingly losses at 104, and defense not far behind. The lump-taking, Jimmy Ring managed a winning record at 18-16, helped by occasional offensive outbursts, as in his 12-11 win over St.Louis on August 27.
The team won three of 22 games against each of the league’s two top teams, the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants, sporting a lineup with five future Hall of Famers, won their 4th straight pennant, and became the first team ever to lead the league from wire-to-wire.
On May 14, the Phillies lost 7-3 to Cincinnati’s Eppa Rixey; two days later they lost to the Cubs’ Pete Alexander. Philadelphia fans could only look on in dismay as Old Pete beat the Phillies five times in 1923, without a loss.
Once again, bright spots were few; one was Cy Williams who had a career year at age 35 with 41 homeruns to lead the league by a wide margin (Brooklyn firstbaseman Jack Fournier had 22), and once again pace his team to a league 1st in homeruns. Another reason for hope was a former Soccer professional, Philadelphia-born rookie catcher, Jimmie Wilson, in the first of an 18-year career. Wilson was one big dude at 6’2”, 200 pounds, and one fine ballplayer, the starting catcher for the first National League All-Star team in 1933, and again in 1935.
The 1923 World’s Series was played once again at the Polo Grounds, but for the first time, also across the river in Yankee Stadium, the so-called “House that Ruth built.” The Babe hit three homeruns to lead the Yankees to a 4-2 series triumph, but none were hit in his house.