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A set rotation and a set lineup, Eddie Sawyer knew what it took to win. The opening day win over the defending champion Boston Braves in Boston sent a message around the league – the 1949 Phillies were not to be taken lightly. On the mound for the Braves that cold April day was Johnny Sain, the best pitcher in the league in 1948 with 24 wins, plus a 1-0 win over Cleveland’s Bob Feller in the World’s Series opening game.
With Whitey Ashburn and Granny Hamner leading the way, scoring on first inning runs batted in by Eddie Waitkus and Bill Nicholson, the Phillies put Sain away early as Lefty Ken Heintzelman tossed a 5-hit shutout, helped by three middle infield double plays. Pitching and defense; Eddie Sawyer liked what he saw.
Into June, Eddie Waitkus was having a nice year, batting 3rd in the lineup between Granny Hamner and Del Ennis, his average stood at .306 on June 14 after a 9-2 thumping of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. On June 15 Waitkus was fighting for his life after being shot by a 19 year-old woman in a Chicago hotel room. Dick Sisler took his position at first base and 3rd in the batting order for the remainder of the season. Sisler hit .289 with seven homeruns and 50 RBIs.
The team played exciting baseball before big home crowds (819,698 season). The flavor of the team can be seen by their doubleheader sweep at Shibe Park on September 4th , completing a four-game series sweep of the defending champion Braves. In both games, the Phillies spotted the Braves a 4-0 1st inning lead and came back to win. Imagine what Phillies’ fans must have felt in game one when Puddin’ Head Jones hit a two out, two-run 9th inning homerun (his 16th) for a 9-8 win. Dick Sisler was the batting hero of game two with a 6th inning go-ahead two-run homer (his seventh). Curt Simmons held off the Braves for four innings to take the 8-7 win. Exciting baseball.
The Phillies were fun to watch; how many years had it been since that could be said? They were good, but not yet good enough, because Brooklyn and St. Louis were better in 1948, although the Phillies held their own against these powerhouses. They played the Dodgers even up: 3-8 at Shibe Park, 8-3 at Ebbetts Field. They were 10-12 against the Cardinals: 6-5 at Shibe Park, 4-7 at Sportsman’s Park.