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A losing record (71-83), and a fifth place finish, 22 games behind the winning Dodgers (93-61). It was a tight, three-team race for the pennant, decided on the last day of the season, but the Phillies had no part in it; by the end of May, that featured a 10-game road losing streak, they were 13-22 and way out of it. Robin Roberts’ opening day win over Don Newcombe at Ebbets Field was a distant memory. Roberts and Newcombe – remember 1950? Speaking of distant memories. Here they were, six years later, both 30-years-old, their careers heading in opposite directions. After his opening day loss, Newcombe went 27-6 and became the first recipient of the Cy Young award voted baseball’s best pitcher by the Baseball Writers Association of America. From 1956 until 1967, there was only one Cy Young Award given, after that the award was given to the best pitcher in both the American and National leagues. Newcombe also was voted Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1957.
Roberts? After six straight years of 20 or more wins and 300 plus innings, the Phillies’ horse was showing signs of wear and tear. He won 19 games in 1957, and pitched 297 innings, but he lost 18, and his ERA was a most uncharacteristic 4.45. He also yielded a numbing 46 homeruns. The horse was still game, but beginning to stumble.
The Phillies had a winning record at home (40-37), and even though they were never close to being in the pennant chase, nearly a million fans came to Connie Mack Stadium. These were people loyal to the team that continued to field the guys they had come to admire since the 1950 glory year – Ashburn, Ennis, Jones, Hamner, Seminick, Lopata, Roberts, Simmons. The knowledgeable Philadelphia fan base came also to see the skills of the league’s best players on display. They got to see the first major league win of Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale, a future Hall of Famer; it was a 6-1 Dodger win at Connie Mack Stadium on April 23. Drysdale shrugged off nine singles and one walk while registering nine strikeouts.
And then there was the saga of Vito Valentinetti. Vito was a righthanded pitcher for the Chicago Cubs; in 1956, his rookie year he had 10 decisions (6-4), five of them against the Phillies. Pitching in long relief, Vito beat the Phillies on June 8 and June 10 at Wrigley Field, then again on June 15 at Shibe Park. On July 30 and August 1 at Connie Mack, the Phillies handed Vito a couple of losses, both wins by Robin Roberts. In the July 30, 5-4 Phils win, the Cubs Ernie Banks hit his 24th homerun. The 10-8 Phillies’ win on August 1, featured a 7th inning grand slam homerun by Puddin’ Head Jones. There was lots of baseball entertainment at Connie Mack Stadium in 1956, even if the games did not have pennant race implications.
November 16 – The core began to crumble – Del Ennis was traded to St. Louis for Bobby Morgan and Rip Repulski. Phillies’ fans were quick to note the repulsive nature of this trade given ;that Ennis in 1956 was only 31 years old and was his usual self in 1956 with 26 homeruns and 95 runs batted in. Repulski was 29 and never had nor never would put up numbers like that. Somebody up there had a brain cramp.