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What’s Up, Doc ?
Doc Prothro was 46 years-old when he took the job of managing the Phillies. He brought no apparent skills to the job; he had played sporadically and unremarkedly for Washington, Boston, and Cincinnati from 1920 to 1926. He had never managed, and he had never coached. He was the perfect choice to lead a team that knew it wasn’t going anywhere – no expectations. Well, there are always expectations, that’s what opening days are all about, and hey, wasn’t it a Doc’s job to nurse a patient back to health? Doc Prothro found his patient to be almost dead, certainly comatose. He had his work cut out for him.
Doc brought stiff medicine in the beginning, and the Phillies were holding their own into the first week of May following a scintillating 1-0 home win over Pittsburgh before 7,000 people. It seems the attraction was Claude Passeau; word had gotten around that the young guy could pitch, and don’t ever let anybody tell you Philadelphia baseball fans won’t come out and pay good money to see a good pitching matchup. It wasn’t pristine, but it was effective – Passeau gave up 8 hits and 4 walks, stranding nine.
The good feeling didn’t last long as the team sank into a 3-13 stretch and were 10 games under .500 when Passeau was traded to the Chicago Cubs on May 29 for Joe Marty, Ray Harrell and right hand pitcher Kirby Higbe.
The only run in Passeau’s shutout was scored by thirdbaseman Pinky May. You heard right – May, not Whitney; the Phillies had a new third baseman named Pinky. Pinky May was a respectable ballplayer, but he would never be mistaken for Pinky Whitney. Whitney was still hanging on, maybe showing the new Pinky the ropes. Whitney’s skills had diminished so quickly at the age of 34 that it was an embarrassment; in 34 games he hit .187. It was the same with Chuck Klein; in 25 games he could only manage nine hits in 47 at bats, two doubles, a triple, and one last homerun. In a final hurrah, against the Dodgers at Ebbetts Field, the Hammer pinch hit a 9th inning double to cap a 7-run rally and give his team a 12-11 lead, only to see the Dodgers win it 13-12 with a 9th inning rally of their own.
On June 5th , Chuck Klein was given his unconditional release.
On June 24th at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Hugh Mulcahy was the winning pitcher in a complete game two-hit shutout, winning 1-0 on Joe Marty’s 2nd inning homerun.
Doc Prothro could find no emergency medicine to prevent a season-ending 1-12 slide into the morgue of a 106 loss year.
December 17 – Pinky Whitney was released.
Spud Davis split the 1939 Phllies’ catching duties with Wally Millies, hitting .307. Davis was the last of the Phillies young guns of 1928 to stop playing; he played 23 games for Pittsburgh in 1945 at the age of 41, and finished with a .308 lifetime batting average.