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Manager Steve O’Neil was determined to get the team off to a good start in 1953, and he did just that; at the end of April, after 14 games, they led the league with a 9-4 record, thanks to a three-game home sweep of the Dodgers. O’Neil liked Connie Ryan leading off, and new firstbaseman Earl Torgeson, obtained in a trade with Boston, hitting fifth behind Del Ennis, helped. The Phillies fought hard, and entering June were still in range, only 3 ½ games behind the classy Dodgers, but it couldn’t last, the Dodgers were just too good. By the end of August, the Dodgers were 50 games over .500 at 90-40 and cruised home with 105 wins and a 13-game lead over the second place Milwaukee Braves. The Phillies, at 83-71, were in a third place tie with St. Louis. O’Neil put Jim Konstanty into the starting rotation for 19 games where he was 14-10; he had five saves. Robin Roberts was 23-16 with five shutouts.
Milwaukee? Where did that come from?
March 18 was the day that the Boston Braves officially became the Milwaukee Braves. It was the first franchise shift in baseball since the 1903 move of Baltimore to New York. The Braves brought a very good team to their new town, with sluggers Joe Adcock, and Eddie Mathews, to say nothing of top flight pitchers, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, and Johnny Antonelli. But the boys from Brooklyn were just too good.
Steve O’Neil and the Phillies made news in late June when they brought up 19-year old phenom Ted Kazanski to play shortstop. In 1951 they had given the 17-year-old kid a $100,000 bonus to sign, and after two years in the minors, he was to get a shot playing with the big boys. On June 25th in Chicago, Kazanski was in the lineup in the leadoff spot. In his first major league at bat he struck out, but after that he was spectacular with three hits and four RBIs in a 13-2 Phillies win. But disappointment was endemic to Phillies baseball through most of the 20th century, and Kazanski did not disappoint the nay sayers; he was a .217 hitter and it didn’t take Steve O’Neil long to see it – about a week. When the pitching got better, Kazanski was dropped to his natural spot in the batting order, 8th, just ahead of the pitcher.