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New Owner, In Fact, Two
In February, Phillies owner, Gerald Nugent could no longer pay the bills, and sold the team to the National League for a reported $ 46,850. It didn’t take the League long to find someone willing to gamble that they could turn the team into a money-maker. William D. Cox was the gambler who bought the team. In November, when Baseball Commisioner Landis learned that Cox was a betting man, happy to bet on his own team, the Commish issued a permanent ban on Cox having any official connection to Major League Baseball. The franchise was purchased by the Carpenter family of Delaware, and 28 year-old Robert Carpenter became team president. One of his first moves was to conduct a contest to find a new team nickname since the name Phillies had become synonymous with the word loser. In 1944 and 1945, the Philadelphia National League team would be called Blue Jays. The Blue Jays finished last both years, and in 1946 the Philadelphia Phillies lived again, still losing.
On the field in 1943, the Phillies were again bad, but a lot better than the 1942 team, in fact, 22 games better with 64 wins, and a 7th place finish, only 41 games behind the winning Cardinals and their sophomore sensation, Stan “the Man” Musial who hit .357 to lead the league, and played in the first of his 20 consecutive all-star games. The team was involved in a blizzard of trades and deals trying to find a winning combination under new manager Bucky Harris. Harris had been an American League manager for 19 consecutive years beginning in 1924 with a World’s Series win. Harris lasted only 90 games (38-52) before being replaced by what seemed like an odd choice – Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons. Freddie was pitching for Brooklyn, in his 19th Major League season at age 42, when tapped to manage the Phillies; he finished the year with a 26-38 record.
The Philadelphia dealmakers had given the pitching staff a major shakeup which seemed like a good idea. New to the team were: lefty Al Gearhauser (222 innings, 10-19, 3.60 ERA), Jack Kraus (199 innings, 9-15, 3.16 ERA), Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe (196 innings, 14-8, 2.94 ERA), and Jack Barrett (169 innings, 10-9, 2.39 ERA).
Ron Northey played right field and led the team with 16 homeruns and 68 RBIs. Danny Litwhiler dropped way off to .259 in 36 games and on June 1 was traded to the St.Louis Cardinals for Coaker Triplett, Buster Adams, and Dain Clay. Triplett in left and Adams in center were quickly inserted into the starting lineup. Triplett was the more productive of the two, hitting .272 with 14 homeruns and 52 RBIs in 110 games.
The season was a seesaw of winning and losing streaks. From May 16 to May 22, the Phils treated the hometown fans to a very unfamiliar six-game winning streak which included an unheard of three consecutive shutouts, and ran the team record to 14-11. This was followed soon after by a six-game road losing streak that left them at 15-18. On June 19 at Ebbets Field, Freddie Fitzsimmons, at 42 years-old, in his 19th season, pitched seven innings of 12-hit, five run baseball for the Dodgers to beat the Phillies 7-5. Who knew that a month later, Fat Freddie would be the Phils new manager?
For a while soon after Freddie took over, there was a giddy feeling in Philly that things would be different with Freddy; from August 1st to the 11th, the team won 9 of ten including a seven game road/home winning streak, to run the team record to 50-56. But after August 11th, the team could only win 12 more games; they lost 34 to finish at 62-90. What went wrong, Freddie?